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Reinvention of the heavy-duty connector

25 September 2018

TE Connectivity is playing its part in supporting the change to decentralised, modular production concepts through its development of the new HMN connector series for harsh industrial environments, writes Sascha Lambauer

Industry in upheaval: Triggered by the wealth of opportunities opened up by digitalization, the Industrial Internet of Things offers the promise of intelligent, autonomous and individual manufacturing of products, while also using fewer resources and operating more efficiently. Batch size one, and zero defects culture are further keywords that describe this development. However, there is still a long way to go to reach this point, especially considering the different requirements in individual sectors.

Connectors play a critical role in this change. If rigid, centralised production lines are to be replaced by decentralised cells and modules which are distributed across the shop floor and produce flexibly as needed, connection solutions are needed that reliably transmit energy, signals and the ever increasing volumes of data. Applications in harsh production environments, in particular, where heavy loads are moved and many drives are integrated, require heavy-duty connectors that are very robust and ensure the required connectivity over the longest possible period.

The new and modular HMN (Heavy Duty Modular New Generation – new generation of modular heavy-duty connectors) rectangular connectors from TE Connectivity (TE) are designed especially for industrial environments to withstand dust, humidity, vibrations and electromagnetic fields. Up to six different modules with up to 48 contacts can be accommodated in a single housing for transmitting currents of up to 200A and voltages of up to 1000V – data interfaces such as D-Sub and RJ45 complete the system. The housing is available in different protection ratings up to IP69K as well as in further variants with EMC protection or anti-corrosion coating.

Combined solutions

Users who process a certain quantity of contacts benefit in particular from the extended range of options. This affects manufacturers of industrial robots, machine manufacturers but also the semiconductor manufacturing sector, for example, where several contacts per second are processed. The modular connectors in the HMN series allow solutions to be combined as the case demands and applications to be designed smaller, which not in the least can lead to a significant reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO).

TE has therefore also placed special emphasis on the contacts and their processing in order to allow further cost reductions while maintaining the same level of quality. Use of stamped contacts, for example, allows a higher contact density and reduces the space required in the connector, which not only offers advantages in terms of application design, but also significant cost savings potential. Added to this is the option of mechanical crimping for fast and high-quality processing. The semi-automatic crimping machines available for this purpose ensure additional quality and reliability of the electrical connections and time savings of up to 75%: While some 20 seconds are needed per contact when using a manual crimping tool, the semi-automatic process takes less than five seconds.

TE uses its own proprietary contact geometry to increase the processing and quality of the crimping process: The dynamic contacts have a lower crimping height owing to the F-crimp concept and can therefore be processed more easily and reliably, be it mechanically or using the corresponding manual tool. The dynamic contacts for heavy-duty connectors offer a variety of ways to increase efficiency in production especially for the automobile industry with its strict requirements in relation to miniaturisation.

dynamic contacts for heavy-duty connectors offer a variety of ways to increase efficiency

Which other developments can be expected in the area of heavy-duty connectors in the coming years? Concepts such as digitalisation and sensorisation of the connector stand out among others, so as to stay up-to-date at all times on the network status and other performance indicators, such as the temperature of the housing at high current values. The integrated electronics could simply use LEDs, for instance, to indicate whether contacts are active, as already familiar in the case of the RJ45 connector in the consumer segment. Temperature and other sensors will also provide future opportunities in the area of condition monitoring and predictive maintenance – the wheel of development therefore just keeps turning even in the case of heavy-duty connectors.

Sascha Lambauer is Product Manager HDC at TE Connectivity.

Robust and flexible connections with heavy-duty connectors

The new HMN connector series from TE delivers bespoke industrial connectivity according to individual needs in a robust housing. The most important features at a glance:

  • Up to 288 contacts in one connector
  • Transmits currents up to 200 A and voltages up to 1 kV
  • Flexible configuration of the number and profile of the contacts