Only Connect: On using Ethernet connectors
Product design – a handy guide to making the right choice
Ethernet is being adopted by many manufacturers as the I/O of choice and it is increasingly creeping into many areas of manufacturing industry that are choosing to network their devices.
The industrial application of Ethernet has been particularly strong in the ever more demanding world of information capture.
A question I am often asked is, which standard should be adopted? Currently we have Cat 5E, Cat 6, and lately Cat 6A
Cat 5E 100 MHz Gigabit Ethernet
Cat 6 250 MHz Gigabit Ethernet
Ca 6A 500 MHz 10 Gigabit Ethernet
Generally speaking, Cat 5e is suitable for most applications and if you are using Ethernet for data capture then it’s more than acceptable.
If you are streaming video then go with Cat 6. At this point in time I believe Cat 6A to be a vanity specification and not really worth going for. This I know is controversial but think about the cable from the back of your phone line into your router.
The next issue is the choice of connector. All true Ethernet cables use the RJ45 connector but there are many choices. Although the physical characteristics of the connectors are standard the way they are presented are dramatically different depending on the application.
Let’s take a look at a couple of manufacturers that have taken this standard connector and adapted it for different uses.
Harting have produced the easiest to assemble industrial Ethernet connectors around! They are robust, IP Rated and designed for industrial environments so they can be used with thicker braided cable.
On the other hand we have Neutrik Ethercon designed to fit into XLR style connectors, so they fit seamlessly into existing cables used in Audio-Visual environments. The Ethercon connectors use the same footprint as XLR connectors so they will fit into traditional AV Patch Panels.
With Ethernet seeping into every industry and becoming more widely available it’s time to think about how you can integrate it into your product lines. You need not do a lot of re-design work, but as you can see from the Neutrik connectors they make it easy to use the connectors in traditional environments.
Also, in my previous blog about using the wrong connector for the right purposes, I explain that with RJ connectors being so versatile you can use these for many purposes. On that basis you can use these connectors for purposes other than Ethernet.
This subject is quite big but my general point is this. Ethernet is very easy to adopt and should be more widely adopted. Moreover, don’t just use traditional RJ45 connectors spend a little time finding the correct connector series that suit your application the best.
I have personally helped many people make the right decision on which connector to go for and once you know what you want to achieve the rest is simple. So go ahead start using Ethernet today!
Nick Locke, director at Nicab Ltd, has over 15 years experience in the electronics manufacturing industry specialising in interconnection cable assembly. Driven by a passion for interconnection he spends a great deal of his time searching out the latest technology and innovation in interconnection & manufacturing in general.
Keen to pass on information his aim is to engage the electronics community in the subjects and issues he believes are important. Totally devoted to the promotion of the electronics manufacturing industry he sees the future of electronics manufacturing as vital component in the UK economy.
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