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Mass Interconnect

What is Mass Interconnect?

Mass interconnect is a way of connecting test instrumentation to a device under test (DUT).  To put it simply, mass interconnect is a very large plug and socket which connects your device under test to your test instrumentation without the mess and hassle of having to connect each signal separately.




Is Mass Interconnect right for you?

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.”

Basic Mass Interconnect Components

Receiver, 15 Slot, TITANReceiver, 10 Slot, TITAN


Why are Receivers Needed?

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Receivers are a rugged interconnect mechanism. The receiver houses connector modules (receiver modules), patchcords, cable assemblies, PCB adapters and possibly direct access kits for connection to the test instrumentation. The receiver mates with the ITA frame.

Without the use of a receiver, the connection method utilized would be free hanging - whether it be cables, patchcords and modules, or any of the before stated receiver components. This would cause serious concerns for the integrity of the test data.

ITA Patchcord Kit - RF - (25% Patch Cord Population)

Receiver Cable Assemblies

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Receiver patchcords and cable assemblies allow for discrete wiring. These carry the I/O of the DUT and test instrumentation and connect to the instrument specific connectors. Also available are PCP adapter configurations and COTS Direct Access Kits.

Module, Receiver, Hi Frequency, 32 PositionModule, Receiver, Hi Frequency, 32 Position

Receivers Modules

Why are Receiver Modules Needed?

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Receiver modules act as the connection point between I/O from the device under test side components and the receiver side. The receiver module(s) house multiple configurations of signal, power, RF/Coaxial, pneumatic, vacuum, and fiber optics in varying densities.

Receiver modules are essentially individual sockets, that when combined and placed in a receiver make up the socket side of the mass interconnect. Without the use of modules each I/O point would have to be plugged in individually which would be costly and time consuming for a number of reasons.

Module, ITA, Signal, 210 positions, Strain relief recessModule, ITA, Signal, 210 positions, Strain relief recess

ITA Modules

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Mating with the Receiver Modules in the corresponding configurations, ITA Modules are the final connection point before engaging the test instrumentation to the UUT.

Frame, ITA, 10 Slot, TITANFrame, ITA, 10 Slot, TITAN

ITA Frames

Why are ITA Frames Needed?

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The ITA Frame mates to the receiver and houses modules, PCB adapters, cable assemblies and patchcords which connect to the UUT.

As the mating component to the Receiver, it is an essential part of the mass interconnect assembly. Without the use of an ITA frame, each ITA module and connection point would need to be individually connected one by one.

ITA Patchcord Kit (50 Power)

ITA Cable Assemblies

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The ITA patchcords and cable assemblies deliver I/O to and from the D/UUT. Supplying the user with a contact that is pre-terminated to wire in a single or double-ended format and mate to their corresponding receiver patchcord configurations.

ITA Patchcord Kit (50 Power)
Enclosure, ITA, 11 Slot, 6" Deep, Hinged, SCOUTEnclosure, ITA, 11 Slot, 6" Deep, Hinged, SCOUT

ITA Enclosures

Why are ITA Enclosures Needed?

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The ITA Enclosure protects and provides strain relief for the ITA patchords and cable assemblies while also offering a panel mounting surface for the D/UUT and or cable sockets for cables going to the D/UUT fixture.

Without the use of an ITA enclosure the ITA cables and patchcords would have no protection from outside elements and environmental hazards that will cause problems for the integrity of the tests being performed.

Types of Mass Interconnect:

Traditional Mass Interconnect:

A traditional mass interconnect system uses all the components shown in the diagram above, including: cable assemblies, patchcords, and pcb adapters.



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.  DAKs eliminate or reduce the use of lose 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.



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