US 3742427 A
Abstract available in
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 11 1 Ballard June 26, 1973 SEALABLE ELECTRICAL CONNECTOR  Inventor: Albert s. Ballard, 3962 Broadlawn, i f" San Diego Calif 921 1 1 Assistant ExammerW1ll1am F. Pate, III
Attorney-Carl R. Brown and Neil F. Martin  Filed: Aug. 26, 1971 211 App]. No.: 175,119 [571 ABSTRACT A re-usable, sealable, electrical connector for making an electrical connection in adverse environments,  Cl 339/60 aia which electrical connection is made by drawing two [5 Int Cl H0 13/54 H0lr 11/02 bodies of relatively hard, insulating material together 58] Fieid 339/89 90 48 60 with electrical conducting tips projecting through lay- /61 R 1 ers of resilient and less hard material that is positioned between the body surfaces. The body surfaces have rings projecting therefrom that encircle the conducting  References Cited tips and project into the softer layer. The softer layer UNITED STATES PATENTS has less thickness and thus an increased pressure gradi- 2,700,l40 l/l955 ent immediately around the conducting tips that forces ,141 1/1955 fluid out of this area forming a sealed surface around the electrical conducting tips. 316781441, 7/1972 Upstone et al 331/94 R 14 Claims, 7 rawing F gures PATENIEDmzs 1915 3,742,4 7
INVENTOR ALB E RT 8. BALLARD ATTORNEYS PAIENIEDJUN 26 I975 SHEEIQWQ INVENTOR. ALBERT S. BALLARD ATTORNEYS SEALABLE ELECTRICAL CONNECTOR BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION In using the many different ypes of electrical connectors, it is desirable and often necessary types make and break electrical connections in adverse environments, such as in humid or wet conditions, under water, and in explosive environments. To accomplish this, it is necessary that the electrical contacts be sealed from the environment before the electrical connection is made. Further the sealing must be capable of maintaining the sealing of the electrical conductor tips from the outer adverse environment so that no short circuiting can occur.
There are known electrical connectors that will make an electrical connection underwater. However these connections are often made in insulating fluid environments that are sealed by diaphragms. These diaphragms are punctured by an electrical connector, and the electrical connection is then made within the fluid.
Because of the puncturing, these units are normally only capable of single use and thus are not readily reusable. Also the puncturing of the diphragm often grooves the diaphragm opening to an extent that the outer environment permeates into the electrical connection. Other electrical connectors employ mechanical means, such as curved contact surfaces, to move water from the connector area. But these connectors have been unsatisfactory.
Thus it is advantageous to have a new and improved, reusable, electrical connector that allows electrical connections to be made in adverse environments safely, without requiring the puncturing of diaphragms or the'like and which electrical connector can be opened and closed often in a safe manner, and yet is easy to construct, easy to use and easy to operate.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In an exemplary embodiment of the sealable electrical connector of this invention, the connector comprises first and second bodies made of relatively hard insulating material that have a layer of resilient, and less hard insulating material positioned on the mating surfaces. Electrical conductors are molded in the bodies and have electrical conducting tips that project a through the less hard insulating material. When the bodies are drawn together the electrical conducting tips contact each other making the electrical connectionwhile the less hard insulating material is compressed sufficiently to maintain a seal between the electrical conducting tip connection and the outer environment. To assure that water and the like will not be compressed between the layers of less hard material and between the electrical conducting tips, a greater compression means is positioned around each of the tips that causes a greater compression of the layers of less hard material immediately adjacent and surrounding the tips. This greater compression means can comprise a ring of relatively hard material positioned or embedded in the less hard material or can be an integral ring of the harder material that projects from the surface of the respective mating surfaces of the first and second bodies. These rings of harder material reduce the thickness of the layers of less hard material, increasing the pressure gradient around each of the electrical connections. This works the water or other contaminates away from the area of the conducting tips. Thus the entire surface is sealed, with the sealing first occuring at the electrical conducting tips.
