It’s no secret that the speed of technology rivals the speed of light in our world. You buy the latest and greatest piece of technological innovation, and tomorrow it’s obsolete, replaced by the NEXT latest and greatest technological innovation. I remember this past holiday season, there was a commercial for one of those big-box electronics stores where customers were happily walking out with a new smartphone and seeing the newest smartphone advertised on a billboard as they walked out of the store. The ad was offering buyback for “obsolete” technology, the technology that had outlived its 15 minutes of fame, so you could replace it with the next generation of technology. It’s really indicative of how far our industry has come. People don’t plan on holding on to their phones, MP3 players, or even their TVs for more than 2-3 years. If your new smartphone breaks, do you get it repaired? Maybe, but most likely you get a new one. Compare that to the average life span of electronics 45 years ago, the purchase of a television was a big deal and if it broke, you called the TV repairman to extend the life of that purchase so far you could pass it on to the next generation… along with the family grandfather clock and matching end table set!
Here in the connector industry, you would think that the same could be said of our product lifecycle – here one minute and gone after its 15 minutes of market fame are up – and in some cases that is true. We do have to adapt quickly to our customers’ needs and the needs of the market with the next big thing in connectors, but in my 8 years in this industry , while I am absolutely blown away by what is coming up next in the industry, I am also amazed by what has survived the many phases of technological innovation. One of my product responsibilities, Molex’s KK® family, was first introduced to the connector market in 1968, and is still being designed into a wide variety of markets today!
It would be self-defeating, of course, to think that a 45-year-old product family can’t offer something new. Market changes affect even the most basic connectors, one of them including the RoHS initiative and solder processes. Now that more industries require lead be removed from solder paste, solder temperatures must increase from 230º-235ºC to 260ºC. Standard nylons, such as the nylon used in KK® headers, cannot withstand these higher temperatures, but cannot move to more durable materials like LCP, since the design of these headers requires some flexion for the locking mechanism.
Responding to this market change, my engineers and I have developed a product that will meet these lead free solder processes, up to 260ºC, and maintain the footprint and mateability of the current KK® headers. KK RPC (Reflow Process Compatible ) is now officially released, and is the newest technology to revamp a 45-year-old product. A product I hope has much more than 15 minutes of fame in our ever-changing industry.
Niki Taylor is a Global Product Manager for Molex, handling the KK® and SL™ product families. Niki holds a degree from Northern Illinois University in French Translation and International Business. She has worked in the connector industry for 8 years. She enjoys reading, yoga and running.