Wiring and tubing cleanup

Connect electronic and fluid lines in the same housing

By Mike Bacidore, chief editor

The surge in robotics applications, more modular machine designs and an increase in media types have created a need for more robust and adaptable connection housings to offer expanded options to machine builders.

Modlink Vario is a new connection concept that complements Murrelektronik's existing line of connector options. It's a multimedia coupling device designed to allow the user to quickly interchange electronic signal carriers and fluid connectors within a modular housing. The need for the new connection option stemmed from the limitations of existing couplings.

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"We have seen a lot of this being done in various ways in a control cabinet," explains Aaron Henry, marketing manager at Murrelektronik. "You see all kinds of different methods to run the cables or pneumatic lines. On the cabinet side, everything seems to be normal. But, when you trace the line out to a robot or conveyor line, you see the pneumatic or electrical lines routed with bulky plates to make a quick disconnect. And these usually aren't located in the same place for each product. You'll have an area where the pneumatics are and another area for the electronics. We're bringing those two core areas together and making it flexible."

The metal housing uses interchangeable keyed inserts that are capable of connecting shielded and unshielded M12 connectors, as well as pneumatic and fluid tubing up to 8 mm in diameter. The modular housing is available in anodized aluminum or stainless steel with up to 10 connections per housing. The adaptive inserts are available with or without shut-off and in drip-free versions, for safe connection and disconnection under pressure. Independent keying of the connector halves and inserts prevents cross connections and improves installation and decoupling speeds.

Certain industries and applications could benefit immediately because of the connection's design. "We see a definite trend to use this in automotive, where robotic welding or robotic tooling are staples," says Henry. "We are seeing an increase in robotic applications, and there's a general, continuing trend to clean up the wiring and tubing on the end of the robot tooling. We're also seeing potential in food and beverage because of the fully stainless steel body. And we're exploring the potential in pharmaceutical because of the no-drip applications we can do."

The metal housing uses interchangeable keyed inserts that are capable of connecting shielded and unshielded M12 connectors, as well as pneumatic and fluid tubing up to 8 mm in diameter.

This is Murrelektronik's first step in improving coupling connections for multiple media types in one housing. The modular design of Vario allows the user to interchange the inserts without tools and without having to purchase a new housing. As installation requirements change, connection options are available. The robust design of the housing is IP67-rated and allows for installation in harsh environments with secure connections either in-line with a system, on the tooling or even passing through a control cabinet.

"This is a one-piece solution for disconnecting multiple types of media," explains Henry. "It's a no-tool-required method of quick disconnect for multiple media types. This allows core components to be quickly adapted and changed based on the new tooling that will be arriving."

Modlink Vario offers insert pressure ratings from -11.6 to 232 psi with single seal for standard pressure range. Insert materials include nickel-plated brass (CuZn) for compressed air, brass for cooling water applications and stainless steel (316) for aggressive liquids. It's available in four-, six-, eight- and 10-port housings.

Electronic signal connectors are available in standard and fieldbus options. Standard includes M12 male and female, five-pole or eight-pole, A-coded, shielded and unshielded. Fieldbus also includes M12 male and female, but with the six-pole Murrelektronik Cube, B-coded or D-coded.

"The unique thing we bring is the ability to run a fieldbus network through this product," explains Henry. "When you look at decentralized I/O systems and the placement of smart valve manifolds, you always have to consider supplying air and a fieldbus connection. This product allows you to do both and add vacuum and liquid all in the same connection."

Coupling diameter options for the Modlink Vario include:

  • M38x1.5, M46x1.5, M60x1.5, M73x1.5 (four-port)
  • M46x1.5, M60x1.5, M70x1.5 (six-port)
  • M50x1.5, M70x1.5, M73x1.5 (eight-port)
  • M60x1.5, M73x1.5 (10-port)

Modlink Vario is designed for fast connection and disconnection with no tools required. Its patented release sleeve protects the system from dirt penetration. The easy-to-clean connection housing is designed to be hygienic and reliable, with O-rings on the hose side to provide a safe seal.