Networked connectors for efficient troubleshooting

IoT Use Case - IMS Connector
5 minutes Reading time
5 minutes Reading time

Companies simplify troubleshooting and avoid machine downtime with networked connectors. They are equipped with sensors that send a message to the higher-level controller or a cloud. The smart connectors from IMS Connector Systems also enable predictive maintenance and prevent up to 70 percent of all unplanned downtime.

The challenge: Avoid machine downtimes and simplify troubleshooting

Malfunctions in machines and plants cost industrial companies time and money. Manual troubleshooting is often very time-consuming. For example, a typical coil welding line extends over 120 meters in length so that sufficiently large quantities of strip steel can be processed. Electrical and electronic components are found in enclosures in many places.

Not only the components themselves are a source of errors, but also the connectors and the wiring in and on the housings. Both can become damaged by environmental influences of any kind and lead to failures. Longer downtimes are the result and costly examinations of the individual components.

Applications for the Industrial IoT offer a solution here. The basic principle is that sensors are used to determine fault conditions and report them to a control center via a network. However, detecting faults in the wiring is not easy and requires special sensors.

The solution: Troubleshooting with networked connectors

The solution: Troubleshooting with networked connectors Their data becomes the basis for automatically running processes. One example is the continuous measurement of important parameters for the condition monitoring of machines and plants.

A key component for this is smart connectors, such as those being developed by the IMS Connector Systems Group. The technology company from Löffingen near Freiburg specializes in the development and manufacture of high-frequency connection technology. The company’s smart connector simplifies troubleshooting in inaccessible locations or in large-scale installations.

Smart connector with sensor technology and Bluetooth

At first glance, the SmartMod connectors are typical 4-pole M12 circular connectors with 3-wire monitoring for industrial use, waterproof and dustproof as usual. But their internal values are different: They possess sensors for temperature, voltage, current, and power. An integrated chip transmits the measured values wirelessly with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE 5.0). This protocol offers a sufficiently high data rate of a maximum of one Mbit/s and a range of up to 40 meters indoors and 100 meters outdoors.

The connection can be used in two ways. First, on-site: Technicians connect to the sensors using a smartphone or tablet. Secondly, communication via Bluetooth gateways is possible. These devices integrate the sensor technology into an existing industrial control system. For this, they support well-known standards such as ProfiNet, Modbus, Ethernet and others. In addition, the gateway stores data via mobile communications directly in the IMS cloud, which displays it on a dashboard. Optionally, another cloud can be used for storage.

Quickly detecting faults and malfunctions

The SmartMod connectors operate independently. No new cabling is required, the system is retrofittable and integrates easily into an existing Industrial IoT solution. This makes it possible, for example, to detect whether a fault or malfunction can be traced back to the connector itself or to the cable harness between two end points. This is especially helpful when manual inspections are not readily available.

Typical scenarios include connections in inaccessible locations such as a miniaturized control cabinet, in large plants or mobile systems such as agricultural machinery. In these cases, the verification of the connection requires significant effort. Faults like cable kinks, cable breaks, or other damages, as well as a missing power supply due to faulty or unconnected connectors, are immediately detected with it.

From Condition Monitoring to Predictive Maintenance

The hardware scenario described so far enables straightforward condition monitoring of industrial facilities of any kind. Annoying faults such as broken cables or disconnected connectors are quickly detected, preventing costly downtimes. Maintenance technicians can thereby finish diagnosing faults more quickly.

But that is by no means all. The data stream from the continuously operating sensors also enables predictive maintenance. For this purpose, IMS has brought the specialist AI-Omatic on board. The company has developed a digital maintenance assistant that monitors machines automatically and unattended. To achieve this, it uses a wide range of sensor data that is fed into the system via Industrial IoT. Using machine learning, the system captures the “normal operation” of machines and equipment and identifies when a disturbance is impending through minimal deviations.

The result: Efficiency through predictive maintenance

The combination of a smart connector and the predictive maintenance software solution from IMS Connector Systems reduces the maintenance effort for companies. The future maintenance requirements and the optimal time for maintenance can be reliably predicted. As a result, they avoid up to 70 percent of all unplanned downtime and increase running performance and equipment efficiency (OEE). The software is easy to adapt to any machines and plants in all industries. All that is required in advance is a brief data synchronization, and after a short time the solution can already be used in the field.

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