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Self cleaning connector prevents faulty connections even during rough use.

Fully-ruggedUnique Technology

Part 6. Self cleaning connector prevents faulty connections even during rough use.
Take note of the cradle for the Toughbook CF-U1, the extremely rugged handy-type ultra mobile PC. This cradle has a battery recharging function and includes various interfaces. The connector of this cradle is uniquely designed to prevent connection failure between itself and the expansion bus connector on the bottom of the PC.

This strong cradle works even when used roughly

Since they are small, handheld PCs like the CF-U1 often come with a cradle that connects to a power supply and peripheral devices in order to enable them to receive power and exchange data. However, the approach taken when designing the cradle of the CF-U1, a model intended for use in the field, differs from that of cradles for handheld PCs intended for office use. This difference ensures that a secure connection will be possible even when the CF-U1 undergoes rough use.

Cradle type and characteristics

Connector types used in cradle connectors broadly fall under three types: the bellows type, the pin type, and the flat type. The bellows type (ribbon type) was used, for example, in yesteryear’s printers (Centronics interface) and for SCSI connectors. This type consisted of a recessed array of contacts placed along a long plate. The pin type is used in VGA ports, etc., and consists of a recessed array of pins.

Finally, the flat type, used in mobile phones, etc., consists of non-recessed contacts that only need to touch each other in order to establish a connection.

The first two types are good because the contacts make excellent contact, but contact failure and terminal breakage easily occurred when dirt gets between the contacts. This might be okay for the office, but would be a problem for machines designed for use out in the field.

Although the flat-type connector is mainly used for handheld PCs and PDAs, there are still problems. That is, connection failure occurs easily when foreign substances such as rain, dirt and exhaust fumes get on the contact terminals and cause a film of oxide to form.

One way to prevent an oxide film from forming is to prevent foreign substances from attaching by covering the connector with something such as a cover or shutter. However, for a tool used out in the field, this would be problematic, because shutters might not open and close properly or the cradle may become damaged when the cover is accidentally left on before inserting the PC. Since these mishaps are known to happen a lot, most models are designed with the terminals exposed.

So we thought there must be a way to prevent contact failure even with the terminals exposed. We solved the problem with the self cleaning connector used in the CF-U1.

Bellows type, above, and pin type, below.

Bellows type, above, and pin type, below.


Above: bellows type, Below: pin type The CF-U1 connector (above) is the flat type and the cradle connector (below) is the spring type.

The CF-U1 connector (above) is the flat type and the cradle connector (below) is the spring type.

Terminals rub each other to get clean

The CF-U1 cradle employs a unique method. The connectors on the CF-U1 are the regular flat type, but on the cradle, the connectors move like springs and are designed to securely make contact with the CF-U1 connectors. Furthermore, the movement is not the up-down vertical movement of a standard spring-type connector; rather, it works back and forth against connector.

In other words, when the CF-U1 engages with the cradle, its weight causes the cradle terminals to rub the CF-U1 terminals and it is this movement that removes any oxide film that may have formed on the terminal surfaces. Since the terminals are cleaned each time the CF-U1 is set into the cradle, contact failure no longer occurs.

Terminal movement

Normally the spring keeps the terminals protruding (left), but when a weight is applied from above, the terminals recede laterally (right).

When explained in this way, one might think this mechanism is simple, but this is not the case. If the contact pressure of the terminal spring section is too strong or too weak, it will not work properly. In order for the terminals to move smoothly and yet be at just the right strength to make firm contact when the CF-U1 is placed in the cradle, the general-purpose parts that were already available were just not sufficient for the task. That’s why Panasonic designed its own connector just for the CF-U1.
Also, endurance was an issue. This product has to endure an anticipated 20,000 uses. This number is derived from insertion and removal of the CF-U1 to and from a cradle 8 times per day over a period of approximately ten years (when used 250 days per year).

There have been absolutely no reports of cradle contact failure when using a contact mechanism like this. Even though this connector may look commonplace on the surface, Panasonic ingenuity is hidden within.

Terminal movement

Terminal movement. The weight of the CF-U1 causes the cradle connectors to move in a way that rubs the CF-U1 connectors in order to clean them.

For further information about our products, how to purchase them and more, please visit the website of your region.

Specification and configuration may vary depending on country. Accessories may vary depending on your mobile PC configuration.
Specifications subject to change without notice.
Consult a Panasonic sales office near you for more details and availability of integrated options.

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