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As technology continues to advance, it finds new applications in ever more challenging environments. In these extreme conditions, regular connectors won’t do. Harsh connectors feature a robust design with ruggedized housings to protect against water ingress, rough handling, and other tough environmental conditions.

Choosing the Right Rugged Connector

There are different harsh environment connectors designed to meet the demands of different industries, from military and marine to transportation and medical. To determine which one is best for your application, you need to understand the environment, the connector’s function, and the connector’s strengths and limitations. When choosing a rugged connector, consider the following:

What’s the Application?
Will your connector be exposed to extreme temperatures, water, pressure, altitude, vibration, or salt? Does it need to meet specific industry standards? Does it require EMI shielding? Answering these questions based on your specific application will narrow down your choices and make it easier to select the proper connector.

Connector Basics
Consider the size of the contact and wire as well as how much electrical current an individual contact can carry. The voltage rating is dependent on insulation materials, insulator geometry, and contact spacing.

For medical and laboratory settings, it’s important to understand how the connector will be sterilized: chemically, with steam, or with radiation? Your connector may need to be able to resist corrosion, moisture, or pressure during the sterilization process.

Connector Reliability
If your connector will be mated and unmated frequently, choose one that’s rated for at least twice the number of mating cycles expected. Also consider the connector’s reliability in terms of temperature resistance, sealing, and durability.

Connector Materials
The material you choose is a matter of budget, application, weight requirements, and desired lifespan. For durability, brass connectors with nickel or chrome plating and stainless steel are a go-to choices, while plastic is reserved for disposable and short-term applications. Aluminum is a lightweight choice that’s also good for miniaturization.

Smaller is generally better, but small connectors still need to hold up in the given environment. Pin size affects how much power can be carried, making it a key consideration when determining connector size, along with termination methods, pin count, current capabilities, voltage, and more.

Key Features & Benefits of Harsh Environmental Connectors

Rugged connectors are built to protect against several environmental conditions, including:

  • Moisture. Rugged connectors protect against rain, humidity, vapor, and submersion in water.
  • Dust. Dirt and debris are present in many outdoor and industrial settings, which is harmful to electrical systems.
  • Extreme Temperatures. Both heat and cold can damage technological components.
  • Explosive Environments. Certain settings may contain combustible gas, mist, or dust, which can lead to an explosion.
  • Rough Handling. Power and data connection can be compromised after connectors are dropped, dragged, or exposed to vibration.
  • Pressure. Marine and aerospace applications are often exposed to pressures reaching 9,000 psi, or very low pressure at altitude necessitating the use of rugged connectors.
  • Salinity. Rugged connectors can prevent corrosion caused by salty air or water.

Key features of rugged connectors include:

  • IP Rating. The level of water or dust ingress protection you need depends upon the situation. Medical and food processing applications often require an IP69K rating, which ensures protection against dust as well as high-pressure, high-temperature spray down at close range.
  • Locking/Coupling. There are a variety of mechanisms available, from ring and twist locking to threaded, bayonet, push-pull, quick disconnect, and more. Harsh environments require reliable locking and coupling mechanisms.
  • Housing and Insulation. A corrosion-resistant metal housing can protect against extreme temperatures, dust, and moisture, while plastic composite housings offer more flexibility with a lighter weight. The insulation material must be able to withstand the operating voltages.
  • Seals and Grommets. For a firm, watertight seal, rubber seals can be used inside the coupling.

Rugged Connectors from Connectronics

At Connectronics Corp., we design and manufacture specialized connectors and interconnection systems for clients in a wide range of industries. Since 1988, we’ve established ourselves as a trusted partner for versatile and reliable high-voltage, high-current, underwater, and other harsh environment connectors.

We are an AS9100D and ISO9000-2015 certified company with more than 300 years of combined experience in avionics, aerospace, nuclear, underwater, radar, oil exploration, stage lighting, and other fields. This makes us uniquely equipped to help you identify the ideal solution for your application. Contact us to learn more about rugged connectors, or request a quote for your project.

