Mueller Electric Blog

AUTOMATION TRENDS FOR PACKAGING, 2022

Posted by Deanna Craver on May 9, 2022 4:28:30 PM

AUTOMATION TRENDS FOR PACKAGING, 2022

           How To Make Technology Work As Your Packaging Solution While Creating A Profit

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Due to uncertain times and the need to streamline manufacturing processes as much as possible while turning the best profit, technological advancements have been made in every industry and are now being heavily implemented everywhere. By now you’ve heard all about Industry 4.0 and how it can be applied to factory automation. But how does this effect your packaging needs and that of the packaging industry overall? Here are some of the top automation trends for packaging in 2022 and how these trends can help your business.

Robots & CoBots
The most obvious automation trend is using robots and cobots to automate such packaging tasks as filling, packing and palletizing. Robots are used to perform just about any repetitive task such as assembly, machine tending, quality assurance, palletizing and picking-and-placing tasks. CoBots, short for collaborative robots, can do the same and are often utilized where more than one robot is needed to perform a sequence of tasks. Because CoBots are premade with safety-compliant designs, CoBots are typically rented or leased and are especially great to use in conjunction with human applications or in areas where people work on the production floor.

End-Of-Arm Tooling (EOAT) for robotics
EOAT is being used more and more in packaging as many technological advances have been recently made. Developments include robotic hands that now have sensitive grip and can automatically adjust through Artificial Intelligence (AI), making this function useful for picking and packing applications.

For example, the idea of EOAT being used to pick and pack food items as delicate as tomatoes or grapes hasn’t been considered until now due to the risk of crushing items, however; because of newly-designed soft, spring-like fabricated fingers can sensitively adjust grip on objects, the application is now a reality. What’s more, EOAT changeovers needed for running different jobs has been a chore in the past, producing a lot of unwanted downtime with needing to unbolt one tool, bolt on another and, in many cases, having to change programming to accommodate the new job to be run. Because of EOAT advancements, however, operators are now quickly able to swap out one tool for another during change outs, along with grippers, scanners and packaging tools. Some new EOAT can also be used among different types of robot arms and models, instead of just one, making them convenient to use for multiple applications and compatible with different styles of robots and cobots.

NEW ADVANCEMENTS IN EOAT ROBOTICS WITH SENSITIVE GRIPPERS, POWERED BY AI, ALLOW FOR NEWFOUND APPLICATIONS IN FOOD PICKING AND PACKAGING. TO THE LEFT, DELICATE GRIPPERS ARE GENTLE ENOUGH TO GRASP BREAD PRODUCTS WITHOUT CRUSHING THEM. TO THE RIGHT, THE SAME GRIPPERS PICK UP A HEAD OF CABBAGE WITHOUT DAMAGING ANY OF THE LEAVES!

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Machine Learning / AI-Vision Systems
Machine learning, such as what is used in Artificial Intelligence-vision systems (referred to as AI), can help greatly in packaging as well. AI-vision systems can be used for inspection purposes and for lowering costs associated with inspection. Adaptable systems, such as the AI Gateway from Pleora Technologies, can be integrated with current cameras, sensors and equipment and can be programmed to update your existing systems for added functionalities. AI-vision systems can be of special use in food picking and packaging as they can inspect produce and predict shelf life which can help immensely to reduce waste. AI-vision systems are also being used more and more often in a variety of ways to enhance quality control, inspection and production efficiency, such as by taking pictures of completed products to examine package quality.

BELOW (LEFT), AN AI VISION SYSTEM IS USED TO SORT APPLES. THROUGH MACHINE LEARNING, SENSORS AND CAMERAS CAN DETECT DEFECTS, AS WELL AS RECOGNIZE WHICH APPLES ARE NOT AS RIPE AS OTHERS AND SEND THEM TO BE USED IN A SEPARATE FOOD CLASSIFICATION. ALL OF THIS IS DONE AT HIGH RATES OF SPEED TO IMPROVE FOOD QUALITY AND REDUCE LABOR COSTS. TO THE RIGHT, PHOTONICS IS USED TO INSPECT THE RIPENESS OF STRAWBERRIES FOR PICKING AND PACKAGING. PHOTONICS CAN ALSO BE USED TO PREDICT THE SHELF LIFE OF PRODUCTS AND GREATLY REDUCE WASTE.

