(19)
(11)EP 3 220 484 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
29.07.2020 Bulletin 2020/31

(21)Application number: 17159684.4

(22)Date of filing:  07.03.2017
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
H01R 12/62(2011.01)
H05K 1/14(2006.01)
H05K 1/02(2006.01)

(54)

FLEX CIRCUIT CONNECTOR CONFIGURATION

VERBINDERKONFIGURATION FÜR FLEXIBLE SCHALTUNG

CONFIGURATION DE CONNECTEUR DE CIRCUIT FLEXIBLE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 16.03.2016 US 201615071737

(43)Date of publication of application:
20.09.2017 Bulletin 2017/38

(73)Proprietor: Rosemount Aerospace Inc.
Burnsville, MN 55306-4898 (US)

(72)Inventor:
  • WHATCOTT, Neal R.
    Carver, 55315 (US)

(74)Representative: Dehns 
St. Bride's House 10 Salisbury Square
London EC4Y 8JD
London EC4Y 8JD (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 2 503 860
GB-A- 2 034 102
US-A1- 2003 221 861
US-A1- 2015 054 600
WO-A1-2015/182348
US-A- 4 845 315
US-A1- 2009 266 573
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    BACKGROUND



    [0001] The present invention relates generally to electronic circuits, and in particular to flex circuit connector configurations.

    [0002] In airborne devices, such as guided projectiles, the devices may include multiple electronic subsystems. These subsystems often need to communicate with one another electronically. The wires utilized to interconnect these subsystems must be long enough to connect the subsystems when the device is both assembled and disassembled. For example, when servicing a device, two parts of the device may be detached and pulled apart from one another to allow a technician access to the internal components of the device. The wires must be long enough to accommodate detachment of the two parts without causing undue stress on the wires or the components they are connected to.

    [0003] In prior art devices, wire harnesses were implemented to connect circuit boards of the various subsystems. These harnesses were folded back and forth upon themselves and stuffed within an open compartment of the device. These folds of the harness can cause undue stress upon the wires, especially in devices such as guided projectiles that experience high g-forces during operation. Folding the wire harnesses back and forth upon themselves also takes up space within the device that could be utilized for other purposes. It is desirable to implement a more efficient and effective method for interconnecting internal subsystems of devices.

    [0004] US 2003/221861A1, GB 2 034 102 A, US 2009/266573 A1, WO 2015/182348 A1, US 2015/054600 A1 and EP 2 503 860 A1 disclose similar devices with flexible circuit connectors.

    SUMMARY



    [0005] Claim 1 discloses an airborne device comprising a first circuit board, a second circuit board and a flexible circuit connector according to the invention.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0006] 

    FIG. 1 is a diagram illustrating a configuration of a flex connector for use in connecting multiple electronic systems.

    FIG. 2 is a diagram illustrating a device in an operational state that includes circuit boards connected by a flex connector.

    FIG. 3 is a diagram illustrating a device in a disassembled state that includes circuit boards connected by a flex connector.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION



    [0007] A flex connecter is disclosed herein that includes a serpentine portion for connecting multiple subsystems of a device. The flex connector is configured to reduce stress applied to the connector while the device is in an operational state while also allowing easy access for maintenance while the device is in a disassembled state. The connector is connected between two circuit boards. The serpentine portion connects first and second connector portions of the flex connector. The serpentine portion includes three legs configured in a common plane while the device is in an operational state. The first leg extends toward the second connector, the second leg extends back toward the first connector in an opposite direction to that of the first leg, and the third leg extends toward, and connects to, the second connector. When the device is disassembled (e.g., two portions of the device are pulled apart from one another), the serpentine portion allows the circuit boards to remain connected without creating any undue stress on either the flex connector or any of the components of the device.

    [0008] FIG. 1 is a diagram illustrating a configuration of flex connector 10 that includes connector portions 12 and 14 and middle portion 16. Connector portion 12 includes topside connectors 18 and connector portion 14 includes underside connectors 20. Middle portion 16 includes bend points 22 and 24, curved portion 26 and serpentine portion 28. Serpentine portion 28 includes legs 30, 32 and 34, and turns 36 and 38. While illustrated in FIG. 1 as topside connectors 18 and underside connectors 20, connectors 18 and 20 may be implemented on either surface of connector portions 12 and 14 depending on the configuration of the electronic systems for which flex connector 10 is configured to connect.

