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.)
Basic Mass Interconnect Components
Why are Receivers Needed?
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.
Receiver Cable Assemblies
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.
Why are Receiver Modules Needed?
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.
Mating with the Receiver Modules in the corresponding configurations, ITA Modules are the final connection point before engaging the test instrumentation to the UUT.
Why are ITA Frames Needed?
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 Cable Assemblies
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.
Why are ITA Enclosures Needed?
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 primarily uses cable assemblies and patch cords to make the connection points between the tester and the D/UUT.This type of mass interconnect should be considered when the following criteria are met:
- When the test station is stationary and the worry of disturbing wires is minimal.
- When no exact-copy stations are required.
- When the concern of lead time is minimal.
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. Advanced Mass Interconnect should be considered when the following critera are met:
- Test station is mobile and the worry of disturbing signals is great.
- Clone stations are needed.
- Total cost of test is important
- When I/O type and DUT mix is high.
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 InterfacesSwitchMate