AI Vision Systems & Photonics


Food Packaging & Processing
The key to more profitable food packaging is knowing what goods should be produced in large amounts to yield the greatest profit margins. Technology can certainly help in this department. Automation is now being used to enhance packaging, as well as improving food safety and increasing shelf life.

All these automation trends are currently being used in packaging as well as in all types of factory automation, however; due to universal pressures to continue manufacturing processes while turning a profit during labor shortages has caused plant managers and staff to implement and rely more and more on automation as a solution.

No matter where you are in the automation process … whether you’ve invested in all new equipment, are retrofitting a few pieces of machinery or are continuing to use your current equipment as is, Mueller Electric is here to help you with automation solutions. Mueller Electric can supply you with the factory automation cables needed to link all your equipment together for ultimate communication and automation purposes. With a large array of UL-listed cables and custom-made cable solutions, Mueller Electric can find a solution for you that gives you ultimate connectivity. Feel free to contact Mueller Electric or call 800.955.2629 to find out what Mueller can do for you.

Topics: engineering, Robotics, Instrumentation, Factory Automation Cables, Technology, Factory Automation

M12 Connections Explained: What Are They & Which Are Best For Your Purpose?

Posted by Deanna Craver on Apr 5, 2022 1:20:03 PM



M12 CONNECTIONS EXPLAINED:
WHAT ARE THEY AND WHICH ARE BEST FOR YOUR PURPOSE? 

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With so many various types of
M12 connections and options to choose from, such as pin count, pin positions, connection coding and IP ratings, the selection process can seem rather overwhelming. What does it all mean and how do you know which connections are right for your specific application? This article will explain these terms, what all of them mean as well as all of their classifications, so that you can discover which M12 connections are right for you. 


M12 CONNECTIONS … WHAT ARE THEY?

The name M12 came about pretty simply: M stands for the unit of measurement taken (in this case, metric) and 12 stands for the length of the diameter taken across the outside of the threads (12mm). M12s have circular connections and, because of their circular shape, they possess high current capabilities and are much easier in obtaining ingress protection (IP) ratings, or ratings that tell how well connections are able to keep out elements such as dirt, sand and water, than their rectangular counterparts. This makes them an excellent choice for use in factory automation applications, or in any tough or harsh environment where dirt or dampness is involved. 


PIN COUNT

Choosing the right M12 connections depends on your specific application. M12 connections come in a variety of pin positions, anywhere from 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12 and 17 pins. The number of pins varies depending on the signal type and number of signals, connection coupling and code.
 

Pin counts differ according to code. Connections with B code, which are used for Profibus connections, typically have 5 pins, although their pin count can vary from having 3-5 pins. Connections with C code, which are used for AC power applications, usually have 6 pins, although their pin count can also vary from 3-6 pins. Connections with D code, which are used for Ethernet applications involving data transfer of up to 100 Mbits, always have 8 pins. Connections with A code, on the other hand, are used as all-purpose connections in such a wide variety of factory automation applications, such as attaching to sensors, actuators and a number of other smart devices, that the pin count can be anywhere from 2-17 pins. 


PIN POSITIONS AND CONNECTION CODING

Different pin positions have been created to coincide with the different types of coding that have been devel- oped according to function. This way the pin positions act as a fail-safe and eliminate any mistakes of cables being connected that were made for different coding. For instance, you would certainly connect cables that both have A-coding and are being used to hook up sensors with corresponding equipment, however; you would not want to connect an AC power cable to an Ethernet cable. 

Present coding

 

CODING FOR DATA APPLICATIONS

Below is a description of the different coding classifications currently used in factory automation and what they mean.

