Robust components are needed to make the grade
from operating room to oil rig
By David Cianciolo, Director of Engineering,
When you’re designing equipment for extreme conditions or critical situa- tions, high performing components
are essential, and rugged connectors offer a
reliable solution for the toughest situations. Rugged connectors
are engineered for a variety of demanding applications, including
extreme temperatures, humid or wet conditions, or in situations
when compromised equipment or failure is not an option, such as
military operations, medical equipment, broadcasting, testing, or
data transmission. Most rugged connectors are made of brass or
aluminum and are sealed to protect against dirt and water and/or
gasses. Many use copper conductors, and some integrate gold to
further enhance conductivity.
What to consider: application environment and risk
Whether you’re designing equipment for use in automobiles
cruising highways in the US, oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, or
instrumentation in Antarctica, it’s important to know how a
rugged interconnect solution can impact the reliability of your
solution. Design engineers suggest taking two important conditions into consideration when you are evaluating your solution:
application environment and risk.
First, consider your application environment. If the equipment
will be exposed to water, dirt, or other contaminants, extreme
weather conditions, or will need to be cleaned or sterilized
frequently, rugged connectors may be the right fit. For example,
rugged connectors are ideal for broadcasting, when cameras or
other equipment may be used outdoors in wet or cold conditions,
or as a component of surgical instruments, when disposable or
sterilizable options are required.
Second, rugged connectors are well-suited to high risk applications, such as military or medical, when equipment reliability
and accuracy is vital and leaves no margin for error. In test and
measurement applications, rugged connectors protect the integrity of the data they collect, helping to insure accuracy, security,
and prevent data loss.
Choosing the right rugged connector
Cables & Connectors
When the going gets tough,
rugged connectors deliver
can help make your equipment or system design smaller, lighter,
and easier to handle. It can also help improve functionality,
reduce manufacturing costs, and increase durability and reliability. Consider these key factors to help you choose the right rugged connector for your equipment design.
1.Electrical needs. The voltage and current requirements of the application determine how much power each contact will
need to carry; the size of the contact and the wire will determine
the current carrying capacity of a contact. Higher density contacts allow more compact designs, without compromising performance. Check with the manufacturer to understand how current
ratings and operating voltages are specified.
2.Additional functionality. Adding functionality to the rugged connector can help you design a device that’s easier to use
and more cost effective. Hybrid connectors help reduce the number of connections required and result in having fewer cables to
manage. A single connector may carry power plus signal, coax,
fiber optics, liquid, and/or gas. The most common type of hybrid
rugged connector features several larger pins for power and a high
density group of smaller pins for signals.
3.Termination type. The type of termination impacts the as- sembly process and the ability to seal the connector. Connectors with solder contacts are usually easier to seal and protect
against moisture ingress, while crimp contacts are easier to repair
in the field. Consult
with your manufacturing and design
teams to make sure
the right termination
is selected for your
4.Environmental sealing. Rugged connectors are available with environmental sealing to protect against dust, water, and
minerals or with hermetic sealing against gasses. When an environmental seal is required, an interface seal protects the junction
between two connectors keeping unwanted particles away from
connection. Mounting panel seals, seals for protecting contact
areas, and cable sealing also provide protection for connectors
and connections. Hermetically sealed connectors are traditionally
sealed with glass, ceramic inserts, and epoxy.
The manufacturer’s IP (Ingress Protection) ratings indicate the
level of protection against dust, dirt, and water at varying depth
and operating time frames. A rating of IP68 or above indicates a
true waterproof connection; however, be sure to consult with the
manufacturer to understand the conditions that are represented.
For example, an IP68 rating could mean two hours at 20 meters or
Adding functionality to the
rugged connector can help you
design a device that’s easier to
use and more cost effective.