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Connectors to complete sets of equipment to support the next generation of electronic

2 October 2009 1,571 views No Comment

This new report identifies emerging electrical, mechanical and economic attributes of connectors anticipated by the electronic system design community as well as provide examples of new products connector suppliers have released or are developing in order to address these emerging needs. The report is focused on three industry segments that are experiencing the most rapid and dramatic changes, and represent some of the most fertile markets for innovation in connector technology (Computers, Telecom and Automotive). Statistics are presented showing historical and forecast connector shipments for the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011.

The key objectives of this new report are to identify specific attributes of electronic connectors as reported by the connector using community, and to compare them with new development work as well as recently released connectors from the connector manufacturing industry. Product extensions of existing features as well as new capabilities are reviewed.

The first iteration of this report was published in March of 2005, and identified a series of anticipated industry interconnect needs to support the next generation of electronic equipment within the computer, telecom and automotive market segments. In many cases, new connectors were either in development or recently introduced to address these needs. Now, nearly three years later, many of the same requirements remain the primary focus of systems designers. Targets in each metric have ratcheted up to support increased system performance. Continuing challenges in system bandwidth, signal density, and power management remain key concerns as all three spiral upwards, while pressures to reduce product cost and design cycle time make the selection of the most effective connector system a critical step early in design process. The results of extensive interviews with connector manufacturers and users in preparation for this report revealed that many of these key metrics have remained the same. Only the performance targets in terms of signal integrity, contacts per PCB inch, and amps per cubic inch continue to rise. Many of the recently introduced connectors outlined in this report reflect the recognition of these trends.

Although the electronic equipment market is perceived as a dynamic rapidly evolving segment, the desire to remain within an established comfort zone and minimize risk continues to have a powerful influence on the adoption rate of new component technology. Both connector manufacturers, as well as users, are trying to establish a fine balance between pushing the envelope to achieve their next generation equipment performance goals and cost constraints created by a highly competitive market. Several comments received during the research phase suggest that system design is now often being done by low margin ODMs who are focused on reducing risk, and that many OEMs no longer have the internal resources to even evaluate new technology. A host of new connectors have been introduced over the past three years that reflect this carefully measured pace of advancement.

Some old things are new again. The need to understand the basics of contact physics continues to be an issue as senior designers who have personally experienced the negative effects of such interconnect phenomenon as fretting corrosion, the formation of inter-metallic layers between dissimilar contact materials, and tin whiskers continue to retire or are laid off in downsizings. Although system problems due to the failure of a connector continue to be a relatively rare occurrence, product failures attributed to the interconnect are being revisited among the crop of new engineers who have little training or experience in connection technology. The replacement of gold with alternative non-noble plating, elimination of the nickel underplating, and the selection of an inappropriate contact design for the application were reported and illustrate the potential for failure.

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