USBs Armor Up for Hard Use and Rugged Applications

By Amy Goetzman | May 03, 2022

Consumers treat USBs roughly — there’s no way around it in the constant cycle of plugging and unplugging, so these ubiquitous connectors are up to the challenge. But as USBs move into even more rugged environments (and into the hands of ever-younger consumers), tough new versions are ready.

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is the most familiar connector interface in the world, due to its widespread use in charging systems for consumer products. It is used for cheap toys and gadgets as well as high-end laptops and peripherals. It is also available in commercial versions and in powerful, high-quality, and rugged versions from the leading connector suppliers.  

Anyone who has dropped their phone, accidentally submerged it in water, or subjected it to frequent and rough charging knows that this tiny connector can take a fair bit of abuse and misuse. However, enhanced USBs take durability a step further with waterproof, rugged, and secure configurations that protect data and equipment in harsh environments, including military and aerospace applications. Today, the USB is used in Test & Measurement applications, soldier-worn Nett Warrior equipment, industrial automation systems, and other demanding environments that require a simple, user-friendly connection that can also withstand harsh conditions.  

Three versions of the USB interface exist: USB Type-A, USB Type-B, and USB Type-C, all developed and standardized by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), an organization whose members include Amphenol, Hirose Electric, JPC, Molex, Samtec Inc., TE Connectivity, and other connector companies, OEMs, and industry organizations. Apple uses a proprietary Lightning connector for its devices, but new EU legislation may compel the company to switch to the USB Type-C port to provide consumers with a common charging port and reduce electronic waste. USB Type-C, the latest version of USB, delivers audio/video, data, and power over a single cable. Within this interface, the USB4 standard provides 20 Gb/s signal rates on each of four transmit and receive lanes. USB4 also supports an x2 mode with a bonded bit rate of 40 Gb/s in each direction. It is backwards compatible with earlier USB architectures. 

The USB interface can also be enhanced with a variety of features, including LED indicators, additional pins for audio or other capabilities, and ruggedization features such as IP-rated sealing and shielding or armoring for durability in extreme conditions. Secure USBs protect data by requiring a port lock key that features the same pin arrangement as the USB connector that is inserted into a secure drive. 

JAE’s Right-Angle Waterproof SMT USB Receptacle

JAE’s Right-Angle Waterproof SMT USB Receptacle is IPX8 rated (1.5 m for 30 minutes).


Amphenol LTW’s latest rugged USB

Amphenol LTW’s latest rugged USB features copper alloy and gold-glated pins, can handle a temperature range of -40 ℃-85 ℃, and is waterproof to IP67. It is approved for high-vibration environments and delivers data up to 10 G/ps.

L-Com’s U3A00072 armored USB cables

L-Com’s U3A00072 armored USB cables, available from Allied Electronics & Automation and Newark, feature a stainless steel or plastic crush-resistant armor to provide protection in applications where standard cables would be damaged due to excessive force. Crush resistance is 1500 PSI for the stainless-steel versions and 800 PSI for the plastic versions. Molded ends and a coupling nut provides extra durability.


Amphenol Pcd’s USB Series

Amphenol Pcd’s USB Series includes a metal tri start threaded or spring-loaded push pull. The series does not require cabling operation or any necessary tooling in the field while maintaining an IP68 seal against fluids and dust. The tri-start threaded coupling adds anti-decoupling, which prevents the plug from backing off of the receptacle during high vibration.

Visit the Document Library on to review all of the current USB specifications.

Other connector suppliers that offer USB connectors and cables include Amphenol Communication Systems, BizLink, ERNI, Glenair, HARTING, Hirose Electric, JAE, LEMO Connectors, Molex, NorComp, Neutrik, Samtec Inc., TE Connectivity, Würth Elektronik, and many others. 

To learn more about the companies listed in this article,  visit the Preferred Supplier pages for Amphenol Communication Systems, BizLink, ERNI, HARTING, Hirose Electric, JAE, LEMO Connectors, Molex, NorComp, Neutrik, Samtec Inc., TE Connectivity, Würth Elektronik, and many others. 

Like this article? Check out our other USB, and ruggedized articles, our Consumer Connector Market Page, and our 2022 Article Archive

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Amy Goetzman
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