Sager Electronics’ director, provider advertising and product administration, David Smith, explores options to connector provide chain bottlenecks, together with 3D printing providers
Digital techniques designs pose many challenges and the affect of the latest uncooked materials shortages and provide chain disruptions haven’t helped. Provide chain points can hang-out a product even after the preliminary design and prototype are full, and the present interruptions are impacting availability from specialty merchandise to commodity components alike.
Whereas many forms of connectors are thought-about commodities and the interchangeable nature of the product attributable to uniformity in kind, match and performance lends itself to second sourcing, interconnect gadgets aren’t any exception to the present challenges. Discovering options isn’t at all times a easy or straightforward answer given certification and approvals, particular design necessities and materials flexibility. Moreover, extending lead instances—and in some situations, no outlined lead instances in any respect—leaves buying and design engineers scrambling to search out the proper connector for his or her design.
Lead instances on nearly all the pieces are extending, even to the purpose of being unable to ship. Prior to now, although uncommon, the Drive Majeure clause would kick in, the place each events are free from legal responsibility and obligation when extraordinary occasions happen past anybody’s management. At present, although, it’s generally employed as components shortages make deliveries unimaginable and buying faces the unenviable activity of procuring supplies that simply aren’t out there. Not solely are suppliers itemizing longer lead instances, however in lots of instances, they’re itemizing ‘no doable dates’, that means they will’t inform when components will ever be within the pipeline.
To make issues worse, counterfeit components utilizing inferior supplies can abruptly seem to come back to the rescue. This selection ought to at all times be prevented as a result of poor high quality can have an effect on efficiency and essential product warrantees could also be invalid. That is very true in essential functions like medical gadgets, radar or tools in hazardous environments, the place these inferiorities could be deadly.
Looking for a connector different requires contemplating each halves of the specification to supply the best flexibility whereas making certain interminability. OEMs must work carefully with their sources as cables should mate to whichever receptacle is used on the PCB or chassis. That is all of the extra essential if the appliance requires in depth certification and approval processes. For instance, army and medical designs can’t simply substitute components with out going by means of pricey and prolonged recertification. That is additionally true if working with a contract producer: they might provide different sources, however these suggestions should even be verified for kind and match. This may halt complete product traces till validations and paperwork are in place.
Designers can both select an identical sources or place redundant footprints on the PCB. This manner, the out there half is used on the alternate location, though this may occasionally current challenges for the mechanical case or enclosures, particularly for merchandise that should adhere to stress and water-tight specs. Alongside this identical strategy, many OEMs are taking the additional time when engaged on a brand new design to make sure there are not less than two sources for the connector. The place earlier than it wasn’t essential, the additional time on the entrance finish may also help keep away from supply interruptions down the highway.
In a essential line down scenario, design engineers could must rethink their necessities. As an example, is there flexibility with colour? Selecting between totally different housing colours, utilizing a non-latching/locking choice when the latching choice is specified, or utilizing un-shrouded headers instead of shrouded headers could make the distinction. Is there flexibility with contact metals? Utilizing tin plating versus gold plating on the terminals or a normal plastic versus 94V-0 rated plastic could also be an choice, whereas including one’s personal metallic adhesive shielded shroud could get rid of the metallic hood constraint.
One other long-term answer that piggybacks onto the providers supplied by distribution is to make use of 3D printers to make authorised connectors along with the producer. If materials science can provide printer plastics, metals and pins, a well-positioned distributor can fill the void.
The earlier choices are reviewed with the OEM’s engineering crew the higher. Take additional time to work carefully with suppliers and distribution when engaged on a brand new design. Strategic partnerships with distributors and tapping into value-added providers can higher guarantee scheduled shipments whereas avoiding future supply interruptions and decreasing prices for producers.