IDC Connectors for Transportation Applications

IDC can achieve a true cold-welded, gas-tight connection, which makes it ideal for high-endurance, high-reliability apps like transportation.

Tom Anderson, Connector Product Manager, AVX

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Electronic applications for vehicles continue to push the envelope. Consumer road vehicles and harsh-environment, off-road machines alike are continually evolving to integrate new, tech-driven safety features, as well as the latest bells and whistles that life with smartphones has trained us to expect. All of these features depend on a complex network of interconnecting modules, buttons, sensors, and lighting — and, at the same time, present the user with a simple, robust, and reliable interface.

Two interconnect technologies help make such vehicular applications possible: discrete wire insulation displacement contacts (IDC connectors) that pierce through insulated cables to connect with the conductor and fatigue-resistant phosphor bronze contacts matched to individual wire sizes. This combination provides a cold-welded, gas-tight connection of the wire to a printed circuit board. Many connector manufacturers offer IDC interconnect solutions, but most are typical plug and socket connectors with plastic insulators, which take up precious space. AVX offers UL-certified STRIPT™ single contact IDC solutions that provide full connector performance without an insulator, saving both physical space and BOM costs. Dissecting a couple of applications will explain why this contact technology is superior to competing connectors on the market.

Figure 1: A visual comparison of traditional two-piece IDC wire-to-board solutions with plastic insulators, single-piece IDCs with plastic insulators, and STRIPT uninsulated single-contact IDCs.

Lights and Action 

Emergency vehicles require numerous lights both inside and outside. A series of lights and modules give these unique vehicles high functionality within the vehicle, as well as high visibility on the outside. Modules mounted in the wheel well and engine bay must be sealed to protect the electronics from severe weather and road environments. From the front grill and roof-mounted light bars to medical-grade lighting on the interior, these lighting systems depend on an integrated and responsive network.

Durability is key. Phosphor bronze IDC interconnects are intended to be terminated once and function properly every time, so users never have to worry about them again. IDC wire terminations facilitate this by providing an impregnable connection that will survive the harsh temperature, shock, and vibration requirements that police and ambulance-type vehicles must endure. IDC is the premier contact system for these applications because it can be potted or overmolded without any contact degradation from these sealing or encapsulation processes, making them ideal for weather- and impact-resistant housings.

Getting Inside

Door handles with electronic keyless entry are becoming a popular automotive feature. These keyless security points are located inside of door panels and may be exposed to extreme shock, vibration, and environmental conditions. So, in addition to robustness and environmental protection, the slimmest profile possible is also required. IDC, and specifically STRIPT IDC, comes to the rescue once again by replacing both costly two-piece connect solutions and worse yet, unreliable hand-soldered wire terminations. Using IDC technology, these modules can be terminated, potted, and mounted into the door handle for reliable protection from everyday use and weather conditions.

Many devices within a vehicle’s center stack, multimedia center, and drive-by-wire applications require innovative new packaging and interconnect solutions to provide board- and module-level connections. A recent contender in this market is a revolutionary new press-fit IDC connector that combines the best of both contact technologies to address new automotive application demands. The new 53-8702 Series wire-to-board connection system for discrete 18–24 AWG wire terminations uses phosphor bronze material to provide robust, double-ended, cold-welded, and gas-tight terminations for either solid or stranded discrete wires or PCB-level connectors.

Figure 2: AVX’s new 53-8702 Series combines the two most reliable contact technologies in the automotive industry in a single package, improving implementation efficiency and reliability in quality- and cost-conscious automotive applications exposed to harsh environmental hazards.

IDC connectors have a natural place in automotive applications due to their superior resistance to the difficult conditions in which vehicles must operate. They provide the endurance and reliability needed to keep all systems in motion and, at the same time, offer the flexibility needed to adapt to a rapidly evolving market. Vehicles of the future will be vastly dependent on technology, and IDC connectors will be an essential part of those new ventures.

Tom Anderson has been in the connector industry for more than 30 years, and has held a variety of product marketing positions. During the last decade, he has focused on developing new connector technologies for the automotive, industrial, and solid-state lighting markets. Email Tom at tom.anderson@avx.com. Visit AVX at www.avx.com.

 

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