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For Industry 4.0, reliability builds on robust connections

Looking to relieve increasing product complexity and cost pressures, manufacturers are moving toward the next phase of industrial automation envisioned in Industry 4.0. In this concept, smart factories respond instantly to changing workloads to more quickly deliver products of greater variety and complexity at lower cost. Underlying Industry 4.0, reliable connectivity is essential for ensuring seamless integration between manufacturing systems, driving a need for comprehensive connector solutions capable of unfailing operation in harsh industrial environments. Today's M8/M12 connector systems meet this need, offering a unique combination of reliability and performance essential for next-generation industrial automation applications.

Reliable industrial communications continues to rise as an increasingly critical requirement in every segment of manufacturing. Manufacturers have long relied on sensor systems to monitor operating conditions in a wide variety of sensitive production processes. As industrial automation systems has grown into a greater role in the factory, manufacturers have similarly expected control systems to operate flawlessly to ensure safe, non-stop operation of highly optimized manufacturing flows.

Industry 4.0 pushes manufacturers' reliance on flawless monitoring and control to a new level. Smart factories depend on tighter integration between a growing list of electronic devices and systems including sensors, actuators, machinery, controllers, management systems -- all critically involved in sending, receiving and processing data needed to coordinate production and optimize resource utilization.

Underlying this tightly integrated flow of manufacturing data, industrial data communications plays the pivotal role -- and faces a unique set of challenges in next-generation manufacturing. Pervasive, fine-grain monitoring of every phase of the production process means more data must move more quickly throughout the factory. In turn, more responsive control translates to the need for reduced latency and higher bandwidth communications. Any loss in data integrity at any juncture in expanding industrial networks has profound effects not only on overall manufacturing efficiency but also on individual unit quality.

Reliability challenges

Reliable communications depends fundamentally on robust connectivity and on the ability to meet more challenging requirements at the separable interface between sensors, actuators, machines, and higher-level control systems. Yet, even without Industry 4.0's added communications requirements, the manufacturing environment presents a uniquely challenging environment for interconnect solutions expected to maintain reliable connectivity.

Any factory presents a harsh environment for electronic components in general and electrical interconnects in particular. As the final separable interface between an individual electronic system and the rest of the factory automation system, interconnects are directly exposed to a constant assault from electrical noise sources and physical stress. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) from electrically noisy sources such as motors and fast-switching loads in manufacturing continually challenges the ability of interconnects to maintain signal integrity. As technology pushes industrial data communications to higher data rates, the ability to ensure reliable, uncompromised connectivity becomes increasingly difficult -- and more critical.

Beyond reliability of the signals themselves, the factory floor challenges the physical integrity of interconnects. Combined with constant vibration from fixed-place machinery, mobile platforms and transportation, high temperature and humidity wear at connectors. In addition to the long term effects from these environmental factors, interconnects are subjected to sudden impact, pulling and twisting as plant operators move cables and machinery -- making and breaking connections in the course of normal plant operations. Exposure to dust and dirt, lubricants, and washdowns can cause shorts, mechanically interfere with contacts and ultimately damage any interconnect component that is not specifically designed to withstand the harsh conditions of industrial environments.

Industrial interconnects

Despite constant electrical and physical stress, interconnects must ensure continued reliability for seamless manufacturing operations. Plant operators need to be able to remain confident in its performance despite multiple stress factors. On the factory floor, equipment operators need to be able to plug in a connector and not be concerned that it might stop working or physically break. Shutting down a manufacturing line or workcell because an interconnect component has failed is not an option.

For years, industrial automation system integrators and installers have relied on M12 and smaller M8 sealed connectors able to survive harsh industrial environments. Built with a protective shell, these simple circular screw-type connectors were originally developed to provide rugged interconnects for sensor systems in harsh industrial environments.

M8/M12 systems have evolved to support more demanding bandwidth and signal-integrity requirements associated with Industry 4.0. In fact, engineers can now find M8/M12 solutions that support data rates up to 1 Gbps without compromising the rugged characteristics of this class of interconnects.

