Not to be confused with low-speed communication connectors used in phone and data networks, modular industrial connectors are rugged assemblies that allow different connector modules to be inserted into the connector housing. Power, signal, fiber optic, data, and pneumatic signals can all interface with a machine in one compact connector versus hardwiring with numerous lines and wires. These simple to mate connectors are usually rectangular in shape and are rugged for use with industrial machines such as robots, rack and panel systems, test applications, control cabinets, welding machines, conveyors, and more.
Using modular connectors streamlines system design, by eliminating numerous cable and connector modules and having only one. They allow for easy customization, giving users the ability to specify standard components to build a connector suited exactly for their application. In addition to reducing wiring required in machine design, modular industrial connectors are also perfect in small, tight spaces.
Most manufacturers can supply a variety of modules, including fiber optic, D-Sub, coax, pneumatic, and other power and signal lines. In addition, rugged industrial modular connectors are designed to withstand extreme environments, such as high and low temperatures, vibration, dirt, humidity, and more. They do vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, however; depending on the IP rating required, they can be available in a lightweight, often powder-coated aluminum, plastic or stainless steel.
In general, modular industrial connectors can usually handle between four and 50 22-gage (or higher) conductors, as well as the additional pneumatic and fiber optic lines. As for voltage ratings and styles, most industrial designs can integrate currents up to 200 A and 5000 V, and are offered in metal for IP68 ratings and plastic or stainless steel for washdown environments. The more lightweight aluminum modules are suited for small production applications or where engineering and tooling is prohibitive to system design.
Installing modular connectors is simple. They do not require any special tools for assembly, often just featuring screws, locking latches, pushbuttons or levers to keep the connection strong but also easy to unlock and remove.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of modular industrial connectors is in machine set-up. Once a machine is ready for shipping, all hardwiring must be disconnected. Modular designs mean that a machine user can simply integrate the machine into their facility, eliminating the timely setup of not only reconnecting all these wires but also the chance to cross lines or make a mistake in the design. In addition, modular connectors make machine troubleshooting easier, as they are almost plug-and-play and don’t require an electrician to install or remove.
A variety of manufacturers supply modular connectors, including HARTING, ODU USA, Amphenol, TE Connectivity, Phoenix Contact, Molex, Smiths Connectors, and more.