Read our article about Waterproof connectors for the Home A/V and super yacht world from In2Connect UK Ltd and Conec, written for "Hidden Wires" the UK and European custom install home automation and home entertainment trade magazine.
Product Article: Waterproof Connectors (5/11/2012)
By Bob Hart, In2Connect UK
Outdoor or wet indoor environments can destroy electronic equipment. The ubiquitous HD15 VGA D-sub connector was never intended to withstand contaminants such as water and dust, but client demand for A/V everywhere is carrying such connectors into less tolerant environments. So what connectors can you use for installations in saunas, wet rooms, indoor and outdoor poolsides, bathrooms, outdoor CCTV and security systems or even superyachts - where anything from moisture through to water deluge might be encountered?
Waterproofing of components is arguably the first major add-on to the existing features of an indoor interconnect, and it is clear that most installers don't want to reinvent interconnects, they want manufacturers to adapt products that they're already well used to.
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) code
Weather-protected, weather-resistant, weatherproof, all-weather, water-resistant, waterproof - what's the difference? For the systems integrator, these terms could easily be interchangeable or confusing, so it's best to refer to the IEC code. The ingress protection (or IP) code defined in IEC's international standard 60529 classifies the level of protection provided against the intrusion of solid objects, dust, water, and accidental contact.
The first digit of an IEC IP rating indicates the level of protection the enclosure (connector) provides against access to hazardous parts and the ingress of solid foreign objects. The second indicates equipment protection levels inside the enclosure against harmful water ingression. Breaking down an IP67 rating then, the '6' indicates total protection against dust ingress and complete protection against electrical contact. The '7' means protection against the effect of immersion between 15cm and 1m.
IP68 and 69 connectors can offer protection against longer periods of immersion under pressure - of course this is always dependant upon proper installation following manufacturer's guidelines, but even then, we're not talking continuous immersion at any great depth, although the UTS Hi seal connector is claimed to ensure stable characteristics on immersion at a depth of 10m and during high-pressure cleaning at up to 140 bar.
To achieve IP67 or higher, most protected connector designs work on the same principle as the waterproof D-sub connector where the aim has been to reduce the number of components that make up the connector, thus removing all possible leakage paths. Manufacturers also tend to add a mounting plate with a silicone O-ring to create a watertight seal at the panel interface and backpotted screw machined contacts to prevent water ingress through the connector body.
Data and A/V Connectors for Marine Environments
The use of USB, FireWire and HDMI connectors has grown considerably and is no longer limited to just the home entertainment market. These interfaces are being found more and more in audio systems that require computer-based equipment, such as superyachts and commercial shipping.
Entertainment systems on the external decks are one of the greatest sound and lighting challenges on a boat. To offer suitable water resistant solutions, connector manufacturers have extended their offerings to encompass D-subs, RJ45 for Ethernet, USB 2.0, M12 circular sensor and actuator connectors, fibre optic LC (ODVA), FireWire and HDMI. Applications include indoor and outdoor on-board cinema, IT, communication, security, lighting and automation systems on luxury motor boats, sailing ships and super yachts; and onboard waterproof TVs or on-board digital signage and advertising systems for cruise ships, ferries and public service vessels.
Basically, the discerning yacht owner wants to be as connected at sea as they are in their office, so given the huge expense of cabling large yachts and cruise liners, optical fibre cable with its inherent EMC resistance and super-wide bandwidth (for future proofing) is increasingly being used.
Conec's IP protected dual LC interface is ideal for use in deck or bridge situations. The IP67-rated LC product family features a 1/6th turn bayonet coupling for fast and secure mate/unmate, even with gloved hands. To optimise chemical resistance, UV resistance, and tolerance to physical abuse, In2Connect offer these connectors in two different housing materials: black plastic and nickel-plated, zinc die-cast. All connectors are duplex LC type, in single-mode, multi-mode, and APC types. The product line includes panel-mounted receptacles, mating plugs, and protective caps. Pre-assembled jumper cables including cables suitable for outdoor use and direct burial, in standard lengths from 1 metre to 300 metres are also available.
Connectors for all Weather Conditions
For content that needs to be clearly displayed to a large audience over a long viewing distance in all weather conditions as in video walls, there is really only one suitable choice and that is LED-based display technology. Connectors such as In2Connect's solder bucket 'pintail' SP13 and SP21 ranges rated IP68 are ideal for interconnecting video screens. We have worked directly with the manufacturer to produce a connector that doesn't compromise electrical and mechanical properties whilst being competitively priced. The connector bodies are moulded from glass-filled nylon and are available in free plug, cable end receptacle and fixed jam nut receptacle formats, all with dust caps to suit.
Plug and socket can have either male or female solder bucket contacts factory-fitted to allow design flexibility and polarisation. They were designed to be lightweight, corrosion resistant and RoHS compliant with additional improved product features over competitive products such as planform contact identification by raised numbering for easy identification of circuits to save time and money when soldering or repairing incoming cables. Contacts are solder cup and are an integral part of the insulator, resulting in fewer piece parts or crimp contacts to lose and no need for expensive crimp tools.
To simplify the field assembly process, the dual O ring sealing means that the integral backshell can be easily removed in two sections to allow accurate soldering of the incoming cable. The threaded bodies provide a quick and easy connection to reduce installation and service time and have inbuilt key/keyway orientation with good cable waterproofing and retention by virtue of a rear compression nut.
Sealed Mini-USB 2.0 Connectors
Conec now offer sealed Mini-USB 2.0 connectors. These Mini-USB 2.0 Type B watertight connectors are integrated into a black plastic housing with a bayonet locking feature for harsh environmental applications. A quick-connect bayonet locking mechanism provides audible and noticeable feedback to reassure the user that an IP67 watertight connection is made. No further mounting tool is required to make this simple, fast and robust connection.
The range includes a panel receptacle which may be PCB-mounted or used with a flex circuit. The overall dimensions are compact and require only a 12mm diameter panel cut-out. The pre-terminated patch cables with an over-moulded IP67 Mini USB Type B plug and an over-moulded USB Type-A plug are available in 2mm, 3mm and 5mm lengths. Protective covers are available to maintain IP67 protection when the connectors are not mated.
M12 connectors are waterproof and Conec M12x1 X-coded connectors have been developed for transmission technology according to CAT6A and 500MHz/10Gb, and are standardised to IEC 61076-2-109. These X-code connectors have 4 shielded pairs, for reliable high speed data transfer in such applications as vision systems and other high-speed data transfer, plus industrial-grade materials for harsh environments, all in the small M12 connector.
Waterproof RJ45 Connectors
D-sub and circular multipin in/out connectors are relatively chunky with or without additional protection, but the transition of RJ45, USB, FireWire and optical fibre to less kind environments has required the application of the type of reinforcement associated with MIL-C circular connectors. For Ethernet, the industry has gravitated toward an RJ45 connector type with a bayonet latching or screw-threaded coupling mechanism according to user choice.
The cost to the installer of system failure due to water ingress can be high in terms of money, time and reputation. It is no good just using waterproof components such as displays, loudspeakers, lighting, cameras, controllers etc - the cables and connectors tying it all together must also be of the right specification in order to ensure a reliable and long-lasting installation.
In2Connect stocks waterproof connectors from Conxall, Neutrik, Conec, Weipu, EDAC and many other manufacturers with the aim of making it easier for integrators and specifiers to save both time and effort in finding the right waterproof connector system for a given application.
Bob Hart is a Director of In2Connect UK Ltd, the UK's prime source for PCB and backplane, D-sub, rectangular and multiway circular connectors, cable assemblies and wire harnesses.www.in2connect.uk.com