Control Engineering Control Components Newsletter for April 2002

By Jim Montague June 4, 2002

In this issue:

  • Control components merit respect
  • Olflex changes name to Lapp USA; debuts cables at NMW 2002
  • Lumberg launches Fixcon connector standard at NMW 2002
  • Remke introduces shielded connector at NMW 2002
  • Online components course available from Siemens
  • GlobalSpec offers component sourcing at NMW 2002
  • ‘Back to Basics’: insulation displacement yields cost benefits
  • Four main sources of signal interference
  • Major pushbutton, switch product manufacturer listing

Control components merit respect

‘For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost. And for the want of a horse, the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail. -Benjamin Franklin

‘They also serve, who only stand and wait.’ John Milton

Sure, they’re just bits and pieces, nuts and bolts, cables and connectors, switches and relays, valves and actuators, terminal blocks, meters, power devices, racks and enclosures and all the other supporting products that make control and automation systems possible. Because they’re usually simple, durable and dependable, they often become next to invisible, and are consequently often valued as commodities, i.e. inexpensively.

They’re not glamorous, but without them, all of the world’s fancy-pants PC-based systems, advanced controllers, HMIs, PLCs and software wouldn’t be worth beans because none of them would be able to function. Components allow sophisticated hardware and software to reach out and function in the real world. Similar to secretaries, clerks, nurses, bus drivers, garbage collectors, maintenance people and, yes, technicians and engineers, control components do most of the actual work, while their more superficial, higher-level counterparts get most of the credit. So what else is new?

To help remedy this injustice, this latest e-mailed and website-based newsletter from Control Engineering will seek to find and highlight some of the major innovations in the control components field.

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Olflex changes name to Lapp USA; debuts cables at NMW 2002

Olflex Wire & Cable was recently merged with sister company Contact Electronics, and the two were renamed Lapp USA by their corporate parent, Lapp Group. The newly joined firm has also relocated to new headquarters in Florham Park, N.J. Following this reorganization and relocation, Lapp USA announced Mar. 18 at National Manufacturing Week that it was launching several new products:

  • Olflex VFD Slim is a reduced diameter, shielded motor supply cable for variable frequency drives (VFD) that is reportedly the first VFD cable with UL and CSA TC approvals.

  • Epic Pin & Sleeve connectors conform to IEC 309-2 and are designed to meet the power connectivity needs of North American industrial applications.

  • Olflex Auto-I is a flexible, UL-type, TC-approved, multi-conductor cable suitable for use in dry, wet, damp and burial conditions.

For more, go to

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Lumberg launches Fixcon connector standard at NMW 2002

Lumberg (Midlothian, Va.) introduced its new, industrial connector standard for sensors and actuators, Fixcon, on March 18 at National Manufacturing Week (Chcago, Ill.). Jointly developed by Lumberg Automation Components GmbH & Co. KG and Escha in Germany, Fixcon features a quick plug-and-lock mechanism that increased connection speed.

Based largely on the existing M12 industry standard, Fixcon’s design eliminates the need for tightening down a threaded locknut. Instead, these connectors are equipped with a locking sleeve that is simply pushed downward in a linear direction to establish a secure, reliable connection. In addition to speed, Fixcon’s new design allows large concentrations of I/O points, with little space for ‘threading,’ to be connected easily and efficiently. Tedious torque specifications are eliminated completely, which further enhances Fixcon’s attractiveness.

Fixcon’s products will initially encompass passive and active distribution blocks in 4-, 6-, and 8-port configurations, as well as 3-, 4-, and 5-pole male and female molded connectors in straight and right angle versions, with and without LEDs. An adapter and splitter will round out the initial product line, making it possible to interface Fixcon products with previously installed M12 sensors, actuators and distribution boxes, giving users maximum flexibility. Subsequent product additions will feature a line of receptacles, field installable connectors, as well as shielded and inverted keyway connectors, allowing for a high degree of application specific customization.

For more, go to

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Remke introduces shielded connector at NMW 2002

Remke Industries Inc. (Wheeling, Ill.) exhibited at National Manufacturing Week on Mar. 18 its Micro-Link Shielded Connector, a new addition to its Tuff-Link line of molded connectors. Micro-Link features a 360° aluminum Mylar foil shield that minimizes electrical interference, which can disrupt signals from connectors to control devices.

Micro-Link also features gold-plated contacts for longer life; improved conductivity and corrosion resistance. While other connector manufacturers use stamped and formed contacts, Remke’s contacts are machined from solid brass to produce pin-to-socket connections with precise tolerances that enhance electrical integrity.

For more, visit

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Online components course available from Siemens

A useful introduction to control components is presently available at Siemens Energy & Automation’s (Alpharetta, Ga.) web site. This online tutorial is accessible at .

