The shrinking world of interconnect, passive and electromechanical components

Author : Alan Jermyn, Avnet Abacus

05 February 2013

TE Connectivity’s Power4Net hybrid connector is designed for machine automation applications that require a high-speed data connection and power of up to 10A per circuit

While interconnect, passive and electromechanical (IP&E) components have never been subject to the dramatic decreases in size-per-function seen in semiconductors, ever-present demands to reduce the size of electronic equipment have kept up the pressure on component innovators to deliver more from less: higher power capability, better data throughput, functionality at higher temperatures and longer life are just a few examples.

We’ve seen innovation in density of connector technology, increased capacitance in a given area in capacitors, greater power handling from resistors and higher current handling in switching devices. Our shrinking consumer devices – from tablet computers to mobile phones – attest to the sizeable success of IP&E component designers in recent years. But the same trends are found everywhere as we pack ever-more electronics into cars and trucks, into medical devices, into renewable energy and energy management, and into more traditional applications like control and automation, which is now growing rapidly in commercial and domestic buildings too.


It’s not unknown for components created to address one application migrating to others, sometimes with minor adjustments to their form or function. FCI’s PwrBlade connectors are a good example. Originally designed to handle combined power and data in server systems powered over distributed power architectures, new versions have been developed for automated medication dispensers. By integrating power and high-speed data connections within each PwrBlade, system designers have reduced component count, saved space, and cut manufacturing costs. The dispensers manage medication inventory and medical records, monitoring patients and eliminating human error along the way.

For datacommunication applications Amphenol has introduced the RJE72 series of CAT5e compliant modular jacks. This is an ultra-low profile design with tab-up orientation and integral high-temperature LEDs. The jacks are suitable for IR reflow and this kind of innovation exemplifies the development of connector technology.

Samtec's newest SEARAY interconnect system offers high-speed performance and the unparalleled grounding and routing flexibility of the popular .050" (1.27mm) x 0.50" (1.27mm) open-pin field SEARAY, but with a 0.80mm (.0315") micro pitch design that requires 50% less board space. This space-saving high-density system is available in 4 and 6 row designs with up to 180 I/Os. Pin counts to 300 I/Os are in development.

The Power4Net and the Motorman hybrid connectors from TE Connectivity integrate several functions into a single compactly designed connector. The flexible Power4Net hybrid connector has space for up to eight power and four Ethernet contacts – or even for twelve power contacts by changing the insert – and has been designed for machine automation applications that require high data transmission security and power of up to 10 Amps.

The Motorman hybrid connector goes even further and features two fast Ethernet interfaces, five power sockets (three AC and two DC), five signal sockets and one protection-earth-contact. Both connectors provide reliable connection technology and meet the demanding durability, safety and quality requirements of real-time Ethernet applications in industrial automation.

Combining power supply connectivity, plus Ethernet and/or signal into a single cable and connector significantly reduces cabling complexity and costs while providing flexibility in machine architecture. The Power4Net and Motorman hybrid connectors from TE also reduce installation time, as only one cable providing multiple functions needs to be installed per motor

Murata’s DMG series electrical double layer super capacitors are ideal for extended temperature, long-life applications.


Vishay has further shrunk the size of its shielded thick-film inductors. The company recently introduced ten new IHLP low-profile, high-current Inductors, some of which are just 3mm high. They come in a choice of five case sizes from 2525 to 6767, with inductance values from 0.22µH to 33µH and extended temperature ranges up to +155°C. They’re equally suitable for commercial and automotive applications and feature ultra-low noise, RoHS compliance, and high resistance to thermal and mechanical shock, moisture and vibration. 

Resistors from TE Connectivity are shrinking in size and cost too. The RL73 family of current sense resistors now offer 0.25w power rating in 0805 packages, rather than 1206 – a space saving of approximately 50% - and the power rating of standard thick film resistors has been doubled in some instances, the 2512 size now being rated able to dissipate 2W, rather than 1W.

