When it comes to designing products today, ironically, engineers have it both the best and the worst. There are new technologies, topologies, and materials simultaneously disrupting and advancing the embedded electronics landscape.
These advances range from advanced wide-bandgap semiconductors, to better and denser memory, to advanced SoCs that are so functional that almost all you need to do is attach a display, case, and battery to them to create a product. Yet the fundamentals remain. Just as a chain is only as good as its weakest link, so is a product only as good as the integrity of the connections between its subsystems.
Of course, there are a myriad of other critical factors to product performance, from the passives and magnetics on the boards to nuances like antenna matching to minimize power loss. However, nothing works if the bonds between your boards are faulty.
Circuit-board edge connections are an often overlooked yet critical infrastructure: When they work as advertised they are beneath notice; when your system interconnects fail they are a screaming nightmare. Is it the tab? Is it the socket? Is it the jumper? Is it the clip?
Many overlook the practical complexity of the “simple” electrical connection. Today’s on- and inter-board highways carry both power and data, with very precise and demanding requirements for each optimum performance. Any intermittent contact, any undesirable (or unplanned) parasitic loss, or RF leakage, or resonant/piezoelectric/arcing noise from bad connections will destroy any benefits the product attempts to deliver to the customer.
Thankfully, the increasing complexity of these systems has also created a market for sensible solutions. Today, a number of options exist to create safe and effective electrical connections. For example, Component Corporation’s SMP/SMA series of card edge connectors provides a very low profile yet very high connector density to link two printed circuit boards. Other connectors in this series have many other features such as dual-readout and a variety of materials and contact choices.
So be mindful of the little things, especially the little things that are actually the biggest parts of your design—the enabling connection infrastructure that allows your product to perform as advertised for the predicted operational lifetime. Your circuit-board edge connections are the critical key between your device pleasing or frustrating the user, and ultimately you.
Filed Under: Materials • advanced