India is transitioning to Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution which is bringing in a digital transformation of manufacturing and production processes across sectors. This is leading to an evolution of ‘smart factories’ based on the principles of automation, data exchange, Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing. This connected system combines the power of physical production systems, digital technology, Machine Learning and Big Data.
Manufacturing, being an important sector for India, is projected to contribute 25% to India’s GDP by the year 2025. Today, the global machine tools industry is valued at $1.9 bn and is growing at a CAGR of 13%. In Industry 4.0, machine tools are also evolving into Cyber-Physical Machine Tools (CPMT) that integrates machine tools, machining processes, computation and networking. These systems are required to be more modular and flexible with embedded computers & networks that monitor and control the machining processes. Cable and connection systems used for such machine tools demand multiple features, such as resistance to oil & chemicals, high flexibility, application-specific and long lasting functions as well as light weight. The industry demands solutions that have high accuracy, safety and precision levels, compliance to global standards and address the complexities in installation & maintenance.
With this transition, connectivity solutions should also evolve to offer higher accuracy and precision levels, adapting to the emerging installation & maintenance complexities. To meet these challenging requirements, cable and connection technology needs to be modular, miniaturised and easy to maintain.
New generation manufacturing cells need more flexible and agile machines which can adapt to changing needs of the customer. The same production line is being used to manufacture different products. Hence, unlike traditional and fixed electrical installations, these flexible production lines demand flexible and modular connection systems. We need cables that can be disconnected and reconnected as many times as required, safely and reliably. Modularity also means that the cable connections are easy to configure. Similarly, in high paced technology upgrades, we need the connectivity solutions which are future proof and ready to support higher performance requirements.
Modular connections enable ‘flexible manufacturing’, thus ensuring easy configuration of the modules to meet production requirements. Scalability is also another factor that is essential in cable and connection technology to provide higher efficiency & quality. Modularisation not only benefits the manufacturers but also the users. With enhanced efficiency, the products can be tailor made to meet customer expectations at optimised costs.
With digitalisation, the number of devices that communicate with each other and the number of connections per device has multiplied along with increased data volumes. Between 2020 and 2025, global data creation is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes. This has resulted in accommodating more devices in less space.
To improve resource efficiency, there is constant innovation towards increasingly smaller and more compact machines & devices. From PCs to machines, the future is smaller, faster and more powerful. With machines and equipment becoming more compact every day, there is a demand for flexible cable and connection technology which are suited for smaller spaces, have low bending radius as well as transmit data faster with safety. End connectors are becoming increasingly compact with the capability to transmit a large volume of data at gigabyte speeds. With continued innovation, we can expect smaller connections with very high-speed transmission capabilities.
The evolution of optical fibre technology has taken connection technology to the next level of miniaturisation. Today one pair of optical fiber can transmit hundreds of gigabytes of data for long distances at very high speeds with highest levels of security & reliability. The traditional copper communication channels are rapidly getting replaced with future-ready optical fibre networks. The future of industrial networks with 5G technology will solely rely on optical fibre networks for secured and super-fast communication between the end devices.
As we migrate from traditional systems to next generation fully integrated manufacturing cells, inter-connectivity between the sub-systems acts like a nervous system in the human body. A single failure in such a complex system can bring the entire manufacturing cell to a standstill, leading to huge losses in terms of productivity and considerable waste of time to restart the process. This calls for connection technology that has a long service life and is easy to maintain. The proper selection of building blocks like cables, connectors and protection systems plays a vital role in minimising such unforeseen eventualities.
The digitisation of production network has enabled remote access and maintenance of the equipment for both trouble shooting as well as set up upgrade. Today’s technology of secured gateways has made the remote access of production equipment easy & secure. These gateways connecting to the World Wide Web have high-grade encryption & enhanced security features so that no intruder can access the production network and provides a highly secured encrypted tunnel for accessing the production network. Moreover, with the increasing popularity of flexible working models, remote maintenance becomes critical, irrespective of the industry.
Meeting ever-changing customer demands
The next era of the industrial world is going to be more agile, faster and highly efficient. Thus, it becomes inevitable to build connections that are reliable, secure and future ready for a seamless transition. In the rapidly changing manufacturing environment, modularity, miniaturisation and ease of maintenance of cable and connection technology will play a vital role in meeting the ever-changing demands of the customers.