Top 10 connectors for industrial and mil/aero applications

Connector manufacturers face continued demand for more robust designs that provide corrosion and vibration resistance, higher mating cycles, and extended operating temperature ranges for industrial and military/aerospace applications in the harshest environments without performance degradation. At the same time, OEMs are looking for more options that give them greater flexibility in their designs and as a way to reduce costs.

Here are 10 connector lines introduced this year that deliver the high reliability required in a range of industrial and military/aerospace applications. Many of them also provide more options, such as in the number of positions and stack heights, to fit a wider range of applications.

Industrial connectors

First up is a heavy-duty circular connector for high-amperage applications from Amphenol Industrial Operations. The EMI Wind-Lok reverse bayonet connector is designed to deliver high power from source to load. The heavy-duty circular connector with electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding can be used in a variety of high-amperage applications, including wind turbines, offshore windfarms, electrical generators, charging systems, and offshore petroleum production.

Top 10 connectors for industrial and mil/aero applications

Amphenol’s EMI Wind-Lok reverse bayonet connector (Source: Amphenol Industrial Operations)

The single-pole, high-power connector features a 1/3-turn reverse bayonet coupling design with secondary coupling that allows for audible, tactile, and visual confirmation of secure mating, said the company. It also features double-dead–front, finger-proof inserts to protect the pin as well as the socket.

With a shell size of 40, the connector can fit a wide range of wire sizes. The 18-mm RADSOK socket contact provides an amperage rating up to 800 A at 2,500 VDC. The operating temperature range is –40˚C to 125˚C.

The reverse bayonet connector features corrosion-resistant plating with a hard-coat anodized finish that can withstand 300 days of continuous salt spray. The connector offers a crimp or two-hole busbar termination and features silver-plated contacts. The connector is also vibration-resistant and can withstand up to 2,000 mating cycles. It is RoHS- and REACH-compliant.

Offering new options, Erni Electronics Inc. has expanded its MicroSpeed connector family with new signal variants and complementary power connectors. The new connectors include MicroSpeed signal connectors with additional pin counts of 26, 32, and 44 and unshielded power connectors to help meet specific requirements.

Top 10 connectors for industrial and mil/aero applications

Erni’s MicroSpeed connectors (Source: Erni)

MicroSpeed connectors feature a compact size, along with high vibration resistance, good processability, and robustness. Along with blind-mate variants, these connectors also offer stack heights from 5 to 20 mm and an operating temperature range of –55˚C to 125˚C.

With the high transmission rate of up to 25 Gbit/s and “outstanding” signal integrity, reliability, and robustness, the MicroSpeed connectors can be used in data and telecommunications as well as medical and industrial automation applications, said the company.

MicroSpeed signal connectors feature double-sided female contacts with a wide, uniformly smooth surface and wipe length of 1.5 mm. A large capture range of 0.85 mm (blind-mate version) with a 1.0-mm pitch ensures safe and reliable mating with high contact integrity.

The unshielded power connectors with up to 44 contacts (one- or two-row) allow a cost-efficient and compact power supply up to 15 A with high current-carrying capacity and higher operating voltages thanks to variable contact spacing and selective assembly, said the company.

All new connectors meet the requirements of modern automated component insertion machines. SMT coplanarity is 100% guaranteed and specified at less than 0.10 mm for all contacts. Other features include a polarized mating face, reverse-polarity protection, and enlarged guides to accommodate the mating contact, making them suitable for compact IoT, IIoT, and hard-to-reach automation devices.

Space savings is a big challenge in industrial applications. Connector makers must miniaturize designs without losing performance. Harwin has designed its Archer .8 series of compact, high-pin–count, 0.8-mm–pitch mezzanine connectors for high-density industrial systems.

With a 5-mm stack height, these dual-row 0.8-mm–pitch board-to-board connectors target applications in which space and cost are equally important. These include factory automation and environmental monitoring equipment, smart meters, point-of-sales units, servers/data center hardware, and battery management systems in electric vehicles (EVs).

