Looking Beyond Interconnect Standards – Integrated Computing Design

June 29, 2023


Looking beyond interconnect standards

Compliance with industry standards is critical to the electrical engineering profession. While this is valid, adhering to these standards can compromise engineers’ design goals. One such area is the NewSpace industry, where the search for smaller, lighter and more cost-effective components is a key criterion.

With the emergence of the private space industry, the dynamics have changed. Many new entrants are appearing alongside prominent established players; many smaller ventures (both commercial and academic) get involved. In general, these companies will develop some form of nanosatellite or constellation of modestly sized nanosatellites.

In most of these cases, the design criteria that projects must meet are very different from those of traditional players in this sector. Above all, it will be crucial to have components that will keep projects as lean and cost-effective as possible.

Suppose the engineers look at the approved lists of space agencies. If so, some of the connector formats mentioned may have been static for years. They may also need to better align with the weight, size and budget constraints associated with implementing nanosatellites. By specifying such components, it will not be possible to fit all the required features into the available space. More importantly, the weight involved will likely exceed the rocket launch payload allocated to the project.

Sure, meeting certain standards will be mandatory in some situations, such as government funding initiatives. However, if not, engineers may prefer commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products that meet criteria for high reliability and performance. For space launch conditions, strong resilience to shock and vibration is vital. And, while in space, strong outgassing performance ensures the connectors don’t degrade surrounding equipment or worse, compromise performance. Going this route gives them greater design flexibility, allowing them to address the technical constraints of the application while staying within budget.

High reliability COTS products are not only applicable to the NewSpace sector; Industrial, aerospace and defense, electric vehicles (EV) and charging infrastructure are also candidates where quick access to COTS connector models helps accelerate product development activities. It will also protect them from long lead times in the event of supply channel shortages as it broadens the range of sourcing choices.

Harwin’s philosophy towards connector design is all about the engineer’s needs. Thus, the company’s range of HRi connectors have the high reliability and performance attributes that engineers need for their design, while meeting size, weight, power and cost (SWAP-C) targets. The compact and lightweight Gecko, the high-density Datamate, and the high-power Kona series are all part of this portfolio of high-reliability (Hi-Rel) interconnects. These connectors are shock and vibration resistant, exhibit strong outgassing properties and are, therefore, fully compliant with the stringent guidelines set by the NASA and ESA space agencies.

Top-notch performance

For use within nanosatellites, among others, the high-reliability 1.25mm Gecko connectors address urgent needs to save board space and keep overall system weight low. In addition to its industry-leading performance and availability of COTS, it makes them much more attuned to modern space activities. These connectors have exceptional resilience to mechanical stress and can feature various locking mechanisms for mating retention. The operating temperature range, which goes from -65°C to +150°C, is also very advantageous.

Figure 1: Gecko-MT connectors feature 10A power contacts alongside 1.25mm pitch signal contacts

Combining combined data (2.8A) and power (10A) output, the Gecko-MT versions offer engineers an attractive alternative to the Combi-D/Micro-D format. By specifying these components, engineers will be able to further simplify their designs, improving size and weight profiles with fewer wires. Thanks to fewer components used, bill of material costs are also reduced. Thanks to their lightweight and compact construction, these components can also be applied to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones.

Figure 2: Datamate Mix-Tek connectors are available in single row coaxial/power contact configurations with dual row signal contacts in one connector

Since its launch nearly 40 years ago, Harwin’s Datamate has been the connector range of choice in many demanding applications and has a long track record in the space. The connectors provide high resilience to shock and vibration and can withstand temperatures up to +125°C. With a small footprint, SWaP-C optimized 2mm pitch components fit into spaces that other connectors in this class would struggle to accommodate. As with the Gecko range, the Datamate Mix-Tek versions pack data and power into even smaller spaces.

Figure 3: Kona offers the ultimate power connector with 60A max per contact on an 8.5mm pitch.

With the recent introduction of the Kona series, Harwin have significantly increased the power levels within their HRi range with each contact delivering 60A. The combination of high power operation and strong reliability is unique to this size and format. While the 8.5mm contact pitch of these connectors is large, they take up relatively little board space since fewer contacts are required to deliver the high current.

A hands-on approach to connector selection

In conclusion, it is clear that although standards should help engineers find the best interconnect components for their projects, the reality is sometimes more complex than one might imagine. By taking a more pragmatic approach to connector selection, engineers can reap the benefits of having a highly reliable interconnect solution while meeting their SWAP-C goals and unaffected by supply chain bottlenecks.

#Interconnect #Standards #Integrated #Computing #Design
Image Source : embeddedcomputing.com

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