Connectors and cables reflect the design intent of the system. Consequently, when a system is classified as rugged, small or designed for automotive or industrial applications, the connector must meet the requirements of the product and the application as well. For example, the trend toward higher-density higher-speed communication pushes data communication in some areas towards fiber optics. “Applications are constantly being developed requiring higher density packaging and increased fiber counts.” says David Rifkin, product manager, Molex Inc.
Other trends for end products include the ability to handle more power and operate more efficiently. Many products require connectors designed with application-specific attributes for an even closer association with the product's design goals. In some cases, a new approach can be the beginning of a trend. Three examples show how this can occur.
Featured in Design News Trend Watch 2006, FCI's AirMax VS family of high-speed connectors eliminates the need for interleaving ground shields by using air as a highly efficient dielectric. “FCI was the first to introduce a shieldless, high-speed, high-density connector in the market,” says Rob Poort, global communications market manager of FCI. At one point, FCI thought the connector was going to be a custom special. FCI currently ships to more than 25 customers including large OEMs in the datacom market. Initially designed as a right angle header and a vertical receptacle, FCI also developed a right-angle header and a right-angle receptacle for coplanar applications, as well as a vertical header and a vertical receptacle for mezzanine board-to-board applications. Customers have embraced the concept for its flexibility and ability to reduce the number of printed circuit board layers.
Another product with special requirements and an obvious shrinking trend is the servomotor. Servomotors usually use two circular connectors, one for power (three contact plus ground) and the other connector for feedback signals. ITT's Cm3 consolidates two cables into one connector with separate signal and power portions “We have developed a crimping system to link the housing with the shielding features and the mechanical retention or strain relief in a very, very small space,” says Olivier Miller, who is responsible for the strategy and business development of the industrial market segment at ITT Cannon. This makes the connector even more compact.
In a more subtle way, Weidmuller's RockStar heavy-duty connectors (HDC) developed for the railway industry, machinery and wind energy generation provide items such as stainless steel locking and multistage surface sealing as standard features that would normally be optional. By eliminating product variations, reliability usually increases and costs can be reduced.