When failure is not an option

16th March 2017
Lanna Cooper


What is the most vulnerable component within an electronic design? Candidates would include anything with a moving part, such as a disk drive or fan, power supplies or fans which need strict control of temperature, and ICs which are sensitive to electrical noise.

But probably the area that requires more attention that all of these is the interconnect system which must survive not only the effects of harsh environmental factors, but also operator contact - often on a repeated basis.

Harwin Standard Mix-Tek

Leaving aside the potential for operator damage caused during repeated mating and demating cycles, connectors are particularly exposed if the end product is likely to be used in conditions where extremes of shock, vibration and temperature are to be experienced. This is particularly concerning if the application is high reliability, or ‘Hi-Rel’ – where the continuing ability of the system to continue to function is critical, such as in a medical instrument, or where it is impossible or extremely costly to repair, such as in a satellite. But even consumer devices must be reliable: who can say they have not dropped their mobile phone at one time or other?

But let’s focus on Hi-Rel applications for a moment. On launch, systems inside satellites will be subject to very high G forces which puts huge stresses on the interconnect system. In space, such systems will also see widely fluctuating temperatures as the satellite is alternates between the bright and dark sides of the planet it is orbiting. More and more electronic content is finding its way into commercial and military aircraft, and even passenger entertainment systems need reliable interconnect components, let alone flight guidance systems. If we consider UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) - used for defence and civilian applications - the pressure on the connector is even greater. Not only must the device chosen withstand shock, vibration, temperature and weather conditions, it must also be very light and small, since UAVs are often carried into the theatre of operation on the back of a soldier, and flight time is governed precisely by power to weight ratio.

Other demanding applications include automotive and non-automotive transport - trains, trams and industrial vehicles - medical systems which must resist attack from various body and cleansing fluids, industrial process equipment and systems used outdoors, such as traffic signage, street lighting.

Products from this Mil/Aero manufacturer include: Circular Mil-DTL-38999, Mil-C-26482, 62GB, Mil-C-5015 Mil-C-83723 Rectangular, Rack and Panel and PCB mounted product, Fibre Optic multimode and single mode solutions, Hermetically Sealed connectors, Filter connector. Putting the spotlight on just one example, within a rugged shell design, Terrapin offers superior EMC performance and high environmental sealing to IP68. Resilient in severe battlefield situations the RoHS compliant black-silver plating is both low-lustre and corrosion resistant. Featuring an optional locking mechanism, multiple shell sizes with up to 37 contacts and suitability for over-moulding, Terrapin is the preferred choice for miniature connectors in military and other harsh environment applications.

Glenair manufactures a range of Mil-Spec and aerospace-qualified harness products including: circular connectors, micro-D and nano-miniature connectors, connector backshells and accessories, conduit and braiding, heat shrink boots as well as providing connector assembly tooling. Other products include fibre optic components and assemblies, composite connectors and accessories through to filtered or hermetic connectors.

Datamate is Harwin’s 2mm pitch cable to cable, cable to board and board to board Hi-Rel connector family. Designed to survive extremes of shock, vibration and temperature, Datamate offers significant cost reductions, as price per contact is that of an industrial, commercial device. Datamate is proven on space, defense, medical and oil and gas exploration projects calling for very robust electronic systems where end equipment simply cannot fail. The interconnection system comes in a number of different families, including the mixed technology Datamate Mix-Tek which combines signal, power (up to 20A) and coax (up to 6GHz) contacts. Datamate is also available in a shielded version (Datamate S-Tek), ensuring full 360° electrical shielding when used in conjunction with the relevant J-Tek Datamate connectors and metal braid.

Harwin Datamate Mix-Tek

Harwin Datamate Mix-Tek

Molex offers a portfolio of connectors designed for demanding applications including:

Mini-Fit H2O – sealed to IP67, this mid-range (9.0A per circuit) power connector is designed for use in weatherproof applications that require a sealed system.

SRC – Sealed Rectangular Connectors meet the need for a rugged, environmentally sealed connector system, supporting both low-level signals as well as current up to 40.0A.

XRC (Extra Rugged Circular) Sealed Plugs and Receptacles are IP67-rated and suit the demanding requirements of the transportation industry. New low-insertion-force stamped terminals provide an economical drop-in replacement that is interchangeable with competitor’s connector housings.

MX150L is an environmentally sealed connector system well suited for low-level signal and power applications found in non-automotive transportation, solar and other outdoor environments.

Samtec’s products are well suited to Military/Aerospace/ Avionics industries. The portfolio includes Micro Rugged, Rugged High Speed and Power Connectors and IP68 Panel I/O and Rugged Cable devices.

Highlighting just one family, Samtec’s Edge Rate product line now includes 0.8mm pitch right angle and edge mount connector strips for perpendicular and co-planar applications. Edge Rate Right Angle (ERM8-RA/ERF8-RA) and Edge Mount (ERM8-EM/ERF8-EM Series) terminals and sockets offer up to 150 I/Os in single-ended or differential pair configurations with a standard choice of 10 to 75 positions per row (dependant on orientation).Well suited for rugged and harsh environments, these strips are robust when zippered during unmating and feature an optional rugged metal latching system.

ITT offers a range of connector and switch products and the ability to deliver standard or custom solutions to meet the most stringent military requirements.

Its interconnect range includes sealed circulars, plastic and metal shell bayonet coupling circulars, miniature metal shell circulars, PC Board header connectors and sensor and direct device connectors. ITT is also a systems supplier, providing value-added module and harness assemblies.

The CA Bayonet has a proven bayonet coupling design, enabling easy connection and disconnection while offering exceptional vibration resistance and sealing against fluids. Initially designed for aircraft and airborne applications, these rugged connectors now find usage in trucks, off-road vehicles, ships, earth-moving equipment, telecommunications equipment, and other rugged outdoor applications.

TE Connectivity is a manufacturer of interconnection products. Whether you are equipping soldiers for next-generation network-centric battlefield, reducing weight and increasing capabilities in aircraft and ships, or bringing advanced networking to commercial aircraft, TE has innovative product solutions.

An example is the Fortis Zd, a new backplane connector system that supports increasing bandwidth (10Gb/s+ data rate) requirements in a ruggedised format while withstanding severe shock and vibration requirements. Applications include commercial aerospace, ground defence, UAVs and fighter jets.

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