Modern M8/M12 connector systems enhance the original design of these components, using alloys optimized for strength and conductivity (Figure 1). Today's M8/M12 components leverage decades of materials research and mechanical design to offer comprehensive, end-to-end interconnect solutions optimized to ensure integrity throughout their extended operational lifetime. Despite exposure to electrical and physical stress, these connectors maintain reliability and performance through the full industrial temperature range from -40 to 85°C.

Figure 1. Today's M8/M12 interconnect solutions combine high performance and robust construction, while enabling easy installation in the field or during manufacturing. Simple soldered to a printed-circuit board, this M12 X-code shielded component mates tightly with a complementary M12 cable assembly in the factory to provide a dustproof, water-resistant connection able to support reliable 1Gbps operation in harsh industrial environments. (Source: TE Connectivity)

Thanks to their robust performance, M8 and M12 connector systems are employed today wherever a compact, reliable connection system is required in applications exposed to harsh environments and extreme temperatures. Equipment manufacturers, system integrators and network installers continue to employ these connectors in traditional industrial sensor and actuator applications. Engineers now also rely on high-speed M8/M12 solutions on the factory floor in industrial control boxes, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and ruggedized Ethernet installations.

Robust performance

M8/M12 connectors such as those from TE Connectivity are built to endure twisting, pulling and the generally rough handling common in a fast-paced manufacturing environment. Where a familiar RJ45 Ethernet connector would eventually break from typical handling in a factory, M8/M12 connectors are designed to work in harsh environments that cannot tolerate downtime. These connector systems are designed to survive prolonged exposure to dust or other solids and water or other liquids found on even the tidiest factory floor.

M8/M12 connector systems such as TE's characterize their level of contaminant ingress protection (IP) according to industry-standard IP codes specified in IEC 60529. Two-digit IP codes used for connectors indicate the level of protection against dust or water. The first digit in the IP code specifies the level of protection against ingress of solid foreign objects such as dust and dirt. For example, a rating of 6 means the connector is dust tight while a rating of 5 means that some dust might enter the connector but not enough to interfere with operation. The second digit similarly specifies the level of protection against harmful ingress of water. For example, a rating of 7 means the connector is protected against temporary immersion. Connectors in the TE Connectivity M8/M12 connector system are rated at IP67, indicating maximum protection against dust and water ingress.

At the same time, interconnect requirements for industrial applications vary widely and no single connector can optimally serve every application. The emerging demands of Industry 4.0 drive a need for even greater flexibility in matching specific industrial data requirements to an specific, optimized interconnect solution. Today, engineers can find comprehensive M8/M12 systems such as TE Connectivity's that span a wide range of standard offerings including receptacles, cable assemblies and I/O modules (Figure 2). Furthermore, engineers facing unique requirements can take advantage of custom-engineered M8/M12 interconnect solutions available from TE Connectivity.

Figure 2. M8/M12 interconnects extend well beyond its origins as a sensor connector with comprehensive connectivity systems comprising connectors, cable assemblies and I/O distribution boxes. (Source: TE Connectivity)

TE M8/M12 connectors include straight or right-angle connectors variants as well as shielded or unshielded cable assemblies in single-ended or double-ended straight or angled versions. Furthermore, comprehensive M8/M12 connector solutions such as TE's go beyond connectors and cable assemblies, offering M8/M12 I/O distribution boxes designed to reduce cabling and increase ease of installation and maintenance.

Standard configurations

M8/M12 connector systems support voltage ranges up to 620V and current up to 12A depending on connector configuration. Along with 3- and 4-pin configurations in the physically smaller M8 format, M12 interconnects feature 4-, 5-, 8-, and 12-pin configurations -- all conforming to industry-standard keying, or "coding" (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Standard codings help ensure proper mating of M8/M12 interconnect systems -- an important advantage for avoiding mistakes on the factory floor. (Source: TE Connectivity)

Specified in international standard IEC 61076-2-104 (M8) and IEC 61076-2-101 (M12), connector codings are specific pin configurations designed to ensure mating between like connectors. This safeguard becomes particularly important in industrial environments where plant workers could easily misconnect cables in the noise and rush found on the factory floor.

