Rough conditions demand robust connectors
Connectors enable data to travel through the systems both in the Cheops pyramid and on oil platforms. Many growing key industries in Europe such as the transport industry, the energy sector and industrial electronics are users of connectors. Rough operational conditions are common, since electronic components increasingly replace or augment mechanical ones. Many examples of this may, among other, be found in the field of geophysics such as Tsunami research, in transport on land, on water and in the air and in the networking of all control, information and monitoring systems in the military field (C4ISR).
Conditions of dirt, moisture and extreme temperatures from -50°C to +120°C make special demands on connectors deployed in such environments. The enclosures must be robust and resist heat, cold and pressure without wearing.
Apart from growing demands due to external factors, other demands on connectors are also on the rise. Simple transmission of a number of signals no longer suffices today. Connectors are being miniaturised and need to handle high data rates and transfer a variety of information.
The miniaturisation of connectors proceeds in tandem with that of semiconductors. The number of functions integrated on a printed circuit board is constantly increasing. For reasons of flexibility, the required assemblies are often distributed over more than just one modular PC board. The classic backplane based enclosure geometry is disappearing. The trend is towards parallel stacked PC boards and to flat cable connections over longer distances. Today’s connectors are used for connections between modular systems.
The challenge such high packing densities pose to the developers of connectors is to control crosstalk between these very smallest of connectors. The punching technology for manufacturing the poles at connector ends is a foreseeable technical limit. Since punching technology has reached the end of its miniaturisation potential; it is likely that nanotechnology will be taking over in the manufacture of contacts.
Another reason to miniaturise connectors is the demand for improved circulation of air. Well circulated air can remove more heat, which in turn increases the efficiency of the device. Once the connector cannot be further miniaturised, the integration of flow-optimised air channels in the enclosure is an alternative.
Connectors today need to be smaller and more high-performing especially in the medical, military and energy fields and specifically in terms of data transmission. Where 100 MBit/s were adequate for data transfer not too long ago, transmission rates are today approaching 10 GBit/s and more. Add to this hybrid demands. Robust connections must be able not only to transmit data by standard copper wire, but to simultaneously carry current and create connections to optic fibres. The ability to handle high currents and high voltages as well as making and breaking connections under load are additional demands made on future-proof connectors, apart from data transfer and reliable contact properties.