    [0009] Bend points 22 and 24 are designated points on middle portion 16 at which flex connector 10 will bend while in an operational state. For example, a device may have circuit boards that are substantially parallel to one another while the device is the operational state. In this embodiment, bend points 22 and 24 are the designated points of flex connector 10 that will provide a 90° gradual bend, for example, to facilitate connection of connectors 18 and 20 to the circuit boards. Bend points 22 and 24 may be the only points of flex connector 10 that are bent during an operational state of the device. This reduces the overall stress placed upon flex connector 10 while the device is operational.

    [0010] Serpentine portion 28 allows connector portions 14 and 16 to move apart and away from one another without causing any undue stress on flex connector 10. Curved portion 26 connects bend point 22 to leg 30 such that leg 30 is axially offset from bend point 22. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, curved portion 26 includes two rounded 90° turns, but in other embodiments may be any curve that allows connection of bend point 22 to leg 30 such that leg 30 is axially offset from bend point 22. In other embodiments, curved portion 26 may instead be implemented to connect leg 34 to bend point 24 such that bend point 24 is axially offset from leg 34. In yet another embodiment, multiple curved portions may be implemented such that leg 30 is axially offset from bend point 22 and leg 34 is axially offset from bend point 24.

    [0011] In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, legs 30, 32 and 34 exist in substantially the same plane and are substantially parallel to one another. Leg 30 extends towards connector portion 14 to turn 36. Turn 36 may be a rounded 180° turn that connects leg 30 to leg 32 such that legs 30 and 32 are substantially parallel. Leg 32 extends back toward connector portion 12 to turn 38. Turn 38 may be a 180° turn that connects leg 32 to leg 34 such that leg 32 is substantially parallel to leg 34. Leg 34 extends back toward connector portion 14 to bend point 24. Because of curved portion 26, leg 34 is axially aligned with bend point 24. Bend point 24 connects middle portion 16 to connector portion 14.

    [0012] Flex connector 10 may be implemented as any type of flexible electronics, for example, such as electronic circuits mounted on flexible plastic substrates. Connector portions 12 and 14 of flex connector 10 may be implemented as either flexible electronics, or as rigid printed circuit boards, for example. Flex connector 10 may include only electrical interconnections between connectors 18 and 20, or may include other electronic circuit components, for example. To accommodate a greater number of electrical interconnections, flex connector 10 may also include more than one layer. For example, several flex connectors 10, each including their own respective electronic interconnections, may be connected to common connectors 18 and 20 to provide a greater number of electrical interconnections between connectors 18 and 20.

    [0013] FIG. 2 is a diagram illustrating device 100 in an operational state that includes circuit boards 102 and 104 connected by flex connector 10. Device 100 may include compartments 106 and 108. Circuit board 102 may be positioned within compartment 106 and circuit board 104 may be positioned within compartment 108. Device 100 is any device in which electronic circuits must connect to one another such as, for example, airborne munitions.

    [0014] Connector 18 may be connected to circuit board 102 and connector 20 may be connected to circuit board 104. In the operational state illustrated in FIG. 2, connector portions 12 and 14 are substantially parallel to one another due to the parallel configurations of circuit boards 102 and 104. Middle portion 16 extends along an inside surface across both compartments 106 and 108. While illustrated as connecting to circuit board 102 utilizing topside connectors, connector portion 12 may be configured to connect to either side of circuit board 102. Bend point 22 bends gradually around circuit board 102 through an opening between circuit board 102 and an inside surface of compartment 106 such that minimal stress is placed upon flex connector 10. While illustrated as connecting to circuit board 104 using underside connectors, connector portion 14 may be configured to connect to either side of circuit board 104.

    [0015] Middle portion 16 may be perpendicular to circuit boards 102 and 104 and may run along an inside surface of device 100. Because middle portion 16 exists in a single plane, flex connector 10 takes up minimal space within device 100 while device 100 is in an operational state. Additionally, in high stress environments, such as that of an airborne munition, middle portion 16 being in a single plane minimizes the stress placed upon flex connector 10 due to g-forces experienced by device 100. In prior art systems, electrical connectors between circuit boards 102 and 104 were folded back and forth upon themselves during operational states of device 100. These folds can cause unwanted stress for the electrical connector, which can be exacerbated in high g-force environments. By utilizing flex connector 10, stresses experienced by the electrical connectors during operational states can be minimized. While illustrated as free within compartments 106 and 108, a physical channel may also be implemented within compartments 106 and 108 through which middle portion 16 may run. This would separate flex connector 10 from other internal components, further reducing the stress placed upon flex connector 10 during operation of device 100.