The various M8/M12 codings have evolved to serve specific industrial communications applications: A-coding interconnects are found in actuator-sensor plug connections for DeviceNet, IO-Link and Profibus; B-coding is used in Fieldbus connections for Profibus and Interbus; and D-coding is used for industrial Ethernet installations including Profinet, Ethernet/IP and EtherCat. S- and T-codings support high-voltage/high-current applications such as power supplies.

A more recent coding, X-code, addresses the growing need for an industrial connector compatible with CAT6A speeds. X-code connectors support high-bandwidth communication up to 10 Gbps using four twisted pairs compatible with conventional RJ45 connectors (Figure 4). With the availability of X-code, industrial data communications engineers can deploy advanced, high-speed Ethernet-compatible networks in even the most demanding manufacturing facility.

Figure 4. The X-coding standard offers an RJ45-compatible option, extending the reliability advantages of M8/M12 interconnects to industrial Gigabit-Ethernet-compatible networks. (Source: TE Connectivity)

For manufacturers, worldwide standardization of industrial connectors helps ensure continued availability of compatible connector components from multiple sources. Nevertheless, for manufacturers facing increasingly complex requirements for industrial connectivity, TE's comprehensive M8/M12 system remains unique in the breadth and depth of its solutions for reliable industrial data communications connectivity.


Industry 4.0 promises a new level of productivity and efficiency in manufacturing -- all enabled by tighter integration and seamless connectivity among production systems and processes. From its earliest roots in industrial automation, M8/M12 interconnects have evolved to provide a ready solution for advanced manufacturing. With the availability of the comprehensive M8/M12 system from TE Connectivity, manufacturers can find a high reliability, high performance interconnect solution optimized to match a growing array of specialized requirements for industrial data communications.

Automotive Electronics: Top 5 Tech Trends of Tomorrow’s Smart Cars

In the United States alone, motor vehicles travel well over four trillion miles each year according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.* To gain a sense of this distance, consider that while it takes light approximately eight minutes to travel from the sun to the Earth, it would take well over eight months for light to cover the distance that U.S. vehicles travel each year. These statistics are less a reflection of the desire to spend more time on the roads and more of a statement of the central role vehicles play in day-to-day life. In that role, vehicular systems are increasingly expected to be safer and provide the same level of personalized assistance and ease of use that motor vehicle drivers and passengers demand from their smartphones and tablets.

Consumer demand and competitive pressure have pushed manufacturers to build greater intelligence into automobiles, trucks and other highway vehicles. For example, the Chevy Volt uses nearly 100 microprocessors running about 10 million lines of code in total, placing the Chevy Volt's software content above that of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the original space shuttle and the current generation of jet fighters. As with that electric vehicle, mainstream automotive design is increasingly relying on more sophisticated electronic systems.

Today, designers can draw on a breadth of increasingly powerful hardware and software technologies to create more sophisticated automotive solutions. Combined within a standards-based framework such as AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture), manufacturers can mix and match automotive subsystems to target specific levels of cost, performance and functionality. Indeed, advances in automotive technology literally stretch from bumper to bumper, but the most dramatic advances revolve around five key trends in automotive technology.

Tech Trend #1: Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS)

Based on embedded vision technology, ADAS is designed to reduce the driver's workload during the driving process itself. In this concept, vision systems surround the vehicle, looking to place the vehicle within a protective bubble against driver error, road obstacles, other vehicles and pedestrians. Using their visual processing capabilities, these systems provide recognition and tracking information to onboard safety systems for lane departure warning, collision avoidance, driver drowsiness detection and many more protective features.

Embedded vision systems capable of identification and real-time tracking have traditionally required highly specialized knowledge of image acquisition and processing techniques. Today, a wealth of resources helps simplify development of these complex vision systems. The combination of dedicated vision processors, multicore CPUs and vision software libraries has put sophisticated vision capabilities in the hands of every engineer. In fact, development kits such as Avnet’s Blackfin Embedded Vision Starter Kit have dramatically lowered the barriers to entry into vision-based systems by providing a full complement of hardware, software and test capabilities needed to build these solutions.

