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The Trend Towards Modularity

Few markets have been transformed so completely by new technology than that of transportation. The modern family car contains more sophistication than the airliners of previous generations. The latest vehicles combine entertainment, navigation, imaging, and diagnostic equipment in such a way that their operation is simple and intuitive.

This miracle of integration has only been possible by the constant evolution in the capability of electronics and the pursuit of miniaturization. Let’s look at just one example and compare the suite of navigation tools in a mid-level vehicle with the inertial navigation systems used in airliners in the 1960s. The difference in size alone is staggering. 

Fig 1:  The Carousel IV INS System. Image Source.

The Carousel IV Inertial Navigation System used on Concorde was a suitcase-sized device that contained a rotating ball. This ball measured the movement of the aircraft and used this to calculate its position. The user interface looked like an oversized desk calculator, and the user manual was 80 pages long. What is more, to ensure accuracy, Concorde was fitted with three of them! 

The navigation systems of today are smaller, easier to use and considerably more capable.

Greater Performance, Smaller Size

The latest generation of GPS navigation module is a little larger than a postage stamp. In fact, the largest part of the modern system is the user interface. For reasons of practicality, buttons and switches still need to be robust enough for human fingers to operate and displays large enough to see clearly. Even this might be obsolete soon, as voice-operated systems become common, and displays are projected using wearable technology.

This is presenting challenges to designers. As we have seen, the appetite amongst the consumer for more features and more convenience is impacting almost all equipment. All areas of our lives, how we work and play, and even our healthcare, are being impacted. In order to create the products that we want in the future, designers are using a modular approach, allowing systems to be integrated easily with each other to create a connected whole.

The Automotive Example

Fig 2:  The Modern Family Car

Our automotive example earlier is a good case study, as it presents a number of potentially conflicting requirements that designers must fulfil. Consumers are expecting higher reliability from cars, whilst demanding more convenience and inbuilt technology. This means that the designer must create systems with higher and higher performance, and yet choose components that will work flawlessly for longer in potentially harsh environments. Added to this is the challenge of making all of these systems smaller and more energy-efficient.

Leading connector manufacturer Molex has responded to the needs of the design engineer by offering a range of board-to-board connectors with features to address these challenges.  From flexible printed circuit (FPC) connectors that resist shock and vibration to wire-to-board connectors suitable for high operating temperatures, the Molex range provides solutions to the problems faced by the modern design engineer.

Molex has created a range of Trend Guides aimed at a technical audience. They discuss the challenges thrown up by trends in particular markets and recommend products that provide solutions for the designer. The latest Trend Guide discusses what is happening in the automotive market, but offers products that might find a place in a whole range of other applications from machine tools to medical equipment. Click here to download the trend guide today and learn more.

Excited by Modular Design?

Join us on the 24th of January for a webinar with Brad Eissler of Molex. We will be looking at the increase in modularity and how today’s connector solutions are meeting tomorrow’s challenges.

Register for this webinar 

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7 Jan 2020, 10:32