Electrical connectors are components that join electrical circuits, making electronics easier to manufacture and assemble. They facilitate design and modification flexibility and can be permanent or temporary. There are many types of connectors used with circuits throughout a wide spectrum of industries, ranging from communications to computers, industrial machinery, and more.

Electrical Connector Types

Since electrical connectors are used in such a wide array of products, they come in many varieties. Some of the most commonly used types include:

  • Audio: Both digital and analog connectors are used in applications ranging from home theaters to professional audio equipment. Most audio connectors are easy to use and don’t feature release tabs, latches, or thumbscrews.
  • Centronics: These standard parallel interface devices connect printers, portable disc drives to computers, and others. They are named after the first printer that used them.
  • DB style: D-subminiature or D-sub connectors are commonly used in computer, audio/video, and data applications. Its name comes from its trapezoidal shape. Most DB connectors feature two rows of pins.
  • Digital video: These connectors deliver high quality video signals using TMDS to transmit large amounts of data from a source to a display.
  • DIN: Named for a German manufacturing industry standards group, this type of electrical connector features a circular pin pattern. It is widely used with computer keyboards, MIDI instruments, and similar specialized equipment.
  • Fiber and networking: Fiber-optic connectors precisely align microscopic glass fibers to facilitate communications. There are many types of these connectors available, all sharing similar design characteristics.
  • Firewire: Also called IEEE 1394, these devices are typically used to add peripherals to a computer, such as connecting an external hard drive. They deliver high transfer rates of up to 800 Mbps.
  • High Voltage: H.V. connectors up to 100,000 volts are available while the average H.V. ratings are typically below 30,000 volts.
  • Internal: Internal connectors, such as socket connectors, are located inside computer cases. They mate with pins arranged into a header, which is built into a circuit board. Power connectors are another type of internal connector. They distribute power to a computer’s internal devices.
  • Modular: Commonly used for data networks, telephone systems, or low-speed serial connections, these connectors are inexpensive and simple to install. They feature a clear, plastic body and a tab that locks them into place when connected.
  • Power: Power connectors get plugged into wall receptacles and provide power to a device. They are suitable for many types of electronics and can carry either an alternating or direct current.
  • SCSI: Small computer systems interface connectors join devices with computers. They work by connecting all devices to a central bus that is controlled by a host controller, typically built into a motherboard.
  • USB: Universal Serial Bus ports are standard cable connection interfaces for many consumer electronic devices. USB ports allow devices to transfer digital data.
  • Video: Digital video connectors deliver the highest quality video signal using TMDS technology. Large amounts of digital data can be transmitted in high quality.

Industries for Cable Connectors

With such a variety of cable connectors available, it’s no surprise that they are used throughout many industries, including:

  • Military & defense: Throughout this industry, soldier-worn defense technology has influenced the demand for smaller-sized connectors. New designs have increased connector ruggedness and throughput while decreasing weight. This is important for wearable devices that need to function reliably in harsh environments while being as compact as possible.
  • Oil & gas: The oil and gas industries require rugged, explosion-proof connectors for applications such as petrochemical plants, downhole and subsea, as well as topside drilling.
  • Energy & power: Cable connectors in this industry must be designed to withstand incredibly demanding environments and temperature extremes. They also need to be resistant to moisture and humidity. Applications include wind, solar, and other types of energy production.
  • Submarine communication: Throughout this industry, cable connectors are used in temperature cycling and deep sea applications. They must be built to withstand seawater corrosion, shock, and high levels of pressure. High pin density and reduced size are important characteristics for connectors used throughout this industry.

Connectronics for All Your Cable Connector Needs

Cable connectors come in many varieties and are used throughout a number of industries. There are many highly demanding applications for cable connectors that require ruggedly designed products able to withstand challenging environments. Connectronics provides reliable, high-quality connectors for industries ranging from aerospace and nuclear power to medical, oil exploration, and more.
Visit our product catalog to discover the connectors we offer and contact us with any questions. To get started on your cable connector solution, request a quote today.

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