The Archer .8 connectors feature phosphor bronze contacts, which can carry a current of 0.5 A each. They are available in a range of pin counts — 30, 40, 60, 80, 100, and 120 — to meet a variety of requirements. The operating temperature range is –40˚C to 125˚C.

The connectors also feature polarization, which helps with orientation and alignment and prevents mis-mating, while shrouded housings protect contacts from accidental damage, said the company. The connectors are supplied in tape-and-reel packaging, with locating pegs fitted to facilitate automated assembly processes.

Harwin has also raised the power levels of its product portfolio with the introduction of the Kona series 8.5-mm–pitch power connectors. The contacts can deliver 60 A of current. “This means that applications such as battery charging can be addressed without having to split the current across multiple contacts,” said the company. Key applications include EV battery monitoring/management, power control systems, robotic drives, servo controls, UAVs, and satellites.

Top 10 connectors for industrial and mil/aero applications

Harwin’s Kona series power connectors (Source: Harwin)

Kona contacts are arranged in a single row, with two-, three-, and four-contact versions available. Thanks to the higher current-carrying capacity, fewer contacts are needed to deliver the current, which reduces PCB space. The mating pair consists of a male vertical through-board connector with board-mount fixings, plus a female cable connector, which will accommodate 8-AWG cables.

The connectors feature the company’s unique mate-before-lock mechanism, which prevents any damage occurring during the locking process, ensuring the mating elements are fully aligned first. Thanks to shrouding on each contact and a fully polarized construction, mis-mating is also prevented. In addition, a contact indicator ensures that the connector elements are correctly oriented.

With a maximum voltage rating of 3 kV and a working temperature ranging from –65˚C to 150˚C, Kona connectors are suited for demanding environments. They can handle vibrational forces of 20 G for a period of 12 hours and have a 250-mating–cycle lifespan. The six-finger beryllium copper contacts prevent any interruption in connectivity.

Another 60-A design is a high-safety connector system from Molex. Designed to safely de-energize industrial machines and equipment, Molex has added a 60-A–rated version to its Woodhead ArcArrest switch-rated connector system product line. The 60-A UL 2682 power connector joins the 30-A–rated ArcArrest family that protects machine operators at food and beverage, construction, and industrial companies, particularly in wet or harsh environments. Switch-rated connectors listed under UL 2682 can operate as switches and be used to disconnect loads while energized.

Top 10 connectors for industrial and mil/aero applications

Molex’s ArcArrest connector (Source: Molex)

The ArcArrest 60-A system, which combines a plug, receptacle, and switch, completely shields users, as the plug maintains a connection with the receptacle during operation, said Molex. A twisting motion must be applied to remove the plug after the circuit has been interrupted.

Providing protection from arcing energy thanks to maintaining the plug connection during connect/disconnect, the switch-rated connector system offers visual proof that power has been removed when the plug and receptacle are separated. It also provides line-of-sight disconnect, as required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provisions for fast OSHA lock-out/tag-out compliance.

Electrical connectors must meet stringent standards for safety while ensuring watertight connection to eliminate or reduce the risk of electrical shocks, short-circuits, and electrical fires in high-risk environments such as food and beverage, said Molex. The new connector system is rated Type 4X and IP69K, eliminating the ingress of dust and water.

In addition, critical components are manufactured from engineered thermoplastics. The power connectors also feature spring-loaded, silver-alloy contacts and laser labeling.

Military/aerospace connectors

A big demand driver in both industrial and mil/aero applications is the need to reduce installation time in the field, along with the requirement to withstand demanding environments. Carlisle Interconnect Technologies (CarlisleIT), a division of Carlisle Companies Inc., has launched a new line of pre-tinned and embossed SMP and SMPM connectors for PCB applications that reduces cost and installation time while increasing reliability in the space and military and defense markets.

