Hardly any other connector is as widely used as the RJ45 (also known as the western plug). It has been around since the 1970s, and in the decades that followed, technologically superior variationswere developed for use in industrial applications. It’s hard toimagine the industrial world today without them, not justfor their convincing price to performance ratio, but becausethey are almost synonymous with Ethernet connections.However, this could change as the ix Industrial interface hasrecently emerged as a promising alternative with a significantly smaller design and more robust construction (Fig. 1). Itis opening new opportunities in device manufacturing andoffers benefits to end-users.
RJ connectors were introduced in the 1970s by Bell Laboratories in the USA and standardized a few years later bythe FCC (Federal Communications Commission). One ofthe best-known versions is the RJ45 connector—used fortelecommunications and data transmission in offices fordecades–that connects PCs to wall outlets with patch cables ranging from Category 5 to Category 7. Over the years,more technologically advanced, industry approved RJ45connectors have been developed. These are compatible withlarger cables and wires, can be assembled without crimpingtools, and are shielded to meet industry EMC requirements.A popular example is the RJ45 connector used in SiemensDRIVE-CLiQ systems, which has two integrated powercontacts that allow data and power transmission over a single cable; up to eight data cables (four pairs) and two powercables can be connected to it.
THE RJ45 IS A BARRIER TO MINIATURIZATIONWhile the features listed above are adequate for the RJ45, itdoes pose significant drawbacks. First, the connector is notrobust enough for many applications; industrial versionsonly have one locking hook, which unlike the plastic officeversion, is made of metal and thus provides at least somedurability. A far more serious drawback, however, is the sizeof the plugs and sockets.
As miniaturization advances, devices get smaller and
smaller, as do the circuit boards upon where the sockets are
mounted. As a result, the connector’s dimensions of 7 to 11
mm become comparatively large and the product designer
must ensure enough space is allocated. The limits of min-
iaturization, especially for compact mobile devices, dis-
plays, small programmable controllers, cameras, and sen-
sors, are then defined by the size of the RJ45 connector.
It’s easy to understand why a smaller Ethernet connector
would be desirable.
ROBUST AND 70% LESS SPACE REQUIRED
A modern alternative that could replace the RJ45 industrial version has recently emerged: the ix Industrial interfacewith 10 contacts, Cat 6A classification, and data transmission rates of up to 10 Gbit. It is compliant with IEC/PAS61076-3-124 and due to multiple advantages could potentially supersede the standard industrial RJ45 in its implementation as a robust, miniaturized Ethernet interface.
Some advantages of the ix Industrial interface includea more compact mating surface and high mechanical robustness. Designed with industrial settings in mind, it hastwo sturdy locking mechanisms with metal hooks to ensureresistance to vibrations and contact durability. It is suitablefor ambient temperatures from -40 to +85°C (-40 to 185°F)and shielding provides EMC robustness. The space-savingaspect of the ix female connector is impressive: it only requires 30% of the space of an RJ45 female connector (Fig. 2),allowing circuit board size to decrease even further, whichis key to device miniaturization. At the same time, efficiency and sustainability also improve, as smaller housings require fewer raw materials. A smaller fan with lower powerconsumption is also more likely to suffice, given less air isneeded to circulate in the housing. Therefore, the ix Industrial interface makes sense from an economic and ecologicalpoint of view. Furthermore, it could be a far more reliablealternative to USB connectors on inspection cameras.
ASSEMBLY SOLUTIONS WITH THE NEW
New connector technology often requires cable manufacturers to adapt existing products or develop new cable technologies. Given its early stage, cable manufacturers are optimistic about the opportunities offered by this new IndustrialEthernet interface and their ability to provide plug-and-playassembly solutions with ix Industrial connectors to devicemanufacturers. The industry focus is currently automationtechnology, video and camera technology, visualization inmechanical engineering (e.g. detection, quality assurance,etc.), and companies that manufacture measurement systems, all who require patch cables to transmit power and data.Additionally, cables with “mixed” connections, i.e. ix codingat one end and RJ45 coding at the other, need to be offered asthe market adopts this new technology.
The ix connectors are currently available with A-codingfor standard Ethernet ( 4 or 8 pins, plus two power cablesrated at 3A for 50 or 60V DC), or B-coding for applica-tion-specific installation; both versions are straight. Two90-deg.-angle plug versions, as well as a field-wireable plugwith C-coding for standard Ethernet, will be launched in2020. The significant space-savings compared to their RJ45counterparts open additional miniaturization opportunitiesto device manufacturers, especially since horizontal, vertical, or upright versions of the corresponding housing arealso available. Durability, compactness, high data transmission rates, and a double locking mechanism clearly speakfor the new ix Industrial interface. Now the wait begins tosee how the market responds.
For more, visit https://newequipment.com/21128097
By Horst Messerer, Product Manager, Helukabel
Figure 2. With the ix Industrial connector, a packing density 5-times larger than aconventional RJ45 can be achieved. Photo courtesy of Helukabel
Figure 1. The new industrial Category 6A: ix Industrial connectorsfrom HIROSE with Ethernet cables from HELUKABEL.
Photo courtesy of Helukabel.