Small, lightweight connectors designed to withstand harsh industrial environments provide critical support for the advanced robotic systems behind today’s precision manufacturing systems.
By Bob Stanton, Omnetics Connector Corporation
New Robotic Connectors
Industrial robotics are an important element of next-generation automated manufacturing machinery. The development of new end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT) equipment has led to the development of advanced automated manufacturing systems capable of accurately and efficiently handling complex assembly functions that are too difficult for human workers and existing automation technology to complete. EOAT equipment with the dexterity and precision required to pick and place extremely small or fragile components, like computer chips and sensors, is now widely available and can be customized to suit any range of application-specific needs. For example, when equipped with optical sensing equipment, industrial machinery can now accomplish an array of ultra-miniature and exceedingly accurate manufacturing tasks that previously required human hand assembly done under microscopes.
Advanced motor function and sensor detection technologies like these depend upon an array of robustly constructed, miniature, and lightweight connectors and cabling to deliver ever more delicate and sensitive capabilities. The cables and connectors used in these systems must be extremely small and lightweight to allow for the quick, efficient, and accurate movement of EOAT equipment, and must also deliver high-reliability performance to help reduce machine downtime. Due to the harsh industrial environments they’re employed in, enabling connectors and cabling need to be rugged enough to withstand high operating temperatures and intense shock and vibration, as well as to prevent the ingress of dust, dirt, oils, and industrial chemicals, to satisfy the stringent reliability requirements designed to save both time and money.
Originally designed for high-reliability, space-constrained, weight-conscious, and harsh environment military, aerospace, and defense applications, micro- and nanominiature D connectors provide excellent solutions for advanced automated manufacturing equipment. In addition to meeting size, weight, reliability, and robustness requirements, these connectors are also manufactured by many reputable suppliers, and are available in a wide variety of positions, mounting configurations, and shell materials (including: aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and plastic) to suit individual application demands. Built to meet military specifications, 1.27mm-pitch micro- and 0.635mm-pitch nano-D connectors can survive a range of ruggedness and performance tests to prove their usefulness in automated manufacturing machinery. Board mounted versions are designed to mate with pre-wired connectors or cables for instrument wiring, rated operating temperatures can exceed +200ºC, optional locking screws or latches can help ensure robust, reliable connections during high-vibration machine operation, and most standard designs are available off-the-shelf at a reasonable cost.