In one embodiment, the less hard insulation layer is fixed to the mating surface of the first and second bodies. In another embodiment, one layer of the less hard material is fixed to one of the bodies, and the other layer is formed with a cylindrical skirt that is secured to the outer surface of the other body, providing a space therebetween. This space may be filled with fluid insulating material. The greater compression means causes the surface of the other layer of less hard material to be spaced from the mating surface of the other body. The electrical conducting tip is supported by the other layer and is separated from the electrical conductor embedded in the other body, so that there is no normal, unconnected electrical connection between the electrical conductor and the conductor tip. This allows the two electrical conducting tips to contact each other compressing the fluid or the like out of the space between the adjacent surfaces before the electrical eonnection is made between the respective conducting tip and conductor of the other body through said space. Thus the second embodiment allows a direct electrical connection to be made with hot cable in, for example, a completely submerged water environment.
It is therefore an object of this invention to provide a new and improved scalable and reusable electrical connector for adverse environments.
It is another object of this invention to provide a new and improved reusable, scalable electrical connector in which an electrical connection can be made while immersed in a conductive fluid.
It is another object of this invention to provide a new and improved reusable and scalable electrical connector, in which the mating of the parts causes the liquid or other adverse environmental fluids to be progressively removed from the area of the electrical connection in making the electrical connection.
These and other objects of this invention will become more apparent upon a reading of the following detailed description and an examination of the drawings wherein like reference numerals designate like parts throughout and in which:
FIG. I is a sectional view with parts broken away of an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 11. 7
FIG. 3 is an enlarged view with parts broken away and parts in section of the compression of the resilient means that makes the seal in this invention.
' FIG. 4 is a sectional view with parts broken away of a modified embodiment of the invention in the disconnected condition.
FIG. 5 is a partial sectional view of the embodiment of FIG. 4, in the connected position.
FIG. 6 is a sectional view taken along lines 44 of FIG. 4.
FIG. 7 is a modified embodiment or structure of the inventionfor accomplishing the compression means;
Referring toFIGS. 1, 2 and 3, the sealable electrical connector comprises bodies 10 and 12 of a relatively hard grade of rubber, neoprene or the like that is secured to the end of a cable 43. Body d0 has a generally cylindrical configuration and is mounted in the connector half 39 and is held therein by an outwardly projecting ring 16 that snaps through the opening 49 of the connector member 39. The lower projection 44 fits into an appropriate opening in the connector member 39, holding the body in correct alignment and against rotation. Passing through body portion 10, and molded therein, is an electrical cable 43 having a plurality of insulated wires 14 carrying conductor wires that are connected to the electrical conducting tips 31. The electrical conducting tip 31 is secured by its base portion into body member 10. Secured to the front or mating surface of the body member 10 is a layer 46 of electrical insulation material that is slightly softer or less hard than the material in body 10 and that is impervious to water. This layer 46 may be made of neoprene or a slightly softer grade of hard rubber or may be made of any other suitable materials. The conducting tip 31 projects through this layer to make electrical contact with conductor tip 32 as will be described in more detail hereinafter.
Body 12 is connected to input cable 35 that has an insulated conduit in which a plurality of insulated wires 33 pass and make electrical connection with the conducting tip 32. Connector portion 40 encircles the cylindrical body 12 and abuts against shoulder 45. When the threaded portion of connector 40 engages the threaded portion connector 39, this will draw the connector portion 40 into contact with the shoulder portions 45 of body 12 moving members 10 and 12 together. Body member 12 is held in connector 40 by ring 17. Pin 42 is embedded into the body member 12 and slides in slot 55 holding the body member 12 in alignment with body member 10, even though connector member 40 rotates. Opening 48 allows fluid to escape from the connector portion or housing upon the making of the electrical connection underwater.
It may be obsreved that the ends of the conducting tips 31 and 32 have conical surfaces that mate to assure a good electrical connection. Further these conical surfaces coact to assure aligned connection of the electrical connectors by drawing the conducting tips into alignment.
