Another Look at Spring-Loaded Probe Pin Design



By fully automating the manufacturing process, spring probe pins for embedded systems deliver high performance for high density, fine pitch applications.

Staff, Plastronics

A new stamped spring probe, called the H-Pin, is dramatically cutting the cost of contact pins used in electronics reliability testing and compression-style board-to-board connectors used in electronics for telecom, automation, medical, aerospace, military applications, and other industries.

The H-Pin delivers the mechanical, electrical and thermal performance of a pogo-style spring probe, but because of advances in the manufacturing process cuts the cost by 30-50% depending on the quantity needed. With thousands of pins potentially in a single test socket or board-to-board connector, the savings can be significant.

The highly compliant H-Pin has a working range up to 1mm with a flat spring rate and can be utilized up to 15GHz with -1.0dB loss, carry up to 4 amps of current and withstand temperatures up to 200°C.

Although there are a few design tweaks, the real departure is in the manner in which complete pin assemblies are manufactured using a high volume BeCu stamping process and a 100% automated, high speed assembly and inspection process that can produce up to 400 pins per minute.

Available in various lengths and pitch sizes as low as .2mm, the product is the brainchild of Plastronics, a global provider of test sockets for semiconductor reliability testing. For more than 40 years, the company has used spring-loaded probe pins to create finished sockets for burn-in, humidity, failure analysis and other test requirements.

For decades the spring-loaded probe aka pogo-style pin has delivered excellent mechanical and electrical performance in a highly compliant contact. However, this often came at a high cost given that each pin is constructed of 3-4 discreet parts manufactured and assembled in a laborious, less-than-fully-automated process.

The cost could be so exorbitant, in fact, that when significant volumes of pins are required, many opted to utilize less compliant, lower performance alternative contact technologies to reduce costs. This approach is becoming less viable, however, with the increasing miniaturization of integrated circuits, electronic components and devices that pack more circuitry into smaller footprints.

A single test socket for reliability and burn-in testing, for example, can require hundreds and even thousands of spring-loaded probe pins in a fine pitch configuration. The same applies to board-to-board compression connectors. When factoring in multiples of test sockets as well as production-level quantities of connectors, pin quantities can literally run into the millions. With this new approach to pin design and a complete re-invention of the manufacturing process, miniaturized H-pin spring probes as small as .2mm are now available that provide a high temperature, current and bandwidth performance pin at the price of a stamped contact.

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