When is a customized connector worthwhile?

01/10/2019 Know-How

Connectors are available as 2pin and 4pin options, or with other numbers of pins, as waterproof versions, with varied plating and various orientations, soldering technologies, fastenings, and assembly aids. This results in countless variants for a connector family, with suppliers unable to offer them all as standard. So when is a customized connector worthwhile?

Many connector variants are now available as standard, meaning tooling costs are not incurred. However, the disadvantage of this is that delivery times for a connector model can be relatively long. Since the supplier can only manufacture a connector variant if the tool is not being used for another customer. To be on the safe side, the connectors should, therefore, be ordered as far in advance as possible - also with regard to their minimum order quantity (MOQ).

Modified connectors

The remedy is a customized connector produced according to individual specifications. This not only ensures more reliable procurement, but also offers the possibility of optimizing the connector to a specific application and procurement and production processes, e.g. through:

  • modifications to the stamped part of the connector with regard to length, shape, plating or bending
  • another carrier material, such as high-temperature plastic or 2-component injection molding
  • snap lugs
  • P&P areas
  • connector packages with individual shape and dimensions
  • modifications to the packaging, e.g. tape & reel, pick & place cap, larger packaging units, load carriers or returnable packaging

Based on the order quantity, technical options and capacity utilization of the machinery as well as the respective corporate strategy, the connector supplier decides whether it is viable to implement a customized connector. For this purpose, 2D information in a .pdf document is usually sufficient. The one-time additional costs range from a few hundred to several thousand euros.

Perfectly adapted connector

In addition, there are numerous other ways to tailor connectors to the specific application and production process, e.g.:

  • complex connector packages with integrated seal
  • packages with pressure compensation membranes for watertightness (IP67 / IP68)
  • press-fit contacts that eliminate the soldering process
  • connector faces as part of the application package
  • several combined connector faces
  • connecting bridges integrated into the contacts (power range)
  • components (e.g. electrolytic capacitor, coil) already contacted in the connector package
  • implemented bus bars
  • with molded ground connections, mounting lugs, spacer bolts or screw bushings

Miniaturization due to laser direct structuring

When it comes to miniaturization, LDS (laser direct structuring) offers the best options for customized connectors. LDS allows the designing of circuits with schematic modification on many RoHS-compliant plastic materials. Cables and spacings as thin as 0.10mm as well as circuit grids of 0.35mm are possible in large series production. Furthermore, versatile design functions are also available:

  • integration of connections with fixed contacts
  • (via) holes measuring as little as 50µm in diameter
  • cantilever beam contacts, integral switching contacts, antenna designs
  • effective heat sinks and connections with EMI shielding thanks to thicker copper plating

As stated above, expensive tools are required for LDS and special connector customizations. The costs are shared by the customer and the connector supplier. In addition, the supplier already needs a 3D document in the inquiry process to meet such complex requirements. Development and design of the connector is usually carried out by the customer, but suppliers are on hand to provide advice.

It usually takes about six months from the idea to the PPAP-capable (production part approval process) sampling of the customized connector. It is, therefore, crucial to work with the right partners from the outset. Rutronik is able to provide its customers with comprehensive support when selecting and adapting connectors. The distributor is a partner of many connector suppliers, knows their product ranges, production facilities, technologies, and machines and can judge which supplier can best implement the customer's ideas.

A cost-benefit analysis shows whether it makes economic sense to modify or to customize a connector. This should include the total cost of ownership, as the additional costs of a customized connector can often be offset or even surpassed by savings in other components and production processes. Furthermore, there is the possibility of developing applications with unique selling points, thereby creating competitive advantages.

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