Smart connector increases reliability in cars, industrial applications

June 13, 2018 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
In many areas of industrial application, e.g. in automobiles and in connected manufacturing environments (Industry 4.0), the reliability of connectors and electrical connection technologies plays a pivotal role. Together with industrial partners, Fraunhofer EMFT has developed an intelligent connector that can detect imminent failures early on.

In automobiles, electrical plug connections are indispensable for reliable data and power transmission. Likewise, in tomorrow's connected and interconnected production, the connection technology plays a central role to tie together machines, controls and data processing systems. Researchers at Fraunhofer EMFT found it obvious to equip such central nodes with intelligence. Their argument: The integration of intelligent functions enables significant efficiency increases in the reliable operation of systems as well as optimum availability and stability of the transmission of data and electrical power in the automobile, e.g. for fully automated driving.

Even strict quality controls and regular inspections do not offer complete protection against sudden defects. For example, degradation symptoms on originally well-tested connections are considered to be the cause of failure for many connectors. Such failures have short or zero announcement times and can lead to the failure of important systems. Typical causes of plug degradation due to aging of the materials are leaks, moisture or leakage currents. Corrosion or contamination processes can cause the formation of resistance-increasing layers on the contact surfaces and thus parasitic resistances. In principle, all these phenomena can be detected electrically. This makes it possible to detect or even predict future failures. An intelligent connector with integrated miniaturized electronic sensor systems for recording energy consumption, faulty states, temperature, etc. could make the gradual degradation of connectors accessible for measurement and assess the quality of the contact in real-time.


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