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Publication numberUS3888559 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJun 10, 1975
Filing dateNov 19, 1973
Priority dateApr 13, 1972
Publication numberUS 3888559 A, US 3888559A, US-A-3888559, US3888559 A, US3888559A
InventorsGeib R Larry
Original AssigneeAmp Inc
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
High voltage quick disconnect assembly
US 3888559 A
Abstract
A high voltage connector assembly is disclosed which includes a plug and a receptacle which may be coupled together by a lock having a quick disconnect feature. The plug portion of the connector assembly includes a plurality of ball bearing locking members which cooperate with a groove in the receptacle portion of the connector assembly to lock the two portions of the connector assembly together. A spring biased locking ring, which may be either manually or mechanically operated, controls the position of the ball bearing locking members. Pulling the locking ring against the force of its biasing spring releases the ball bearing locking members, and permits the two connector portions to be rapidly separated. A stripe of brightly colored material is provided to indicate whether the locking ring is open or closed. The connector houses a plurality of pin-type electrical connectors which are embedded in an insulating cap formed of a material, such as silicone rubber, which is resilient and is not adversely affected by wide variations in ambient temperature.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent HIGH VOLTAGE QUICK DISCONNECT ASSEMBLY R. Larry Geih, Elizahcthtown Pu.

AMP Incorporated. Harrisburg. Pu.

Nov. 19. 1973 Related U.S. Application Data abandoned.

Continuation of Ser. No. 243.723. April 13. 1972,

U.S. Cl. 339/46; 339/45 M; 339/91 B;

Int. Cl H0lr 3/54 Field of Search 339/45, 46, 59-61,

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1 1 June 10, 1975 Primary Examiner-Roy D. Frazier Assistant Examiner-Terrell P. Lewis Allorney, Agent. or Firm-Gerald K. Kita [57] ABSTRACT A high voltage connector assembly is disclosed which includes a plug and a receptacle which may be cou pled together by a lock having a quick disconnect feature. The plug portion of the connector assembly includes a plurality of ball bearing locking members which cooperate with a groove in the receptacle portion of the connector assembly to lock the two portions of the connector assembly together. A spring biased locking ring, which may be either manually or mechanically operated, controls the position of the ball bearing locking members. Pulling the locking ring against the force of its biasing spring releases the ball bearing locking members, and permits the two connector portions to be rapidly separated. A stripe of brightly colored material is provided to indicate whether the locking ring is open or closed. The connector houses a plurality of pin-type electrical connectors which are embedded in an insulating cap formed of a material, such as silicone rubber, which is resilient and is not adversely affected by wide variations in ambient temperature.

11 Claims, 4 Drawing Figures PATENTEUJUHIO 1915 88.559

SHEET 1 HIGH VOLTAGE QUICK DISCONNECT ASSEMBLY This is a continuation of Ser. No. 243.723, filed Apr. I3, 1972, now abandoned.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field Of The Invention This invention relates generally to electrical connectors, and more particularly to a high voltage connector assembly including a quick disconnect feature.

2. Description Of The Prior Art Many types of electrical connectors having quick disconnect features are known in the prior art. However, many of such known quick disconnect structures are suitable for use only at low voltage levels. Consequently, a need exists for a reliable plug and receptacle structure for providing the capability of quickly disconnecting high voltage lines. In addition, many of the previously known quick disconnect structures were capable of accommodating only two electrical connections, although in many environments it is highly desirable to have a quick disconnect structure capable of handling substantially more than two circuits simultaneously.

In addition to these shortcomings, quick disconnect structures available in the past have been somewhat awkward to use and have been unsuitable for use in environments having widely varying temperature fluctuations. For example, many quick disconnect structures require a quarter turn to release a mechanical locking assembly. Such a turning requirement is undesirable in situations where a very rapid uncoupling of a connector is required. For extremely rapid disconnections, it is preferable that a straight pulling action alone is sufficient to release a locked connector structure. A straight pull release is particularly desirable for providing a mechanical or automatic unlocking feature, which is actuated by an extended strain or pull on the connector structure. In addition, the interior assemblies of previously available quick disconnect structures have generally lacked a high quality insulating material which remains durable and structurally sound even when subjected to extreme heat and cold. Finally, previously available structures have lacked any means for quickly and conveniently indicating whether the connector lock is fully closed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Accordingly, one object of this invention is to provide a novel high voltage quick disconnect assembly.

