Miss M8ty - enabling Ethernet from the sensor to the cloud

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Matthias Fritsche and Jonas Diekmann of Harting introduce Harting's new heroine, Miss M8ty, and explain how she and the company's new M8 D-coded connector will enable machine builders to provide Ethernet connectivity from field-level devices through to top-level monitoring and control systems, including the cloud.

Miss M8ty - enabling Ethernet from the sensor to the cloud Ethernet is becoming increasingly common as a communications standard within industrial automation. Until relatively recently, Ethernet was reserved for the top levels of monitoring and control units but increasing numbers of manufacturers of sensors, cameras and other industrial devices are now wanting to connect their products via Ethernet at the top field level. At the same time, field clients are becoming increasingly smaller, while being required to achieve even higher data transfer rates. In order to keep pace with changes within the connection technology arena, Harting Technologiegruppe has recognised this trend in miniaturisation and has responded by launching the new M8 D-coded connector. It is being represented by Miss M8ty, Harting's smaller Ethernet heroine for applications from the cloud right down to all sensors.

Initially miniaturisation comes across as rather an abstract term. Something is made smaller - well, that much is obvious. However, if you dig a little deeper within the field of electronics, it is possible to equate it superficially with almost anything. Computers that used to fill entire rooms now fit in briefcases, and mobile phones are no longer the size of a house brick, so it is clear that these developments have also occurred in different areas. And, of course, this is also apparent in industrial automation, where camera systems, sensors, switches, I/O boxes and decentralised industrial PCs, to name but a few, are becoming continually smaller. However, it is not just that the size of these devices is shrinking. They also have to satisfy the increased specifications of digitalisation and generate significantly more data than even just a couple of years ago. In the face of this, Harting's heroine Miss M8ty has a mission to ensure that the entire spectrum of industrial production, down to the very last machine, is connected to a suitable Ethernet network.

Until now, it has been standard practice to enable device communication at the top field level via fieldbus systems. This required translating field-level signals into control-level Ethernet protocols and vice versa. It is now possible to cut out this step and connect the new, miniaturised field clients directly via Ethernet. This results in higher data transfer rates, which require modified connector systems.

Why do we need modified connector systems?

What connector options for data transfer are actually open to customers? There are really only two IP67 protected options to consider: an additional RJ45 protected in an enclosure, or a M12 pin connector. Despite being small, these connectors are now becoming too large for many applications. Here is an example: some modern industrial cameras used for identification and positioning have grown so small that the power and data connectors are restricting miniaturisation of their enclosures and actually take up most of the space in the application.

Miss M8ty faces this challenge head-on with her M8 D-coded connector. M8 connectors are used in many applications at the field level, at least for signal forwarding. The new D-coded M8 connector features a strong metal enclosure with continuous shielding and 0.8mm diameter contacts, which enable end devices to be supplied with 100Mbit fast Ethernet. To avoid having to find extra space for the additional power ports, the D-coded M8 connector supports PoE and can feed field clients with power and data simultaneously.

Harting has introduced a universal offering consisting of extruded cables and circuit board connectors. This offers device manufacturers the right connector system to make the next steps in miniaturisations a reality. On the circuit board, the M8 connector is about 30 per cent smaller than the previous M12 version. While that does not sound like much, if you combine different M8 ports on an I/O box, the sum of the reduced modular spacing leads to dramatic space savings. On the device-side, users can choose between two flange sockets in heights of 9mm and 13mm. This enables other connectors of different heights to be used, thereby eliminating the problems of differing distances.

During the first stages, the M8 D-coded connector will feature the familiar threading used by pin connectors. However, as Harting has had good experiences with a push-pull locking mechanism on its larger M12 counterpart, the M8 will benefit from this fast and easy mechanism in the not-too-distant future. In particular, this easy access when connectors are arranged next to each other in very confined spaces.

The cable components of connector systems must also be modified. Therefore, Harting will release its own ad hoc field assembly connector in the form of a displacement termination under the name HARAX.

To ensure backward compatibility of the new version of the M8 connector as a universal device, the D-coded version is also standardised. A universal standard with a protocol in accordance with IEEE 802.3, and a connector designed according to the specifications of PAS IEC 61076-2-114, offers customers investment security and enables it to be used with existing active and passive infrastructures. This applies equally to the automation and transportation markets.

From sensor to cloud

Now take a step back and consider the entire system of industrial cabling from the outside. Harting's little heroin, Miss M8ty, is leading a new front in development, which was still completely unthinkable just a few years ago. Ethernet communication no longer just takes place between the top level of a company and field distributors. High-performance and appropriate miniaturisation mean that connector systems can expand networks both upwards and downwards. There is no more uncharted territory on the digital world map. Everything can, and will, be talking to each other in the near future. Servers, internal company networks, individual workstation PCs, network nodes, switches, machine modules, tools, even products will be communicating with their environment via RFID. And its miniaturised ports such as the M8 D-coded connector are making this possible. Harting's Miss M8ty never loses sight of her mission: Ethernet from cloud to the top field levels.

Follow the link for more information about Harting's new M8 D-coded connector.

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