When to go for the gold

Today’s high performance applications demand more signal integrity, reliability and long-term durability than ever from FFC & mating connectors.

While tin connections may remain attractive from a cost standpoint and for some applications, more of Nicomatic customers are opting for the quality margin only gold plated conductors to gold plated contacts can deliver – qualities which far outweigh the upfront cost savings of tin.

So, how to decide if your application fits the gold standard?

Fundamentally, it’s a function of application environment, contact spacing and signal fidelity. In harsh or demanding environments, gold better resists corrosive elements. Tin contacts will wear and deteriorate faster. Gold is preferred as contact spacing <1mm, (in fact nearly every 0.5mm spaced ZIF & LIF connector on the market are only offered in gold plate).

When tin contacts whisker at this density, the buildup will degrade the contacts. Gold delivers a cleaner signal. Tin has higher noise.

Where does tin still make the grade?

The vast majority of simple connections in non-corrosive applications make excellent use of tin contacts, particularly those characterized by low numbers and density of contacts and low resistance. That said, unlike gold, tin contacts will experience oxidation, corrosion and deterioration over time. Testing for fretting corrosion, vibration, oxidation thermal cycling can also play a role here in anticipating when and how deterioration will occur.

Don’t mix & match
It’s pretty simply. Gold-to-gold, tin-to-tin. Mixing metals can result in both physical and chemical reactions. Physical reactions include fretting, when tin interacts with other metals. Chemical reactions include buildups ups of tin oxide from tin debris buildup. Over time, this degrades connection quality and decrease reliability.

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