Terminal Blocks and I/O Grow Up

Several Trends Occurring in the Design and Development of These Products Are Used by Machine Builders for Their Control Applications

By Rick Pedraza

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This month's roundup of I/O products shows several trends occurring in the design and development of terminal blocks and I/O systems used by machine builders for their control applications, including more functionality and wider applicability.

Bishop & Associates, a research firm specializing in the connector market, reports that the terminal block market grew 5.4% in 2005 to $2.01 billion, with Europe consuming 44% of the world demand. North America is second with a 22% market share, while China, Japan, Asia Pacific, and the rest of the world share the balance of 33%, says the report. Forecasts show the terminal block market increasing to $2.6 billion by 2010.


Worldwide shipments of distributed/remote I/O for industrial markets totaled $3.2 billion in 2005, and are forecast to reach nearly $4.3 billion by 2010, according to a new study conducted by Venture Development Corp.

The Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) market was the largest consuming geographic region of distributed/remote I/O in 2005, accounting for 47% of worldwide shipments. North America accounted for about 25%, Asia-Pacific for 24%, with the remaining shipments going to the Latin American (Mexico, Central and South America) market.

The study says the most significant trend related to bus/network connectivity "remains the ongoing shift to Ethernet networks and the displacement of proprietary buses/networks by open buses/networks in general."

Other trends include higher data converter resolution, higher data sample rates, transparent interchangeability with equivalent connectors, blocks and modules, and the proliferation of safety buses/networks.

Our roundup reveals that the number of new products and systems that connect via industry-standard protocols is gaining momentum. Most of the products found below feature Ethernet or fieldbus connectivity with detachable connections. Nearly all of the new terminal blocks on the market support DeviceNet, Profibus, CANopen, Modbus, and AS-Interface.

Product Roundup:

Connectivity Now
IP20 BradControl block I/O system connects industrial I/O devices to a PLC or PC controller over an industrial network. The ribbon cable-based expansion bus handles inter-module communication, operates at 11 MBaud, is 6.5 m in length, and can accommodate up to 10 groups of modules. The expandable system accommodates a maximum of 512 channels of I/O as discrete inputs, discrete solid state outputs, discrete relay outputs, analog inputs, and analog outputs.
Woodhead Industries
(847) 236-9300

Device Couplers
TG200 TrunkGuard fieldbus device couplers are available with four, eight, or 10 fieldbus spurs, and work with Foundation fieldbus H1 and Profibus-PA interfaces. Couplers can be DIN-rail mounted, or enclosed in IP66-rated, glass-reinforced polyester or stainless steel enclosures. Up to 32 fieldbus devices can be accommodated in one segment. Automatic segment termination activates when the coupler is the last fieldbus junction device in the segment.
Moore Industries-Intl.
(818) 894-7111

Thick and Thin
netFlex-10M cables perform more than 10 million flex cycles in c-tracks and robotic applications. DeviceNet Thin and Mid specification can be ordered as premolded cordsets with Mini or Micro connectors. Mid-spec standard cable has a maximum trunk length of 300 m for 125 kbit/s and 200 m for 250 kbit/s. 600 V Thick Tray cable allows placement in the same cable tray as power cables and is available with Mini connectors as single or double-ended cordsets.
(804) 379-2010

Dedicated to Speed
VBA I/O modules for AS-Interface specification 3.0 support extended addressing with four inputs and four outputs for up to 62 nodes per network. G2 node provides IP67 protection in a low-profile flat housing, with M12 quick-disconnect I/O. G4 node provides IP65 protection, input wires that can be field cut to length, and vibration-resistant, cage-tension-spring terminals for I/O connection. KE switch cabinet module is IP20 protected with a 22.5 mm housing for minimal enclosure space requirements.
(330) 486-0001

On-Machine I/O
1732 Armor Weld­Blocks combine I/O circuits, power supply and network adapters in one sealed IP69k housing. Blocks of 24 VDC digital I/O mount directly on equipment near sensors or actuators. Nickel-plated, cast-aluminum resists the effects of weld slag and magnetic fields created by high currents at weld points found in close proximity to the weld head. The light protective housing makes it suitable for end-of-arm robotic applications.
Rockwell Automation
(440) 646-4084

Process of Elimination
750-670 I/O module includes stepper motor and servo drive control in a compact 12-mm package. Integrating stepper motor and servo drive control into the fieldbus node (PLC or PC-based) eliminates the need for a separate motion controller. Communication is via RS-422 interface, and is controlled by a variable output frequency of 0-500 kHz. It has 24-bit resolution and eight LEDs for status indication and diagnostics.

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