While a number of applications have come to rely on standard connectors, the consumer electronics industry is continuously developing new and innovative products that require specialized components to meet enhanced functionality, performance, and miniaturization requirements. These dynamic connector designs have been specifically developed for applications such as smart phones, key fobs, PDAs, and camcorders, as well as car and home audio systems. To meet customer demands, consumer electronics manufacturers are relying on design engineers to develop innovative connectors that suit the versatility of their designs, meet application specifications, and provide profitability for the OEM.

Versatility in Design
Connectors designed for consumer electronic devices are required to occupy minimal board space while providing a robust solution with a long operating life. For example, portable docking stations for M3P players, which are used in vehicles and in the home, require a connector to have a significant life cycle. Traditional pin and socket connectors for consumer applications are typically limited to approximately 500 mating cycles. Therefore, manufacturers must seek an alternative mating technology that is capable of thousands of cycles.

Another challenge faced by connector manufacturers is the potential for a large degree of misalignment between the accuracy of the pick-and-place machines used to position the connectors on the PC boards and the overall tolerances of the end product’s design. Both angular and offset misalignment conditions can be solved with a ball-nose interface, which enables the connector to mate properly with just 50 percent of the mating jack interfaces initially aligned during insertion. 

ITT’s Mini RF connector features a spring-loaded interface and ball-nose geometry, known as Pogo-Pin.Connectors with a ball-nose and spring-loaded interface, such as the pogo-pin connector, provide an optimal solution for consumer electronics and help solve both of these challenges. Initially developed for military and aerospace applications, the pogo-pin design is now being used in consumer electronics because of its ruggedness, durability, and its capability of 10,000 mating cycles. In addition, the pogo-pin connector uses a radial spring that collapses in the coupling method, which results in an audible click and a tactile feel when dropped into detent grooves. This design also provides low contact resistance and utilizes flat pads that allow the end customer to easily clean the interface surface, eliminating female sockets that typically collect contaminants.

Application Specifications
In addition to reliability and durability, connector innovations have increased I/O counts and densities while lowering PCB footprints and costs. As designs get smaller and sleeker, connector manufacturers are developing ultra low-profile designs. ITT Interconnect Solutions’ Universal Contact, for example, features a height as low as 0.8 mm and can be mounted on any axis on the board.
Consumer electronic devices such as mobile phones must implement an array of low-profile connections that will facilitate the speaker, keys, and internal antennas. The Universal Contact was able to fulfill the wide array of mobile smart phone demands by providing a versatile solderless interconnection with a life cycle as high as 3,000 cycles. Connectors like this are excellent examples of how the connector manufacturers are responding to demands for miniaturization, low-profile connections, and aggressive cost reduction by providing elegant and innovative designs.

Maximizing Profits by Minimizing Design Costs
In the consumer market, the product that provides increased functionality at a reasonable cost is the most successful. Therefore, keeping design costs low is imperative to an OEM’s bottom line. Some of the steps that can improve profits include manufacturing in areas that offer a lower cost, developing tooling in-house, lowering assembly time, and the use of alternative materials. Implementing these steps can ensure that costs are being kept at a competitive level, and the development of tooling in-house also gives the connector manufacturer total control of the product; therefore, enabling them to supervise all design parameters and specifications.

The materials used in design and development also play a large role in the cost-effectiveness of the end product. Test processes and streamlined assembly of materials is essential to the reliability of the connector. Due to its retention capabilities, beryllium copper is often employed. 

ITT’s The Perfect Wireless Interconnect is available in beryllium copper.

Beryllium copper offers high conductivity properties and its retention capability ensures that the material will sustain its integrity after it is stamped and formed. It also is a cost-effective material for consumer goods.

The standards of consumer electronic devices and the components implemented are constantly changing. In order to meet the demands of this market, connector manufacturers are innovating by tooling new and current product lines to provide reliability and affordability for the market. Design versatility, specifications, and costs are driving the consumer market into the future.