The present invention relates to back-plane connectors and more specifically
to a bay for receiving a removable computer peripheral device, such as a hard disk
drive or a CD-ROM drive, configured for instance according to the Intel-Microsoft-Compaq
"Device Bay" standards.
Figure 1 schematically shows a removable peripheral device 10 being
inserted into a bay 12. Bay 12 includes a back-plane 14 provided with a connector
16 adapted to mate a corresponding connector (not shown) on the back of device
10. Cooperating guiding means (not shown) of device 10 and bay 12 ensure that,
when device 10 is fully pushed into the bay, the connectors of the back-plane and
of device 10 engage each other. In practice, the two connectors will not exactly
face each other, whereby they may be damaged upon engagement.
Some connectors are specifically designed to bend to a certain extent
for compensating a misalignment. However, in some cases, the bending of the connectors
may not be sufficient for compensating a misalignment. In other cases, although
a misalignment may be compensated by the bending, an intensive use will make the
connectors have a short life time.
US Patent N° 5,652,695 discloses a removable hard drive carrier and
bay assembly wherein the hard drive carrier has a floating connector for compensating
a misalignment with a mating connector. The carrier connector is mounted on a printed
circuit board, or PCB, which is held in slots with lateral and longitudinal clearance.
A drawback of this floating connector mechanism is that the connector
does not have a known rest position, since all the positions within the floating
range are stable. As a consequence, if the connector is in a limit rest position
where one edge of the PCB is fully engaged in a slot, a misalignment which would
lead the connector to go in an opposite limit position may not be compensated.
An object of the present invention is to provide a particularly simple
self-centering floating connector mechanism.
This object is achieved by a floating connector attached to a frame,
at a predetermined distance therefrom, by resilient fasteners.
According to an embodiment of the invention, the connector is mounted
on a printed circuit board which is attached by said fasteners to the frame.
According to an embodiment of the invention, each of said fasteners
is in the form of a nail adapted to pass through holes of the printed circuit board
and of a plate of the frame, having grooves for axially holding the printed circuit
board and the plate apart from each other.
According to an embodiment of the invention, each nail has a conical
portion extended by a tail.
The present invention also provides electronic apparatus having a
bay for receiving a removable peripheral device, the bay comprising a floating
connector as mentioned above.
In practical implementations, for instance to personal computers,
it is preferable for reasons of cost and reliability that the floating connector
be mounted in the bay, rather than on the removable peripheral device. Moreover,
if the floating connector is mounted in the bay, the fact that the removable device
is already at least to some extent mobile within the bay allows a further degree
of relative movement between the mating connectors which provides for easier and
more convenient mating. Nevertheless, the possibilities that the floating connector
be mounted on a removable peripheral device, or on both a removable peripheral
device and within the bay are not excluded.
The foregoing and other objects, features, aspects and advantages
of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of
embodiments, given by way of illustration and not of limitation with reference
to the accompanying drawings.
- Figure 1, previously described, schematically shows a removable peripheral
device being inserted into a connection bay;
- Figure 2 shows a side section view of an embodiment of a floating connector
assembly according to the present invention; and
- Figure 3 shows a top view of the assembly of figure 2.
In figure 2, a connector 20 for a removable device and bay assembly
within a personal computer is mounted on a printed circuit board, or PCB, 22. Connector
20 could be the connector located at the back of the removable device 10 but it
is preferably the back-plane connector of the bay, where more space is available
In the preferred embodiment, the bay is configured according to the
Device Bay Interface Specification (revision 0.85) available from Microsoft Corporation.
According to the invention, PCB 22 is attached to a back-plane plate
24, at a predetermined distance therefrom, by resilient fasteners 26. As shown
in figure 3, at least three non aligned fasteners 26 are used to avoid a tilting
of PCB 22. The fasteners 26 are mounted with a small clearance in holes of PCB
22 and plate 24.
With this arrangement, if PCB 22 is urged laterally, the middle portions
of fasteners 26, between PCB 22 and plate 24, will allow a lateral movement by
bending. If the lateral force on PCB 22 or connector 20 is canceled, fasteners
26 bend back elastically to their initial shapes, whereby connector 20 regains
its initial center position.
The lateral freedom of movement of connector 20 and PCB 22 depends
on the distance between PCB 22 and plate 24 and on the elasticity of fasteners
Of course, the resilient fasteners 26 also allow PCB 22 and connector
20 to move, resiliently, in the axial direction of the fasteners, which is beneficial
in absorbing shocks caused when driving the carrier home in the bay.
Figure 2 shows exemplary resilient fasteners 26. They are rubber
fasteners of the type used to resiliently mount cooling fans to casings in machines
manufactured by Hewlett Packard. The fasteners are in the shape of nails which
pass through holes of PCB 22 and plate 24. Each fastener 26 comprises two annular
grooves in which PCB 22 and plate 24 are respectively held. The lateral wall of
one of the grooves of each fastener 26 is defined by the base of a cone 28 whose
top is extended by a tail 30. Cone 28 and tail 30 simplify the mounting of the
fastener in the holes of PCB 22 and plate 24: first tail 30 is inserted through
the holes until cone 28 rests in one hole. The tail 30 then protrudes from the
other hole and may be gripped with a specific tool with which cone 28 is pulled
through the holes of PCB 22 and plate 24 up to the position shown in figure 2,
where PCB 22 and plate 24 are each held in one groove.
As shown in figure 2, an additional connector 32 is usually provided
on PCB 22 opposite connector 20. Connector 32 extends through an opening of plate
24 so that it may be connected with ribbon cables, or any other appropriate means,
to devices behind the back-plane.
As an alternative, connectors 20 and 32, and PCB 22 may be a single
part having preconnected cables.
Many alterations and modifications of the above described embodiments
will appear to those skilled in the art. For example, PCB 22 may be attached by
only two fasteners 26 and one of its edges be inserted in a slot.
Of course, a floating connector according to the invention is not
limited to back-plane connectors. It may be used in any application where two mating
connectors may be misaligned.