More on this topic: Top 5 Myths in Automotive Vision: Designing Embedded Vision Systems Is Easier Than You Think

Tech Trend #2: Advanced Motor Control

Beyond its primary drive motor, an advanced vehicle is filled with dedicated motor-control systems driving pumps, fans, compressors, rotators, actuators and servomechanisms of all types. In most cases, the desire for maximum efficiency and control has motivated engineers to move beyond traditional scalar control systems to sophisticated digital vector control algorithms capable of delivering full torque with acceleration and deceleration at rates that can be precisely managed. The emergence of sensorless control methods has further opened the door for more cost-effective solutions, providing maximum motor capability for engineers able to harness the power of advanced vector control methods.

Sophisticated motor control methods provide great flexibility, but can present designers with significant challenges. In fact, achieving stable operation through all corner cases of a vector control design can demand highly specialized knowledge and often leads to slips in tight development cycles. The emergence of development kits such as the Zynq®-7000 All Programmable SoC / Analog Devices Intelligent Drives Kit has significantly simplified application of these techniques (Fig. 1). The Intelligent Drives Kit combines a full complement of development software, motor control reference designs and hardware, including the latest Analog Devices data converters and the Xilinx Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC based on ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processors.

Fig. 1: Sophisticated motor control applications no longer require specialized knowledge of motor control algorithms thanks to comprehensive development solutions such as the Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC / Analog Devices Intelligent Drives Kit.

Texas Instruments has further collapsed motor control functionality into single-chip solutions based on its C2000-based Piccolo MCU family. These specialized TI MCUs integrate TI's InstaSPIN motor control software solutions in on-chip ROM, further reducing development time for these complex applications.

More on this topic: Accelerating the Motor Control Revolution Using New MCU and FPGA Solutions

Tech Trend #3: Engine/Energy Management Systems

The desire for longer range and lower fuel costs has elevated the importance of a vehicle's miles-per-gallon ratings in vehicle sales, in addition to motivating a push to more effective digital engine management systems. Besides providing safety-critical supervisory function for batteries in electric and hybrid vehicles, management systems provide a level of energy monitoring, analysis and control needed to optimize fuel or battery energy utilization.

While trends in motor control lie in the dispersal of control systems throughout a vehicle, engine management works to integrate information from the periphery into a central controller. Consequently, these management systems face the challenge of blending real-time sensor measurement data from power train performance with sophisticated models of fuel or energy cell usage to optimize overall operations (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Engine management systems need to process real-time sensor input and set motors and switches to achieve the desired balance of vehicle performance and efficiency. (Source: NXP Semiconductor)


For designers, a broad array of automotive-qualified sensors, data converters and microprocessors provide the essential components for these solutions. Paired with integrated MCUs, devices such as the NXP Semiconductor MC33975 multiplexes up to 22 analog input lines to the MCU's integrated data converters, further simplifying design and reducing cost.

Tech Trend #4: Graphical Interfaces

Automotive equipment manufacturers continue to respond to consumer desire for enhanced information and entertainment systems. Vehicles in a broad range of classes now offer touchscreen display consoles built into the dash, armrest, seatbacks and even rearview mirrors (see New TFT LCD Technology Shapes Infotainment for Cars of the Future). At the heart of these solutions, thin-film-transistor (TFT) LCDs provide the required combination of resolution, contrast and screen size. Using touch features of in-vehicle display, manufacturers are providing vehicle occupants with "smartphone-like" graphical interfaces to the vehicle's infotainment and control system, even promising similar third-party app stores for a broader range of in-vehicle services.

Semiconductor manufacturers have responded to growing use of LCDs with highly integrated support for display management. MCUs with on-chip LCD control simplify design and reduce component count, offering greater reliability and reduced cost for these increasingly essential automotive features.

