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Innovative Single Contact Solutions in Renewable Energy & Smart Grid

Editor’s note: Our guest blogger is Tom Anderson, connector product manager at AVX. He has been active in the connector industry for more than 30 years and, for the last five years, has focused on developing new connector technologies for the industrial and solid-state lighting markets.

Electronic equipment and power management is becoming increasingly critical as our power grid ages and renewable energy comes on line. In response, new technologies are being developed to protect equipment from power disturbances and fluctuations. The demand for smart devices capable of monitoring and managing these next-generation technologies is creating new applications for high-reliability wire-to-board connectors, specifically in the 12 AWG to 16 AWG range, in which size and current-handling capabilities are imperative. This blog will address some of the new connector technologies that have been specifically developed to address these applications.

As the demand for renewable energy and smart grid technology continues to expand, so does the need for smart power management controls that can accurately monitor and reliably protect the downstream components and systems. Reliant upon an array of cutting-edge electronics, smart power management devices can present engineers with several unique design challenges. One common such challenge is identifying innovative connector solutions capable of both handling several single 12–16 AWG wires and satisfying the high voltage and current carrying requirements of the power system.

Available in just about every configuration imaginable, traditional PCB terminal block-style connectors have long been the power utility connector of choice. However, although effective, the size of most terminal block connectors is a significant drawback. Typically, there just is not enough allocated space in power management devices for these connectors to fit, especially in designs that require a high number of wires.

Novel connector solutions ideally suited for use in space-constrained smart grid electronics are now available, but not in the traditional connector form that one would expect. Slowly introduced over the last four to five years, single, stand-alone contacts have been developed, tested, and deployed in a wide variety of industrial power applications, including smart grid electronics, and have proven to be as functional, robust, and reliable as standard connector solutions (like terminal blocks), but significantly smaller and more cost effective, providing electronics engineers with markedly more design flexibility.

Capitalizing on more than 50 years of insulation displacement connector (IDC) innovation, robust, plated through-hole contacts effectively address the size, reliability, and simplicity requirements for terminating larger gauge wires to printed circuit boards. Providing a gas-tight connection to the wire, these contacts maximize electrical integrity in even the harshest environmental conditions, including potting or over-molding to meet stringent IP ratings. For example, the IDC contacts pictured on the left side of the image below support a 15 A current rating at 600 V across a 12–18 AWG wire gauge spectrum for either solid or stranded conductors.

From a functional application perspective, these contacts provide a quick and reliable termination onto wires capable of meeting the voltage drop requirements over a 250-foot length, which are common in smart grid and renewable energy applications. Additionally, on the right side of the image below, the contacts have has been pushed to handle more than 20 A, which is typical in power-hungry applications, by simply doubling up the contacts in a front-to-back configuration, providing design engineers with a functional, reliable, and cost-effective off-the-shelf connector solution for high voltage and current electronics applications.

Figure 1

Designed to provide gas-tight, plated through-hole wire-to-board terminations, AVX's 9177 Series IDC contacts are compatible with the rugged power boards used to handle large wire gauges and more amps per contact, making them ideal for use in renewable energy and smart grid electronics applications

Designed to provide gas-tight, plated through-hole wire-to-board terminations, AVX’s 9177 Series IDC contacts are compatible with the rugged power boards used to handle large wire gauges and more amps per contact, making them ideal for use in renewable energy and smart grid electronics applications

Single high spring-force compression contacts are another high reliability wire-to-board connector solution capable of satisfying the size constraints and current-handling capabilities of industrial power applications. Developed using conventional insulation stripping and poke-home wire insertion technology, these contacts are available in several sizes, the largest of which is a 4 mm contact capable of handling 20 AWG wires at 10 A up to 12 AWG wires at 20 A.

These surface mounted closed-box contacts guide the stripped wire directly into the middle of the two opposing high spring-force cantilever beams that grab and hold onto the wire, creating a robust connection capable of withstanding even extreme harsh environment conditions. Similar to the single IDC contacts, the simplicity and functionality of these uninsulated single poke-home contacts provide design engineers with small, robust, and cost-effective wire-to-board connector solutions ideal for use in a wide range of industrial power applications.

Figure 2

Exhibiting full connector performance without the added expense of an insulator and its associated assembly costs, AVX's 9296 Series single poke-home wire-to-board contacts enable the simple, reliable, and solderless termination of power, signal, and ground wires in a broad range of harsh industrial applications.

Exhibiting full connector performance without the added expense of an insulator and its associated assembly costs, AVX’s 9296 Series single poke-home wire-to-board contacts enable the simple, reliable, and solderless termination of power, signal, and ground wires in a broad range of harsh industrial applications.

Currently offered by a single manufacturer, but in a wide variety of configurations — including IDC, compression, lateral/coplanar, pogo pin, and poke-home contacts for horizontal, vertical, and inverse through-board mating in an array of harsh industrial power applications — single contact technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate. Having received full UL certification earlier this year, these novel connector solutions are poised to help design engineers continue to overcome the unique challenges posed by cutting-edge technological developments.

18 comments on “Innovative Single Contact Solutions in Renewable Energy & Smart Grid

  1. vasanjk
    August 29, 2014

    CR

     

    Are these connectors (UL approved model) in the market? Could they be used in mixed signal applications – power, digital and analog together?

