How to Specify a Custom Hermetic Connector Solution
In equipment destined for the extreme conditions of aerospace, military, medical, and other critical markets, sealing technologies can impact the performance of not just a single connector but an entire system. Sometimes a custom connector with a hermetic seal is the best solution.
Commercial aviation and military aircraft markets are undergoing a period of great innovation as electrification, autonomy, and other advanced technologies influence future design. In the years to come, commercial space travel and personal aircraft will diversify flight technologies beyond humanity’s wildest dreams. These amazing capabilities depend on high-speed, high-reliability components that can perform in demanding aerospace operating environments. Cutting-edge new equipment includes more electronic systems than ever before, including antenna and sensor technologies, satellite connectivity, flight management systems, and in-flight entertainment. New connectivity solutions are emerging, especially those that can meet the size and weight requirements that are critical to flight technologies. However, the perfect connector configuration with every desirable attribute may not exist; many designers need a custom solution with a hermetic seal.
Hermetically sealed connectors, terminals, and headers serve many systems within an airplane. Unlike plastic, hermetic products protect against various environmental conditions, including changes in atmospheric pressure, humidity/moisture, soil/grime, and other natural hazards that would otherwise disrupt electrical connections or damage delicate electronics. Hermetics are constructed from materials that offer continuity of use over a long period of time. Hermetic connectors also ensure the integrity of delicate electronics within a black box.
Outside of aerospace applications, many other markets use advanced equipment that is susceptible to harsh environment conditions. When disrupted connectivity could cause a catastrophic outcome, the use of hermetic connectors is a requirement.
Key markets for hermetic connectors
- The oil & gas industry uses hermetics to protect sensors and electronics in downhole drilling exploration equipment from dirt, oil, grime, and extreme pressure. Hermetic connectors, terminals, and headers, as well as microelectronic packages, can meet the rugged requirements of these heavy duty applications.
- The aerospace industry and other transportation markets use hermetic connectors in sensor systems within fuel systems or fuel tanks to identify leaks and prevent the seepage of fuel.
- The optical networking industry uses hermetics to protect delicate circuitry in underground or undersea infrastructure.
- The medical industry uses hermetics in equipment that is sterilized under heat, pressure, chemicals, and water processes. In implantable electronics such as audiology and cardiac devices, hermetic connectors protect the electronic device and ensure its functionality within the human body.
- The automotive industry uses hermetic connectors to ensure sensor functionality in rollover devices and airbag equipment.
To specify a custom connector, designers must consider factors including cost, performance within the overall design idea, and the location in a complex system that is exposed to various operating environments. So just how do you go about specifying a custom hermetic connector?
Start with the basics
- What are the environmental operating requirements? Temperature, pressure, vibration, or some combination of those conditions will impact a connector’s performance and operating lifetime.
- Is it dependent on maintaining a constant internal pressure to deliver signals that ensure the safety of a commercial aircraft?
- Does it need to operate in a harsh environment where the connector acts as a mechanical barrier to combinations of gases, liquids, or particles? If so, in what capacity?
- How long is this system expected to operate? Is future upgradability a factor?
- What are the latest material options that can withstand extreme environments?
- What other special considerations need to be considered?
- What are the device’s signal and power requirements?
- What are the shock, vibration, and leakage rates?
- Will the device operate at low frequencies or high frequencies where compromise is not possible?
- Does the mounting flange need to be welded to a housing with an unusual diameter, or to a special alloy?
- What type of weld is needed, and how long does it need to last?
- Are there other special assembly or test needs?
- How will you assemble and test your product to meet this environment? (Note: sometimes the assembly-and-test process is more extreme than the actual operating conditions.)
- What production lead times, phasing, dependencies, and other considerations are factors?
A custom connector supplier can work closely with your design team to modify a familiar solution or design a new one that can meet the specific needs of your new design. For new high-reliability designs, a supplier with significant experience with hermetic solutions can guide you through the decision-making process to select metal alloys, glass formulations, ceramic components, and product geometry that will help achieve your vision.
To learn more about standard and custom hermetic solutions for every market, visit Hermetic Seal. To learn more about hermetic solutions for aerospace applications, see Hermetic Seal’s case studies for this unique market.