This course, ‘Basics of Control Components,’ is self-directed; includes a test at the end; and promises a certificate to those scoring a passing grade. The site recommends that participants take the accompanying ‘Basics of Electricity’ course first.

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GlobalSpec offers component sourcing at NMW 2002

GlobalSpec Inc. (Troy, N.Y.) announced Mar. 19 at National Manufacturing Week (Chicago, Ill.) that is has released SpecStation for MatrixOne. SpecStation is a web-based component supplier management (CSM) application for the classification and sourcing of component content that allows engineers to search a database of parts and automatically enter the data into their MatrixOne system. GlobalSpec is a web-based, integrated product classification and discovery gateway.

Expanding on its six years of providing users with content management and technical product discovery, GlobalSpec cooperated with MatrixOne Inc. (Westford, Mass.) to created SpecStation. The company says its new CSM application ‘fills a gap in the enterprise value chain by managing product content that is highly searchable, rapidly accessible, expertly classified and specification-rich.’

SpecStation for MatrixOne provides integrated access to GlobalSpec’s database, which the firm says is the world’s largest repository of searchable mechanical, electrical and optical component data, as well as a classification structure for purchased cataloged components that is mapped according to standards, such as UNSPSC and NAICS. SpecStation for MatrixOne enables part reuse and supplier rationalization, resulting in an accelerated design process, accelerated time-to-market, decreased design costs and enhanced collaborative engineering.

For more visit and also

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Back to Basics’: insulation displacement yields cost benefits

Insulation Displacement Connection (IDC) is a highly reliable connection technology. It has been used for many years in the telecommunications/electronics industry and has been making its way into industrial control and automation applications. Passing stringent testing required of existing screw and spring technology terminal blocks, IDC has proven itself as a viable termination solution.

IDC technology allows end-users to terminate wires without stripping or ferruling, thereby saving an average of 60% on installed costs while maintaining or increasing reliability and functionality. Cost reductions are a continuous need in today’s automation and control industry. In an effort to support requirements to reduce costs, suppliers must either reduce component costs (hard costs) or help reduce installation costs (soft costs). Though it is easier to reduce component costs, another way is through lower cost installation and maintenance.

The basic principle behind IDC technology is to mechanically force an unstripped stranded or solid conductor into a V-shaped metal tube. The opening on the V-shaped tube is smaller than the diameter of the conductor being inserted. Inserting the conductor creates an outward force on the terminating blades causing them to spread open exposing the bare copper to the terminating blades. This outward force creates an equal or greater inward return force due to the tensile strength of the metal. These forces acting like a spring create a vibration resistant connection. In addition, as the connection is made, the terminating blades penetrate any existing film or oxide on the bare copper to form a gas-tight, corrosion-resistant connection.

For more information, visit /archives/2002/ctl0202.01/0202bb.htm or contact Frank Bartos, executive editor,

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Four main sources of signal interference

Cross contamination can happen when a wire or cable connector is poorly installed or the connector becomes loose and electromagnetic interference/radio frequency interference/electrostatic interference (EMI/RFI/ESI) adversely affects the primary signal. This is called ‘signal interference’ and it often goes undetected for months, even years. This mention of signal interference is appropriate because respondents listed loose connectors as their number one recurring problem, according to a recent wire, cable and connector survey by Control Engineering and Cahners Research.

Technical data provided by Alpha Wire (Elizabeth, N.J.) identifies four primary sources of signal interference:

Static noise occurs when an electrical field distorts the signal, and it can be mitigated using continuous foil shields and appropriate shield grounding techniques.

Magnetic noise comes from large ac motors, transformers and knife switches, and it can set up current flows in opposition to the instrument signals. Use of twisted-pair signal wiring is the easiest and most common means of eliminating magnetic noise interference.

Common mode noise results from currents flowing along the instrument wire or cable between ground points of different potential, an especially frequent problem found in geographically distributed, but physically connected control systems. Mitigation requires a carefully designed and properly installed power and grounding system.

Crosstalk refers to the superimposing of pulsed dc or standard ac signals between two or more nearby wires or cables. The most effective means of eliminating crosstalk is the use of individually shielded twisted-wire pairs.

For more information, visit /archives/2001/ctl1101.01/0111pf.htm or contact Dave Harrold, senior editor,

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Major pushbutton and switch product manufacturers

Here is a listing of some of the most prominent pushbutton and switch manufacturers along with their websites. For even more information on pushbuttons and switches, visit /archives/2001/ctl1001.01/0110pf.htm . For more manufacturers, go to Control Engineering Buyer’s Guide at /buyersguide
Honeywell Sensing
Omron Electronics
Rockwell Automation
Siemens E&A
Square D
Tyco Electronics

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