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Materials for Connectors Connectors

Summary

  • Connectors are components or devices that connect two cables to allow electric power or electric signals to flow from one cable into the other—and are ubiquitous components of the myriad electronic devices used in our daily lives, such as automotive vehicles and communication.
  • Each of the primary industrial sectors responsible for driving demand for connectors—including the automotive, industrial-equipment, communications, and consumer sectors—is currently undergoing significant technological innovation, and we briefly summarize some key trends in such sectors.
  • Asahi Kasei supports the manufacturing efforts of customers in the connector industry by offering a broad lineup of engineering plastics boasting outstanding properties, including flame retardance, various types of electrical behavior, high glow-wire ignition temperature (GWIT), tracking resistance (CTI), outdoor suitability (UL746C f1, f2), and long-term properties (UL746B RTI).

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What are connectors?

Connectors are components or devices that connect two cables to allow electric power or electric signals to flow from one cable into the other—and are ubiquitous components in the myriad electronic devices used in our daily lives.

 

The increasing sophistication and multifunctionality of electronic devices has spurred an explosion in the variety of connectors available, which now span an extraordinarily broad range of functionality. For example, even within the narrow subfield of connectors for automotive applications one finds that connectors responsible for delivering data from cameras and other sensor devices to engine control units (ECUs)  are subject to specifications entirely different from those of the high-current, high-voltage connectors used for batteries and inverters in electric vehicles.

Functions and components of connectors

The two basic functional properties required of connectors are (1) the ability to form electrical connections via contact connectivity, and (2) easy coupling and decoupling.

 

Here coupling and decoupling refer simply to the ease of connecting and disconnecting cables via connectors to facilitate assembling of various types of products—and exchanging or inspecting various types of components—without using tools or soldering.

 

Every connector consists of a pair of components referred to by various terms—such as plug and jack, plug and receptacle, or male and female—depending on their shapes. Connectors comprise two main parts: contacts, terminals responsible for passing electrical currents—and housings (or insulators), made of plastic and responsible for aggregating terminals to ensure stable connections and protecting contacts from external disturbances such as shocks, contaminants, and water droplets.

Connector production steps

Production of connectors typically involves the following four steps.

Four steps for connector production

  1. Formation of contacts via molds: Presses are applied to thin metal sheets to form connector contacts.
  2. Plating of contacts: Connector terminals are coated with a high-conductivity corrosion-resistant metal to protect the surfaces of connector terminals from rust and abrasion.
  3. Injection molding of housing: Engineering plastic materials satisfying performance requirements for specific connector products are melted in an injection molding machine, pressure-injected into a precision-engineered mold, and solidified via cooling to form custom-shaped components.
  4. Assembly: Plated contacts are installed in housings.

Uses of connectors

The industrial sector responsible for the greatest share of connector sales in 2019 was the automotive sector at 23.7%, followed by communications (22.4%) and PCs and peripheral devices (13.4%).

 

Connectors for conventional automotive applications include both cable-to-circuit-board connectors and circuit-board-to-circuit-board connectors responsible for connecting various control units to each other and to the ECU.

 

Recent years have seen growing demand for connectors used in an increasingly broad range of applications, from high-voltage connectors in electric vehicles to high-speed interconnect cables for cameras used in self-driving vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems involving radars or similar devices.

Size of connector market in 2019, by industrial sector.
(Source: Prepared by Asahi Kasei based on data from the survey firm TTI.)

Connector market and its trends

As we have seen, connectors are used in nearly every industry and in almost every imaginable product.

 

Key industrial sectors responsible for fueling growth in the connector market in recent years include the automotive sector, with its ongoing evolution toward electronic and electric vehicles; smartphones, which are increasingly multifunctional devices thanks to the emergence of 5G; industrial equipment, where trends toward automation and manpower reduction are key drivers; communications, where the shift toward digital is being accelerated by 5G; and increasing use of solar power and other renewable energy sources.

 

Other consumer-related developments creating growing demand for connectors include (1) increasing interest in wearable terminals, and (2) increasing sales of major home appliances and home-construction equipment inspired by the pandemic-driven trend to spend more time at home.

Key drivers of technological innovation in the primary industrial sectors for connectors include:

  • Automotive: Advanced driver-assistance systems and the evolution toward self-driving and electric vehicles
  • Industrial equipment: Robots, AI, Internet-of-Things, and other avenues to automation
  • Communications: Increasing demand for 5G base stations and data centers
  • Consumer: Growth in wearable devices and introduction of 5G millimeter-wave terminals
  • Renewable energy: Growth in photovoltaic generation and higher-voltage applications

Asahi Kasei’s Recommended Solutions

Asahi Kasei supports the manufacturing efforts of customers in the connector industry by offering a broad lineup of engineering plastics boasting outstanding properties, including flame retardance, various types of electrical behavior, high glow-wire ignition temperature (GWIT), tracking resistance (CTI), outdoor suitability (UL746C f1, f2), and long-term properties (UL746B RTI).

For example, choosing our engineering plastics with outstanding tracking resistance (CTI) enables designers to minimize the creeping distance, helping to reduce product size and weight and cut costs.

For more information, please contact us using the links below.

Next-generation halogen- and red-phosphorus-free LEONA™ SN series PA66 flame-retardant grades

Recent years have witnessed increasing worldwide efforts to reduce environmental footprints and emphasize worker safety, leading to growing demands to eliminate the use of halogens and red phosphorus.

 

At Asahi Kasei, we were motivated by these developments to launch—and complete—a new initiative to develop novel grades of our LEONA™ SN polyamide 66 resins (PA66, nylon 66) that use non-halogen and non-red phosphorus flame retardant.

In addition to being halogen- and red-phosphorus free, these SN series grades boast excellent laser transmissivity, making them ideal for laser welding and laser printing. These materials have also low-smoke properties due to their inclusion of aromatic PA, and boast high CTI, high RTI, and high GWIT among their other advantages.

Solar-cell connectors

The PV40Z grade of Asahi Kasei’s XYRON™ modified polyphenylene ether resin offers an excellent balance of tracking resistance and low thermal shock behavior, making it ideal for use in designing miniature high-voltage connectors. This material also boasts outstanding hydrolysis resistance and ammonia resistance and does not suffer significant degradation in physical properties when used in high-temperature, high-humidity environments.

 

This is one of Asahi Kasei Group’s environmental-awareness products and is designed to reduce CO2 emissions associated with product use.

Solar-cell connector nuts

For applications to waterproof, dustproof nuts for environmentally-isolated portions of cables and connectors, Asahi Kasei recommends the FR370 grade of our LEONATM polyamide 66 resin (PA66, nylon 66), which offers non-halogen flame retardance (V0) and good formability.

Other connectors

For wire-joining connectors in electrical and electronic components, Asahi Kasei recommends our LEONA™ polyamide resins (PA66, nylon 66), which are well-suited for laser printing and offer good formability, high strength and rigidity, good electrical behavior (CTI), and good heat resistance.

 

The LEONA includes the SN series (glass-fiber reinforced, non-halogen flame retardant), the FR series (non-reinforced, flame retardant), and the FG series (glass-fiber reinforced, flame retardant).


We would like to talk to you about Asahi Kasei’s engineering plastics for connectors.
Please contact us to ask any questions, discuss any concerns, and request samples.

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