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Backplane solutions for industrial applications

Backplane solutions for industrial applications With an eye to adding value for electronic rack and enclosure systems, Steve Richardson, global director of sales at Harting, looks at backplane connection solutions.

From the past through to the present day, wired connectivity solutions between individual components and subsystems still play a crucial role within many large electronic systems. Such solutions are often time-consuming and not always reliable. Now, however, the use of PCB-based technology solutions provides a distinct potential for process, quality and cost optimisation.

By using rigid-flex applications for signal traces, together with industrial connectors on the PCB for the combination of power and signal lines, it is possible to reduce the reliance on complex cabling and replace it with easy-to-reproduce printed circuit board technology solutions for ease of installation and maintenance.

Harting's broad product and solution range allows the development of a high performance reliable product portfolio with the best benefit for the customer. For example, Rigid-flex PCB assemblies are an extremely elegant and resilient solution for the complex connection requirements between different PCBs and sub-systems. Rigid-flex provides reliable connectivity with minimal space requirements. This leads to value engineering opportunities where system space and size constraints are prevalent. In a recent successful customer-specific application, the design challenge presented was to find an optimised connectivity solution for more than 600 individual wires present in a rack system, connecting a VME 64x backplane to the I/O connector on the back of the unit.

Harting's professionally developed rigid-flex PCB assembly placed the I/O interface connector directly onto a rigid PCB, and provided a mezzanine board for the connection to the existing backplane. These two rigid elements were then incorporated into the finished design - as a single assembly connected to one another by means of a multi-layer, flexible segment. This solution completely eliminated the need for permanent wiring, and resulted in far fewer work hours, significantly increased system reliability, and improved maintenance facilities.

Backplane expansion
When developing new trains, rail vehicle manufacturers constantly battle the tight space constraints available for the on-board equipment, and the requirement to keep the weight as low as possible, whilst ensuring ultimate product reliability. Harting is playing a significant role in solving this problem. One example of Harting's competence is a backplane-based power distribution assembly that was developed for a customer specific application. Incorporating Type F DIN 41 612 and Harting Han connectors into the backplane design not only reduces space requirements by 50%, but also cuts the weight of all connection cables. The finished 1m long assembly can be easily and securely mounted within the vibration-prone environment.

Three-dimensional modelling was used during the design phase in order to ensure full compatibility with the specifications and was achieved through constant interface and communication with the customer.

Design challenges can also be addressed in the power supply area by mounting Harting Han PCB adaptors directly onto a backplane. As a complete interconnectivity component supplier and solution specialist, Harting is able to offer its customers innovative solutions that make cost-intensive wiring unnecessary, reduce the depth of assemblies, and consequently provide crucial space, and optimum cost benefits for the customer.

Backplanes offer additional advantages over conventional wiring when considering signal performance, repeatability, and crosstalk complications within the signal transmission area. A well-structured backplane design significantly reduces these associated problems, as a current Harting development shows.

In the original system, connections on Z-rails in the subrack were permanently wired to the corresponding connectors on the back of the device. It took many hours of work to produce this solution.

The backplane design from the Harting Integrated Solutions (HIS) team fundamentally retained the rack's mechanical architecture, as requested by the customer. However, by mounting the connectors to a custom designed backplane, it is now possible to use pre-fabricated cable sets for the connections, leading to significant cost reductions, and uniform build standards.

Maximum efficiency
The backplane was designed with press-fit technology for all connectors, making it possible to achieve maximum efficiency during the component assembly on both sides of the backplane. Throughout the product's evolution, the HIS operation at Northampton worked closely with the customer in order to satisfy all requirements, particularly for signal integrity and mechanical dimensions. A skilful design solution, taking into account backwards compatibility, ensured that the customer could switch to the newly designed unit as quickly and smoothly as possible. The system reliability increased dramatically and the integration time dropped enormously, thereby resulting in maximum benefit for the customer and providing additional extended valued added advantages.

Today, customers demand reliable and cost-efficient solutions in all areas. The Harting design team and production area at Northampton work directly with customers to exactly implement such solutions. Harting's broad product and solution range, from connectors to backplanes, allows the development of a high-performance reliable product portfolio with the best benefit for the customer.
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