Connector Geek Introduces... Automotive ConnectorsFollow article
January has seen an interesting selection of automotive connectors added to the RS portfolio. Designed for a demanding industry, these connectors have plenty to offer the non-automotive user. With solutions from some of the leading manufacturers in the field including Molex and TE Connectivity, I thought it would be interesting to look at four good reasons why these are ideal for the industrial designer.
The automotive industry makes products that work in some of the most demanding and varied environments on earth. From oilfields in the arctic to game reserves in Africa, drivers depend on their vehicles to work every time, as their lives might depend on them.
Automotive connectors are designed to work in all of these demanding environments. The connector housings are constructed of materials that will withstand years of exposure to extreme weather, physical impacts and aggressive chemicals. The contacts provide reliable connectivity even in high vibration conditions. The rubber seals around the connector bodies protect against contaminants whilst staying flexible in a wide range of temperatures.
All of these attributes make automotive connectors interesting to the industrial designer. The factory floor can be a pretty unforgiving place. Vibration, chemicals and high temperatures can all play havoc with sophisticated machinery, and the robustness of automotive offers a solution for the industrial user. Connectors like the DT seriesfrom Deutsch, part of TE Connectivity, have a proven track record of working in automotive and transportation applications worldwide.
Today’s family car is no longer a simple machine. At least a third of the cost of manufacturing a modern vehicle goes into the electronics, and this may rise to 50% within the next decade. This new level of sophistication makes use of technology that was first seen elsewhere, from USB to fibre optics. In addition, the growth of electric vehicles has seen automotive connectors that are designed to handle current ratings of more than 300 Amps.
Many connectors are designed to make integrating these technologies into an automotive setting easier and more cost-effective. An example is the HS Autolink family of connectors from Molexthat was created to allow USB and other connectivity technologies to be used for the advanced equipment that is expected by modern drivers.
These technologies are not limited to the automotive environment. Protocols including Ethernet, Low Voltage Differential Signaling (LVDS) and IEEE 1394b (FireWire*) are widespread, and automotive connectors enable designers to deploy them into industrial settings that would prove challenging for commercial alternatives.
Availability and Familiarity
The automotive market is truly worldwide. Manufacturers can no longer look to customers within their own borders to compete, and so any product needs to be truly global in its availability. This is combined with the size of the market, with cars being manufactured in their millions every year.
This has a huge benefit for the non-automotive customer. The size of the market means that components and spare parts need to be readily available in many parts of the world, easing supply chain issues and reducing the cost of sending spares to far-off places.
This is also true of the tools required to install and repair equipment in the field. The easy availability of dedicated tooling from manufacturers like Molexensures that not only can customers be confident that their equipment can be supported locally, but the quality of the product is prolonged with the use of genuine OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts.
Not Just for Cars
The global automotive market is projected to be worth a staggering $9 Trillion by the end of this decade, with a lot of growth in high technology fields including hybrid and electric vehicles. The vehicles that come off the production line around the world, whether family cars or giant earth-movers, will continue to grow in their sophistication.
To provide connectivity for this growing market, the large connector manufacturers are continually developing new solutions, spending millions on research and development, tooling and marketing. The good news for industrial designers is that many of these products will be able to find applications that may never see a vehicle throughout their lifetime. The next time you need a connector for a demanding environment, make sure you look at the fantastic range of automotive connectors that are readily available. You’re bound to find something that will fit the bill.