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Electronics Production | August 24, 2007

Why pay more for connectors?

In today cost-cutting era, trimming interconnect costs by 20% is highly achievable. Here are a couple of ground rules to avoid putting your high-end applications at risk.
The origins of connectors…
Developed to support the military in the cold war period, the electronics connector industry took off on an industrial basis in the late '70s early '80s with the computer and PC applications. Although inspired by the military standards, the commercial connectors were downgraded because their environment and operating conditions were not as tough.

The Telecom Industry inherited the PC and computer industry military-type requirements. As computers were very expensive for the first decades, connectors were not considered strategic in the design-to-cost approach. When the price of computers began to drop in the 90's then the connectors' costs started being scrutinised.

Ground rule number one: pay the right price, no less, no more...
The cost of a connector is determined by critical options such as the contact material and its plating, which guarantee the same contact quality over repetitive plugging/unplugging cycles. Initially, the connectors were designed for military applications with intensive usage in harsh environments. The contacts had to be machined (to ensure near-to-perfect shape) in expensive metal (e.g. Beryllium Copper) coated with 30 micro-inches of gold to withstand thousands of plugging/unplugging cycles. Only top brands were operating in the military grade connectors.

With Moore's law fuelling the replacement of electronic systems every 3-4 years, most connectors are now used in “drop-and-forget" applications i.e. they plug once and for all. This is why 3 micro-inches gold-plated contacts are perfectly acceptable when connectors are plugged /unplugged less than 100 times. Same with machined contacts replaced by stamped and rolled ones. In non-intensive usages, material engineering must be fine-tuned to the application, for instance beryllium copper can be replaced by phosphorous bronze or even brass. With gold and copper prices on a solid up-turn, double-checking end-user requirement and selecting the right connector options can yield significant savings and quick wins.

Ground rule number two: just in time
Connectors, passives & electro-mechanics are rarely worth more than 5% of the price of a finished board, but they account for over 80% of the supply issues. Most commercial-grade connectors suffer an 8-12 weeks lead time for stock replenishment. Combine these factors and it is easy to understand why 4-5 weeks delivery is a must for just-in-time delivery, back-to-back lot production & inventory, avoiding maintaining a local stock and its inevitable obsolete items.

This article was created by ADCO. Founded in 1990 by Chris ADRIEN, a former AMPHENOL Executive who seized the above critical elements in the value chain. ADCO relies on long-term factory-partners that are ISO 9001/14001 certified and periodically audited using 6-Sigma methodology. Our expertise in connectors and direct factory access grant the most competitive and the shortest lead time connectors. No middleman, no branding tag, no extras. We are committed to help you “Connect with Confidence". For making the right decisions about connectors, contact our team of experts at contact@adco.fr.
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November 15 2018 5:25 pm V11.9.0-1