Howard Forryan from connector and network component specialist, HARTING, explains how a new range of connectors from the company supports the drive towards Industry 4.0 in high-temperature environments.
Manufacturers are investigating how they can best apply Industry 4.0 digitalisation processes to existing production plant environments to improve productivity levels and reduce costs. The direct consequences of this approach include implementing a more modular approach to production platforms. This can involve either the introduction of new modular machines to a production line or the retrofitting of existing installed equipment to support a more modular and decentralised interconnected control system solution.
This strategy can now be followed for some of the harshest environmental plant conditions, such as those where equipment might be sited in areas with high operating temperatures. In the past, limitations in the operating performance of a connector have often meant that equipment has had to be hard-wired in such situations. However, HARTING’s new Han High Temp range of connectors now supports the flexibility of applied connectorisation in such conditions. As a result, reduced wiring complexity means that such an installation can be optimised and maintenance costs cut.
Typical end-user applications include support for modular production cells within metal production foundries and rolling mills, including integrated electrical heating control feeds to die-cast tools and electric furnaces which may be applied in various high-temperature material processing areas. Also, they can significantly extend the service maintenance intervals of integrated removable mould tools within modularly designed plastics injection moulding machines for the latest high-temperature materials, resulting in reduced line downtime.
Similarly, opportunities may be found in tyre manufacturing and chemical processing plant environments.
HARTING has used its technical expertise to develop special connectors for providing reliable solutions for such high-temperature environments.
For example, bulkhead-side connector seals must not melt or adhere to other integrated components over the full operating temperature range. Consequently, HARTING has opted for a non-stick coated high-temperature-resistant rubber version, which avoids bonding between the hood and housing even if they are left mated for several years.
Many of the hood and housing coatings and lacquers available on the market are not suitable for long-term use at high temperatures as they can cause melting, which can, in turn, lead to mated parts sticking together. Thanks to the application of a special surface treatment to the aluminium die-cast hoods and housings, HARTING has been able to dispense with any potentially detrimental additional protective coating finish.
The insulating body and contacts must both withstand the high ambient conditions of the location and the additional heat generated inside the housing when under mated load. HARTING has selected high-temperature-resistant copper alloy contacts that maintain constant electrical properties when heated. Also, high-temperature LCP plastic insulators ensure long service life.
As a result of these features, HARTING’s Han High Temp connectors can permanently withstand ambient operating conditions of +200°C and can provide extended operating lifetimes ensuring reduced line downtime.