The new connector approach: M12
For ruggedized military and aerospace systems, experts in the interconnect industry are now recommending that manufacturers turn to standardized M12 connectors, which are much more durable in harsh environments compared to RJ-45 and 38999 connectors. M12 connectors are also the de-facto standard in industrial automation and meet IEC specifications with an industry-standard interface compatible with a wide array of sensors and switches. These connectors enable fast and simple replacement of sensors, encoders, switches and other input/output devices and are available in various IEC-compliant configurations—including single- and dual-keyway designs offering straight and 90° plugs.
The transition to M12 connectors within military systems could prove challenging since RJ-45 and 38999 have been in use for a long time, and convincing the military and aerospace sector to make a transition tends to require a major effort. To ensure the throughput performance of systems at I/O speeds of 1 Gb/s or better while functioning in harsh conditions, M12 connectors are becoming mandatory.
M12 connectors can be installed in computer systems and sub-systems as push-on/push-off type receptacles or pure screw-type receptacles. Because they have been established as an industrial standard, ruggedized computer manufacturers have the option of working with multiple suppliers. The performance of M12 connectors also surpasses the performance and reliability of traditional connectors while providing increased productivity and cost savings.
Configured for power with Ethernet, M12 interconnects are ideal for
military and aerospace computer systems and sub-system because of their
ability to maintain high I/O performance in harsh environments.
The connectors achieve this by incorporating several key features. This includes a radial-seal and a mechanical-locking design. M12 connectors also feature push-to-lock technology for simple and secure operator-independent connections that reduce connection errors. This includes the reduction of vibration and mechanical shock from loosening that leads to intermittent signals, false data, improper sequencing, and production downtime.
In addition, M12 connectors eliminate connector-related intermittent signals, even in harsh environments. This is a critical feature since fewer intermittent signals mean less downtime and better productivity. M12 connectors also currently function at Ethernet speeds as high as 10 Gb/s.
The M12 connector design:
- Withstands all military environmental challenges, including high shock, high vibration, and extreme temperatures, as well as contamination by dust and sand
- Requires less space on backplane panels compared to 38999 and RJ-45 connectors
- Costs less than 38999 connectors
- Scales to higher speeds using adaptable technology
- Provides simple, secure, operator-independent connections through push-to-lock technology
- Protects against moisture by relying on radial o-ring seals
- Provides option of multiple receptacle types including standard threaded cord sets
- Provides a longer-lasting, high-performance electrical contact with gold-over-palladium/nickel plating design
- Prevents couplers from loosening even under extreme vibration
Rugged M12 connectors and receptacles also feature high-pin-density, which is also important for use in harsh military and aerospace environments. They ensure reliable connections for the control elements within ruggedized computer systems and sub-systems.
As is the case with all technologies that are provided to military and aerospace programs, changing out traditional components for new technology will require patience and diligence from ruggedized computer system and sub-system manufacturers. RJ-45 and 38999 connectors have been relied on for a long time, so getting military and aerospace customers to the point where they feel comfortable with M12 connectors will require some time.
By demonstrating the benefits of systems that generate higher I/O speeds and deliver consistent performance for longer time periods in harsh environments, however, and by showing the important role that M12 connectors play in allowing computer systems to achieve these attributes, manufacturers will eventually win over the military and aerospace decision makers. The end result will be battlefield computing systems that provide more data and faster data to military personnel in the field so that they can be more effective in performing their duties and making the world a safer place to be.
About the author
Ben Jeffrey is Industry Group Manager of Defense and Aerospace Systems for Molex Incorporated. Molex is a leading global manufacturer of electronic, electrical and fiber optic interconnection systems. Based in Lisle, Illinois, USA, the company operates 43 manufacturing locations in 18 countries.
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