US 3685004 A
An illustrative embodiment of the present invention includes an underwater cable connector comprised of inner and outer members. The inner member is provided with a protrusion at one point on its circumference and is made of a flexible material such as rubber. The protrusion on the inner member extends through a hole in the outer member which is a metal housing surrounding the inner member of the connector. When the outer housing is rotated, pulled upon, or pushed upon, the inner flexible member deforms when the protrusion encounters the outer housing. This causes the seal about the inner member to be broken and enables the connector to be taken apart under pressurized conditions.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Kerr Inventor:
Wayne L. Kerr, Houston, Tex.
Assignee: Schlumberger Technology Corporation, New York, NY.
Filed: Dec. 14, 1970 Appl. No.: 97,860
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,782,391 2/1957 Kirk ..339/60R 3,478,298 1l/l969 Nelson ..339/94M 1 Aug. 15, 1972 Primary Examiner-JosepliH. Mcfilynn Arrorney-Ernest R. Archambeau, Jr., Stewart F. Moore, David L. Moseley, Edward M. Roney and William R. Sherman ABSTRACT An illustrative embodiment of the present invention includes an underwater cable connector comprised of inner and outer members. The inner member is provided with a protrusion at one point on its circumference and is made of a flexible material such as rubber. The protrusion on the inner member extends through a hole in the outer member which is a metal housing surrounding the inner member of the connector. When the outer housing is rotated, pulled upon, or pushed upon, the inner flexible member deforms when the protrusion encounters the outer housing. This causes the seal about the inner member to be brokewdjnableslhifi fl'lfiw tobe taken apart Piewtiils sond t o 9 Claims, 1 Drawing Figure D/STORTION OCCURS UPON BOTH ENGAGING AND 015' ENGAGING 0F CONNECTOR PATENTEI'Musns m2 1 3.685004 O/STORTION OCCURS UPON BOTH ENGAGING AND DIS- ENGAGING OF CONNECTOR Wayne L. Kerr INVENTOR BY QJJk' LM ATTORNEY UNDERWATER PRESSURE BREAK CONNECTOR BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to electrical connectors and more particularly to waterproof electrical connectors for coupling the ends of a cable which may be connected or disconnected beneath the surface of a body of water.
In seismic exploration for oil, and in oil well completions, it is often necessary to place seismic detector apparatus in marshes, swamps or shallow bays in order to detect reflected seismic waves. In the completion of offshore wells, it is sometimes necessary for divers to make and break (connect and disconnect) cables beneath the surface of a body of water. Usually, as it is undesirable to have moisture enter the cable connector after it is connected, such underwater connectors are provided with a seal capable of withstanding the pressure at whatever depth the cable is to be used. Moisture entering a cable at such a connector can become a critical problem because such moisture entry provides stray electrical paths within the cable and may cause a malfunction of the operations being carried out by use of the cable.
Additionally, salt water seepage into underwater cables can cause corrosion or other electrical malfunctions or even metal failures. This is a further reason for providing a very tight moisture proof, pressure tight seal around the underwater connector which is used under water. Unfortunately, when a diver attempts to connect or disconnect a cable connector while under water, he must, if the connector is tightly sealed to the water pressure, be able to overcome the water pressure tending to hold the connector together. In the past, no satisfactory means for reducing or eliminating the additional force exerted by the water pressure tending to hold the cable connector together has been provided.
Since a diver is usually wearing a bulky diving suit and/or diving gloves, this problem is further aggravated because he is not readily able to handle the cable connector in question which is to be connected or disconnected.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a cable connector which is capable of being connected or disconnected underwater with relative ease by a diver.
Another object of the present invention is to supply a cable connector for underwater use which is more easily disconnected than heretofore possible.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a two-piece cable connector assembly for use in coupling cables together in end to end relationship while underwater which is capable of being operated in the underwater environment without undue force being exerted by the operator.
In accordance with the objects of the present invention, male and female underwater cable connecting apparatus is provided which is completely waterproof and pressure tight but which may easily be connected or disconnected beneath the surface of the water by a diver without the exertion of undue force to overcome the water pressure tending to hold the cable connector together. The cable connector of the present invention comprises a male connector portion and a female connector portion. Both connector portions are comprised of separate inner and outer members. The inner member of one portion of the connector of the present invention is formed of molded rubber of like pliant material surrounding and housing a plurality of pin type cable connections to which the conductors of the cables are attached by means well known in the art such as soldering. This inner flexible member is surrounded and housed in a housing member which may be of a non-corrosive metal such as stainless steel or the like and which is adapted to engage the metallic housing portion of the other half of the cable connector either by cam type means or by threaded screw type engagements if desired. A hole is provided in the periphery of the metallic housing member of each that surrounds the flexible inner member.