Body member 12 has a layer of material 37 corresponding to the layer of material 46, which layers are secured to the body members 10 and 12 in any suitable manner. Both body members 10 and 12 have respective projecting rings 19 and 36 of the relatively harder material that projects into the material of layers 46 and 37. These rings encircle each of the conductor tips, as for example, conductor tips 31 and 32 and the other conductor tips, such as conductor tip 47. It may be understood that while only one pair of conductor tips are illustrated, usually there are conductor tips to make one to three electrical connections.
ln operation, the connector members 39 and 40 are threadably engaged drawing the body members 10 and 12 together and causing electrical connection to be made between conductor tips 31 and 32. As the mating surfaces of the body members 10 and 12 are drawn together, this creates a compression force on the layers 37 .and 46 therebetween. Since these layers are of slightly softer material than the material of body memcause electrical conduction between adjacent conductor tips creating a shorting hazard in the water.
In compressing the interface of the layers 37 and 46, the annular areas surrounding each of the conductor tips have less resilience due to the reduction of the thickness of the resilient facing of the layers 37 and 46, giving rise to a local high pressure zone surrounding each conductor tip. This zone is compressed at a more rapid rate and to a greater extent, creating an increased pressure gradient in this particular immediate area that drives the water outwardly, purging the water. Thus the water is forced from the areas between the layers 37 and 46 assuring good dry electrical contact areas, with the water passing out through opening 48.
It should be understood that while the layers 37 and 46 are of softer material than the material comprising body members 10 and 12, the material has a resilience and is still a relatively hard material that experiences only a slight deformation with compression, see FIG. 3. The force for creating the compression is that of the sleeve member 40 being threaded onto the sleeve member 39. In this embodiment, the connectors may be connected underwater and may be reusably connected, however the electrical power through the connection is not closed until the connector has been connected in the manner previously described.
Referring now to FIGS. 4, 5, and 6, it is often advantageous to be able to make an electrical connection to a charged cable underwater. However in the past this has been a rather dangerous practice. In this embodiment, a body member 12 that corresponds to the body member 12 of FIG. 1 is positioned in the connector housing 95 by slipping over ring projection 16 in the manner previously described. A Teflon washer 97 fits between the connector housing 95 and body member 12 to provide a bearing surface or thrust washer to aid in exerting force to make the electrical connection and compression necessary for the operation of this embodiment. Pin 42 holds body member 12 in alignment and connector tip 32 makes the electrical connection in the same manner as previously described.
The body member 58 is made of the same material as body member 12 and is secured to the underwater cable 54 in the same manner as previously described. The molded insulated conductor is connected through to the end of the conductor 60 by any suitable electrical connection. Connector tip 64 is separated from conductor 60, as illustrated, and is held in position by the cylindrical member 67 that is of resilient material having a slightly softer hardness than the body of material 58. The cylindrical member 67 is secured by bonding its skirt 68 to the outer surface of body member 58 leaving a space 72 therebetween. Ring projection 62 flts in the space 72 and maintains the space relationship between the front end surface of cylindrical member 67 and the mating surface 73 of body member 58, and also maintains a spaced distance between the conductor tip 64 and the conductor 60. This space 72 may be filled with a dielectric or insulating fluid that may be inserted through threaded opening 66 be'rs l0 and 12, they tend to compress. This compresthat is closed by any suitable screw and O-ring arrangement. In some environments such as in normal air environments, the insulating fluid may be air. However when the connector is used in underwater environments, then an insulated liquid will be used in space 72 to prevent excessive contraction because of hydrostatic pressure.
In operation, the connector members 95 and 51 coact to draw the respective body members 58 and 12 together. This creates an initial contact between layers 37 and 67, that by virtue of ring projections 36 and 62, creates an increased pressure gradient around the conducting tips 64 and 32. As the connector 95 is continued to be turned, electrical connection is first made between connector tips 32 and 64 that in turn squeezes out the water between the adjacent surfaces of layers 37 and 67, which water passes out through opening 70. As the compression continues, electrical connection is eventually made between the conductor tip 64 and conductor 60 in the dielectric fluid in space 72. The cylindrical skirt 68 bellows outwardly to allow the compressive movement of member 67. Also this creates space 72 that provides a reservoir for the fluid that was formerly between the surfaces. Thus the electrical connection is made after the water has been removed from around the electrical conducting tips, and the cable 54 may be kept energized at all times.
