Light fantastic in interconnect series

01 October 2008

According to the US Department of Energy, no other lighting technology offers the same potential as LEDs to save energy and enhance lighting quality and reliability

Added to this is the major economic benefit LEDs deliver thanks to their low energy consumption, long life and low maintenance. Now is seen as a fantastic time for the lighting industry, as it introduces new, creative and exciting lighting solutions.

While magazines print richly-illustrated articles discussing wall washes, ambient/mood lighting, stage effects and domestic scenes, all enabled by LED technology, the engineering community must solve the more mundane problems that inevitably occur as we look to move from traditional incandescent lighting to the new LED products. One example concerns interconnect, where there is an increasing demand for a simpler and more efficient termination method.

One of the major issues hindering the uptake of LED technology in lighting applications is that installers want to stick with old, established formats. So they try to position LED strips into tubes of the same dimensions as fluorescent lighting systems. This demands a flexible means of linking these LED strips together. One simple method is to solder a wire between the two LED strips. However, this takes time. Wires must be prepared and the solder joint must be created, and it also increases the risk of failure due to dry joints. Another possibility is to use a two-part connector system, with one part soldered to the LED PCB strip into which can be plugged a simple cable assembly. Although this approach does not suffer from reliability problems inherent in the solder/wire process, it is costly and not very versatile, because the cable assemblies will have to be pre-manufactured. A better process is needed.

IDC (insulation displacement connectors) have been around for many years, used mainly with flat cables. Some companies, such as AVX Elco, are now offering discrete wire IDC connectors specially designed for
the LED lighting industry. To terminate, the connector terminal is simply pressed into the wire displacing the insulation that forms a gas tight joint with the conductors when fully inserted. This has the advantage of
being an extremely fast, reliable and repeatable process that requires only the wire to be cut to length on site. No other preparation is necessary and no cable assemblies need be manufactured in advance. The result is a reduced time to market and a lower installed cost.

Series 9175/9176/9177 connectors from AVX are rated in current at 1A, 10A and 15A respectively with corresponding stranded wire gauges of 26 to 28 AWG, 18 to 24 AWG, and 14 to 20 AWG. Maintaining
flexibility, these new connectors are available in two and three-way configurations, but can also be end stacked to deliver the exact number of terminations required. Alternatively, custom designs can also be developed. With such a wide wire range accommodated within the three product series, a variety of applications within the lighting market are accessible, including sports arena signs, street lighting, advertising signs and architectural lights used for building feature enhancement or internal feature lighting. The connectors also suit solar panels, emergency signage and automotive applications, internally or outside of car. Already these new connectors are being used in strip lighting installations.

There are other IDC connectors available on the market designed for LED lighting applications, but these are significantly larger, less easy to rework, and are not endstackable so they are not as versatile as the
AVX offering. The company has paid considerable attention to every design aspect of these new connectors. Devices are manufactured from a high temperature nylon material to withstand the occasional high working temperatures experienced in lighting systems. The temperature, shock and vibration specifications of series
9175/9176/9177 connectors are based on automotive specifications, resulting in products that are robust and suitable for a variety of operating conditions.

MALCOLM ANKERS is product marketing manager, AVX Elco

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