Finding Rugged, Miniature LED Connectors for Automotive Applications
Finding the right connector for LED lighting systems continues to be a challenge for designers. Connectors for automotive applications deliver the necessary functionality and guarantee the highest level of reliability in active and passive safety and driver assistance systems due to extra security features.
The automotive market demands advanced components and systems that enable significant improvements in functionality, driver safety, and infotainment. Keeping up with leading-edge technology innovations is a challenge, particularly when it comes to safety and driver assistance systems. One example is intelligent headlight systems that deliver dynamic cornering and turning lighting. Just like intelligent airbag systems that can determine the weight of the passenger and precisely adapt the force to the individual, the enhanced lighting systems angle the light to reach where the driver needs to see. These driver assistance systems require more advanced interconnect systems that meet a plethora of design criteria including ruggedness, reliability, size, and performance.
Finding the right connector for these LED lighting systems continues to be a challenge for designers. Connectors designed for automotive applications often include extra security features to deliver the necessary functionality and guarantee the highest level of reliability in active and passive safety and driver assistance systems.
LED Lighting Systems
Intelligent LED headlight systems actively direct the headlights based on road conditions and curvature, environment, oncoming vehicles, pedestrians, and more. The advanced lighting systems automatically control a vehicle’s beam state – high-beam or low-beam – during nighttime driving based on the detection of oncoming vehicles and leading vehicles via video captured by an on-board camera.
Additional Security Features
Reliability is critical in the automotive industry. For example, during a skewed connection process of the male and female parts, it is imperative the male connectors are not damaged. Some connectors, such as ERNI’s Koshiri Security connectors, feature a unique housing design with distinctive guides that prevent mismating and protect exposed contact pins. Also known as “scoop-proof,” the pin contacts are recessed sufficiently so they cannot be damaged if the mating connector shell is scooped into it during the mating process. More specifically, such a design prevents pins from being bent and contacts from being shorted during mating. Additionally, by adding an active latch, connectors can offer significantly higher mating integrity and protection from improper skew insertion.
Size and form factor are always significant challenges for designers of automotive applications, and LED lighting systems are no different. A compact, scalable design with a pitch as fine as 1.27mm is ideally suited for space-saving connections between PCBs and decentralized function units, which is particularly important in the automotive market. In addition to size constraints, manufacturing and installation can be an issue for designers. A miniature plug connector with enhanced mechanical features simplifies assembly and ease-of-use during integration.
To ensure design flexibility, connectors should be available in variants with two, three, four, six, eight, 10, and 12 pins and have a high current-carrying capacity that extends up to 4A per contact depending on the cable plant employed. Male connectors should feature SMT termination, while the female parts should offer IDC terminations that accept either ribbon or discrete wire cable. Single-wire stranded cables ranging from AWG 22 to AWG 26 can also be used. A white version is the best choice to eliminate shadowing effects that can be caused by the connector system.
Interconnects are a vital component for an automotive lighting system. Finding a connector that lasts as long as the LEDs is not an easy task. Enhanced, robust connectors are increasing in popularity in automotive LED/lighting applications due to rugged and durable design. In addition to meeting size constraints and withstanding a wide variety of harsh environmental specifications, the ideal connector should simplify assembly and ensure a safe and reliable connection.
Author Kevin Oursler is the director of marketing and business development at ERNI Electronics.