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Reliable Interconnect Solutions for IIoT Applications

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enables a high level of automation within manufacturing and processing facilities. It helps companies achieve real progress to improve efficiency, productivity, and output quality. This is the heart of Industry 4.0. Real-time data and analytics direct from machinery and processes enables production planning and maintenance work to be accurately scheduled and executed. Outside the production arena, assets within the supply chain can be tracked, preventing loss or theft.

Analysts are predicting considerable expansion in the global IIoT market. Tens of billions of nodes in a multitude of applications will be deployed.

Various reports predict that the global IIoT market will continue to grow at high rates, from 8% to 25% yearly. The total market value could exceed $1 trillion USD before the end of the decade.

IIoT nodes can be situated in remote or inaccessible locations, which has major implications for maintenance or upgrade. Servicing and repairing hardware may be difficult (or almost impossible). Even within an enclosed, stable factory setting, downtime is undesirable and unacceptable. The reliability of node components is vitally important in these applications.

Harwin Robot Arm

 

Wired v Wireless in IIoT

Although the Internet of Things (IoT) and its industrial relative are mostly considered to be a wireless application, nodes and associated control & monitoring equipment can contain a lot of electronic sub-systems. Within each sub-system may be more than one PCB, or interfaces to the surrounding enclosure for direct plug-in diagnostics. Linking these boards and interfaces requires internal connectors.

With wireless devices containing wired connections, it is important that each component within these wired systems withstands the environmental factors involved.

 

Changes in Temperature

IIoT devices can be exposed to extremes in temperature, and they must maintain normal operation in these locations. For instance, inside petrochemical plants or steelworks, sustained high levels of heat are very common. Smart farming applications and pipeline monitoring can experience higher ambient temperatures during the day and freezing conditions through the night.

Consider connector options with wider operational temperature ranges – two different specifications will assist with selection.

  • Thermal shock to EIA-364-32C Condition III (or similar). The temperatures for this specific test criteria range from -55°C to +125°C. The procedure involves 10 cycles between the two temperatures, with 30 minutes dwell time at each extreme.
  • Temperature Life EIA-364-17B Method A exposes components to 125°C for a 96-hour period.

Thermal imaging photo

 

Shake and Shock

More important in the industrial context than in commercial IOT is the resistance to vibrational forces. The node may be mounted on, or close to, industrial drives and other heavy machinery – making vibration unavoidable.

Vibrations can cause momentary separation between contact mating faces – and this electrical discontinuity may result in loss of data or control. Successful testing to EIA-364-28D Condition IV gives confidence in vibration resistance.

  • Mated connectors must not show signs of any electrical discontinuity over a 12-hour testing period
  • The vibration amplitude of 1.52mm is applied at frequencies cycling from 10Hz to 2000Hz
  • Connections are subject to 196m/s² acceleration, equivalent to 20G

One future development might see IIoT nodes being powered by these vibrations –energy harvesting technology will convert the vibration into electricity, enough to run the smaller node module.

 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Locating IIoT nodes in remote outdoor sites without human supervision puts them at greater risk of damage being undetected. Vandalism or industrial sabotage, long-term or unexpected weather impact are all possible causes for sudden failure. It could even be general wear and tear or accidental damage from a scheduled maintenance cycle.

Whatever the cause, rugged construction will help prevent these stresses causing a loss of operation. Though the majority of IIoT nodes stay in the same place, others are in motion: robots, industrial drones, and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for instance. Some products may be subject to higher levels of maintenance or upgrade.

Connectors in these applications may require additional attributes to endure higher rates of disconnection and reconnection. This could be for updating firmware, diagnostic analysis, downloading captured data, or charging. Consider the following design features:

  • Elevated levels of mating cycle durability,
  • A shrouded housing design protects the contacts from being damaged while un-mated, and helps guide the connectors together during mating,
  • Polarization will prevent mis-mating.

Connectors with shrouds

 

Commercial Viability

The industrial sector is subject to the requirements of cost sensitivity, like many other sectors. Connectors used in IIoT hardware need to find the right balance of reasonable durability (considering the points listed so far), but still be cost-effective. Volume requirements can help – networks can consist of thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of nodes, but modular designs and using the same connector in more areas of the design will contribute to economies of scale.

 

An Optimized Solution

Archer Kontrol Connector

The Archer Kontrol connector series has many uses within IIoT equipment. The high-density 1.27mm pitch connections are available at price points attractive to this market. These board and cable connectors include the essential attributes for challenging industrial environments:

  • Data transfer rates reach 3Gbps, suitable for the latest industrial automation systems.
  • Parallel, edge-to-edge and space-saving right-angle for board-to-board.
  • Complete ribbon cable assemblies for convenience and time-savings.
  • 3-finger female contacts maintain connection under uncompromising circumstances.
  • Fully shrouded and polarized housings to prevent damage and avoid mis-mating.

 

Specification Highlights
Current rating (per contact) 1.2A max (0.5A max for cable)
Maximum Voltage 500V AC
Insulation Resistance 1000MΩ min
Vibration 20G for 12 hours
Operating Temperature (PCB/Cable) -55°C to +125°C / -20°C to +105°C
Number of Contacts Up to 80 per connector
Conclusion

When selecting reliable and dependable connections for IIoT equipment modules, many key factors need to be considered. Make sure that electrical load and environmental factors are determined and documented, before searching for the right interconnect solution. Choose a quality product to ensure this performance is maintained over the life of the machinery, to achieve prolonged trouble-free operation.

 

View the Archer Kontrol Range

 

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