Page 12 - 2020 Interconnect Innovations eBook
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powertrain electrification and driver-assist systems, leading to an increasing number of electrical connections within each vehicle. Safety applications, in particular, require more sensors to achieve the comprehensive capabilities consumers expect, from 360° cameras to the ability to operate vehicles in any surroundings and conditions. Every new functionality leads to an increased application count for sensors, resulting in more demands placed on vehicle network architectures.
A common thread between digital transformation and autonomous acceleration is the push to reduce overall weight in vehicles and increase vehicle efficiency, propelled by Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards around the distance a vehicle must travel per gallon of fuel. Whether creating a modern SUV or a driverless car prototype, all vehicle manufacturers are pressed to achieve better gas mileage. Weight reductions play a significant role in achieving this goal. When you consider that there are miles of electronic wiring in vehicles, even a small reduction in wire gauges or simplified connections can achieve marked differences in harness complexity, routability, and weight.
Making Critical Connections With Miniaturized Components
The evolution of increased content in vehicles has driven the need for denser electronics packaging. However, the answer to more content cannot be more full-size connectors. There simply isn’t room. As safety, powertrain, and body electronics become ever more digital, the number of vehicle-wide applications that require a signal or low-level power to make a connection will grow exponentially, competing for space in dense vehicle architectures. Smaller contacts are needed and, in turn, smaller connectors and terminals.
Enter the era of the miniaturization. Automotive OEMs are broadly adopting miniaturized connectors to address the way wire sizes and packaging space within vehicular control units continue to shrink. This shift to miniaturization has served as a catalyst in the creation of 0.5mm terminal systems across the globe, enabling hybrid terminals and high- speed/data hybrids to emerge.
However, smaller does not mean weaker. Miniaturized terminal and connector systems must meet the same automotive standards as their larger counterparts for electrical integrity, heat, vibration, and handling. In North America, that means meeting USCAR standards for automotive interconnects. In Europe, that means meeting standards driven by German organization Arbeitskreis (AK). In China, there is no governing body for automotive standards, so those customers are free to choose either North American or European designs. Korea is developing its own standards, and we see major automakers in Japan being influenced by parent companies or joint ventures in both North American and European countries.
Terminal Design: Manufacturers Lead the Way with Smaller Footprint Designs
A solid connector system begins with a strong terminal design. Leading manufacturers understand the critical need for a smaller terminal design that supports a wide variety of environmental operating conditions, mating force requirements, and customer preferences.
Several key design considerations are driving big changes in the next generation of automotive connectors. Different terminal strategies and designs in the transportation industry add complexity to the end design of the connector interface, which can lead to mismating and faulty connections. Therefore, new connectors need to enable quick identification and easy assembly. In addition, customers often require different circuit connectors for different automotive applications from different sources, which further complicates the process. As such, leading manufacturers offer circuit receptacles with 12- to 56-circuit layouts for use in applications ranging from low-current signal (5.0A) to high-power applications (30.0A).

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