Tech Trend #5: Vehicle System of Systems in the Internet of Things

Because of the sheer complexity and safety demands associated with transportation, few system applications will achieve the level of processing horsepower and interactive computing capability found in a premium class automobile. Combined with the explosive acceptance of social networking, perhaps no application will provide a greater potential for interconnectivity, linking smart automobiles, trucks and other vehicles into an Internet of Things capable of optimizing vehicle performance and occupant experience beyond the confines of the passenger compartment.

As with each trend noted above, this trend leverages the ability of IC manufacturers to integrate enhanced functionality into more power microprocessors. In this case, the integration of wireless connectivity not only simplifies communications between subsystems within the vehicle but also can serve to link the vehicle with external entities, such as external networks, traffic control systems or even other vehicles. As with the vision of the IoT for home and business, interconnected vehicles and their crowd-sourced data offer untapped potential for services such as predictive maintenance, performance trends, traffic management and, perhaps most important, enhanced safety and emergency response capabilities.

Few areas of engineering share the combination of complexity and safety concerns of automotive electronics design. Because of the tangible benefits offered through advanced automotive electronics, however, manufacturers are rapidly providing development solutions that hide design complexity. In turn, these ready-made solutions are delivering on the promise of enhanced safety, cost and performance available through more advanced ADAS, motor control, engine management, in-vehicle interfaces and extra-vehicle communications.

*Transportation Statistics Annual Report. United States Department of Transportation, n.d. Web. 22 Jan 2015.

Wirelessly Charge Your Medical Devices — or Any Battery-powered Device

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a medical technician in a metropolitan emergency room. You move from room to room assisting the medical staff with portable diagnostic equipment. Tension is high and patients are non-stop—you don’t have the time to search for outlets to plug in your equipment. You would prefer to drop it on a surface and have it charge automatically so you can quickly move on to the next patient. Fortunately for you and the patients, wireless charging has become a technology of the present.

Standards: Multiple Choices May Slow Adoption

Evidence that wireless charging is gaining traction comes in the form of multiple industry associations all competing for a share of the market. Currently, there are three types of wireless charging technologies that are contenders in the race to mainstream use—magnetic induction, magnetic resonance and for the present, niche solutions such as radio frequency. The multiple standards show the many options designers have, but at the same time, the multiple choices may delay the designer in making a decision as to which approach to use, since no one wants to design a system that turns into a dead-end solution.

The Wireless Power Consortium’s (WPC) standard known as Qi (pronounced “chee”) leverages magnetic induction; the A4WP’s (Association for Wireless Power) Rezence employs magnetic resonance; and in the high-frequency RF area, one company, Humavox, in Kfar Saba, Israel offers a 2.4 GHz near-field RF solution that has raised some interest. Each trade group has assembled an ecosystem that includes chip makers, component vendors and patent holders that back one or more of the charging platforms. An additional standards association, the Power Matters Alliance, has decided to also support the resonant charging approach as well.

Unfortunately, the WPC and A4WP standards don’t share the same protocol, so they can’t work together, and designers are hesitant in committing to one or the other. One solution is to build systems that implement both inductive and resonant charging approaches so that a “universal” charging station can be created. The one drawback is that the cost is nearly double that of a single standard solution. However, at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show, the WPC demonstrated a resonant coupling technology they dubbed WoWz that is backward compatible with Qi and charges at a distance of up to 18 mm with a 65% charging efficiency.

Figure 1a

The Qi specification and the Rezence approach both divide the functionality of the system into three key areas: the power transmitter, the power receiver and the communication protocol between the two devices. In the Qi approach, the diagram in Figure 1  shows the basic functionality of each block. The Rezence approach also has a similar separation of functions, as shown in Figure 1b

Figure 1b: The Wireless Power Consortium Standard divides the system into two hardware blocks (the transmit and receive sections, and the protocol software that provides the handshake between the transmitter and receiver (top). A similar division is used by the A4WP in its resonant power system to transfer power from the transmit resonator to the receive resonator (bottom).

