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What is Mass Interconnect?

Mass interconnect is a way of connecting test instrumentation to a device under test (DUT).    Traditionally connections between the test instrumentation and the DUT were made one at a time using some type of cabled system approach.  Mass interconnect eliminates the need to make these connections individually and facilitates a method of connecting and disconnecting all signals at once.   Many types of mass interconnect solutions are available including “traditional mass interconnect” and “advanced mass interconnect”.

Types of Mass Interconnect:

Traditional Mass Interconnect:

A traditional mass interconnect system (shown below) includes the following components:


Advanced Mass Interconnect:

An advanced Mass interconnect system (shown below) includes the same basic components on the ITA side of the system. The difference appears on the receiver side with the use of DAKs or direct access kits.  DAK is a proprietary mass interconnect solution utilized in MAC Panel’s SCOUT system.  DAK’s eleminate or reduce the use of loose wires and cabling to bring the signal of the instrumentation out to the ITA  by using  PCB, flex circuit, and short length matched wires within an enclosed casing (DAK).  The SCOUT approach (featuring DAK) can be used in PXI based test configurations.


Whether you choose to go with a traditional mass interconnect system (TITAN) or an advanced mass interconnect solution (SCOUT) this choice will clearly mean the need to purchase additional hardware to integrate and maintain.  There are several considerations and questions to ask when considering the expense of adding a mass interconnect to your system:  (The following was taken from “SwitchMate“.  This portion of “SwitchMate” was written by Pickering Interfaces with the help of MAC Panel’s interconnect experts.)

1. What is the overall DUT volume versus DUT type mix?
If your test system will be testing many different DUT types, which may require many ITA changes, a Mass Interconnect will make a lot of sense.
If you choose to cable directly to the modular chassis or discrete instrumentation, keep in mind that most connectors on the front of these devices are usually rated for perhaps fifty insertions or even less. So, if you are constantly changing test fixtures, you will wear these connectors out very quickly. Mass Interconnect systems are typically tested to 10,000 insertions or even more. Of course, if you are testing only one or two DUTs and ITA changes are usually not necessary, you probably don’t need to use a Mass Interconnect.
2. How much down time can you justify for your test system in a day?
In a high-volume test strategy, ITA changeover times will be shorter with a Mass Interconnect approach. Also, the possibility of connecting the cables to the wrong mating connectors is eliminated or reduced.
3. What are your accuracy requirements?
Mostly due to the robustness of the connections to the ITA, a Mass Interconnect will help ensure repeatability when changing over ITAs. At higher frequencies, signal fidelity may be improved over using loose cables to connect the ITA because the wiring is shorter and rigid in terms of its placement in the ITA and Mass Interconnect.
If you plan to replicate the test system multiple times, a Mass Interconnect helps to guarantee repeatability across all systems.
4. Is ruggedness a requirement?
Mass Interconnects are very robust and may make sense if your tester will be in an environment where damage to the test system is possible.
5. Will a self-test fixture be required for the system?
A Mass Interconnect will make the use of a self-test fixture easier and more repeatable.
6. Are you migrating an older test system (e.g., VXI-based) to a new test platform such as USB or PXI?
If your present test system already has a Mass Interconnect, then the migration is made easier because you can reuse the ITAs. The Mass Interconnect just needs to be cabled in such a way that the test resources are connected to the same connector pinmap as the previous design.”


In addition to the above information, there are a number of other resources to help you better understand mass interconnect, its uses, and benefits.  Two such resources are the white papers listed below:

“Mass Interconnect and Fixturing” by National Instruments.

Mass Interconnect and Fixturing


“SwitchMate” chapter Vll by Pickering Interfaces