Referring to FIG. 7, in a modified embodiment of the invention, the respective layers 46 and 37 in FIGS. 1 and 67 and 37 in FIG. 2, represented by material 90, may have embedded therein hard rubber material 92 that fits in a ring shape around conductor tip 94. In this modification, the hard rubber rings that are part of the respective main bodies, as for example body 12, are eliminated. The reduced thickness of the resilient facings is still accomplished in the same manner giving rise to the local high pressure zones.
Having described my invention, I now claim.
1. A sealable electrical connector comprising,
first and second bodies having adjacent mating surfaces,
each of said bodies having a base portion of relatively hard insulating material and a layer of resilient, less hard insulating material positioned on the said respective mating surfaces,
each of said bodies having at least one electrical conductor passing through said bodies with an electrical conducting tip projecting through said less hard insulation material,
said electrical conducting tips being aligned,
connector means for drawing said first and second bodies together compressing said layers of less hard material between said mating surfaces causing said tips to electrically contact each other,
greater compression means positioned around each of said tips for compressing said layers of less hard insulation material to a greater extent than the remainder of said less hard material,
and said greater compression means comprising members of material harder than said less hard material positioned in a generally ring shape to project into the surface of said less hard material on the surface adjacent said mating surfaces.
2. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in claim in which,
said greater compression means compresses said layers of less hard material at a rate greater than the.
rate of compression of the remainder of said less hard material.
3. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in claim ical surfaces mates with the other conical recess surfaces. 4. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in claim 3 including,
means for holding said first and second bodies in alignment. 5. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in claim 1 in which,
said layers of less hard material being fixed to said mating surfaces of said first and second bodies. 6. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in claim 5 in which,
said greater compression means comprises ring projections of said first and second bodies that project into said less hard material, and circles said conducting tips with a slightly greater diameter than the diameter of said conducting tips. 7. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in claim 1 in which,
said material harder than said less hard material being in the form of a ring that is embedded in said less hard material around said conducting tips. 8. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in claim 1 in which,
said harder material comprising ring projections of said first bodies, that project into said less hard matrial in the form of a ring around each of said conducting tips. 9. A sealable electrical connector comprising, first and second bodies having adjacent mating surfaces, each of said bodies having a base portion of relatively hard insulating material and a layer of resilient, less hard insulating material positioned on the said respective mating surfaces, each of said bodies having at least one electrical conductor passing through said bodies with an electrical conducting tip projecting through said less hard insulation material, said electrical conducting tips being aligned, connector means for drawing said first and second bodies together compressing said layers of less hard material between said mating surfaces causing said tips to electrically contact each other, greater compression means positioned around each of said tips for compressing said layers of less hard insulation material to a greater extent than the remainder of said less hard material, one of said layers of less hard material having a space between said less hard material and the mating surface of one of said bodies, said layer of less hard material being sealably connected around its outer edge to the outer edge of said one of said bodies, said electrical conducting tip projecting through said less hard material being separate from said electrical conductor passing through said one of said bodres,
said greater compression means resiliently holding said layer of less hard material spaced from said adjacent mating surface and said electrical conductor tip from electrical contact with said electrical conductor,
and said seprated conducting tip making electrical contact between the conducting tip of the other body and the electrical connector of said one of 7 8 said bodies upon the drawing of said first and secrial for allowing access to said cavity between said ond bodies together, layer of less hard material and said mating surface 10. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in of said one of said bodies. claim 9 in which, 13. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in said space between said less hard material and said claim 12 in which,
mating surface of said one of said bodies having an said conducting tips making electrical contact beinsulated fluid therein, tween each other and between the electrical conand said less hard material having expansion means ducting tip and the electrical conductor of said one for receiving said insulated fluid upon the compresof said bodies by projecting conical projections sion of said cavity with the drawing of said first and into conical recesses. second bodies together. 14. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in 11. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in claim 13 in which, claim 10 in which, said layer of less hard material is directly secured to said expansion portion comprising an outer band of the mating surface of said other body,
said less hard material that secures said layer to the 15 and said greater compression means of said other outer surface of said one of said bodies. body comprising a ring projection from said other 12. A sealable electrical connector as claimed in body into said less hard material, which ring proclaim 1 1 in which, jection has a diameter slightly larger than the diamsaid electrical conducting tip of said layer of less hard eter of said conducting tip.
material being removable from said less hard mate-