A protrusion preferably or protuberance of flexible material is provided on the flexible inner member and in its normal position extends radially outward through the aforementioned hole in the surrounding outer member. When it is I a n ae the connector circumferentiaLfnrcLsuppMm r I member caugsjhmprotuherancg gi gle fle xible inne member to tilt member. This distorts theinner flexible portion of the connector. This distortion or deformation causes the seal between the rubber members comprising the -twtrhttlves"" 6fTheiiiabl't: connector to be brokemd'allowsth pressure on the inside, ,ofmthe cablgtobe equalized with' that of the water surrounding the cable. This, of course, relieves the tension required by the operator to disconnect the connector.
The novel features of the present invention are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The present invention, both as to its organization and manner of operation, together with further objects and advantages thereof, may best be understood by way of illustration and example of an embodiment when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT In the completion of offshore wells underwater it is frequently necessary to couple or uncouple cables in end to end relationship with each other beneath the surface of a body of water. In doing so, particularly in disengaging cables which have previously been connected at the surface and then lowered beneath the surface of the water, a pressure differential can exist between the inside and outside of the cable connector due to the water pressure on the outside of the cable. This can cause the cable to be held together with considerable force, depending on the depth of the water and can be a serious disadvantage when it is desired to disconnect the cable while it remains underwater.
Referring now to the drawing FIGURE, a cable connector in accordance with the principles of the present invention which is constructed to assist in breaking the pressure seal beneath the surface of the water, is shown. A multi-conductor cable 11 suitable for use in underwater well completions and having a rubber or similar material insulating jacket, is shown being coupled in end to end relation with another such cable by the use of two connector halves according to the invention. The individual conductors of the cable 11 are attached by suitable means as known in the art (such as soldering) to a plurality of male lugs 17 in one half of bers of the connector when they are forced together to maintain the pin or cam 20 in contact with the corresponding receptacle or groove 21 to hold the connector together.
It is apparent that if the outer locking sleeve 19 is rotated circumferentially in the direction of the arrow 22, the protrusion of boss 18 extending through the hole therein will be tilted. This will in turn apply rotational forces, deform the wall of the inner flexible member 12 to the point where the pressure release establishes the alignment and orientation of the congmves l5 be opened up and permit flitldpressure" t nectors in a manner to insure proper sequencing and iBKEZZ HIIQSELQLEQQEZEE' me mtnbflrbfwm engagement of the cable connection. The male lugs 17 sonnector. This can be very im oriimfiatraggiag are surrounded by a flexible inner member 12 of the the connector beneath the surface of the water because cable connector of the present invention. This flexible inner member 12 is adhered to the cable 11 prior to putting cable 11 in use by a molding process and by vulcanization in the case of a rubber inner member.
Therefore, the inner member 12 forms part of the outer jacket of the cable 11 insuring a water and pressure tight seal between the outer insulator of the cable and the connector portion thereof.
The left half inner member 12 of the cable connector of the present invention preferably is made of a relatively rigid insulating material such as molded neophrene suitable for withstanding the pressures at the depth of water to which the connector will be used.
The two halves of the cable connector, having the respective inner members, 12, 12' are surrounded and enclosed on the left half by a male locking member or sleeve 14 and .on the right half by a corresponding female locking member or sleeve 19. The exterior surface of these outer locking members may be knurled or otherwise ridged or grooved as depicted to provide a convenient no-slip hand hold to the operator of the connector. The inner members l 2 ,y l2' ofthe connector halves are formed with a greater diameter at the outer or cable end in a manner to form respective locking sleeve retainer surfaces 23. Additionally, to in sure proper orientation of the outer locking sleeve 14, the inner member 12 of the connector is provided with keys 13 which engage suitably extending fingers 24 on the outer locking member 14 in the manner shown.
The flexible inner member 12 of the right half of the connector is additionally provided with pressure releasegrooves 15. The pressure release grooves 15 are molded into the inner flexible connector member and serve to provide an inlet or outlet for water which may be trapped inside the cable connector as the two halves are shoved together. This feature functions to permit the entry of water from the external environment into the connector to equalize pressures therein when disengaging the connector.
