What are Modular Connectors?
Meet the Connector: Modular connectors
This article refers to configurable modular rectangular interconnect products that allow a customer to incorporate multiple media in one housing or shell.
Modular connectors are “build-your-own” interconnect products featuring structural elements that can be selected and configured to meet a specific application’s physical or performance requirements. Examples of modular products include a common shell that can hold varied inserts of the customer’s choice (power, signal, data, fluid, gases); common inserts that can be used with different housing or shell shapes (typically rectangular); or internal components that can be populated with specific pin counts or types. These modular products may be assembled by the connector supplier or by the customer.
Modular products give designers working with multiple variables the ability to create a semi-custom connector. This approach offers a number of advantages over fully custom connector products. Modular connectors are typically lower in cost than custom products and often can reduce the number of individual connectors required. They are easily upgradable and repairable; instead of replacing the entire connector, functions or features may be added or damaged parts may be swapped out for new ones. They reduce inventory by allowing the use of multiple media in one shell or housing, rather than individual connectors.
HARTING’s first Han Connector featured configurable hoods, housings, and modules to give designers the ability to create a specific connector for various application needs.
HARTING’s rectangular Han connector introduced the concept of an easily configurable connector. The first Han was developed in the 1950 by Wilhelm Harting to allow designers to create exactly the product they needed from a selection of inserts. “His primary objective was to develop a universal, high-performance connector for all application areas. Taking the existing connector technology with its limited utility, he increased the number of contact pins, replaced the existing contacts with male and female plug-in contacts and expanded termination technology with screw-type and crimp techniques,” according to HARTING. That early product has evolved over the decades. The Han-Modular series of the 1990s, which centered on a hybrid connector with a variety of mix-and-match inserts, is compatible with today’s Han-Modular products, which offer the latest performance and speeds. The Han-Modular Domino, released in 2022, features a hybrid connector shell that can be loaded with a custom arrangement of half-cube inserts.
Versatility to meet market needs
Industrial applications are well-served by modular connectors due to their ability to easily be changed out or upgraded without the necessity of shutting the entire line down. Their heavy-duty design, first introduced by HARTING, is perfect for use in areas that are plagued by vibration, dust, gloved hands, or other harsh conditions Weidmüller’s RockStar ModuPlug heavy-duty connectors can be built from a selection of rugged inserts that can be loaded with a custom mix of nine contact arrangements (power, signal, data, etc.) in up to 12 housings. The inserts snap into place and the connectors are terminated with Weidmüller’s SNAP IN technology, for which the company was awarded the German innovation award in 2022. In cable applications, hoods with either screw or locking levers are available, as are other cable protection and sealing accessories.
Modular products typically do not meet specific standards, due to their ability to be uniquely configured. However, some regulations and standards may be relevant for the materials, features, or insert capabilities.
One example is SV Microwave’s SMPM VITA 67.3 14 Port Aluminum Plug-In Module. This product meets VITA’s VPX specification for adding RF capabilities to an existing VITA 46 VPX board-to-board connection. It can be populated per the designer’s specifications. SV notes that it is advisable to use modules and contacts from the same manufacturers. However, fully populated Plug-In Modules utilizing V67.3 hardware from two different OEMs qualified to the VPX standard can plug-in to the same backplane slot.
Other standards and regulations that may apply to modular connector products include UL ratings, ANSI, RoHS and REACH compliance, and IP ratings for sealed connectors.
Phoenix Contact’s Variocon modular connector system allows designers to choose from a large variety of housings and load them with the modular inserts of their choice. This industrial solution can be configured to conform to IP rated sealing levels to meet the performance of varying harsh environments.
Rosenberger’s modular connector system improves upon existing solutions for the Test & Measurement industries. The system providers users with the opportunity to choose between IEC interfaces to configure an ideal interconnect for a wide range of applications. The product features one PCB contact with modular options for different female connector heads (RPC-3.50, RPC-2.92, RPC-2.40, and SMA) and options to cover the whole frequency range from DC to 50 GHz. Only one part of PCB contact has to be processed, and changes and upgrades can be quickly and easily made.