While designing circuit boards for rugged environments, it is imperative to choose the right tools and materials to ensure high reliability and unparalleled performance. In this regard, the interconnection between boards must meet several requirements such as IP protection, wire sealing, contacts, ampacity, corrosion resistance, etc. These requirements may vary depending on the application environment, e.g., aerospace or military.
Let’s look at the essential design elements of harsh environment connectors and learn how top manufacturers are meeting them with their unique approach.
Top Design Features for Harsh Environment Connectors
Harsh environment connectors may be subject to various hazards, including motion, shock, and fluid exposure. Therefore, it is necessary to have a required class of protection. For example, designers focus only on high IP (ingress protection) classes to aid moist conditions, mainly dust-tight IP6x classifications. Components certified with IP6x classifications (IP65, IP66, IP67) are waterproof and can perform below water for a specified duration of time.
A board designed for rugged environments must meet several regulatory standards, including its connectors. For instance, for space applications, designers should consider using D-subminiature, micro-miniature, and circular connectors for reliable performance.
Max Current Carrying Capacity
Depending on the application, connectors’ current-carrying capacity (ampacity) may vary. If contact is designed to pass max 2.9-ampere current, it may lead to sparks or fire hazards when used for higher power applications.
Ease of Disconnection
In some cases, it may require you to routinely disconnect connectors from the system for an analysis or maintenance purpose. In this regard, an ideal connector should have quick disconnect wire terminals for easy termination.
As electrical connectors are metallic, they are highly prone to corrosion under toxic environments. Therefore, top manufacturers of harsh environment connectors use silver or gold plated contacts to ensure high resistance against moisture.
Top Manufacturers of Harsh Environment Connectors
Nicomatic specializes in harsh flex assemblies and micro connectors for aero/military environments. It offers a wide range of versatile connectors with best-in-class sealing and related accessories, including backshells, covers, and cable clamps to increase your design reliability.
For instance, Nicomatic EN4165 standard sealed connectors feature high mechanical endurance and further meet AS/EN9100 aerospace quality standards to address industry-specific challenges. These connectors come with environmental sealings to prevent contaminants from colluding with the connection area. A highly water-light rear grommet compress around the wires further offers protection from a possible mechanical or chemical attack. A key problem in the wire harness assemblies is contact retention.
In this regard, Nicomatic connectors feature molded thermoplastic clips to offer a high retention rate even under tough weather.
TE Connectivity (TE) offers solutions to achieve reliable connections in military/aerospace applications where maximum space and weight savings matter. TE features nanominiature connectors that are ten times smaller than Microminiature D connectors with the same number of positions.
These weight-saving connectors offer low contact resistance in high-vibration environments. Through a solid pin and dimpled socket, nanominiature connectors achieve a robust crimp joint that doubles durability over other legacy designs. The connection gets further reliable with complimentary auxiliaries such as robust optical flex circuits, environmentally sealed N-series relays, Mil-Aero contractors, etc., to further aid the reliability of the connection over a wide range of temperature and sea levels.
Amphenol ICC is one of the popular brands known for offering advanced connector solutions that span across RF, Micro ribbon, D- Sub, and USB Type–C interfaces. All harsh environment connectors come with IP67 sealing to offer bespoke performance in water for an extended period.
The optional all-metal housing promises durability, while RoHS compliant plating offers excellent resistance against toxic chemicals such as cadmium, mercury, lead, etc. The company features HDMI and USB connectors that can operate within a wide extreme temperature range of -55°C to +105°C. Moreover, the rugged D-Sub connectors come with a 30µ” gold contact plate to protect against shock, vibration, and impact evident in advanced medical equipment.
Omron has a wide range of connectors rated for protection against dust ingress, high temp, and pressure. Many IP67/IP69K-rated products withstand harsh washdown contamination without sacrificing longevity.
Omron specializes in products with high IP ratings, such as IP69K (washdown-resistant) and IP67G (oil-resistant), essential for food and beverage applications. With 316 Stainless steel (V4A) threaded joint and hexagonal nut, the connectors offer excellent corrosion resistance to potentially harmful conditions. In addition, the presence of PVC/PUR cables offers excellent electrical isolation against cutting fluids, oils, and other harsh chemicals.
Samtec’s micro rugged solutions go through severe environment testing to be used for high-power, high-speed applications with confidence. The products come with Tiger Eye™ multi-finger contacts. The Tiger Eye™ contacts are made up of heat-treated beryllium copper (BeCu) material to display excellent thermal and electrical conductivity coupled with high corrosion resistance designed for rugged environments.
The BeCu contacts offer multiple points of redundant contacts for high reliability over 1000 mating cycles. Samtec connectors flaunt a smooth milled mating surface to reduce wear and increase durability. Moreover, you get discrete wire assemblies with 16-30 AWG PVC or Teflon wire for greater electrical and mechanical protection.
When you need harsh environment connectors for your design, you can quickly find the vendors along with parts footprints, technical data, and ECAD/MCAD models on Ultra Librarian. Working with Ultra Librarian sets up your team for success to ensure streamlined and error-free design, production, and sourcing. Register today for free.