In the Qi approach, the contactless power transfer takes place from a base station to a portable device. A typical unit separation of 2.0 mm +0.5/-0.25 mm can achieve a power-transfer efficiency of over 70%. A near-field magnetic induction is used to couple the power between the transmit and receive coils. The system can transfer about 5 W to the receiving coil and operates at a frequency range of 110 to 205 kHz. The Qi standard supports two methods of placing a portable device on the surface of a base station for recharging:

  1. A means of guiding the position of the portable device on the surface of a base station that provides power through a single or several fixed locations of that surface.
  2. Free positioning that enables the arbitrary placement of a portable device on the surface of a base station that can provide power through any location of that surface.

Depending on the implementation, the Qi system can achieve very low stand-by power, and the system has a lot of design flexibility for the integration of the receiver portion into a portable device. Additionally, a simple communication protocol enables the portable device to take full control of the power transfer. This standard is already supported by over 90 companies in various fields of the electronics industry.

The power transfer process occurs in four phases:

  • The Selection Phase: The power transmitter monitors the charging interface to detect placement of a device to be charged. If none is detected, the power transmitter will continuously ping the power receiver. If there is no device to be charged for a set amount of time, the power transmitter will go into standby mode.
  • The Ping Phase: Similar to SONAR, the power transmitter issues a digital ping to detect a chargeable device. If a device is detected, the power transmitter will maintain the power signal at the level of the ping and will go to the identification and configuration phase. If no device is detected, the power transmitter returns to the selection phase.
  • The Identification and Configuration Phase: The power transmitter negotiates with the power receiver to determine the amount of power needed to charge the device on the interface. If the device is removed from the interface, the power transmitter returns to the selection phase.
  • The Power Transfer Phase: The power transmitter provides power to the power receiver adjusting current as needed based on feedback from the power receiver. Safety features are in place to shut down the power transfer and return to the selection phase should an anomaly occur in the power transfer process.

Understand the Technology

Wireless power charging utilizes near-field magnetic induction to transfer power from a charging base station (pad) to a portable device. A transmitter coil (Tx) in the charging pad sends power over varying distances to a receiver coil (Rx) embedded in a portable device like a cell phone. The Transmitter/Primary coil inside the charging pad creates a magnetic field when powered, similar to a conventional transformer, inducing current to flow through the secondary coil that’s attached to the portable device. (The charging pad has a power conversion circuitry that converts electrical power to magnetic field. At the receiver end the power pickup unit converts the magnetic field back to electrical power to charge the device’s battery.) The transmitter and receiver communicate with each other to control the charging process.

The magnetic coils used by the transmitter and receiver are available as off-the-shelf products, with the Vishay Dale Electronics IWAS Series Qi Wireless Charging Receiving Coil/Shield, one of the first commercially available solutions for WPC compliant devices. The coils provide 70 percent or greater efficiency with high permeability shielding for the receiving coil, and the shielding blocks charging flux from damaging sensitive components or batteries. Typical transmit and receive coils are shown in Figure 2, with a 1 Euro coin between them for a size perspective.

Figure 2: The large transmit coil, the IWAS-4832FF-50, and the smaller receive coil, the IWAS-3827EC-50, are shown with a 1 Euro coin between them. The receive coil is typically mounted inside the medical device, cell phone, or tablet, and delivers up to about 5 W for charging. (Source: Vishay)

Testing the Wireless Charging System

Wirelessly charged medical devices will require independent laboratory verification for electromagnetic compatibility, as well as interoperability (non-interference) with other medical systems. For commercial products, additional testing may also be required. Some of the standards that are applicable for medical systems include:

  • FFC parts 15 and 18
  • IC ICES-001
  • IC Radio Standards Specification (RSS)
  • EU EMC Directive
  • R&TTE Directive

There are numerous independent labs that are available to perform these tests.


Wireless charging is no longer at our doorstep, it has a foot in the door. It started with smaller devices like cell phones and is now expanding to medical and other portable devices—even charging electric vehicles is in the realm of possibilities—it’s just a matter of balancing size versus power transfer requirements versus efficiency.

SOURCE: AXIOM (An Avnet Publication)


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