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Molex Report Ruggedization Meets Miniaturization in Connectors

Exploring the role of ruggedized, miniaturized interconnect solutions for electronic device innovation across a growing number of industries, Molex’s new report looks at the trends, tradeoffs and enabling technologies that remove roadblocks while helping shape the future of electronics.

Highlights


  • The need for compact, reliable interconnects extends beyond automotive to permeate consumer electronics, industrial automation, medical devices and smart agriculture  
  • Blending the best of miniaturization and ruggedization improves space efficiency, reliability, design flexibility, signal integrity and thermal management 
  • Advanced materials science, innovative design techniques and evolving manufacturing processes reduce roadblocks to reshape next-generation compact, durable connectors  

LISLE, IL – June 25, 2024 – Molex, a global electronics leader and connectivity innovator, has released a report that explores the ever-increasing role of ruggedized, miniaturized interconnect solutions in unlocking new possibilities for electronic device innovation across a growing swath of industries. The report, entitled “Breaking Boundaries: Uniting Ruggedization and Miniaturization in Connector Design,” looks at the trends, tradeoffs and enabling technologies that remove roadblocks while helping shape the future of electronics.

3D Inspection Solutions | Koh Young America

Increasing demand for electronics in new vehicle platforms has intensified the need for smaller and rugged interconnects designed to withstand the harshest environments.

Carrieanne Piccard, VP and GM, Transportation Innovative Solutions, Molex

As a result, the ruggedization of miniaturized connectors has emerged as an overarching design principle, requiring a holistic approach across the entire lifecycle of components to achieve optimal product reliability, performance and longevity.

Carrieanne Piccard, VP and GM, Transportation Innovative Solutions, Molex

Critical Connectivity Enablers

In this industry report, Molex defines miniature connectors as having a pitch of 2.54mm or less while ruggedness refers to features for withstanding the harshest environments and mechanical stresses. The convergence of interconnect ruggedization and miniaturization has enabled major innovations in the automotive industry, especially in supporting electric vehicles (EVs) and zonal architectures. Now the trend is permeating other industries, including consumer electronics (e.g., fitness trackers, smartwatches and smart home devices); industrial automation (e.g., industrial robots, touchscreens and sensors); as well as medical devices (e.g., endoscopes, insulin pumps and wearable health monitors).

Growing adoption of compact, durable connectors is gaining traction in other application areas, such as smart agriculture. Vertical farming systems with dense sensor and lighting installations require space-efficient connectors that work in wet, humid environments without interruption. Smaller, lighter and rugged connectors found in agricultural drones or “flying tractors” also must be protected against extreme temperature and excessive vibration, along with exposure to moisture, dust and corrosive chemicals.

Pushing Design Boundaries

Molex’s new report explores best practices for clearing major design and manufacturing roadblocks to facilitate the design of increasingly smaller, lighter and more reliable connectors. Aluminum alloys and specialized, high-strength steel, as well as high-performance polymers, offer exceptional durability and lightweight construction. Processing these materials into complex connector geometries, however, often calls for specialized techniques, ranging from micro-molding and high-precision machining to laser welding or selective plating. 

In addition, dense pitch layouts enable higher-contact density to accommodate smaller device footprints, but they require high-precision manufacturing and assembly. Increased risk of crosstalk and ineffective heat dissipation also can occur. To mitigate these issues, engineers can rely on advanced signal routing techniques, shielding and isolation methods, along with advanced thermal management strategies like heat sinks or thermal vias. Molex DuraClik Connectors feature housings made from high-temperature PBT material and secure terminal retention to withstand extreme automotive environments.

Multi-Functional Terminals (MFTs) represent a significant leap forward in miniaturized connector technology by integrating multiple functionalities — power, signal and even mechanical features, like locking mechanisms, into a single compact connector. Molex’s new report also investigates top environmental factors that can compromise component reliability while offering strategies and solutions to ensure optimal connector performance in harsh conditions. Strain relief features and contact design help optimize connector performance despite constant exposure to the stresses of vibration, shock and repeated mating cycles. 

At Molex’s Global Reliability Lab, engineers simulate real-world vibration, temperature cycling and exposure to harsh chemicals. Molex Micro-Lock Plus Connectors address vibration challenges with a positive locking mechanism to ensure secure mating while averting accidental uncoupling in high-vibration environments. The connector’s metal solder tabs provide added strain relief to solder joints for enhanced resistance to mechanical stress and vibration.

Since even a single drop of water or speck of dust can create corrosion, shorts, and ultimately, device failure, ingress protection is essential. Molex’s Squba Connectors feature IP68-rated seals certified as resistant to nearly five feet of water for 30 minutes. These compact connectors optimize power delivery in one of the smallest, most durable form factors available. 

As devices continue to shrink in size yet grow in functionality, Molex engineers are pushing the design boundaries of miniaturization and ruggedization to solve real-world business problems and exceed customer expectations. 

About Us


Molex is a global electronics leader committed to making the world a better, more-connected placeWith a presence in more than 40 countries, Molex enables transformative technology innovation in the automotive, data center, industrial automation, healthcare, 5G, cloud and consumer device industries. Through trusted customer and industry relationships, unrivaled engineering expertise, and product quality and reliability, Molex realizes the infinite potential of Creating Connections for Life

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