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Small High Reliability Electrical/Signal Connectors for Gas Turbine Engine Applications



OBJECTIVE: Develop novel electrical connector and contact designs that offer reduced footprint and increased reliability and durability over standard electrical connectors used in harsh environments. 

DESCRIPTION: Electronic systems that operate in harsh environments are interconnected using a variety of circular and rectangular connector designs, often specified by MIL standards. They are a significant contributor to system upsets, both total and intermittent. State-of-the-art (SOTA) electrical connectors fail by combinations of opens (61 percent), shorts (16 percent), or intermittent connection (25 percent). Three basic mechanisms lead to failures that include, high cycle fatigue (HCF), tribology, and high temperature (over 150 degrees C). SOTA high density, high durability (1,500 cycles) connectors current packaging arrangements are large compared to the electronics volume. It is desirable to reduce the footprint of dense electrical signal connectors while also increasing the reliability and durability. In the SBIR Phase I effort, evaluation of novel mechanical configurations for both the connector and the contact should be accomplished, with the goal of volume reduction, high reliability, and compatibility with electronic fabrication applications. Approaches that increase the density of standard circular MIL DTL-38999, MIL DTL 5015, and related signal level (series I, II, III arrangement) connectors (1 -85 contacts) should be considered. Simulation of the major degradation mechanisms and understanding the challenges of defining test protocols should be considered. 

PHASE I: Develop an advanced high density reliable connector design with reduced size and improved cyclic durability and repeatable performance over the state of the art. The technology should be applicable to both legacy and advanced configurations for harsh environments. Demonstration of the prototype technologies capability should be accomplished through simulation and basic testing. Recommend the contractor work with appropriate industry partners with expertise in connector design, material science, fabrication, and reliability testing. 

PHASE II: Develop product like connector hardware components based on the Phase I prototype technologies selected. The hardware components electrical and mechanical capability will be demonstrated using appropriate test procedures for harsh environment applications. Suitability of the test procedures will be shown for the intended environments. Comparison of the technology with the state of the art will be accomplished. 

PHASE III: In Phase III, the ability to productionize the connector hardware for new and legacy systems will be developed. Cost effectiveness of the design will be assessed, and reliability and durability will be matured for military and commercial applications. Preliminary qualification issues will be addressed and performance of the connectors will be demonstrated on a ground test engine. 


1. Mroczkowski, Robert S., “A Perspective on Connector Reliability”, Technical Presentation, 2004.; 2. Turck Connectivity, “Design Considerations For Harsh Environments”, White Paper, W1019, April 2017.; 3. Pascucci, Vincent C., “A Brief Overview of reliability in General and for Electrical Connectors in Particular”, July 1995.; 4. Arrowsmith, Peter., "Surface Mount Technology Association (SMTE)", “Electrical Connector Failure Investigation.”.

KEYWORDS: Electrical Connectors, Reliability, Harsh Environment, Contact Tribology, MIL Connectors, High Data Rate Connections 

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