Industrial Electronics

Contactless connectors promise to eliminate failures

02 August 2022
A contactless connection can serve power and data needs despite harsh environments, rotations, fluids or other challenges that might not serve a traditional connection. Source: Ariso/TE Connectivity

Contactless connectors are designed to prevent connector-related issues, which account for a high percentage of electronic failures. By eliminating the need for physical contact between connector pins and sockets, contactless connectors hope to reduce wear and tear on components, ultimately increasing the wire’s overall lifespan.

While there are some inherent drawbacks to this technology that must be considered, such as increased manufacturing costs and potential susceptibility to electromagnetic interference (EMI), contactless connectors offer a promising solution to a persistent problem.

What are contactless connectors?

Contactless connectors are transceiver terminals that permit data or electrical continuance without a physical connection. The terminals use radio frequency (RF) signals to transmit data or power and are often used in applications where a wired connection is not possible or could be overstressed by the application, such as a rotating component or flexing cycles. Although things like Wi-Fi are indeed “contactless connections,” contactless connectors are specifically related to short-range component-to-component, board-to-board or device-to-device connections.

Common connector-related issues

These four reasons are some of the most common challenges of traditional contact connections.

  1. Corrosion: One of the biggest problems with traditional connectors is that they can corrode over time, which can lead to signal loss and eventually complete failure. Contactless connectors are typically made from materials that are resistant to corrosion, so they will last longer and provide a more reliable connection.
  2. Signal loss: Another common issue with traditional connectors is signal loss due to poor contact between the connector and the device it is connected to. This can be a major problem if the connection is used for critical applications such as data transmission. Contactless connectors generally use electromagnetic induction to create a connection that does not rely on physical contact, so there is no risk of signal loss.
  3. Wear and tear: Another issue with traditional connectors is that they can wear out over time due to repeated use. This can eventually lead to the failure of the connection. Contactless connectors are designed to be used without degradation, so they will last longer and provide a more reliable connection.
  4. Cost: Traditional connectors can be expensive, as they require special materials and expensive manufacturing processes. Contactless connectors are less expensive to manufacture, so they are a more cost-effective solution.

Features of contactless connectors

High data rates are important for many reasons. They enable transfer of large amounts of data quickly, which is essential for applications such as video and audio streaming. They also allow connection to high-speed networks, which is vital for activities such as online gaming and downloading movies.

There are a few ways to achieve high data rates. One is to use higher frequency signals. This approach has been used for a long time, and it works well, but it has some limitations. Another way is to use more advanced modulation schemes. This approach can provide high data rates, but it requires specialized equipment that can be expensive.

The latest generation of contactless connectors offers a third way to achieve high data rates. These connectors use a 60 GHz carrier frequency (the mmWave range) and can achieve data rates of up to 6 Gbps.

The mmWave range has some significant advantages over other frequency ranges. First, it can support very high data rates. It also offers a high degree of immunity to crosstalk. This is important in applications where multiple connectors are used in close proximity to each other.

One of the key advantages of the new contactless connectors is that they can be used in real-time, full-duplex mode. This means that they can send and receive data at the same time, which is essential for things like gaming that needs seamless response to, and presentation of, interactive digital software.

Another advantage of these new contactless connectors is that they are robust. They can operate at a 40 mm distance and can handle angular deviations of 45° and below. This makes them ideal for use in harsh environments where dust, vibrations and other contaminants are a factor, such as in industrial applications.

Drawbacks of contactless connectors

As with all new technology, there are bound to be a few teething problems with contactless connectors. Here are some of the most common issues that have been reported:

  • Signal dropouts: This is perhaps the most common problem with contactless connectors. It can be caused by a number of factors, including interference from other electronic devices, physical obstructions (such as walls or metal surfaces), and even simply moving too far away from the device to connect to.
  • Connection failures: Another common issue is that the connection will simply fail to establish itself properly. This can be due to incorrect settings or device incompatibility.
  • Limited range: The range of contactless connectors is typically much shorter than that of traditional wired connectors. Millimeter wave frequency has a very short wavelength.
  • Slow data transfer speeds: Contactless connectors generally have slower data transfer speeds than traditional wired connectors, which can be a problem if you're trying to transfer large files or stream video content.
  • Security concerns: Contactless connections supply hackers and bad actors with another attack surface. A secure connection protocol, such as WPA2, and device encryption are key.

What these connectors solve

The use of electronic devices is constantly increasing, and so does the demand for reliable connectors that can withstand repetitive use. Contactless connectors offer several advantages over traditional connectors:

  • Corrosion: One of the biggest problems with traditional connectors is that they can corrode over time, which can lead to signal loss and eventually complete failure. Contactless connectors are typically made from materials that are resistant to corrosion, so they will last longer and provide a more reliable connection.
  • Signal loss: Another common issue with traditional connectors is signal loss due to poor contact between the connector and the device it is connected to. This can be a major problem if the connection is used for critical applications such as data transmission. Contactless connectors generally use electromagnetic induction to create a connection that does not rely on physical contact, so there is no risk of signal loss.
  • Wear and tear: Another issue with traditional connectors is that they can wear out over time due to repeated use. This can eventually lead to the failure of the connection. Contactless connectors are designed to be used without degradation, so they will last longer and provide a more reliable connection.
  • Cost: Traditional connectors can be expensive, as they require special materials and expensive manufacturing processes. Contactless connectors are less expensive to manufacture, so they are a more cost-effective solution.

Contactless connectors have the potential to revolutionize how we connect electronic devices. By eliminating the need for traditional connectors and cables, contactless connectors could help reduce or eliminate connector-related failures. With continued development and refinement, contactless connectors may very well become the standard method for connecting electronic devices in the future.



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