These pre-tinned connectors prevent corrosion and oxidization while enabling faster installation and are suited for high-performance microwave systems in which size and weight are primary concerns.

The connectors incorporate the company’s new embossed feature that allows gases to escape when high heat is applied during the wave-solder process, which prevents the rapid expansion of trapped moisture that can physically damage the component. This defect, known as the “popcorn effect,” said CarlisleIT, is difficult to recognize and can cause failure early in the product life cycle.

With the ability to tolerate radial and axial misalignment, these SMP and SMPM connectors can withstand multiple engagement/disengagement cycles without degradation in electrical performance, making them suited for demanding applications and environments. Key features include a frequency range of DC — 40 GHz (SMP) and DC — 65 GHz (SMPM), 50-Ω impedance, an interface per MIL-STD-348, and a blind-mate configuration.

Modular rectangular connectors are making inroads in the aerospace industry, which has traditionally used circular connectors as the primary interconnect. To meet the growing demand, Cinch Connectivity Solutions, a Bel group company, recently introduced the C-ENX modular rectangle connector line for aerospace applications. The line offers a range of shells, inserts, and contacts for in-cabin interconnectivity. The main applications include routing power, signal, and data for avionic systems.

Designed to meet the requirements of ARINC 800 and European Standard EN 4644, the C-ENX rectangular connector family provides a reduction in weight and size over the circular connectors currently used by the aerospace industry, which translates directly to operational cost savings over the lifetime of the aircraft, said the company.

“Every ounce of weight in an aircraft represents an operational cost of approximately $5,000 over the lifetime of the aircraft,” said Brad Taras, Bel’s product manager. “The C-ENX connector line provides a slim, completely modular, and expandable solution that reduces size and weight while increasing ease of use, which will deliver immediate and significant gains to aerospace manufacturers.”

In addition to offering higher pin density and lower weight, the C-ENX design allows for blind mating needed for line-replaceable modules and units. The C-ENX line is available in single-, double-, triple-, and quadruple-cavity outlines for panel-mount-to-cable, cable-to-cable, floating-mount, and panel-mount-to-panel-mount configurations.

The modular design is comprised of shells, inserts, and contacts with various options available to meet a variety of aerospace applications. The shells use the same panel cutouts throughout the product offering. The modular design also enables manufacturers to outsource more of the cable assembly or incorporate changes later in the design cycle, which supports simpler maintenance and more efficient upgrades, said the company.

Also delivering greater options is a portfolio extension from Fischer Connectors. The company expanded its UltiMate flagship series of ultra-rugged and harsh-environment connectors with two new products. They include the Fischer UltiMate 80, a field-ready NATO STANAG 4695-compatible connector, and a standard Fischer UltiMate connector available in size 15 with various pin layouts of up to 27 signal and power contacts.

Top 10 connectors for industrial and mil/aero applications

Fischer’s UltiMate series connectors (Source: Fischer Connectors)

The Fischer UltiMate 80 connector, intermateable with other NATO STANAG 4695 connectors, is available in two layouts featuring six or seven signal and power contacts (size 08) with up to AWG 22. The lightweight (2.7 g) and IP68-sealed connectors target harsh environments, particularly in defense and security applications and soldier-modernization programs. The connector meets MIL-STD-810 and MIL-STD-202.

The UltiMate 80 connector offers high resistance to corrosion (500-hour salt mist), high shock (100 G) and vibration (random vibration testing to 7.7 Grms), up to 10,000 mating cycles for the plug/5,000 for the receptacle, and cable-bending resistance of ±45˚ for 5,000 cycles. The operating temperature range is –55˚C to 135˚C. The connector is available as a pre-cabled plug and a pre-cabled and/or panel receptacle. It provides triple key coding and is rated for IP68 at a depth of 2 meters and duration of 24 hours.

The Fischer UltiMate connector in size 15 meets special power and high-speed data requirements with a variety of contact layouts (2, 4, 8, 4 + 12, or 27 signal and power contacts).

