“Were you made for me?” – Choosing the right connector spec.

14/09/2015

Connectors come in all shapes and sizes depending on environment and application. There are literally thousands of options, sometimes for the same job. Inevitably, this can cause a lot of confusion. To make sure you find the best product for every job, there are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before making a purchase. Here Amy Wells, business development manager at Electroustic poses the questions you need to be asking when specifying a connector.

ELE060First things first, size matters. Do you know the physical size of the connector you need, or are you limited in space and height by the job? Hundreds of connectors are used in wire looms; perhaps even thousands if these are part of an automated manufacturing line. In each case, the requisite space needs to be analysed and the correct connector specifications chosen. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how often people come a cropper. 

The next question you need to be asking yourself is how many poles the connector needs.

Different applications require connectors with different poles. Future-proofing your choice can be a good idea, especially for a new product. So it’s worth considering whether you should go for more poles than originally required.

Do you know how many mating cycles the connector needs be able to make? Despite what you might think, mating cycles refer to the number of connection or disconnection operations the connector can withstand, while still meeting the specifications for maximum resistance and pull force. Every connector has an expected number of cycles before efficiency is compromised and the connector needs replacing.

This brings us nicely onto the proper protection. Connectors may be susceptible to ingress of foreign materials, such as moisture or dust. Connector protection is provided by the housing and the seal. The IP standard rating system defines the degree of protection provided. The first digit defines the protection against the ingress of dust particles; the second digit defines the protection against the ingress of water. Choosing the right connector for the job is key.

One of the most important factors is knowing what applications and environment a connector will be operating in – we can’t stress that enough. Electromagnetic radiation can interfere with electrical equipment. In applications where electromagnetic radiation is likely to be higher than usual or where operations are critical, connectors need to have electromagnetic fields (EMF) shielding.

Similarly, connectors used in explosive environments must be ATEX certified and components used in military applications need to have Mil-Spec to ensure the highest levels of performance. 

Furthermore, connectors in particularly harsh environments – like those in the oil and gas industry – need to be up for the job at hand. Knowing the minimum and maximum operating temperature is essential for specifying a rugged connector that meets the temperature range set by the application.

It’s not just the connector’s specs you have to be aware of when planning a job. Lead times from manufacturer to supplier can be lengthy, running from anywhere between four to sixteen weeks. It’s no good specifying a part that has a typical 16 week lead time if it will hold up the production process. To combat this potential issue, a good distributor will always hold a substantial amount of stock on the shelf.

Speaking of distributors, they will also be able to advise you on cost effectiveness.  When crafting wire looms, connectors are ordered in bulk, with the resultant savings passed on to the customer. However, if you need just one connector – perhaps if it’s a specialist part – you won’t be quite as lucky. A good working relationship with an experienced distributor can result in alternatives being sourced for a fraction of the price.  

Finally, as any lifestyle magazine will tell you, compatibility is paramount. If you’re retrofitting new connectors to old or simply mating two together in a loom, they need to be intermateable. If not, you risk damage to the system and or data/power loss.


Engineering is no longer a man’s world!

24/08/2015

Amy Wells, business development manager of specialist industrial connectors Electroustic compares unusual roles women have played in the past with the current struggle to get more women into science and engineering.

Amy Wells

Amy Wells

Women’s roles throughout history have varied dramatically from one civilisation to the next. For Britain, the sharply defined domestic role of women lay relatively untouched from the Middle Ages right through to the end of the Victorian era and beyond. But when we look further into history, gender roles were not so sharply defined.

Take the Viking era as an example. Historical attestations show that whilst it was rare for women to take part in warfare, the few that did take up arms were given legendary status as a shieldmaiden, a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior amongst Viking men. Over 1250 years ago, these rare women were considered to be exceptional and highly respected figures. Through positive portrayal in modern film and literature, they continue to capture attention and admiration today. 

In recent years, there has been a plethora of media coverage and awareness campaigns to encourage and praise the small number of women working in the engineering industry. As a result, female engineers are finally starting to be held in high regard.

A number of recently launched initiatives such as the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and the Women in Science and Engineering campaign (WISE) suggest that the engineering industry is successfully bridging the gender gap. Yet still, only six per cent of Britain’s engineering workforce is female.

There are a myriad of barriers preventing women from entering the engineering sector and inevitably, the gender stereotype remains a large factor. >From a young age, gender conditioning teaches us that hands-on, practical activities like LEGO and Meccano are not for girls. So it comes as no surprise that just 20 per cent of all A-level physics students are girls and that nearly half of UK state schools do not send a single girl on to study higher education physics at college or sixth form.

Perhaps more worryingly, even women who are currently working as engineers have acknowledged the gender gap associated with the industry. Results from the British Engineering and Manufacturing Census state that 75 per cent of the 300 female engineers surveyed still consider engineering to be a ‘male career’.

Although small in numbers, there is an army of proud and exceptional female engineers in Britain. In fact, 98 per cent of female engineers consider their job to be rewarding. These engineering women have built a strong network of support to praise and encourage women in industry. Launched in 2014, The National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) celebrates the achievements of female engineers across the country. Similarly, the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) presents the annual Young Woman Engineer Award to acknowledge the work of exceptional female engineers under 35.

Much like the legendary shieldmaidens of the Viking era, successful female engineers are held in high regard beside their male counterparts. Industry awards and increased media coverage have elevated the importance of the ‘female engineer’ to nationally recognised status, encouraging ambitious young women to conquer the engineering stereotype – perhaps with less pillaging and more programming.