    [0016] FIG. 3 is a diagram illustrating device 100 in a disassembled state. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, compartments 106 and 108 are detached and pulled apart at 90° with flex connecter 10 continuing to connect circuit boards 102 and 104. This provides ease of access to internal components while performing maintenance, for example, without the need for disconnection of circuit boards 102 and 104 and without undue stress placed upon flex connector 10.

    [0017] As seen in FIG. 3, serpentine portion 28 allows connector portions 12 and 14 to pull apart and away from one another. As connector portion 14 is pulled away from connector portion 12, leg 32 and turn 38 are pulled out of the common plane of serpentine portion 28 and away from connector portion 12. Connector portion 14 pulls leg 34, which pulls turn 38 out of the common plane of serpentine portion 28 and toward connector portion 14. As turn 38 is pulled toward connector portion 14, leg 32 gradually bends, allowing turn 38 to move further toward connector portion 14 without creating undue stress upon flex connector 10. As illustrated in FIG. 3, this allows compartments 106 and 108 to be fully disconnected and pulled apart at a full 90° or greater.

    Discussion of Possible Embodiments



    [0018] The following are non-exclusive descriptions of possible embodiments of the present invention.

    [0019] A flexible circuit connector for connecting first and second circuit boards of a device includes first and second connectors and a middle portion. The first connector is configured to connect to the first circuit board. The second connector is configured to connect to the second circuit board. The middle portion is configured between the first and second connectors and includes a serpentine portion. The serpentine portion includes first and second legs. The first leg extends toward the second connector to a first turn and the second leg extends from the first turn toward the first connector to a second turn. The first and second legs are configured in a common plane when the device is in an operational state.

    [0020] The flexible circuit connector of the preceding paragraph can optionally include, additionally and/or alternatively, any one or more of the following features, configurations, operations, and/or additional components:

    [0021] A further embodiment of the foregoing connector, wherein the serpentine portion further includes a third leg that extends from the second turn toward the second connector, wherein the third leg is configured in the common plane with the first and second legs when the device is in the operational state.

    [0022] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing connectors, wherein the middle portion further includes a first end connected to the first connector at a first bend point, wherein the flexible circuit connector is configured to bend at the first bend point in the operational state; and a second end connected to the second connector at a second bend point, wherein the flexible circuit connector is configured to bend at the second bend point in the operational state.

    [0023] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing connectors, wherein the first circuit board is configured parallel to the second circuit board when the device is in the operational state.

    [0024] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing connectors, wherein the middle portion is configured perpendicular to the first and second circuit boards when the device is in the operational state.

    [0025] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing connectors, wherein the serpentine portion further includes a curved portion configured to connect the first end of the middle portion to the first leg such that the first leg is axially offset from the first bend point.

    [0026] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing connectors, wherein the curved portion comprises third and fourth turns, wherein the third and fourth turns are each ninety degree turns.

    [0027] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing connectors, wherein the third leg is axially aligned with both the first and second bend points.

    [0028] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing connectors, wherein the first and second turns are configured to turn one hundred eighty degrees, and the first, second and third legs of the serpentine portion are parallel to one another.

    [0029] An electronic system of a device includes first and second circuit boards and a flexible connector configured to electrically connect the first and second circuit boards. The flexible connector includes a serpentine portion that includes first, second and third legs. The first leg that extends in a first direction, the second leg extends in a second direction opposite of the first direction, and the third leg extends in the first direction. The first, second and third legs are configured in a common plane when the device is in an operational state.

    [0030] The electronic system of the preceding paragraph can optionally include, additionally and/or alternatively, any one or more of the following features, configurations, operations, and/or additional components:

    [0031] A further embodiment of the foregoing system, wherein flexible connector further includes first and second connecters, wherein the first connector connects the flexible connector to the first circuit board, and wherein the second connector connects the flexible connector to the second circuit board, and wherein the serpentine portion is connected between the first and second connectors.

