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Miniaturization: from “Micro to Nano”

From Into the Box to Inside the Box From Into the Box to Inside the Box

“Electronic systems have gone through significant changes as a result of increased capability of the silicon chip industry. New CMOS chips are smaller, require lower voltages and current levels, and offer more functions in tiny spaces” says Bob Stanton, Omnetics Director of Technology.

Today’s electronic systems have gone through significant changes as a result of increased capability of the silicon chip industry.System capabilities, functions and processing are increasing at dynamic rates.Instrumentation is benefiting by adding more and more within the same size or even reduced sized equipment. The new CMOS chips have gotten smaller, require lower voltages and current levels, and have continued to offer more and more functions in tiny spaces. This has allowed systems to streamline their designs, and front panels to handle more services and receive higher levels of data acquisition and signal processing.Good system design has continued its demand for high reliability connector cable systems, often with increased wire counts, routed into the main instrument panel.

Inside the instrument, signals, data processing, and probe cues must be routed to a wide range of smaller and smaller modules focused on processing their selected functions. As functionality increases, the density inside gets higher and modules are reduced in size, to nearly micro-sections themselves. Micro-connectors at 1.3mm (.050”) spacing and Nano-connectors at .625mm (.025”) spacing can significantly reduce size and weight of support interconnections in the new system technology.

Connectors “Into the box and Inside the box”.

The design engineer’s task is to provide two different interconnection levels that are needed to accommodate the larger instrument with panel requirements and the internal systems as density increases and modularization continues. The first connection is from the system probe that provides data acquisition or connects at the end of the cable to provide a service or process, such as a laser, optical camera chip or rotating tool. The second task is to design a compact interconnection system for inside the box that extends the cable routing to a multitude of miniature modules and printed wiring boards. The whole task requires a combination of routing signal, power and acquired data into the front panel and then distributing them throughout the instrument system to complete all requirements.

Essentially, we are addressing the needs for rugged and serviceable on the outside with the need for miniaturization and compactness on the inside. As instrumentation increases in portability, this must all be accomplished while increasing the design for high reliability and adaptability.


Into the Box. The “micro-to-nano” transition cable addresses this very issue.

Connector and cable systems routed from outside services into the instrument front panel face demanding challenges. The probe, or service end of the cable system, is often customized to fit the ever changing applications that sometimes even include the recent movement of active chip technology at the end of the cable itself.

Typically, the cable must be rugged, flexible, shielded and yet feel good personally to the practitioner. The connector must be able to survive the rigors of being whipped about the end of the cable and yet smoothly plug into the mating panel connector without problem.It also must continuously mate smoothly over thousands of connectors and maintain its polarity and visual quality. Oftentimes the quality of a good cable system is tested at the cable-to-connector interface.

This transition point is critical to maintaining a good jacket seal or EMI protection to the rest of the system.Connector design support is often needed to ensure one meets and exceeds all of the challenges of getting a good signal into the instrument or driving a unique instrument out at the end of a cable. Experienced companies, such as Lemo Corp. for example, will offer an extensive variety of service conditions based on highest reliability and performance levels. Lemo engineers can sort through the various product demands and match-up a best offer or analysis that would yield a cable connector system to serve the instrument including the panel-mounted connector to route signal systems inside the box for distribution inside the instrument.

Inside the box.

The environment changes dramatically inside the instrument. Temperature conditions, personal handling, and even shock and vibration issues must be addressed differently. These challenges are as difficult as outside but in a different plane.Electrical noise is more concentrated and sensitive inside the box, and as the amount of chip processing escalates, issues of signal speed, crosstalk, and EMI coupling can hinder design successes quickly.

Additional challenges include routing signals in and around boards and modules in multiple directions and elevations while trying to keep wire length as short as possible. (A point to remember, is that the best impedance match includes short interconnection lengths.)

As instruments add functions, they can get heavy and become less attractive to the user.With chip technology increasing, however, the voltages and current flow levels are decreasing. This paves the way for use of micro and nano-sized connectors with smaller, more flexible wiring between systems. The new nano-connector systems pass even the highest quality and reliability testing demanded and can be trusted to meet instrument level requirements. The advantage is more room and weight for other electronics inside the box.Most nano-connectors provide high density surface-mount formats to fit onto the smallest of circuit boards used in the instrument equipment. Solid model designs are available on-line to begin custom design interface with Omnetics designers.

The Designer’s Dilemma.Electronic miniaturization pushes us towards new disciplines that can stretch our personal knowledge and experience base. Challenges for highly limp cable systems simultaneously with high EMI protection can go beyond earlier design standards. Planning for sterilization, a good feeling cable surface and survival of being run over by a gurney wheel pushes the limits of our materials knowledge. Preparing a cable for continuous flexing as we increase wire count extends beyond previous cable standards.New levels of high performance cable and connector engineering are needed to combine these design demands.

Micro to Nano Transition Cable Design and Support

System designers can now benefit from the combination knowledge of multiple design requirements by tapping the cooperation of two companies that have focused on the challenges of the transition from micro to nano interconnection problems.

Lemo Corp. is one of the leading design houses in Cable and Connector systems, whilst Omnetics Connector Corp. has a wealth of experience transitioning from Micro-to-Nano dimensions into and within these new miniaturized, highly-dense, portable or other systems.Both Lemo and Omnetics have extensive standard products designed and ready for many applications.

As the evolution of more functions in smaller boxes, increased reliability, and better product performance is here, an interconnection team is also ready to offer some of the best answers quickly.

Author
Omnetics Connector Corporation

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