The UltiMate Series connectors are used in field operations in extreme environments. Environmentally sealed to resist extreme shocks and vibrations, these connectors are suited to interconnect devices, equipment, hubs, and embedded electronic systems in defense and security, industrial, instrumentation, marine and underwater, and robotics and unmanned vehicle applications.

Designed especially for military and security applications, ODU’s AMC family of metal circular connectors are designed to operate in extreme field conditions. The company recently expanded the connector line with the introduction of the ODU AMC Series T connector, which offers three locking variants: push-pull, breakaway, and screw locking.

Top 10 connectors for industrial and mil/aero applications

ODU’s AMC Series T connectors (Source: ODU)

The AMC T series connectors are available in two sizes, and the cable connection can be created as a molded variant or with standard MIL backshells. They feature a built-in trapezoidal thread with serration for additional safety. Customers can choose the interlock type, size, cable connection, insert, and number of contacts to meet specific requirements.

These connectors offer high vibration resistance and are waterproof to MIL standard 810 (protection class IP68). They feature a sealed mechanical area for complete protection and are impervious to water, dirt, and dust. The operating temperature range is –65˚C to 175˚C.

Because the individual contacts can be replaced quickly, the AMC Series T is particularly suitable for use in military, security, and communication technology, as well as for civilian applications such as heavy construction machinery and agricultural vehicles. The series is available as a completely assembled system.

TE Connectivity (TE) continues to expand its family of rugged, high-speed Mezalok mezzanine connectors to support the demand for higher data rates. Delivering improved processing power in military electronics, the company increased the Mezalok mezzanine connector family’s data rates up to 32+ Gbits/s for embedded computing in applications such as signal intelligence, radar, communications, and surveillance.

Top 10 connectors for industrial and mil/aero applications

TE Connectivity’s Mezalok connectors (Source: TE Connectivity)

Mezzanine cards are often used to provide additional functionality and processing capability within a small form factor, said TE. Typical applications include application-specific high-speed input/output protocols, graphics, memory, and digital signal processing.

The Mezalok mezzanine connectors more than double the speed and durability of competing technology and provide excellent signal integrity up to 32+ Gbits/s, according to the company, making it well-suited for military and commercial aerospace applications.

The mezzanine connectors come in 60, 114, and 320 positions (114-position is the XMC 2.0 standard) and stack heights of 10, 12, 15, 17, and 18 mm. They offer thermal stability up to 2,000 thermal shock cycles and are shock- and vibration-resistant, per VITA 47 and 72 HALT test requirements.

The connectors are constructed from LCP plastic housings that provide thermal stability and low outgassing. The ball-grid-array (BGA) board attachment supports standard surface-mount processing. It also offers a protected socket end for blind mateability. Low-extraction–force product lines are expected to launch in summer 2021.

Most recently, TE Connectivity added low-extraction–force versions to the Mezalok family. The Mezalok High-Speed Low-Force (HSLF) XMC connectors also support data-rate speeds up to 32+ Gbits/s for improved signal processing on embedded computing applications. These are low-force connectors that offer an unmating force reduction of 47% and a mating force reduction of 32%. The connectors use a BGA PCB surface-mount attachment.

The enhanced HSLF Mezalok connector is designed for mezzanine applications and meets legacy Mezalok high-speed connector qualifications. They also meet the same rugged standards as VITA 47 and VITA 72.

The HSLF Mezalok connectors with a rugged dual-point contact system feature a wide operating temperature range and excellent thermal stability with a VITA 42.3 pinout, said the company, and are suited for aerospace, ground vehicle, marine, and missile defense applications.

The connector family is available in 60, 114, and 320 positions with stack heights of 10, 12, 17, and 18 mm. The 114-position connector is compliant to VITA 61 standards, and additional positions and stack heights are available.

about Amphenol Industrial Operations
ERNI Electronics
Fischer Connectors
Harwin USA
Molex
TE Connectivity