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In Industry 4.0, development and production processes become more flexible, more efficient and more customer-specific. Product development, production, logistics and customers are intermeshed with the help of the latest intelligent information and communication technology.
The driving force behind Industry 4.0 is the rapidly-increasing digitalisation of the economy and society. The technical basis for this comprises intelligent, digitally-networked systems that can be used to achieve the greatest possible degree of self-organised production: people, machinery, plants, logistics and products communicate and cooperate with one another.
Flexibility and one-off production are the main aims of Industry 4.0, enabling companies to achieve resource efficient and ergonomic production, with dynamic integration of their customers and business partners into the value chain. The technological basis for this vision is the Internet of Things.
This represents a turning point that offers enormous opportunities and at the same time confronts the sector with enormous challenges. It is only with consistent, interdisciplinary collaboration of all involved participants from industrial machinery, electrical engineering, automation and information technology that uniform, ground-breaking standards can be created and the future can be shaped. Component, system and solution providers must all change the way they think. In the course of Industry 4.0, the demands on cable and connection technology will also change. The Lapp Group, one of the leading cable manufacturers in India is ready, and is already actively helping to shape the fourth industrial revolution.
Cable and connection technology re-thought
In the course of Industry 4.0, the demands on cable and connection technology will also change. Data rates will climb with the consistent networking of company and business processes, a development that demands high-performance networks. In future, network cables will no longer only be used to connect machinery and within control cabinets, they will also be laid directly to intelligent actuators or sensors in the field. The solution lies in system-specific field-compatible Ethernet cables and robust connectors.
Reliable networking of production across all levels is only possible with a comprehensive cabling and connection concept. Ethernet cables in a production environment must be substantially more robust than LAN cables in an office environment. They must possess the quality of oil resistant cables, must withstand high temperatures and must also function reliably and durably in the drag chain.
It is an enormous challenge to combine the requirements of flexibility, robustness like oil resistant cables with high data rates. In addition, it must also be possible to install network connectors in the field without special tools. Added to this are the growing demands in terms of the protection rating. Whilst an RJ45 data connector was sufficient up to now in the control cabinet, dirt and moisture-resistant connectors are becoming more and more important in the field.
In future, they will have a much more modular design so that the machinery and plants of tomorrow can be retrofitted in a more flexible manner. In the sense of 'plug & produce', in an ideal scenario the machine modules will manage with one single connector. We have already developed such a hybrid plug within the framework of the SmartFactoryKL joint project. It combines data, power supply and pneumatics in one connector and significantly reduces the retrofit times of a modular production plant. In general, the trend is towards smaller and smaller yet also more and more efficient connectors and cables.
Even today, connection solutions from Lapp can be used to realise complete end-to-end networks from office level to sensor/actuator level, and to make existing plants fit for Smart Factory. Communication, supply and sensor connections – from a single source.
Smart processes. Smart products. Smart personnel.
The future began long ago at Lapp. The Smart Factory principle is pervading more and more sectors and is having an increasing influence on our thoughts and actions.
A good example of the implementation of Industry 4.0 is our EPIC® housing configurator on our website. Using the online configurator, in just a few steps our customers can compile their individual industrial connector housing with their own locking concept and requirements-based cable entries on their own PC – and place their order directly via the Lapp e-shop. The order arrives promptly in the fully-automated metal processing center. Believe it or not, up to 138 million different configurations can be realized here. Within five working days, the customer has their individual EPIC® housing on their desk. In this way, even with today’s technology, we are able to cost-effectively realize bespoke products almost in single-item batch size production.
Another example of how the Smart Factory idea is being successfully implemented today can be found in a solution that we provide to our customers to accelerate their logistics. Our customers can scan empty cable drums in their own warehouse with mobile barcode scanners and thereby automatically order replacements. For this reason, our cable drums are equipped with barcodes which the customer can read with a mobile barcode scanner that we provide.
- Our product portfolio is also adopting more and more to the requirements of the modern age. As a competent partner in the realization of future-oriented networks, we have greatly extended our cabling and connection technology range for Industrial Ethernet and fiber optic cables so that we can supply the market of the future with ground-breaking solutions. Within the framework of Industrial Ethernet applications, Lapp offers solutions such as the highly flexible ETHERLINE® FD Cat. 6A for applications where the highest data rates have to be transmitted with consistent reliability in drag chains that are under constant movement with a data rate of 10 Gbit/s. Connectors that comply with the Cat. 6A standard are required for the connection. If water-tightness and dirt resistance in accordance with IP67 are also required, we recommend the use of M12 connectors. In order to fulfill the Cat. 6A requirements, here at Lapp we have recently supplemented the familiar D-coded M12 connectors with an X-coded variant. The most important principle of all our industrial network solutions is that network technology in an industrial environment must be kept simple on the one hand, and must be rapidly connectible without special tools on the other hand.
Space-saving yet robust solutions such as the 30 percent thinner ETHERLINE® EC are suitable for use at sensor/actuator level and allow the tightest bending radii. Drag chains can also be configured with such extremely small dimensions. Thanks to the robust PUR outer sheath acting like oil resistant cables, can be used with high mechanical stresses or in oily environments. The robust 4-wire Cat. 5e Ethernet cables are also available as finished products with a pointed, space-saving M8 connector that is substantially smaller than the M12 connector that is otherwise commonly used with Industrial Ethernet.
On the way to the new era of Industry 4.0, it is also particularly important to take your own employees along with you. Progress is not possible without motivated and well-trained specialist personnel. With this in mind, we make e-learning modules on the subject of networking available to our employees around the world. This is an offer that is very well received and that is enjoying growing popularity. We also offer webinars to our customers, covering the subject of Industrial Ethernet networking. The information requirements are generally very high. This of course also applies to vocational training, where we also see a great need for action in adapting the training contents to suit the changed vocational requirements. Lapp India , one of the leading cable manufacturers in India actively helps to shape these changes in collaboration with other training companies.