Mobility Solutions

Bosch plugs The perfect connection An optimum blend of reliability and durability

  • German premium cars feature up to 4,000 connectors
  • Total annual sales of seven billion euros
  • International Bosch center of competence for connectors
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  • December 09, 2014
  • Mobility Solutions
  • Press releases

press release

They may generally be small and unassuming, but no car can drive without them. Connectors carry electricity and electrical signals to vehicle components such as the airbag, antilock braking system, or control units. A single German premium car can contain up to 4,000 of these connections; in a compact car, the number is just under half. There are up to 20 such connections in each high-quality car seat with heating and electric adjustment, and that number is growing. Today, the global sales of connectors for cars total around seven billion euros. This figure will increase over the next three years by more than 50 percent to reach around 11 million euros.

The demands placed on these delicate parts are enormous: even after hundreds of thousands of kilometers and intensive long-term use, they have to work exactly as they did on day one. This is a topic of great concern to Bosch as an automotive supplier, because ultimately it’s not just Bosch components that have to work faultlessly, but also the plugs that connect those components to the vehicle.

Many drivers don’t realize the significance of connectors until the moment when the air conditioning, navigation system, or any one of dozens of sensors and actuators stops working. Global breakdown statistics show that this is often caused by problems with the electronics and faulty connectors.

Bosch has some 40 engineers working to develop new plugs. One of them is Andreas Vogt, one of 14 members of the international center of competence for connectors. “We see to it that other manufacturers’ connectors work seamlessly with our products,” Vogt says.

Plugs ranging from milliamperes to high-voltage power
In Vogt’s office at Bosch’s Schwieberdingen location near Stuttgart, the whole world of plugs is brought together in a tiny space. The entire center of competence is piled high with dozens of crates, their contents meticulously sorted, full of products from a wide range of manufacturers. These plugs look nothing like the ones we’re familiar with at home. Some of the models on Vogt’s desk bristle with up to 300 extremely fine pins. Some contacts are just a millimeter wide and designed to handle currents in the milliampere range. Things couldn’t be more different with the connectors for hybrid or all-electric vehicles, which boast connectors that can weigh several kilograms and cope with currents of around 500 amperes.

These are just two of several thousand varieties. Plugs for U.S. automakers have to meet slightly different requirements than those for Asian companies, and European plugs are different once again. But regardless of the market, all connectors must be able to withstand hard impacts with the curb, vibrations caused by bumpy roads, and rapid acceleration. Protection against the ingress of moisture is also a necessity, since corroded contacts can cause the electronics to fail. Finally, all connectors for passenger cars must still be fully functional even after 15 years or a minimum of 240,000 kilometers. The limit for commercial vehicles is even higher at 1.5 million kilometers.

What plugs sound like
As technology advances, so too do the demands placed on connectors – they have to be made ever smaller and more complex. Another factor is the difficulty of combining plastic with metal. But those whose job it is to think about plugs have to go beyond their technical functioning to consider their economics: a given connector might have to be fitted quickly and reliably hundreds of times in succession. “Acoustic feedback is an important consideration for some automakers,” Vogt reports. “The satisfying sound of connectors snapping shut is a good way to let employees on the production line know they have fitted them properly – even if they can’t see them while they’re fitting them.”

And the more pins a plug has, the more power it takes to put it in place. “Pure muscle power just won’t do it,” says Vogt, as he tries – and fails – to press shut a connector measuring four centimeters by five. The only way to shut it is by using the appropriate lever. This lever has an output of 70 Newtons – more than enough to shut the connector tight. With a short click, the connector is in place inside the vehicle and ready to carry current and data over hundreds of thousands of kilometers.

Mobility Solutions is the largest Bosch Group business sector. In 2015, its sales came to 41.7 billion euros, or 59 percent of total group sales. This makes the Bosch Group one of the leading automotive suppliers. The Mobility Solutions business sector combines the group’s expertise in three mobility domains – automation, electrification, and connectivity – and offers its customers integrated mobility solutions. Its main areas of activity are injection technology and powertrain peripherals for internal-combustion engines, diverse solutions for powertrain electrification, vehicle safety systems, driver-assistance and automated functions, technology for user-friendly infotainment as well as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, repair-shop concepts, and technology and services for the automotive aftermarket. Bosch is synonymous with important automotive innovations, such as electronic engine management, the ESP anti-skid system, and common-rail diesel technology.

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

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PI8540 - December 09, 2014

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