The external circumferential surface of the inner flexible member 12, while generally assuming a cylindrical shape is provided at at least one point along its circumference with protusion or boss 18 which extends radially outwardly. The protrusion or boss 18 extends through a cooperatively arranged hole provided in the outer locking member 19 previously described. Male and female locking members 14 and 19 are held in engagement by a pin 20 which engages a corresponding cam receptacle or groove 21 in the opposite outer member or locking sleeve. Spring tension is provided by compression forces stored in the flexible inner memthe connector could have previously been connected at the surface and have only atmospheric pressure trapped therein. The large pressure differential existing across the connector would then tend to hold the connector in engagement making it difficult for a diver operating under water in bulky equipment to disconnect the connector.
Similarly, the protrusion 18 extending through the periphery of the outer locking sleeve 19 will on r the cable underwater, engage the aforemention surfaces and similarly distort or deform the wall of the inner flexible portion 12 of the connector. 'ln'the case of makingth' connection tin derwater this.allows tlm pi essure release grooves 15 to for napas sgggghgr imwat e tra dbetween the two halves of thusaaqqsmsssxi ton} me ifitfiftfi'ifie cable into the surrounding media. This is very important since the fl uid surrounding the connector is generally incompressible and would therefore resist the connectors being made up under water by a diver not having complete freedom of movement due to wearing bulky equipment.
Summarizing, a cable connector is provided for make and break use under water. The two halves of the connector are provided with oute eves which may contain looking- .or-othersuitable engaging devices for holding the halves of the connector together. The inner member of one of the connector halves is fl e x ible and is provided with a boss or protrusion thereon wmanmesas through the surrounding sleeve wall. Longitudinal or circumferential forces exerted on the sleeve cause it to engage the protrusion or boss and to distort the wall of the inner flexible portion of the connector to the extent that the pressure seal of the flexible inner member is broken. This allows pressure equalization between the spaces within the connector and the fluid surrounding the connector. This arrangement greatly enhances the ease of connection and disconnection of this type of cable connector while used beneath the surface of a body of water.
While a particular embodiment of the present invention has been shown and described, it is apparent that changes and modifications may be made without departing from this invention in its broader aspects. Accordingly, it is the aim in the appended claims to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention.
1. An electrical connector apparatus adapted for use in an underwater environment to couple cables in endto-end relationship, comprising: an inner flexible member adapted to sealingly engage a mating connector part, said flexible member being surrounded by an outer housing member that is mounted for limited relative movement with respect thereto; and means for coupling said flexible member to said housing member so that said relative movement causes distortion of said seal member effective to break its sealing contact with a mating connector part.
2. The connector apparatus of claim 1 wherein said seal member has a normally circular cross-section when free of distortion, said distortion causing said seal member to obtain a non-circular cross-section over a portion of its length.
3. The connector apparatus of claim 2 wherein said coupling means comprises a protusion extending radially outward of said seal member and engaged within an aperture in said housing member.
4. The connector apparatus of claim 3 wherein the outer wall surface of said seal member and the inner wall surface of said housing member are laterally spaced from one another in a region adjacent to said protusion.
5. The connector apparatus of claim 4 further including means formed in internal surfaces of said seal member for allowing fluid communication to the interior of said seal member upon the occurrence of a degree of distortion of said seal member.
6. Apparatus suitable for use in an underwater environment for coupling cables in end to end relationship comprising:
a male inner connector member having plural female conductor receptacles therefu a female guide p i n receptacle;
a female flexible inner connector member adapted to sealingly engage said male inner connector member and having male conductor pins therein situated to cooperatively engage the female conductor receptacles of said male inner connector member and a male guide pin situated to cooperatively engage the female guide pin receptacle of said male inner member;
outer rigid housing members generally disposed over the exterior surfaces of said inner male and female connector members and arranged to cooperatively engage each other but free to assume a limited degree of free relative motion with respect to said inner members;
means for coupling relative motion of one of said outer rigid housing members exceeding said limited degree of free relative motion of said outer members to said flexible inner female member thereby to cause distortion and breaking of the sealing engagement of said inner members with each other.
7. The apparatus of claim 6 and further including means for cooperatively engaging said outer members, said engaging means maintaining engagement by means of the energy stored in said flexible inner member upon compression thereof.
8. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein said coupling means comprises a boss on said inner flexible member, said boss extending perpendicularly outward from the longitudinal axis of said apparatus past the inner surb i'ii zga p gigtgs f 35% and said coupling means further including plural keys on the exterior surface of at least one of said inner members arranged to cooperatively engage corresponding fingers on the interior surface of the corresponding rigid outer member.