Don't get your wires in a bunch

June 15, 2000
Each horizontal grid layer is a matrix of stamped rings and connecting webs.
Each horizontal grid layer is a matrix of stamped rings and connecting webs.

Designing vehicles to accommodate their complex electrical wiring systems and hardware requires careful planning and engineering development. Interconnections within distribution boxes and intraconnections to wire harnesses can create an unmanageable bundle of wires, often taking up valuable space and requiring manual point-to-point wiring. To handle these types of power-distribution problems Cooper Bussmann Automotive Products, Chicago, developed the Series 3000 Vehicle Electrical Center (VEC).

Using a patented 3D Matrix technology, the VEC eliminates jumpers and splices by programming them within the matrix. The key is a copper alloy grid that can be reproduced using high-volume stamping. Each horizontal grid layer is a matrix of stamped rings and connecting webs. Horizontal tracks and verticals pins are arranged so that most power distribution and control circuits can be enjoined on the 3D matrix.

Connecting webs in the ring-node matrix create vertical rows and columns, becoming conductive paths between ring nodes. Each grid is over-molded with a thick layer of plastic -- a glass-filled polyester that handles high ambient engine temperatures. This insulates the layers from each other while keeping them intact when sectioning the metal grid to encode circuit information. The grids are typically stacked in two or three layers for a single power-distribution module. Outer webs surrounding the grid can be designed as input or output circuit paths.

Connecting pins in the ring nodes of each grid matrix bridge circuit paths from layer to layer. Once grids have been coded with circuit information, stacked in a 3D array of circuit traces, and the pins have been inserted at junction points, the unit becomes a 3D circuit module that carries loads of up to 200 A.

Once grids are coded with circuit information, stacked to form the 3D array of circuit traces, and pins are inserted, the unit becomes a 3D module.

The VEC can be used as a cost-effective alternative to harness designs because hard wiring is eliminated. Connections are made through externally keyed connectors. Component terminals are uniformly spaced

8.1-mm apart and accept 2.8-mm wide terminal blades. Standard components such as mini fuses and circuit breakers, diodes, flashers, and mini and micro relays can be connected.

The VEC power distribution system is used for heavy-duty trucks, buses, off-highway construction equipment, agricultural vehicles, and automobiles.

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