    [0032] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the serpentine portion further comprises a first turn that connects the first leg and the second leg, and a second turn that connects the second leg to the third leg.

    [0033] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the first and second turns are one hundred eighty degree turns.

    [0034] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the flexible connector further includes a first bend point between the first connector and the serpentine portion, wherein the flexible connector is configured to bend at the first bend point when the device is in the operational state; and a second bend point between the second connector and the serpentine portion, wherein the flexible connector is configured to bend at the second bend point when the device is in the operational state.

    [0035] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the first circuit board is configured parallel to the second circuit board when the device is in the operational state.

    [0036] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the serpentine portion is configured perpendicular to the first and second circuit boards when the device is in the operational state.

    [0037] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the serpentine portion further comprises a curved portion configured to connect the first bend point to the serpentine portion such that the first leg of the serpentine portion is axially offset from the first bend point.

    [0038] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the curved portion comprises third and fourth turns, wherein the third and fourth turns are each ninety degree turns.

    [0039] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the third leg of the serpentine portion is axially aligned with both the first and second bend points.

    [0040] A further embodiment of any of the foregoing systems, wherein the first, second and third legs of the serpentine portion are parallel to one another.

    [0041] While the invention has been described with reference to an exemplary embodiment(s), it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiment(s) disclosed, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.


    Claims

    1. An airborne device (100) comprising a first circuit board (102) and a second circuit board (104) and a flexible circuit connector for connecting the first and the second circuit boards, wherein the first circuit board is arranged parallel to the second circuit board when the device is in an operational state; the flexible circuit connector comprising:

    a first connector (18) connected to the first circuit board (102);

    a second connector (20) connected to the second circuit board (104);

    a middle portion (16) configured between the first and second connectors, the middle portion comprising:

    a first end connected to the first connector at a first bend point (22), wherein the flexible circuit connector is configured to bend at the first bend point in the operational state;

    a second end connected to the second connector at a second bend point (24),

    wherein the flexible circuit connector is configured to bend at the second bend point in the operational state, and

    a serpentine portion (28), wherein the serpentine portion (28) comprises:

    a first leg (30) that extends toward the second connector to a first turn (36);

    a second leg (32) that extends from the first turn toward the first connector to a second turn (38);

    a third leg (34) that extends from the second turn (38) toward the second connector; and

    wherein the first, second, and third legs (30, 32, 34) are configured in a common plane when the device is in the operational state;

    the middle portion (16) being configured perpendicular to the first (102) and second circuit boards (104) and to the first (18) and second connectors (20) when the device is in the operational state; and

    characterized in that the serpentine portion (28) further comprises a curved portion (26) configured to connect the first end of the middle portion (16) to the first leg (30) such that the first leg (30) is axially offset from the first bend point.


     
    2. The airborne device of claim 1, wherein the first and second turns are configured to turn one hundred eighty degrees, and the first, second and third legs (30, 32, 34) of the serpentine portion are parallel to one another.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Durch die Luft beförderte Vorrichtung (100), umfassend eine erste Schaltkarte (102) und eine zweite Schaltkarte (104) und einen flexiblen Schaltungsverbinder zum Verbinden der ersten und der zweiten Schaltkarte, wobei die erste Schaltkarte parallel zur zweiten Schaltkarte angeordnet ist, wenn sich die Vorrichtung in einem Betriebszustand befindet; wobei der flexible Schaltungsverbinder Folgendes umfasst:

    einen ersten Verbinder (18), der mit der ersten Schaltkarte (102) verbunden ist;

    einen zweiten Verbinder (20), der mit der zweiten Schaltkarte (104) verbunden ist;

    einen mittleren Abschnitt (16), der zwischen dem ersten und dem zweiten Verbinder konfiguriert ist, wobei der mittlere Abschnitt Folgendes umfasst:

    ein erstes Ende, das mit dem ersten Verbinder an einem ersten Biegepunkt (22) verbunden ist, wobei der flexible Schaltungsverbinder dazu konfiguriert ist, sich in dem Betriebszustand an dem ersten Biegepunkt zu biegen;

    ein zweites Ende, das mit dem zweiten Verbinder an einem zweiten Biegepunkt (24) verbunden ist, wobei der flexible Schaltungsverbinder dazu konfiguriert ist, sich in dem Betriebszustand an dem zweiten Biegepunkt zu biegen, und

