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Connectors in the Agricultural Sector

High-quality and reliable connectors are increasingly in demand from customers. The challenge: Depending on the area of application, the components have to meet different, sometimes very high demands. This is also the case in agriculture. What do connectors have to do in this specific segment? And: What innovations have already been implemented in the agricultural sector in this context?
Posted by Konstantin Lömtschew | | 4 min read

Tractors & machines: Robustness is in demand

Extreme conditions, ongoing operation and heavy mechanical stress: agricultural machines and tractors have to withstand various adversities. In production, the robustness of materials and components is therefore always a priority. This also applies to the production of reliable connectors. To withstand extreme weather and other external influences, they must be fireproof, waterproof and liquid-repellent, among other things. The materials used should also be adapted to permanent operation and high mechanical stress. No wonder, then, that manufacturers invest a lot of time and energy in developing suitable products.

It should be noted that: A lot has already happened in this sector in recent years. From innovative, easy-to-use locking systems that provide additional protection for various connections, to IP-tight connectors, to complex high-current and high-voltage connections. Customised solutions are also increasingly in demand from end users, and in many cases leading manufacturers are accommodating their customers’ special requests. But like industry, agriculture is also in a state of upheaval – the demands on tractors and machines are increasing. The required goals: more efficiency, improved control characteristics and highly dynamic machines.

With the electrification of agricultural machines and vehicles, the aim is to come one step closer to these aspirations and to leverage new potential. However, as is the case in the automotive industry, the increasing electrification of vehicles poses some challenges for the agricultural sector – especially in the area of connectors.

Connectors & electrification: ensure compatibility

The demands placed on a conventional passenger car and the areas of application of tractors and machines in agricultural operations differ significantly from each other. On the one hand, the latter are exposed to specific external adversities. On the other hand, electrification in agriculture offers additional potential.

  1.  Electrically driven tractors could also generate electricity at the same time using the latest technology and, for example, supply energy to a seed drill or a fertiliser spreader.
  2. The application of electric drives on the fans and metering on seed drills records improved efficiency compared to hydraulic motors. In figures, this means an increase from 60 to 85 percent.
  3. The optimised controllability of the implement results in a reduction of power input and fuel consumption. In short, efficiency and productivity could be significantly increased with electrification in the agricultural sector.

Compatibility: a challenge

When it came to plug connections, however, one central question presented the developers with a challenge. Until now, there was no standardised interface for direct and/or alternating current to enable smooth operation. The crux: Previously used connectors were not suitable for distributing the correspondingly high electrical power within the tractor and on the implement.

A standardised interface between the tractor and the implement was therefore required in order to gain acceptance on the market. Finally, in terms of plug connections, it was necessary to ensure the compatibility of the products of the different tractor manufacturers with those of the implement manufacturers.

Additional demands on the standardised connector: to withstand the adversities of agricultural applications and to reliably transmit electrical energy even under extreme conditions.

Innovative AEF high-voltage connectors

With the high-voltage connector developed by members of the AEF (Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation), a good deal of progress has been made in this area. For years, the AEF has been working on these innovative interfaces together with leading agricultural machinery manufacturers. The AEF connector that has now been created is considered to be enormously robust, can be used in the harsh environment of agriculture and reliably transmits electrical energy even under adverse conditions.

The standardised component between tractor and agricultural machine is designed to transmit three-phase 480-volt alternating current or 700-volt direct current between tractor and implement. In this case, inverters are attached to the tractor for the 480 V AC mode. One electric machine is thus driven per inverter on the implement. In contrast to the 700 V DC mode: Here, the interface supplies electrified implements, which usually have one inverter per electric machine on the implement itself.

Conclusion

Quality, reliability and robustness: the demand on connectors in the agricultural sector has always been high due to the particularly rough field of application of tractors and machines. Thanks to the efforts of innovative manufacturing companies and AEF, there is an early response to trends and developments in this sector. A showcase example is the standardised AEF high-voltage connector, which helps to electrify agriculture. The novelty: the interface supports the development of fully electric and hybrid drive systems on the tractor. At the same time, it also meets the increasing demand for electric drives in implements. We can look forward to seeing what else develops in this area in the future.

High-quality connectors at Bürklin Elektronik

Whether for small electrical devices, in agriculture, industry or medical technology: Bürklin Elektronik has a large range of connectors – from mains connectors to automotive connectors to laboratory connectors, and much more. Individual models can be found easily in our online shop and ordered immediately. If you have any questions about the connector products, please contact the experts at Bürklin Elektronik at any time! We will be happy to advise you.

Konstantin Loemtschew is one of the product managers at Bürklin Elektronik and is responsible for connectors, automation, fan technology and cable harnessing. He has been with the company since 2018 and has more than 20 years of experience as a product manager in the electronics industry, as well as in the field of measurement and high-frequency technology and passive components. He is in close exchange with top manufacturers and always on the lookout for innovative approaches and new components.