Connectors at Work: Insulator Materials

The material used in a connector design significantly impacts its overall performance. Bob Stanton of Omnetics takes a look at how insulator materials affect connectors at work.

 

insulator-materials-300x300The choice of the material of which a connector is made can greatly affect reliability and performance, and often depends on the environment and application in which the connector is being used. For example, the micro and nano connectors pictured here could be built with insulators made of polyphenylene sulphide (PPS), liquid crystal polymer (LCP), or poly ether ether ketone (PEEK). Each material has benefits and each can have potential problems, depending on the application.

In one case, PPS can be filled with strengthening crystals and achieve lower-cost shapes, but it is somewhat easily dissolved when exposed to petroleum. LCP is very often used and allows for strong wall structures in micro and nano sizes but does not bond with certain polymers. PEEK is often preferred for medical products, because of molecular surface quality, and while strong, it becomes brittle in very thin layers. It is also the most expensive. All materials can handle higher temperatures, with different additives.

Additional considerations are needed with higher-speed miniaturized connectors designed for highly portable applications, such as Future Soldier and unmanned aircraft systems. These connectors must be small, lightweight, and often water-tight. To meet these needs, sealed USB 3.0 connectors use elastomeric silicone seal rings to clamp around the connector face and at the panel interface.

Generally, material selection can be tricky, but one good solution is to discuss your needs with the connector materials specialist at your interconnect supplier’s design center. Application-specific connector engineers can offer significant help in reducing time to market and improving performance and reliability.

Bob Stanton is technology director at Omnetics Connector Corp.

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