SMEC – HARTING’s Smart Electrical Connector
Digital twin throughout the lifecycle
With the Smart Electrical Connector (SmEC), HARTING is providing an innovative connector concept featuring an active asset administration shell – making the connector directly addressable. This means that the SmEC is clearly mapped as an "instance" in the asset administrative shell - with a fundamentally expanded functions and communication range.
Consequently, connectors for modular production facilities are evolving from a classic passive installation component to an integrated addressable unit with an active administration shell – generating additional benefits as an installation component in the life cycle.
In modular production plants and systems, as for example in production level 4, the connectors are plugged in by the plant and equipment operators for each reconfiguration - here, the SmEC convinces with its user-friendliness and offers safety for the operator and the system through an electrical interlock and a visual status display. In addition, the connector’s asset administration shell saves time for the development of machines and production lines.
Rapid availability of correct design data:
When operating plants and machines, the digital twin comes into play at the "instance" level. The actual connector deployed is digitally mapped (Digital Twin) and communicates its current state, for example the locking state. As a result, the connected machines and modules can also be mapped digitally.
Together with the connection data issued by way of OPC-UA (e.g. current and voltage), the status of the connected machine becomes transparent. The connector state is mapped according to three individual states:
The unplugged connector: in this state a mating connector can be plugged on. The SmEC monitors whether the correct connector is plugged in.
Connector plugged in without load: When reconfiguring a production line, the connector is switched load-free so that the mating connector can be disconnected.
The plugged connector under load: This state corresponds to the operating state of a production module.
The states are administered by defined state transitions. If, for example, a module of the production line is changed, the connector in the infrastructure and in the module are disconnected from the power supply. In this state, which is visualised, the connector can be unplugged. In the unplugged state, the connector waits for the correct mating connector to be plugged in. As soon as this is plugged in, the connector locks and the module can be put into operation.
A transparent and controlled machine configuration is achieved thanks to the information of the plugged connections. This is where the active asset administration shell comes into play, keeping the state of the SmEC synchronised throughout the life cycle. In addition to the locking status, other conditions can also be transparently displayed by way of the asset administration shell, such as the number of mating cycles. The information about the connector's conditions assists in performing predictive maintenance, thereby avoiding downtimes and boosting the availability of production facilities.
The SmEC concept shows how installation components, as an addressable unit with their digital twin, bring added value to the development, operation and maintenance of machines and plants.