A-CODING
A-coding (also known as Micro-DC) for factory automation cables is the most widely used coding in factory automation applications of all the types. These connections are used in data applications primarily involving DC power. A-coding is used for attaching actuators, attenuators, sensors, motor-operated switches and other devices to automation equipment. A-coded connections are also used to transfer up to 1-Gbit of data in Ethernet applications and can have anywhere from 2 to 17 pin positions.

B-CODING
B-coding is unique in that it contains a reversed single keyway, which allows 2 unique M12 connections to be mounted on the same panel without the risk of incorrectly coupling connections to equipment with varying voltage and amperage. B-coding for factory automation cables is used in fieldbus connections involving Profibus and Interbus. B-coding connectors typically have anywhere from 3 to 5 pins.

C-CODING
C-coding (also known as Micro-AC) is strictly used in cases where AC current is involved, such as with AC actuators, sensors and other AC devices. Because of this C-coding is not as commonly used as the other coding types. Connections with C-coding all have extended grounding pins and double keyways for added safety to prevent them from being mistaken for other similar-looking connections or being coupled with the wrong cables. C-coding connections have anywhere from 3 to 6 pins.

D-CODING
D-coding is specifically used in network cables for industrial Ethernet applications to transfer data up to 100-Mbits. The insides of cables with this type of coding consist of either 4 wire connectors (D-coding) with 2 pairs of Cat 5e cables or else M12 8 wire (A-coding) connectors with 4 pairs of Cat 5e cable. D-coding can also be used with Profinet, Ethernet/IP and EtherCat systems. D-coded connections usually have 3 to 5 pins.

X-CODING
X-coding has been introduced in the recent years and is quickly becoming a standard for use with high-speed industrial Ethernet applications. X-coding has capabilities of transferring large amounts of data at high speeds, up to 10-Gbits of data. X-coding is expected to eventually replace A- and D-coded parts for Ethernet applications. X-coding applications include high-speed industrial Ethernet and Cat6A. X-coded connections always have 8 pins. 

 

Soon-to-be coding

 
CONNECTION CODING FOR POWER APPLICATIONS
While A, B, C, D and X connection coding make up the majority of factory automation cable use today, new coding is being introduced as well. K, L, S and T coding are all used for power applications. Rapid advancements in Industry 4.0 technology have resulted in these codings providing improved performance in specific power operations. S- and K-coding are both used for AC power applications and it is believed that S-coding will at some point take the place of C-coding that is currently used. T- and L-coding are both used for DC power applications and it is believed that T-coding will at some point take the place of A-coding that is currently used. P-coding has also been developed for various uses where quick connects and disconnects of cables are needed.


IP RATINGS
As mentioned earlier, the circular shape of M12 connectors makes it easy to assign them IP ratings which classify how well connectors are able to block out unwanted elements that can cause corrosion and other problems. Because of the rugged design of M12 connections, they are an ideal choice for use in factory automation.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) came up with these rating classifications and international standards which set the bar for what connections can withstand. There are three common IP standards associated with M12 connections which are IP67, IP68 and IP69.

What are the differences?
The first digit (in this case, the number 6 in all three ratings given) refers to the connection’s resistance to solid objects, such as dirt, sand or dust. The significance of the number 6 means that after being in contact with solids for 8 hours, the connection does not absorb any “harmful” dirt and it is still functional. The second digit refers to the connection’s resistance to water. In the examples given we have 7, 8 and 9.

The significance of the number 7 means that the connection can be submerged in a greater depth of up to a 1 meter of fresh water for half an hour and still be water resistant. The significance of the number 8 means that the connection can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for a half an hour and still be resistant. The significance of the number 9 means that the connection can actually withstand high pressures, high-pressure jet sprays, wash downs and steam cleaning procedures.


MAKING YOUR SELECTION
Now that you know about pin counts, pin positions, coding and ratings, you are ready to select your connections. Mueller Electric can help you with the process. Mueller Electric’s M12 factory automation connections have the most reliable and efficient connection standards for industrial machinery and industrial automation applications. Having high-performance capabilities, small footprints and extremely low failure rates, Mueller Electric’s connections are ideal for use in the toughest conditions.


