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Zero Insertion Force Socket (ZIF Socket)

Definition - What does Zero Insertion Force Socket (ZIF Socket) mean?

A zero insertion force (ZIF) socket is a type of integrated circuit (IC) socket which is designed so that it requires no force at all, except gravity, to insert an IC into the socket. This is achieved through the use of a slider or lever, which, when used, parts the spring-loaded contacts so that the IC can simply be placed on top of the socket with the pins meeting zero resistance as they are inserted into the openings between the contacts. When the lever or slider is moved back to its original position, the contacts close and grip the pins of the IC.

Techopedia explains Zero Insertion Force Socket (ZIF Socket)

The zero insertion force socket is an important innovation used to protect an IC from being damaged during insertion or from frequent removal and reinsertion from a socket. Most IC sockets require that the IC be pushed into sprung contacts which grip the pins through friction, with friction also acting as resistance during insertion. For an IC with hundreds of pins such as a processor (CPU), the total insertion force can be very large, and it carries a large chance of damaging the IC or even the board. Even with ICs which have a relatively smaller number of pins, removing it from a regular socket carries significant risk of bending the pins.

The ZIF socket was specifically designed to combat the issue of IC and pin damage due to insertion and removal. But the downside is the large footprint of a ZIF socket which is due to the lever locking and unlocking mechanism. This limits the use of the ZIF socket to applications which require an IC to be removed and replaced frequently, such as in testing and prototyping applications, as well as to accommodate ICs with a large number of pins which cannot be directly soldered onto a board, such as the case with desktop CPUs and motherboards, since both are sold separately and the user would have to insert the CPU into the motherboard himself.

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