Expanding the application of your connector products for global markets doesn’t have to be complex. This roadmap of UL certification considerations will help you simplify the process.
By Son Do, Staff Engineer, and Chuck Kurten, Primary Designated Engineer, UL
At first glance, navigating the vast connector market can be intimidating. With hundreds of different types of electrical connectors designed to fulfill myriad application requirements, selecting the right connector for the right product, system, and market can seem confusing. In essence, the end goal is simple: create success for yourself and your customers by optimizing the reach of your connectors. While getting to that point may seem complex, you can simplify the process by relying on an easy roadmap of certification options that will allow you to better understand how to expand the application of your connector products around the world.
Certification options provide end-product value by streamlining the certification process. Understanding this process can help you reduce cost and time to market, and it will enable you to easily identify and understand which markets are potentially available to you. Every good roadmap has to start somewhere, so let’s take a step back to address the few things you should always consider before selecting a connector for a given application.
Where to Start
Although it may seem trivial at times, the best place to start is by asking, “What is the end-product?” Connectors can be found in just about every piece of electrical equipment you can imagine. Everything from your cell phone, coffee maker, washing machine, and even electric vehicles, uses connectors.
With such broad usage, it’s best to start with a particular application.
To illustrate, let’s use a washing machine as an example. The process begins by determining the applicable certification standard(s). In this example, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) identifies UL 2157 as the applicable safety standard for a washing machine.
The next step is to review the UL 2157 standard to identify the applicable connector requirements. In some instances, an end-product standard may not have any identified connector requirements. If you find yourself in such a situation, all end-product equipment requires minimum insulating material properties and electrical spacing.
Drilling down further within the particular application (i.e., washing machines), the specific location of the connector will influence its function and design. Points to consider include:
- Where is it located?
- Will it only be installed in the factory?
- Or will it be field-installable as well?
- Is it internal or external to the product?
- Is it in the power circuit, a signaling circuit, or both?
- How are the electrical connections made?
- Are the connections soldered, crimped, or insulation displacement?
- What type of insulated conductor and size (AWG) is used?
- Will these connectors be subjected to environmental conditions, such as rain, snow, sleet, or dust?
- Are they located in an area within the equipment that includes such factors as vibration?
All these questions have a direct impact on the type, profile, size (number of conductors/connections), and electrical rating (voltage and current rating) of a particular connector design. The answers to the questions will help determine which standards should be used for the certification of connectors. The following sections present the scope of specific standards used for connector certification.
UL 1977 – Basic Connector Standard
As the most widely applicable UL standard for connectors, UL 1977, the Standard for Component Connectors for Use in Data, Signal, Control and Power Applications, was developed as a broad-based set of requirements for connectors in end-product applications where connector requirements are not specifically addressed.
This standard is not intended for a particular end-product application, such as a laptop or an industrial control panel. Instead, it was created to provide a minimum level of safety, which includes the connector’s insulating material properties (i.e., flame rating), current carrying part material, and electrical spacing between live parts, opposite polarity, and dead-metal. Connectors covered under the scope of the UL 1977 standard are only intended for factory installation by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Typical uses for connectors covered by this standard include household equipment, such as washing machines and blenders, as well as PC boards and microprocessors, regardless of whether the application is residential, commercial, or industrial equipment.
UL 2238 – Industrial Control and Signal Connection
With a more targeted focus, UL 2238, the Standard for Cable Assemblies and Fittings for Industrial Control and Signal Distribution, is applicable when connectors will be used in an industrial environment to distribute the control signals to remote proximity switches or other power circuit device applications. These connectors are installed in or with industrial machinery equipment and may also be certified for field wiring. Industrial machinery of this nature is usually very complex, and it can be found in food and beverage packaging and other automated equipment applications. By design, these connectors are intended to foster and support plug-and-play type equipment applications. Connectors certified to this standard reduce the amount of testing necessary to certify the industrial machinery since they have already been evaluated. This reduces cost and time to market for the industrial equipment.
UL 2237 – Industrial Machinery Power Connections
Finally, UL 2237, the Outline of Investigation for Multi-Point Interconnection Power Cable Assemblies for Industrial Machinery, is arguably the most specific standard. Connectors covered under the scope of this standard are intended to distribute power to branch circuits of industrial machinery, including motor branch circuits in accordance with NFPA 79.
Connectors of this type are installed in industrial machinery equipment, and are typically used in conveyor belt motors or other traction motor applications. Connectors evaluated to this standard are subjected to rigorous testing, including short-circuit testing, and must meet a minimum 5kA short-circuit current rating (SCCR) rating. Higher short-circuit ratings are also permitted.
Options for Global Market Access
In addition to these UL standards, which cover the U.S. market, UL provides evaluations to other North American standards, as well as offers various certification levels that provide a path to attain global market access. Selecting the best option can open new opportunities and markets for your connectors.
For the Canadian market, UL provides testing and product certification to the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) standard C22.2 No. 182.3: Special Use Attachment Plugs, Receptacles, and Connectors. UL also offers Canadian certification marks, which are often applied in conjunction with UL’s traditional certification mark offering in the U.S. This path is built on the philosophy of one-stop testing. This program enables connector manufacturers to extend product certification beyond the U.S. to the entire North American market.
For other geographic locations that use IEC standards, UL offers a test report, CB certificate, and UL-EU mark to IEC 61984: Connectors – Safety Requirements and Tests. Much like UL 1977, the IEC 61984 standard is a broad-based standard. The scope of the IEC 61984 standard covers a wide variety of connectors for which no detailed specifications (DS) exist or the end-product IEC standard already makes a direct reference to it. In countries that use the IEC 61984 standard for product certification, a certificate to demonstrate product compliance is required. UL makes connector manufacturer’s certificates available online through its website.
For more information about connector standards and how UL can help improve market access with a full suite of global options, you can watch our webinar, “Roadmap to Understanding Connector Certification Levels”, or contact us for additional details at 877-UL-HELPS, www.ul.com, or IndustrialQuote@ul.com.