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Q&A: TE Connectivity’s Egbert Stellinga On Waterproof USB Connectors

Dec. 23, 2014
Technology Editor Bill Wong talked with Egbert Stellinga about TE Connectivity's latest waterproof micro USB 2.0 connector for the USB platform.
Egbert Stellinga, Product Manager, TE Connectivity Consumer Devices

provides a wide range of connector solutions, including a new waterproof variety for the popular USB platform. I talked with Egbert Stellinga, product manager of TE Consumer Devices, about the technology.

Wong: Why is there a new waterproof micro USB 2.0 connector?  

Stellinga: Micro USB connectors are typically used in small portable devices like mobile phones, media players, GPS devices, activity trackers, health monitors, and other wearable devices. Since these devices are usually portable, they can be exposed to water, accidentally or intentionally.

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Until now, mobile-device manufacturers have been making their devices splash-proof or waterproof by placing small elastomeric doors in front of the connector. The use of these doors is a burden to the end user, as they have to be opened and closed every time a connector is engaged and disengaged. The waterproof micro USB connector developed and produced by TE Connectivity (TE) features an enhanced sealing solution, including an elastomeric O-ring, allowing for a submergible device without rubber doors.

Wong: What advantages does it have over existing connectors?

Stellinga: Our IP68 waterproof micro USB 2.0 connector provides stronger protection for today’s smaller and thinner mobile devices against the ingression of water and solid objects, such as dust. We use a metal-injection-molded (MIM) shell to achieve the IP68 standard. The stainless-steel MIM shell replaces the traditional stamped and formed shell, which typically contains many holes and is less usable for waterproof connectors. Our MIM shell can provide the improved strength against wrenching and false insertion, and reduces the shell height by 0.3 mm.

Wong: What challenges or issues did TE Connectivity encounter when designing the connectors, and how did they address them?

Stellinga: Designing a true submergible connector brings challenges. Two main challenges are first how to seal the connector to the device casing, and second, how to seal the connector as a whole. To create an inherent sealed connector, we decided to base the design on a MIM shell. This stainless-steel shell brings with it a couple of key advantages. First, our engineers design a true 3D geometry unlike typical 2.5D stamped and formed shells. This allowed them to make the undercuts for the plug latches and make the shell waterproof in one single component. Second, the MIM shell further allows for increased strength against wrenching forces applied by the plug and the end user.

Wong: What advantages does TE Connectivity’s solution provide?  

Stellinga: In addition to the advantages I’ve listed already, with TE, customers get a world leader in connectivity that’s committed to delivering extraordinary customer experiences. We continue to innovate miniaturization solutions that help mobile-device manufacturers create smaller, thinner, and lighter products. With an extensive global manufacturing footprint and product breadth, TE has a full range of the latest technologies to support consumer electronics applications. Our IP68 waterproof micro USB 2.0 connector is just one example (check out TE’s latest space-saving products).

TE is ready to help our customers thrive in this growth period in the era of wearables, creating exciting new consumer experiences. We have assembled an engineering team and prototyping lab in Menlo Park, California, dedicated to innovating and providing wearables solutions. Our antennas, sensors, spring fingers, and shields are already part of many renowned devices made by global wearables players.

Wong: Please provide any additional info and drill down more into the technology.

Stellinga: Metal injection molding is a technology that allows for full 3D molding of metal parts. The technology is very similar to plastic injection molding, except for the material used. For metal injection molding, a mixture of metal balls and a filler is injected in a mold. After the molded part has been produced, the filler is gassed out, resulting in a full metal part.

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Egbert Stellinga has been with TE Connectivity (TE) for almost 20 years. He started his career in engineering and project management, and this experience has provided a broad base for the product management position he currently holds. Located in the Netherlands, he has managed many products and projects for several TE customers in the mobile devices area since 2001.

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