The Need for Better Defined Interconnection Strategies in Next Generation Vehicles
By Ralph Semmeling, Product Portfolio Director for Customized Connectors at Interplex
At the same time as this is happening, other dynamics are changing the way automobile designs are implemented. In order to remove weight and thus extend the range of electric vehicles (EVs), the mechanical systems that used to be incorporated are being phased out. In their place, vehicle designs will have electronically based x-by-wire systems.
There is one avoidable consequence that these two different trends are going to be responsible for. The amount of data that the average vehicle is going to be generating and transporting is going to be orders of magnitude greater than what conventional cars had to deal with. Further, it should be noted that this is only going to increase as higher levels of vehicle autonomy start to be introduced (and we start to migrate to a stage where cars are completely driverless).
The data explosion and its implications
If automotive systems are going to be adequately prepared to cope with the unprecedented data demands, then the supporting interconnect solutions will need to evolve accordingly. In addition, how such solutions are constructed and provided to the market is going to fundamentally change.
Implementing interconnects into automotive systems
The presence of electromagnetic interference (EMI) sources, if not mitigated, could have a detrimental effect on the signal integrity of the data being transported. To combat this, shielding will need to be incorporated into modules. The appearance of tin whiskers over time can have a serious impact on the reliability of interconnects, with the prospect of short circuits occurring that could result in system malfunctions.
Also, the space limitations imposed on vehicle designs mean that automotive-grade interconnects have to be of a very compact nature. Often high-density solutions will be needed. In some cases, these may need to combine power and data transfer.
Addressing the assembly aspect
Because of these issues, Press-Fit interconnect technology is becoming increasingly appealing. Press-Fit contacts provide a reliable yet simple interface. By using them, assembly work can be made much more efficient. Complex, labor-intensive and messy procedures (such as soldering) may likewise be avoided.
By eliminating the need for applying solder, another significant advantage can be derived. Whereas solder is totally rigid, and therefore prone to cracking if subjected to shocks/vibrations, Press-Fit contacts have greater tolerance. Consequently, modules with Press-Fit contacts will offer greater operational longevity than ones with soldered pins.
The Press-Fit contacts developed by Interplex are now being widely used in automotive systems, gaining approval from numerous tier 1 suppliers. With thicknesses from 0.4mm up to 0.8mm, they deliver ongoing reliable operation, while being simple to install. As well as their mechanical robustness, they also have strong retention and industry-leading thermal characteristics too.
Through the patented IndiCoatTM plating technology that can be applied to Press-Fit interconnects, Interplex is in a position to overcome the difficulties that tin whiskers cause other suppliers. The quality of the end-product is thereby assured for a prolonged period.
By engaging with Interplex, automobile brands are able leverage industry-leading expertise in areas like high-precision mechanical engineering and coating technology. Among the numerous kinds of modules that have been designed and manufactured by Interplex for automotive deployment are the radar unit and airbag ECU shown in Figures 2 and 3 respectively.
Figures 2: Breakdown of the elements included in a radar module produced by Interplex
Harmonizing the manufacturing techniques being used allows a broader number of automotive customers’ module requirements to be covered via one adaptable platform. This provides these customers with a compelling balance. They can make the units incorporated into their vehicle models distinct, but still keep the overall costs involved down – and in doing so protect their margins.
Having served with automotive customers for many decades, the technical team at Interplex has huge insight into what will be needed for the new breed of cars currently under development, as well as those that are still in the concept phase ahead of future release. Inclusion of Press-Fit pins in ECU and sensor modules makes assembly much easier – resulting in accelerated production procedures that will help boost profitability. Furthermore, by following a top-loaded, platform-based approach in the construction of these modules, enough flexibility can be realized to make the process far more cost effective as possible.