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Connectors stack up for increased functionality

Posted: 22 Jun 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:power interface? connectors? switches?

By Ted Worroll, Product Manager
Dave Tickner, Engineering Manager
ITT Electronic Components

One of the challenges faced by design engineers of electronic equipment is how to manage the tangle of individual wires that provide power and control signals for various system functions. Each power interface (to a battery or main power supply) typically employs a bulky connector, while smaller cables and connectors are used to carry signals for switches, sensors and other controls. Having multiple power connections in a battery-operated system can lead to shortened battery life and decreased runtimes due to higher drain losses inherent in multiple connections. In turn, this causes slower and less complete battery recharge cycles.

When multiple individual cables are used to provide power and signal within a system, each connection also represents a potential vulnerability from environmental failure due to the presence of water, humidity or other fluids. Likewise, in applications subjected to vibration or mechanical stress, conventional connectors can experience unintended disassembly, potentially causing system failure. Moreover, multiple cables often appear unsightly, and require extra expense as well as assembly labor for it to be properly installed and tested.

Designing and implementing an integrated approach to this type of wiring requires a connection system that is compact, cost-effective, mechanically and environmentally robust, aesthetically pleasing andmost importantlydoes not sacrifice system functionality.

Connector engineers at ITT Electronic Components have developed a solution that they say eliminates up to five different proprietary power and signal cable connectorsthe stacking power interconnect. The new interconnect design features a single integrated power connection with a series of stackable connector modules that distribute power and signal throughout the system (Figure 1). Each module consists of seven contacts, each capable of handling 15A. They connect with each other through a series of seven pins/receptacles. Because the contacts are machined, tooling costs are significantly lower for the stacking interconnect compared to conventional connectors.

The new interconnect design features a single integrated power connection with a series of stackable connector modules.

The contacts can be custom-configured for each interconnect applicationeither terminated to cable cores connected within the module or as feed-through contacts to allow power or signal to be routed to another module or cable in the stack. Contact geometries can be staggered within the stacked modules to meet the needs of specific applications. The modular design enables additional accessories or functions to be integrated into the system simply by plugging in another module, without requiring a separate connector. Top and bottom cover modules complete the connector assembly, providing overall sealing.

Each module of the stacking interconnect system features a robust internal design, with soldered terminations, built-in cable strain-relief and an insert-molded cable that meets IP67 standards.

Mechanical locking and environmental sealing is accomplished through a sealing gasket between each module combined with a sliding lock clip mechanism, which provides both a visual confirmation and a positive audible snap when the connector is mated. When locked and mated, the connection requires a force of 40kg to separate.

The stacking interconnect modules feature gold-plated contacts and are rated for 1,000 mating cycles.

A stackable connector module mating force is specified as 40N maximum while the unmating force is specified as 30N maximum, 14N minimum (See Table 1).

A stackable connector module mating force is specified as 40N maximum while the unmating force is specified as 30N maximum, 14N minimum.

The locking clip mating force is specified as 20N maximum while the un-mating locking clip force is specified as 5N minimum, 20N maximum. (See Table 2).

The locking clip mating force is specified as 20N maximum while the un-mating locking clip force is specified as 5N minimum, 20N maximum

Contact resistance is critical for the efficiency of the signal and low power consumption. Contact resistance was checked on six cables, with seven contacts, for a total of 42. The difference between contacts one through five, and six and seven, is explained due to the difference in the wire gauge of the cable. Contacts one through five are 24 gauge, contact six and seven are 26 gauge.

Contact resistance is critical for the efficiency of the signal and low power consumption.

Corrosion resistance was tested utilizing a salt spray mist at a 5 percent concentration for a 48hr period. No damage or corrosion was observed.

Vibration was checked with the profile of 5-9Hz at 1.5mm displacement, 9-200Hz at 0.5g PK acceleration, 1 Oct/min, 1hr per axis; three axis total. All the cables passed.

Moreover, mechanical shock was checked to the following profile of 100g PK acceleration, 8.5ms duration, three shocks in each axis and six directions. All cables passed.

The stacking power interconnect was initially developed as an integrated power and signal connector for a motorized wheelchair manufacturer. This interconnect technology enabled the customer to eliminate four types of proprietary connectors, which resulted in cost reduction, as well as several performance advantages and a more streamlined appearance.

Because of its robust environmental sealing, the stacking power interconnect is suitable for powered wheelchairs, scooters and other electrically powered mobility aids. It can also be used for hospital beds or specialized home care beds that require electrical connections to be protected from the presence of fluid or water spills. The technology can also be applied to automotive power interconnects and white goods/appliance designs.




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