            Mueller Electric offers M12 cable connections with features such as:

Industry-standard screw-locking mechanisms
IEC ratings of IP67, IP68 & IP69
A, B, C, D & X-coding options
Field-installing cable and panel-mount options
Moulded straight and right-angle variants
Pin ranges of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12 & 17 positions
Shielded PVC and PUR options for cables


What’s more, if your automation takes place in a moist environment or if your equipment requires washdowns, factory automation cables with a minimum IP rating of IEC-IP68 are recommended. These cables provide a strong, secure and sealed connection between your automation equipment and robots, sensors, actuators, machine vision systems, motor-operated switches and other smart components, even in humid or moist conditions. The IEC-IP68 rating is highly recommended for factory automation in both the food and beverage and measurement and control industries. The IEC-IP69 rating is what is most often used in road vehicle applications. All of Mueller Electric’s M12 connections have an IEC ratings of IP67, IP68 and even IP69, the highest IEC rating available.


CONTACT MUELLER ELECTRIC
Still have questions about M12 connections? Give Mueller Electric a call at 800.955.2629 or contact us here. One of our knowledgeable staff members will be happy to help you select the connections that are best for you. With a wide array of factory automation connections, including a large selection of UL-listed connections in our factory automation catalog, Mueller is sure to have something for everyone. If by chance you do not see what you are looking for, Mueller also specializes in creating custom-made cable orders and can put together a solution just for you and your unique application needs!

Fore more information on M12 connections, feel free to visit Mueller Electric at www.muellerelectric.com.


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Topics: electronics, engineering, Instrumentation, Factory Automation Cables, Factory Automation, Connectors

Plant Safety in Grounding & Bonding

Posted by Tim Ulshafer on Sep 21, 2018 1:29:55 PM

When you think of plant safety it is common to think about the things you can see or do. This can be rules and regulations on how to navigate throughout the plant as well as wearing the appropriate safety attire such as hard hats, safety glasses, ear plugs, in addition to fire suits or Kevlar gloves to name a few. So, if the plant has all these things, isn’t it safe? Well, maybe, or maybe not? What about the things you can’t see such as static electricity? Have you considered the need for grounding and bonding?

C clamp barrel fb size 1The number of static electricity incidents reported in the U.S. exceeds more the 250 a year. The reports of these incidents are way more common that you would like to think. Certainly, when electrostatic charge build-up exists in a flammable or explosive environment a very hazardous situation has been created.

Typically these situations can be avoided by installing high quality low resistance grounding/ bonding cables containing clips and clamps. The clips are required to maintain high clamp pressure and the clamps will need to have a paint piercing point to be effective in garnering a solid metal on metal connection to reduce resistance and reduce static. The clips and clamps can be connected to a braided copper cable or better yet, a stainless steel wire rope which tends to hold up better in industrial applications. Make sure the connections to the cables are tight and always test the assembly for low resistance, the closer you get to 1 OHM the better.

Grounding / bonding cables don’t always guarantee static dissipation. Many times a grounding or bonding cable is attached to an object (tank or pump) which has been coated for protection. These types of coatings can impede the clip or clamp’s ability to make a solid metal to metal connection, which in turn, increases the resistance within the grounding structure. With increased resistance comes the possibility of electrostatic discharge failure. Rust build up on the clip or clamp can also create a coating which will disrupt a solid metal to metal connection. As a result, this too will create an unsafe environment. To avoid these situations, always test your grounding / bonding cable’s connections for resistance at the time of employment. If the resistance is low, great! Move on. If the resistance is high, make the necessary adjustments to insure a solid connection and low resistance. Don’t take a chance, make sure a solid connection is evident before giving it your seal of approval.

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Proper maintenance is also critical to insure that your grounding / bonding equipment is in proper condition to effectively reduce static. Regular inspections of your grounding / bonding equipment are a necessity in any industrial setting. As you know, industrial environments can and will severely test the structural integrity of any device, including grounding / bonding cables and assemblies. Remember, inspect what you expect!

