Whether in automobiles – especially in the context of autonomous driving – or future industrial manufacturing: plugs and electrical connection technologies have a key role to play in digital networking. They are the main interface between machines, control units and data processing systems and so they provide the basis for the functionality, simple handling and reliability of automation technology.
Researchers at Fraunhofer EMFT in Oberpfaffenhofen are working on a completely new generation of active » intelligent« plugs, so-called Cyber Physical Connectors. The aim is to integrate miniaturized sensor systems in the plugs so as to be able to monitor the quality of the connection, for example. The idea goes further in that the built-sensors perform a kind of condition monitoring for the connected devices, also registering energy consumption, for instance.
For the sensors to be used efficiently, the data they generate has to be capable of being converted and analyzed directly in the plug. Here, R&D activities focus on the requirements involved in terms of the miniaturization and integration of sensors. For example, miniaturization must not result in any compromise in terms of quality or durability. What is more, the in some cases heterogeneous components have to be be combined to form a reliably functioning overall system. In terms of both miniaturization and integration, researchers are pursuing innovative solutions from the wide-ranging Fraunhofer EMFT technology portfolio: this includes foil technology that enables semiconductors to be embedded in extremely narrow gaps and allows small volumes. This efficiently supports the desired integration of sensor systems in interfaces such as plugs or press-fit contacts.