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New high-reliability contact system facilitates automated assembly

Wed, 03/17/2010 - 9:43am
Dave Humphreys, Product Manager, Harwin Inc

There are many applications whose operating environments demand the use of an interconnect system with a high-reliability contact. If equipment is to be used where high shock and vibration or extremes of temperature are experienced, connectors based on a standard contact will not be reliable or rugged enough to guarantee signal integrity.

To meet the requirements of the military, aerospace, oil exploration and other industries where equipment routinely has to perform under such conditions, many connector contact systems have evolved – twist pin, solid pin, pin-in-nest and closed spring pin to name but a few. All of these can deliver a solution of sorts, although with some, notably the pin-in-nest design, miniaturisation is extremely difficult or impossible. Another solution, from Harwin Inc of Salem New Hampshire, features a stamped, four-fingered, gold-plated beryllium copper clip with highly stressed contact beams. The clips reside in the female half of the Datamate connector (see Figure 1), clasping the round pin tightly, ensuring the integrity of electrical connection even under severe conditions.

Fig 1 M80 crimps

However, with all these high-reliability contact designs there is a problem: they cannot be easily assembled using automated processes. This adds time and associated costs – limiting their use in applications where pricing is sensitive. Now however, Harwin has launched a new contact system for use with its Datamate 2mm pitch cable to cable, cable to board and board to board connector family which performs to the same high-reliability standards as conventional Datamate contacts yet can be assembled using automated crimping equipment, delivering significant reductions in assembly time and cutting process costs.

Fig 2 Datamate Trio-Tek

The new Datamate Trio-Tek open barrel crimp system (fig 2) features a triangular contact that is easily processed by high speed automated equipment for medium and high volume applications, yet it meets the shock, vibration and temperature specifications as shown in table 1. A crimp inspection window in the housing aids quality control, while the insulation crimp barrel provides improved strain relief. For lower volume, product development and prototyping applications, inexpensive hand crimping tools are also available.

Harwin DM Table 1

The new design also features a latching feature and contacts are available both loose and on reels. For added mating security, Datamate Trio-Tek connectors are optionally available with Jackscrews or the recently-launched 101Lok, a fast-mate version which uses specially designed-hardware tensioned by a coil spring so that secure mating requires only a simple ‘quarter turn’ – actually 101 degrees.

It is possible to crimp around 180-200 standard Datamate contacts manually per hour. Using standard semi-automated machines with the Harwin tool and new Trio-Tek contacts it is possible to do around 750 crimps. Therefore, Harwin estimates that allowing for the cost of the tooling - which is readily available through the company – if the application requires more than 40,000 crimps, then it makes economic sense to switch to the new contact style. At the same time, assembly time will be much quicker and the quality of the crimp will be of a very high, consistent quality. For really high volume applications, the tool can be used with fully automated crimping and handling equipment, resulting in thousands of high quality, high performance crimped contacts per hour.

So, for the first time, designers of systems that require rugged interconnect systems can specify a connector family that combines top performance under extreme operating conditions with high speed, low cost assembly methods.

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