In conclusion, plant safety goes well beyond the need for appropriate attire and traffic flow logistics throughout the plant. Electrostatic discharge, the invisible threat, will need to be addressed as well. High quality, low resistance affordable grounding / bonding equipment is readily available to provide the required protection. Appropriately placed grounding / bonding cables and assemblies along with consistent resistance testing will provide a safe work environment for everyone.         

To read more about grounding and bonding, check out our whitepaper 3 cables 2

Topics: Grounding Metal, Static Electricity Grounding, Grounding Wires, Grounding, Grounding Clamp, Static Electricity, Static Control, Static Electricity Industrial, engineering, custom cables

How to Select the Right Electrical Clip

Posted by Mona Weiss on Apr 11, 2018 8:23:21 AM

From electrical design to maintenance, engineers must determine what electrical clips (also called alligator or crocodile clips) are best suited for their project.

These clips can range from small to large, be made of a wide range of materials, come in various jaw types, handle wide ranges of electrical current and can be certified for safety by being UL-listed.

With such a wide range of options, there are many factors to come into play when selecting clips


Amperage

Typically, electrical and electronic clips are rated by their ability to handle varying levels of current which is measured in amps so you will need to know the amount of current that you will be dealing with.

Once you know the level of current, you can calculate the amperage rating required for the clip.

The formula for Amps is Watts divided by Volts.

The amperage capacity of a clip is typically listed right on the clip itself.

Generally speaking, larger clips are able to handle more current, however, that doesn’t always mean a larger clip is always necessary. Solid copper clips are able to handle higher levels of current and carry a higher amperage rating than its zinc plated steel counterpart. For example, a heavy duty clip for battery and test work applications may be rated at 50 AMPS for the zinc-plated steel version while the same sized clip made in solid copper is rated at 100 AMPS. 

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Clip Jaw Typesclip jaws4

Another factor to be considered is how the clip needs to connect to its point of contact. Clips come in all shapes and sizes with different types of jaws and teeth. Clip jaws can come flat nosed, with teeth, or wrap around a terminal or pipe. Some clips have flat wide noses with teeth and others may be rounded to grab round objects. Deciding which clip to use is dependent of what the clip is grabbing on to and will vary per application.

Flat nosed clips are typically used in paint grounding.

Smaller clips with teeth are used for test and measurement.

Larger clips that wrap around will provide a strong grip and may penetrate a layer of paint. These are often used for battery charging and grounding.

Flat wide jaws with teeth are perfect for grounding and work holding uses.

There are, however, a tremendous number of applications for all types of jaw styles. As technology progresses, so do clips, with new types being invented all the time.

For more on different types of clips and what they are used for, check out our guide to clips

Clamp Pressure

Clip grabbing strength, or clamp pressure, is another factor to take into consideration when selecting the right clip. Clamp pressure usually increases as clip and spring size increase. Larger clips will have a stronger grip than smaller clips. In some cases clips can be made to have less clamp pressure which can be helpful for delicate or detailed situations.

Clip Size

There are many different sizes of clips and size can sometimes be important to consider. One determining factor is if there is a space requirement. Another factor is the amount of clamp pressure required, as well as the amperage rating needed.

Some clip sizes are determined by the application itself as there may be limited space where the clip can fit.  Naturally if you have a small space then you probably will pick a smaller clip.

Higher amp rated clips tend to lend themselves to uses where a tight space is not a concern. The environment may dictate what a clip size may need to be as the larger clips tend to hold up better in harsh environments such as electroplating.

There is no real guideline on determining what clip size to use. Some engineers try to make sure they have the right amperage rating, clamp pressure and jaw type in the smallest package possible to reduce the possibility of “overkill” and inflating costs unnecessarily. Other engineers go one step up in size to ensure all bases are covered. In most cases, several different sizes of clips are used in various prototypes to test first hand which clip size is best.