At the high power end of the spectrum TE Connectivity’s MDS 200W power resistors are now smaller and a new package has been introduced that enables a 600W device to be offered. Withstand voltage is 5kV across the range.

Super capacitors are an attractive alternative to batteries in a growing number of applications, commonly for real-time clock (RTC) backup or for use in smart metering products. They reduce cost and improve the environmental credentials of products.

Furthermore, it’s not just traditional aluminium electrolytic capacitor manufacturers, such as Panasonic and Rubycon that are now producing them. Recent offerings include Cooper Bussmann’s KW series that offer -40°C to +85°C operation and come in low profile packages. Then there’s Murata’s DMG family that features high voltage operation and low ESR from tiny, robust packages. Options are 700µF/2.1V single-cell at 1.4 mm high with 70mO ESR (1kHz), or 350µF/4.2V double-cell at 2.8mm thickness and 130mO ESR (1kHz). Look out for the forthcoming launch of the new DMF series, which will be the thinnest of its type in the world.

With solar applications in mind, where the highest voltage is seen under no-load conditions, Vishay developed the 193 PUR-SI range of 500V rated snap-in aluminium electrolytic capacitors.  At a maximum operating temperature to + 50°C they have a useful life of 5,000 hours but when operated at 450V, the maximum temperature extends to + 105°C and the useful life to 6,000 hours. Rated ripple current is up to 2.52A at + 105°C and 100Hz.

For DC link applications with higher voltage operation (550V to 1200Vdc), or where the applications demand very low ESR or experience high surge voltages (high dv/dt), AVX’s FB Series uses a non-impregnated metallised polypropylene dielectric specially treated to have a very high dielectric strength. The capacitance range is 0.68µF to 75µF and they operate at up to 100°C. Then there’s the complementary FE series of 4-leaded DC-link capacitors for use in power supplies, drives and inverters.

Aluminium electrolytics meet polymer in Panasonic’s V-ZA and V-ZC series’ of hybrid capacitors. The compact components combine the low ESR characteristics and reliability of polymer capacitors with the low leakage current and safety of aluminium electrolytics. The V-ZA series is rated to 5000 hours at 105°C, and the V-ZC to 4000 hours at 125°C. Typical applications for these components, where their high ripple current ratings are of value, include switching power supplies.

Schaffner’s FN9280 features an integral switch and fuse and offers fast snap-in mounting


Materials and manufacturing advances have even led to innovations in the humble switch. Schurter’s new TA35 circuit breaker has a new antibacterial protective cover, making it great for medical, laboratory and food processing applications, and Grayhill has developed multi-function devices to reduce the number of discrete components on control panels for medical electronics systems (amongst other applications) where, combined with improved materials technology, high levels of sanitisation are maintained.

Easy cleaning is also a feature of Knitter-Switch’s TME82 through-hole, washable, illuminated pushbutton switches. Available in four LED colours (red, yellow, green, blue) they’re ideal for office automation equipment, vending machines and measuring instruments.  They are SPST (OFF-MOM) switches with a minimum lifetime of 100 000 cycles.

Schaffner’s latest filtered mains inlets - the FN9280 & FN9290 – feature a compact, patented design with integral switches and fuses and their flange-mount system enables fast and flexible installation.

EBM Papst continues its long history of thermal management innovation with the 2200F fan series. The 200mm diameter fan is just 51mm high and airflow, efficiency and noise performance are all considerably improved over existing 200mm fans.

Size reduction may not be as dramatic in IP&E components as in semiconductors but there’s still a lot of materials and manufacturing innovation in the sector and Avnet Abacus is ideally placed to advise you about today’s smallest solutions for your design challenges.

Figure 1: TE Connectivity’s Power4Net hybrid connector is designed for machine automation applications that require a high-speed data connection and power of up to 10A per circuit

Figure 2: Murata’s DMG series electrical double layer super capacitors are ideal for extended temperature, long-life applications.

Figure 3: Schaffner’s FN9280 features an integral switch and fuse and offers fast snap-in mounting

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