Prototyping Electronic Circuit Connectors with High Precision 3D Printing

Hirose Electric manufactures electronic circuit connectors used in a wide range of applications including smartphones, in-vehicle equipment, and industrial equipment. Electronic circuits are becoming faster, higher voltage, smaller, and more complex and product standards are evolving daily. Connector manufacturers need innovated ways to develop new parts in response to the evolution of standards and performance of such products.

The requirements for connectors change depending on the industry in which they are used, so the designs change accordingly. For different designs, Hirose has to make different prototypes. There are many parts that cannot be made without making a mold, so it could take up to about a month to make a prototype. To shorten the development period, Hirose turned to the microArch S140 to 3D print prototypes of their electronic connectors.

The connectors are only a few mm wide and 1mm high, and the connector pins have holes at intervals of 0.4mm. If the gap between the holes is not correct, the pins will not fit correctly. A fit test is performed, so accuracy of parts is required. The microArch S140 was the only 3D printer that could meet the precision and accuracy requirements for the smallest of details.

Prototypes by BMF’s 3D printers and mass-produced parts using molds. The rise of the pin angle, quality of the pores, and finish of the parts is indistinguishable

This interview was conducted, written and photographed by ShareLab, a company that specializes in Japanese commercial 3D printers and AM (additive manufacturing). From explanations of basic knowledge such as prices and modeling methods of commercial printers, search and comparison of resin and metal 3D printers, industry news and event information, and other useful information for considering the introduction of commercial printers. This summary was translated from Japanese and the full interview can be read here.

Parts smaller than a thumb nail are provided with fine holes through which countless metal terminals are passed. The photo is a sample made with a BMF 3D printer.