Material

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Clips are made with zinc or nickel plated steel, stainless steel, solid copper, gold plating and even nickel-silver.

Generally speaking, zinc or nickel plated steel is the most cost effective material used in clips.

Solid copper clips can handle higher levels of current better than similarly sized clips made of other materials.

The environment where the clip will be used can determine what material should be used for a clip. For example, stainless steel clips can withstand marine, caustic or corrosive environment better than other materials. Other clips that can be used in marine environments are marine rated clips which are made of solid copper for greater connectivity but with moisture resistant springs which significantly extend the life of a clip used in the vicinity of water and salt.

We did an experiment to show how marine and stainless steel clips hold up compared to other clips. Read about it here. 

Read about different metal finishes for clips here.  

Safety

Safety is always a consideration when working with electrical components, but some more than others.

For instance, when using clips and cables for grounding and bonding, an exposed clip works just fine, while other applications it may call for an insulated clip.

UL Listed products are certified for safety. UL Listed clips and connectors are certified to insure that human hands cannot come in contact with the conductors while in use and energized.

Other applications may call for clips to be utilized in a “hands free” environment which means that the clips are not manipulated or touched while a circuit is energized. The clips still need protection from touching each other or other parts which could interfere with the electrical signal or cause a short, so insulators or “boots” are placed over the clips to protect them.

For help in selecting clips with different features, try our clip selector.

Topics: Test & Measurement, Static Electricity Grounding, Grounding, electronics, crocodile clip, engineering, alligator clip, Marine Clips

Underwriter Laboratories (UL) Listed Items

Posted by Mona Weiss on Mar 20, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Underwriter Laboratories has set the standards for product safety and has a through certification process. Mueller Electric is proud to provide UL Listed items and this blog post will provide some insight into what it means for something to be UL listed.

Underwriter Laboratories (UL) is the best known, largest and oldest independent testing laboratory in the United States and a world leader in product safety testing and certification. They set safety standards for different product categories and test products to make sure they meet those standards.

UL tests over 19,000 different products annually, ranging from consumer electronics, alarms and security equipment, to lasers, medical devices and robotics. 

There are two types of UL products that Mueller has. One is a listed product that is sold to an end consumer, and the other is a UL listed component that is meant to be used as part of other UL listed products.

UL Clip BU-60

A product that is UL listed has been thoroughly tested for safety and sometimes includes features that make it safer than similar products. For example, the Mueller BU-65 alligator clip is fully insulated and includes a guard near the teeth to prevent fingers from accidentally touching the teeth and has a fully shrouded connection. 

 

BU-6161-M-39-24

Mueller’s UL listed test probes and banana connecters also have a finger guards for safety, while the BU-6161-M-@ test lead has shrouded banana plugs at each end. These fully shrouded plugs ensure there is no exposed metal.

 

UL inspects Mueller's facilities on a quarterly basis to ensure the products continue to be manufactured to the high safety standards that they were originally reviewed under. 

 

Check out our high voltage test & measurement page.

For a general overview of clips, check out our guide to clips.

 Learn more about banana connectors here

Topics: Test & Measurement, engineering, alligator clip, wires

How to Properly Crimp an Alligator Clip Onto A Wire

Posted by Mona Weiss on Dec 7, 2017 1:35:26 PM

 Many people don't know the right way to properly crimp an alligator (or crocodile) clip onto a wire. This blog post (and video) shows how to do it step-by-step.

  

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Step 1: Strip the wire to about 3/8"

 

 

 

 

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Step 2: Bend the stripped wire end over the outer jacket

 

 

 

 

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Step 3: Insert the wire inside the jacket

 

 

 

 

 

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Step 4: Crimp

 

 

 

 

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It's important to fold the wire over the insulation before inserting and crimping because it prevents the wire from being pulled off. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To browse our alligator clips,click here to see our digital catalog and see where to buy, or click here for our clip selector to narrow your search.  

To learn more about different types of clips, check out our clip guide.

 

Topics: crimping, electronics, crocodile clip, engineering, alligator clip, crimp