    einen gewundenen Abschnitt (28), wobei der gewundene Abschnitt (28) Folgendes umfasst:

    einen ersten Schenkel (30), der sich in Richtung zum zweiten Verbinder bis zu einer ersten Wendung (36) erstreckt;

    einen zweiten Schenkel (32), der sich von der ersten Wendung in Richtung zum ersten Verbinder bis zu einer zweiten Wendung (38) erstreckt;

    einen dritten Schenkel (34), der sich von der zweiten Wendung (38) in Richtung zum zweiten Verbinder erstreckt; und

    wobei der erste, der zweite und der dritte Schenkel (30, 32, 34) in einer gemeinsamen Ebene konfiguriert sind, wenn sich die Vorrichtung in dem Betriebszustand befindet;

    wobei der mittlere Abschnitt (16) senkrecht zu der ersten (102) und der zweiten Schaltkarte (104) und zu dem ersten (18) und dem zweiten Verbinder (20) konfiguriert ist, wenn sich die Vorrichtung in dem Betriebszustand befindet; und dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass

    der gewundene Abschnitt (28) ferner einen gekrümmten Abschnitt (26) umfasst, der dazu konfiguriert ist, das erste Ende des mittleren Abschnitts (16) mit dem ersten Schenkel (30) so zu verbinden, dass der erste Schenkel (30) axial von dem ersten Biegepunkt versetzt ist.


     
    2. Durch die Luft beförderte Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die erste und die zweite Wendung dazu konfiguriert sind, sich um einhundertachtzig Grad zu wenden, und wobei der erste, der zweite und der dritte Schenkel (30, 32, 34) des gewundenen Abschnitts parallel zueinander sind.
     


    Revendications

    1. Dispositif aéroporté (100) comprenant une première carte de circuit imprimé (102) et une seconde carte de circuit imprimé (104) et un connecteur de circuit flexible pour connecter les première et seconde cartes de circuit imprimé, dans lequel la première carte de circuit imprimé est agencée parallèlement à la seconde carte de circuit imprimé lorsque le dispositif est dans un état de fonctionnement ; le connecteur de circuit flexible comprenant :

    un premier connecteur (18) connecté à la première carte de circuit imprimé (102) ;

    un second connecteur (20) connecté à la seconde carte de circuit imprimé (104) ;

    une partie médiane (16) configurée entre les premier et second connecteurs, la partie médiane comprenant :

    une première extrémité connectée au premier connecteur au niveau d'un premier point de pliage (22), dans lequel le connecteur de circuit flexible est configuré pour se plier au niveau du premier point de pliage à l'état de fonctionnement ;

    une seconde extrémité connectée au second connecteur au niveau d'un second point de pliage (24), dans lequel le connecteur de circuit flexible est configuré pour se plier au niveau du second point de pliage à l'état de fonctionnement, et

    une partie en serpentin (28), dans lequel la partie en serpentin (28) comprend :

    une première jambe (30) qui s'étend vers le second connecteur jusqu'à une première spire (36) ;

    une deuxième jambe (32) qui s'étend de la première spire vers le premier connecteur à une deuxième spire (38) ;

    une troisième jambe (34) qui s'étend de la deuxième spire (38) vers le second connecteur ; et

    dans lequel les première, deuxième et troisième jambes (30, 32, 34) sont configurées dans un plan commun lorsque le dispositif est à l'état de fonctionnement ;

    la partie médiane (16) étant configurée perpendiculairement aux première (102) et seconde cartes de circuit imprimé (104) et aux premier (18) et second connecteurs (20) lorsque le dispositif est à l'état de fonctionnement ; et

    caractérisé en ce que la partie en serpentin (28) comprend en outre une partie incurvée (26) configurée pour connecter la première extrémité de la partie médiane (16) à la première jambe (30) de sorte que la première jambe (30) est décalée axialement par rapport au premier point de pliage.


     
    2. Dispositif aéroporté selon la revendication 1, dans lequel les premier et deuxième spires sont configurées pour tourner à cent quatre-vingts degrés, et les première, deuxième et troisième jambes (30, 32, 34) de la partie en serpentin sont parallèles entre elles.
     




    Drawing














    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description