More than ever before, today's world is characterised by digitalisation - both in the consumer and industrial sectors. With a look to industry, it is clear that this cannot happen without cooperation and partnerships. Specialists with a wide range of competencies and skills are needed everywhere to offer suitable holistic solutions. This is already clearly demonstrated by the large number of platforms and exchange formats that exist for IoT and IIoT systems today. This understanding of the bundling of competencies and requirements has shaped the cooperation between Kuka and Harting from a very early stage. Some examples from this partnership show the path from the jointly developed specific solution through to the resulting standard.
Since embarking on cooperation more than 20 years ago, Harting and Kuka have always created new solutions with a view to market requirements. One example is the constantly increasing EMC requirements which led to special EMC housing designs for connectors - and which have meanwhile become a standard today. Also in the field of robotics production, it is essential to reduce the installed number of parts so as to keep complexity low and reduce the number of production steps. Here, Kuka and Harting joined forces and took a look at the processes and created a specific component, the so-called multifunctional housing, which optimally combines the connector function and IP67 sealed electronics housing. Harting is now offering such system solutions in various application areas: whether data cabling in the controller, power cabling to the robot itself or solutions which take mechanical requirements into account, such as specific transition elements for a PROFINET infrastructure on axis 3.
In recent years, Harting and Kuka have repeatedly concerned themselves with the miniaturization trend. The KR AGILUS robot system, for example, is a new compact robotic system which is ideal for use in increasingly flexible production environments. The requirement for the plug-in connection here: fast and intuitive handling, in which the design aspect also plays an important role at the same time. With Han-Yellock®, a new innovative connector system featuring completely new locking technology, the ideal solution was found for this new robot series.
In the field of Industry 4.0 developments, Kuka and Harting worked on the first joint solutions at a very early stage. For example, Kuka equipped the Harting I4.0 demonstrator - the "HAII4YOU Factory" - with new LBR iiwa type sensor-based robots. The system thus became the ideal stage for an integrated Industry 4.0 approach for individual and cooperative production systems all the way through to quantity 1.
Flexibility, miniaturisation and also modularity are highly significant trends that are driving joint developments today. While around the middle of 2000 years, the robot control cabinet was as large as a control cabinet, today's solutions are no larger than a desktop PC. Especially application areas for small robotics call for solutions that are adapted to resources. In addition to the smaller robot, the controller must also be more compact in the future, as there will hardly be any space envisaged for it. In response to this situation, Kuka launched the KR C5 micro onto the market, which is tailored precisely to these application areas. Connectivity must also adapt in line with these developments. For this reason, Harting is also providing a new solution for this new controller family in the form of the "har-motion connector", which is particularly suitable for use in compact robotics. Adapted both to the power requirements and to the space available, it can be used flexibly for transferring the lifelines of the robot.
Even the larger robots, however, are also subject the miniaturization trend. This is particularly evident in the new KR C5 control system. This system offers customers the option of operating up to three machines on one control cabinet in the same space as a previous control system. A performance adjustment can also be easily and flexibly accommodated by selecting different controllers. This is enabled by a completely new modular and scalable structure of the cabinet system. A docking solution was developed for this purpose, which makes adaptation to customer requirements very easy: The control systems are inserted into the cabinet like drawers. In order to enable the transfer of the so-called lifelines for such a flexible coupling, a special docking connector solution was developed in close cooperation. Following the requirements of the protection class applicable in the cabinet and the reduced space conditions, the new Han® Board connector proved an optimal solution, allowing for the mechanical plugging necessary for this case. Special mechanical guides, as well as the design structure of the connector solution, ensure the necessary tolerance compensation.
Responding to mega-trends, long-term partnerships, which are characterised by mutual understanding, detailed application knowledge and a common view of holistic customer benefits will be capable of developing the necessary technologies and the concrete new product solutions. The connectivity and infrastructure solutions incorporated in the new KR C5 generation of control cabinets demonstrate this to a particular degree.
By Guido Selhorst, Head of Marketing Services, Harting Technology Group