By Heilind in partnership with Molex
As technology and buyer expectations change, home appliance makers are facing a host of new challenges. Appliance OEMs are loading machines with sensors and electronics to make the machines smarter to provide consumers a wider menu of choices for the way they clean clothes, cook, and wash dishes.
To meet these demands, manufacturers will need to closely follow evolving regulations and master the use of state-of-the-art technologies and materials to keep pace with competitors. Those who succeed will design a new generation of innovative connected products that capture market share and offer new opportunities for aftermarket servicing.
The Rise of Electronics and Sensors
Today’s consumers, accustomed to managing everything from work and home management tasks to personal fitness through software applications, now expect similar experiences from their appliances. Demand for internet-connected home appliances is rising sharply. Over 40% of U.S. homes owned a smart home device in 2021, and by 2024, the proportion is expected to rise to over 57%, according to Statista.
Manufacturers are responding with a broad portfolio of products to satisfy consumer needs. While some new capabilities add convenience, others address homeowners’ desire for greater energy savings and efficiency.
Adopting New Designs and Materials
The proliferation of electronics and controls has several implications for manufacturers, including a heightened focus on the human-machine interface. For customers who grew up with smartphones and tablets, that means using touchscreens, rather than more dials and buttons.
Adding features to confined spaces also means manufacturers must reconsider the configuration of the electronics, finding ways to miniaturize printed circuit boards and connectors while still maintaining adequate power delivery and preserving signal integrity for the many new controls. They must also have the capacity to manage large volumes of data flow within the appliance, as well as data flow to and from other smart home devices.
The Drive to Maximize Safety
As manufacturers design new products, they will need to closely follow changes as regulators modify home appliance safety standards. A push to strengthen protections began with IEC committees in Europe and has spread to U.S.-based UL Solutions, which partners with stakeholders in more than 100 countries.
Authorities need to review their standards as more connectors are added to heat-producing machines and their material composition changes. The main thrust of the regulating authorities are considering is reducing the possibility of fire and if a fire does occur, ensuring that it can self-extinguish and not spread outside the machine
One of the most important measures is glow wire testing requirements for unattended appliances, which exposes electrical connectors to extreme heat that makes them ignite and determines their effectiveness in resisting ignition and self-extinguishing the resulting fire.
Designing Connectors for Safe Assembly and Better Reliability
It’s not just consumers who need to be protected from safety hazards. While appliance hardware and electronic components are mass-produced in distant factories, mating connectors to electronics is often a manual process performed by human operators. The proliferation of connections has increased the potential safety risks for these workers, as today’s cooking appliances, often have higher-wattage elements, requiring more power and more connections. These higher-density electronics in various types of appliances have higher pin counts, resulting in higher mating forces.
Solving the Backout Problem
Engineers are also using a technology called terminal position assurance (TPA) to hold connector contacts securely in place. Conventional crimp/snap connectors often suffer from backout, where wires are not fully seated in the connector housing and become loose under stress.
Backout can occur due to stubbing or mis-mating within the contacts of a connector system. This drives higher insertion forces, potentially unseating contacts when an operator mates the connector. Backouts also occur in high vibration applications, which can disengage contact retention features.
Keeping Up with Sustainability Initiatives
The home appliance industry has a longstanding commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency and has achieved some notable successes, documented by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers in the following examples:
- Modern refrigerators—even with all their new electronic features—use less energy than a 60-watt incandescent light bulb.
- New clothes washers hold 20 percent more laundry than they did 20 years ago, but are nearly 90% more energy-efficient.
- Today’s dishwashers use 44% less water than they did in 2005.
A New World of Connected Products
Creating safe, reliable, and efficient connected appliances is an extremely complex endeavor, but for those who achieve success, rewards can be substantial. Designing user-friendly machines with the versatile functionality and aesthetically appealing designs consumers want has the potential to increase sales and market share.
OEMs who take a proactive approach to design and prepare for rapidly evolving industry standards stand the best chances of achieving success in the connected appliance environment of the future.
Molex – Providing Expert Help from Design to Final Assembly
As built-in electronics in manufactured products grow—accompanied by a maze of regulations affecting their composition and design—it helps to consult with experts from the start.
Molex can provide critical early involvement with your design engineers to ensure that the products you build not only meet standards, but provide the highest possible levels of safety, reliability, and efficiency. Whether you’re building a brand-new product or modifying your existing models, Molex can help you incorporate the next-generation of electrical and electronic connectors and user-interface capabilities that your customers are seeking.
To learn more, please visit https://www.heilind.com/cms/manufacturers/molex/#homeappliance
Sponsored Content by Heilind in partnership with Molex