Jonathan Newell met Ben Green of Harwin at the EDS event in Coventry to find out the latest in electronics connectivity and EMC compliance.
The challenges for the electronics industry to meet the latest demands of industrial systems and home automation are considerable. The Internet of Things – whether industrial or commercial – is connecting everything and as many as 20 billion devices will be connected by the end of the decade, according to Gartner.
With such an explosion in connectivity, the boundaries of miniaturisation and EMC compliance will be pushed and electronics assembly manufacturers are increasingly looking to the supply base to help them meet the challenge.
One such supplier, Harwin, was at the Engineering Design Show at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry in October so I went along to discuss the way the company is responding to industry needs with Harwin’s head of new business, Ben Green.
Connection in miniature
Green demonstrated the range of connection products available from Harwin, including its latest addition, the Gecko 1.25mm high reliability connector. This dual-row interconnect for stacking and cable mating has been designed to meet the increasing levels of miniaturisation demanded by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), as well as the expected influx of home automation products.
It has a low profile and is both 35% smaller and lighter than the Micro-D style of connectors which the Gecko can replace in assemblies that require more compact packaging or higher reliability. “It’s available at commercial off-the shelf pricing with some premium due to the increased reliability it provides,” Green explained.
The requirement for high reliability products is typical of the customers in the space, defence and aviation industries that form an important part of Harwin’s client base.
In terms of reliability, the Gecko features a 4-finger beryllium copper contact design which is resistant to high vibration and shock, a specification which has led to successful design-ins on numerous aerospace and space applications, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and satellites.
However, according to Green, it isn’t just military and aviation applications that can benefit from the Gecko. With a COTS pricing structure, such high-end reliability is also available to the medical sector, smart homes and industrial products such as drives, controls and automation.
The Gecko high reliability connector also features a 4-point spring loaded connection, a data sheet on data transmission and EMC compliance and a metal back shell and braid to protect the signal as it passes through the connectors.
Higher industrial volumes
Harwin’s mainstream client sectors are split into three areas including drives & controls, avionics & defence and home automation, which also includes medical and security systems such as access control.
Such business areas don’t benefit from the high volume consumer goods industry, which is predominantly catered for in China and other offshore locations. However, according to Green, the IoT explosion is creating a higher volume market in industrial and other traditionally lower volume sectors.
So far, the company hasn’t penetrated the automotive market to any great extent although with the increase in wireless modules being used within automotive electronics, Harwin is already seeing a big impact in the market with big growth being expected.
EMC Compliance in prototyping
With miniaturisation comes a more crowded EMC environment and Harwin is also helping its customers to stay compliant when coming up with new PCB designs. To this end, the company has recently hired an EMC specialist, who can provide test reports and also become involved in new product development both at Harwin and in collaboration with clients.
The company’s EZ-BoardWare range includes products that deliver effective EMI/RFI Shielding. EZ-BoardWare Shield Cans are simply pressed onto pre-positioned surface mount EZ-Shield Clips forming a Faraday cage around sensitive ICs and electronic circuitry, saving expensive, labour-intensive secondary assembly and facilitating rework.
This simple EMC shielding technology can also be configured for new designs and Harwin can supply developers with a shielding kit so that engineers can create their own bespoke shielding can before submitting a product design specification to Harwin and committing to high volume production.
The kit follows the simple idea of using standard SMT mounted clips, which come in a range of sizes, and then using a shielding can formed from two 80mm x 60mm x 0.3mm thick Nickel Silver sheets that are pre-scribed on a 5mm grid to allowing easy cutting and forming, enabling the engineer to produce a shield can of the required dimensions.
Taking such an approach enables application engineers to make design alterations, produce prototypes, test them, modify them and verify the final design before choosing the final configuration of the clip and can.
This also saves expensive, labour-intensive secondary assembly and facilitates rework. According to Green, typically engineers have had to order bespoke cans during development and test without being 100% certain of their eventual requirements, incurring costs and creating delays. Now they can perform this work with the standard kit.
The nickel silver material used in the kit provides effective and useable shielding, with up to 24dB attenuation depending on frequency and configuration.
High reliability connectivity for harsh environments
To meet the needs of electronic assemblies being used in extremely harsh environments including robotics, motor sports and satellites, earlier this year Harwin also released its J-Tek jackscrew fixing for its 2mm pitch Datamate high reliability connectors. The jackscrew arrangement forms a highly secure connectivity arrangement when compared to latches or other fixing mechanisms.
In motor sports, plastic latch mechanisms are now being discarded in preference to jackscrews to assure continued connectivity in extremely harsh shock and vibration environments.
In the field of robotics and industrial automation, repeated mating and disengaging operations can lead to latches wearing out and so jackscrews are increasingly being specified as a more reliable alternative.
Miniature satellites often rely on jackscrews to ensure the connection survives harsh operating conditions and save space.
According to Harwin’s Global Product Manager for High Reliability Connectors, Scott Flower, customers in such industries are demanding fixing systems that provide the highest confidence levels. “This is especially the case as electronics becomes pervasive in harsh environments where high levels of shock and vibration are experienced,” he said..
Surface mountable pogo pins
A new range of surface-mount vertical Pogo Pin spring contacts was also launched by Harwin at the Electronic Design Show. This kind of connector has a number of applications, including wearable, medical and fitness devices, mobile phones and computers. These are used alongside multi-purpose S70 Surface Mount flat contact pads which can also be used with other spring contacts and spring contact assemblies.
Pogo Pins are surface mountable vertical spring-loaded contact pins which can mate with any surface and which feature rounded contact heads with a gold finish to maximise device life. They are available in a range of free heights and contact configurations as well as individual pins in two barrel sizes of just 1.03mm or 1.50mm diameter. The range includes Pogo Pin spring contacts with a through-hole peg which can be used for Plated-Through-Hole soldering or as a location peg on the SMT base. The individual Pogo Pins have barbs for retention in mouldings, which enables multiple contacts to be ganged together, giving customers the ability to create bespoke layouts.
The S70 SMT Contact Pads boast a very low profile to save valuable space, making them ideal for today’s smaller, lighter devices.