EE Product News

USB Holds On Tight

Several years ago, I wrote a column about USB and its impact on PCs. I wondered then if USB would replace the RS-232 port in industrial products as well. I received so many comments that I actually wrote a second column on the same subject a couple of issues later. One comment, though, stuck in my mind. A reader said that USB was just not an option for ruggedized products, since you could not secure the connector.

Then, the other day, I received a package in the mail from Sealevel Systems. It was a sample of their new SeaI/O-270U isolated 7-port USB hub. A press release was also in the box with the title: “Isolated USB Hub Includes Innovative Locking Connectors for Maximum Dependability.” The first thought that came to my mind was the comment noted above. So, I thought, they finally figured out how to make a USB connector hang on tight, the way RS-232 and other connectors do.

The patent-pending technology is called the SeaLATCH locking USB connector design. Earle Foster, the VP of Sales & Marketing at Sealevel Systems, pointed out in his letter to me that standard USB connections provide low retention strength and offer no locking mechanism and said that, as a result, accidental cable disconnection is the single most common point of failure with USB industrial I/O devices. I certainly can understand that. So, I tried out the SeaLATCH technology.

The hub has seven Type A female and one Type B male connectors. Each has a screw hole above it. The cable they sent is called a “SeaLATCH USB Type A to SeaLATCH USB Type B Device Cable.” I screwed in the connectors with my handy Swiss Army knife, and they really hold tight. Terrific!

According to Foster, Sealevel plans to encourage other manufacturers to adopt the SeaLATCH design in their products as well. If you have been grappling with this problem, I heartily recommend that you to take them up on their offer.

E-mail your comments to me at [email protected]


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