  2. geek
    August 29, 2014

     

    “Are these connectors (UL approved model) in the market? Could they be used in mixed signal applications – power, digital and analog together?”

     

    @vasanjk: When you say mixed, do you mean applications that combine the use of digital and analog technologies? Can you give an example of any such technology?

  3. vasanjk
    August 30, 2014

    tzubair

     

    I wanted to know if these connectors of high current capacity can also carry low current signals such as analog and digital ones. My point is, sometimes it may not be possible or practical to use two different connectors, one for power and the other for the signals.

  4. geek
    August 30, 2014

    “My point is, sometimes it may not be possible or practical to use two different connectors, one for power and the other for the signals.”

    @vasanjk: From what I've seen, the power and signal transmission are always carried out across separate lines and rarely do you find any application that merges them together. If the wiring is separate in the circuitry, I don't see how same connectors can be used.

  5. goafrit2
    September 1, 2014

    >> From what I've seen, the power and signal transmission are always carried out across separate lines and rarely do you find any application that merges them together. 

    That was the right answer. You never mix your signal and power lines. When you need, you have an analog mux. However, that is a bad idea becauce the specs for power is always going to be different from signal. You better run them in different lines especially if that signal is a critical one.

  6. Myled
    September 3, 2014

    “As the demand for renewable energy and smart grid technology continues to expand, so does the need for smart power management controls that can accurately monitor and reliably protect the downstream components and systems.”

    Crhis welcome to our community. Power is a major concern with most of the nations across globe and it implies for precise use and turn to renewable energy sources. Smart grid can be helpful only for distribution system and SCADA based software can used for visualization and monitoring.

  7. bjcoppa
    September 30, 2014

    smart grid and solar go hand in hand. But smart grid is reliant on solar more than vice versa to grow. It will happen eventually as it becomes more economical and nat gas is depleted

  8. bjcoppa
    September 30, 2014

    The US once led in solar globally but China is now leading in production. China has incorporated more solar installations to generate demand since it subsidizes production to make it more competitive vs outside competitors. Climate change debate will continue to aid growth

  9. bjcoppa
    September 30, 2014

    Glad to see so much discussion on green tech in this journal inc LED lighting, solar and energy efficiency. We can all be better stewards of the planet.

  10. Myled
    October 10, 2014

    “smart grid and solar go hand in hand. But smart grid is reliant on solar more than vice versa to grow. It will happen eventually as it becomes more economical and nat gas is depleted”

    Analoging, smart grid is a part of distribution system from dispatching center. Both solar and hydroelectric or even other source of energies can be feed to the smart grid.

  11. Myled
    October 10, 2014

    “The US once led in solar globally but China is now leading in production. China has incorporated more solar installations to generate demand since it subsidizes production to make it more competitive vs outside competitors. Climate change debate will continue to aid growth”

    Analoging, it's better not to talk about quality of Chinese products. I have installed imported Chinese PV components for my residential purpose and its not worthy. Efficiency is 10-15% and I won't last more than 4-5 years.

  12. etnapowers
    October 10, 2014

    “The US once led in solar globally but China is now leading in production. China has incorporated more solar installations to generate demand”

     

    @analoging: I think that the effort of big countries like China or USA in producing energy by renewable sources should progressively increase its intensity, because the climate changes due to pollution generated by the combustion of hydrocarbons are becoming really a big concern for all the people. I think that electronics holds great promises of being a mean of production, storage and management of green energy like the solar or eolic energy.

  13. SunitaT
    November 30, 2014

     I think that the effort of big countries like China or USA in producing energy by renewable sources should progressively increase its intensity, because the climate changes due to pollution generated by the combustion of hydrocarbons are becoming really a big concern for all the people.

    @etnapowers, I agree with you. But fall in crude prices might hamper this process because falling crude prices will attract more customers. I think developed and developing nations should give high subsidy to renewable energy efforts.

  14. SunitaT
    November 30, 2014

    China has incorporated more solar installations to generate demand since it subsidizes production to make it more competitive vs outside competitors.

    @analoging, thanks for sharing this info. I never knew China was putting so much effort in production and installation of solar installations. I am sure this will inspire other countries like USA, India to adopt renewable energy sources.

  15. SunitaT
    November 30, 2014

    From what I've seen, the power and signal transmission are always carried out across separate lines and rarely do you find any application that merges them together.

    @tzubair, true. Power and signal transmission are always carried out on seperate lines but recently there are effort to merge both power and signal transmission lines but still there are lot of issues in merging both of them.

  16. geek
    November 30, 2014

    “Power and signal transmission are always carried out on seperate lines but recently there are effort to merge both power and signal transmission lines but still there are lot of issues in merging both of them.”

    @SunitaT0: That seems interesting to know. Can you give me examples of any applications where the power and signal transmission is being carried out on the same line? Also, what are the potential issues they've ran into?

  17. etnapowers
    December 12, 2014

    @SunitaT0: That's a correct consideration. The effort of big countries of funding research for the of green energy technologies will impact positively the other countries. I know that research is expensive but I think that the Governments of highly industrialized countries have the responsibility to open the road to a sustainable economy and to a environment- friendly energy management infrastructure, for the future generations.

  18. James River Jenny
    February 8, 2017

    This is very innovative!

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