Electronic Products & Technology

Shrinking solutions in board connectivity

Making the most of miniaturization

June 1, 2021  By Jana New, North America product manager, industrial devices, TE Connectivity

With Industry 4.0 in full swing, the largest commodity is data. Collecting it. Connecting it. Analyzing and activating it. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enables every device to be interconnected, opening up a whole new arena of opportunities. New technologies make data readily available while also automating communication between industrial automation equipment and systems. This allows businesses to leverage data in more meaningful ways, including enabling remote monitoring, using predictive maintenance, and improving overall equipment productivity.

Yet, as interconnected devices become more commonplace in the home and the workplace — from wearable devices to industrial robotics — they have become smaller and smaller. Therefore, as devices shrink, so do the printed circuit boards (pcbs) inside them. It’s official. Smaller, lightweight circuit boards enable tomorrow’s technologies and the rise of IIoT.

Industries that are driving the miniaturization include electronics, manufacturing, factory automation, automotive, data communication, and building automation. Yet the industries that will truly drive this technology forward in the coming years include the rise of digital factories, industrial robotics, and intelligent buildings.

Solid connections, smaller spaces

As a global player in sensors and connectivity technology, TE Connectivity is familiar with helping engineer a secure, reliable connection within shrinking space constraints. It offers multiple product families tailored specifically to customer needs. The AMPMODU interconnect system from TE Connectivity is a comprehensive family of modular signal interconnects for board-to-board, wire-to-board, and wire-to-wire applications from 1.00mm (0.039”) to 3.96mm (0.156”) centerlines that are widely used across nearly all industrial applications requiring pcbs.

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AMPMODU interconnect system is a comprehensive family of modular signal. Source: TE Connectivity

The newest addition to this product family — the AMPMODU 1mm centerline fine pitch connectors — utilizes a 1.00mm x 1.00mm (0.050″ x 0.050″) centerline. The smaller centerline is crucial to meeting miniaturization demands. In fact, the AMPMODU 1mm provides a space savings of 85% when compared to standard 2.54mm (0.100”) pitch products.

Another product family from TE Connectivity that addresses miniaturized connectivity is its Micro-MaTch wire-to-board and board-to-board connection system. These products provide a proven reliable connection and a unique contact-spring system, which helps prevent fretting corrosion by absorbing movements between male and female contacts.

Caused by vibration or thermal expansion

The spring feature absorbs these movements as part of its design. Think about the life of a contact from the moment its connected — the point is exposed to relative movements, whether caused by vibration or thermal expansion. Even small temperature changes from when the equipment is in use during the day versus the idle factory floor at night can cause movement.

Additionally, plated contacts begin to oxidize as soon as they’re exposed to open air, ultimately leading to corrosion and signal discontinuities. TE’s contact design creates a gas-tight contact interface, which prevents corrosion without the need for costly gold plating.  With these product families, TE Connectivity can offer the products, configurations and expertise needed to guarantee secure, reliable connections — especially in harsh industrial application environments.

Trends in a connected future

We expect to see a few trends continue into the connected age. One of them being the need for customized and even smaller components. Miniaturization is not a quick fad. OEMs need to ensure they’re working with manufacturers that can provide a solution specifically tailored to the application need — all while remaining small and secure.

With the potential of IIoT still in its early days, it’s clear that while the devices continue to get smaller the opportunities will only continue to grow.

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