Cord Connector Material Selection for Harsh Environments

For companies operating in harsh environments – like food processors – special attention must be paid to the potential impact of the environment on electrical connections. To ensure integrity of the electrical connection and to guard against premature failure, food processors must insist upon connectors made from specific materials and should seek out connector manufacturers that can support a variety of materials in standard and custom configurations.

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Cord Connector Material Selection

Cord connectors and cable grips (also known as cable glands) provide the means for passing cord or cable into an enclosure, through a bulkhead or into a control device such as a switch or panel. These types of connectors prevent cable pull-out or premature fatigue because they secure the cable where it enters the enclosure – or where it terminates into a hardwired application. Cord connectors can be manufactured out of several different types of material. Aluminum, steel, and nylon are often used for these connectors, but for food processing applications those materials do not offer the needed level of corrosion resistance. Materials of construction that are best suited for use in food processing facilities include stainless steel, Valox, and nickel-plated aluminum.

The following descriptions of stainless steel, Valox, and nickel-plated aluminum are provided to help you in selecting which material might be best suited to your particular needs.

Stainless Steel

  • Offers exceptional tensile strength which provides the highest levels of durability in severely corrosive environments filled with acids, chemicals, or chlorine-bearing agents
  • Durable, low-maintenance materials with excellent fatigue and impact resistance
  • Operating temperatures of -60°F to +1000°F
  • Resists rust and most other forms of corrosion
  • Cleanable and hygienic due to smooth and minimally porous surface
  • Retains its strength even in high temperatures

Valox

  • Provides superior corrosion resistance and is suitable for use in FDA-mandated washdown environments
  • Non-hydroscopic so it won’t absorb moisture
  • Health-care grades meet FDA specifications for food contact
  • Excellent chemical and high-heat resistance
  • Operating temperatures of -40°F to +284°F
  • Impact-resistant material

Nickel-Plated Aluminum

  • Non-toxic nature makes it specifically suitable for all types of food handling equipment where corrosion and wear resistance is required
  • Prevents rusting by moisture and high humidity
  • Resists corrosion by many alkalis and weak acids
  • Operating temperatures of -40°F to +500°F
  • A lightweight, low-cost alternative to stainless steel

With the extensive use of automated equipment and machinery in food processing facilities, top concerns must be placed on the integrity of sensor and control component connectors. Materials used for molding both cable and connectors include specialized thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), polyurethanes (PUR), and silicone.

TPE

  • Excellent resistance to oils, fats, fruits, juices, vegetables, dairy products, tomatoes, wine and vinegar
  • Durable with excellent abrasion resistance
  • Excellent for use in submerged water or in applications with constant bending and flexing
  • Operating temperatures of -60°F to +275°F
  • Excellent resistance to food industry chemicals like chlorinated alkaline cleaners, detergents, sanitizers, or lubricants

PUR

  • Excellent resistance to oils, fats, fruits, juices, vegetables, dairy products, tomatoes, wine, and vinegar
  • Good for use in cold-temperature and freezer applications
  • Excellent abrasion resistance for high-abuse areas
  • Operating temperatures of -40°F to +176°F
  • Good resistance to food industry soils and chemicals
  • 1200 PSI washdown-rated

Silicone

  • Best used in high-temperature applications or where there are extreme temperature changes
  • Resistant to high molecular oils, fats from vegetables and animals, diluted acids, and lye
  • Excellent for use in cold-temperature and freezer applications
  • Operating temperatures of -58°F to +356°F
  • Good abrasion resistance

The hardware on molded connectors – such as coupling nuts, shells, couplers, and adapters – can also be manufactured in a variety of materials to meet the environmental concerns of food processors. The following materials of construction are available:

Stainless Steel

  • Offers exceptional tensile strength which provides the highest levels of durability in severely corrosive environments filled with acids, chemicals, or chlorine-bearing agents
  • Durable, low-maintenance materials with excellent fatigue and impact resistance
  • Operating temperatures of -60°F to +1000°F
  • Resists rust and most other forms of corrosion
  • Cleanable and hygienic due to smooth and minimally porous surface
  • Retains its strength even in high temperatures

PEEK Polymers

  • Conforms to FDA requirements and may be safely used for food contact
  • Outperforms metals in many aggressive environments and is a cost-effective alternative to stainless steel
  • Excellent resistance to a wide range of chemicals including common solvents, acids, bases, and salts
  • Scratch-resistant with outstanding wear resistance
  • Ideally suited for continuous use in high temperatures up to +482°F
  • Can be used in steam or high water pressure applications

Non-Metallic (e.g. Delrin)

  • FDA-approved for use in the food industry
  • Lightweight with high fatigue endurance
  • High tensile strength and toughness for excellent durability and impact resistance
  • Very low moisture absorption
  • Operating temperatures of -40°F to +290°F
  • Resistant to a wide range of chemicals including hydrocarbons, fuels, solvents, and neutral chemicals

Nickel-Plated Brass

  • Nickel plating improves appearance, hardness, and long-term wear to prevent pitting and corrosion
  • Rated for up to 150 PSI
  • Resistant to salt water, weak acids and alkalis, alcohol, esters, ketones, ether, and mineral-animal and vegetable oils
  • Brass is rustproof
  • Provides superior protection against corrosion
  • Operating temperatures -40°F to +212°F

Material descriptions are often accompanied by an IP rating. These ratings are defined by International Standard IEC, which classifies the level of protection that enclosures of electrical equipment have against intrusions of foreign bodies and water. There are four IP ratings that are most crucial to the food processing industry: IP 65, IP 66, IP 67, IP 68:

  • IP 65 means totally protected against dust (dust-tight) and protected against low-pressure jets of water from any direction of a nozzle.
  • IP 66 means totally protected against dust (dust-tight) and protected against high-pressure (powerful) jets of water from any direction.
  • IP 67 means totally protected against dust (dust-tight) and protected against the effects of temporary immersion in water between 15cm and 1m.
  • IP 68 means totally protected against dust (dust-tight) and protected against long periods of immersion in water under pressure or complete and continuous immersion in water (water-tight).

Valox is a registered trademark of GE Plastics; Delrin is a registered trademark of DuPont.

This article was contributed by Remke Industries.

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