Another object of this invention is to provide a novel plug and receptacle combination having a quick disconnect feature.

Yet another object of this invention is to provide a high voltage connector structure capable of being quickly disconnected by a straight pulling action.

Yet another object of this invention is to provide a high voltage quick disconnect assembly which remains operative even though subjected to extreme heat and cold.

A still further object of this invention is to provide a high voltage quick disconnect assembly including a unique positive mechanical locking arrangement.

Another object of this invention is to provide a novel high voltage quick disconnect assembly including a simple, yet highly durable and reliable mechanical locking assembly.

A still further object of this invention is to provide a high voltage quick disconnect assembly including a novel internal structure for providing a tight seal between plug and receptacle components.

Yet another object of this invention is to provide a high voltage quick disconnect assembly having a mechanical locking arrangement equipped with a novel indicator for providing a rapid visual indication of whether the mechanical lock is fully closed.

Briefly, these and other objects of ths invention are achieved by providing a plug assembly including a metal shell containing an insulating structure which remains substantially unaffected, even when subjected to extremely high and extremely low temperatures, in which a plurality of pin-type electrical contacts are mounted. A movable, spring biased metal cap is positioned around the outside of the metal shell, and includes a camming surface at one end thereof for positioning a plurality of ball bearings mounted in apertures in the metal shell. A receptacle assembly, which is designed to interfit with the plug assembly includes a groove for cooperating with the ball bearing locking assembly of the plug. An irridescent stripe is provided on the outer portion of the metal shell of the plug, to indicate whether the locking assembly is fully closed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS A more complete appreciation of the invention and many of the attendant advantages thereof will be readily obtained as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying Drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a partially cut-away side view of the plug assembly of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a front view of the plug assembly illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a partially cut-away side view of the receptacle assembly of the present invention; and,

FIG. 4 is a front view of the receptacle assembly illustrated in FIG. 3.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring now to the Drawings, wherein like reference numerals designate identical or corresponding parts throughout the several views, and more particularly to FIG. 1 thereof, a preferred embodiment of the plug assembly 10 of the present invention is illustrated. The plug assembly 10 includes a cylindrical shell 12, which is preferably constructed of a metal such as aluminum or steel. One end of the cylindrical shell 12 is secured to one side of a base portion 14, which is preferably constructed of the same material as the cylindrical shell 12. The side of the base portion 14 not connected to cylindrical shell 12 tapers to a relatively narrow neck 16 where an electrical cable 18 enters the plug 10. A short length of shrink tubing 20 is preferably placed over the junction of the electrical cable 18 and the base portion 14 of the plug 10 to completely seal and insulate the juncture, and to add structural strength to the junction point.

A locking cylinder 22 is slidably positioned around the exterior surface of the cylindrical shell 12. The locking cylinder 22, which is preferably constructed of the same material as the cylindrical shell 12, may include a knurled ring 24 about its exterior surface to facilitate manual gripping. The locking cylinder 22 includes a sleeve portion 26 which surrounds a portion of the cylindrical shell 12 near the base portion 14. The sleeve portion 26 terminates at an end surface 28 which is designed to abut a shoulder portion 30 formed around the entire periphery of base portion 14. Thus, the locking cylinder 22 may only be moved toward the base portion 14 until the end surface 28 of the sleeve portion 26 engages shoulder 30 of base 14. A coil spring 32 is positioned between the outer surface of the cylindrical shell 12 and the sleeve portion 26 of locking cylinder 22. One end of coil spring 32 abuts shoulder 34 coupled to cylindrical shell 12 while the other end of the coil spring abuts a shoulder 36 which forms a portion of locking cylinder 22. Thus, the coil spring 32 biases the locking cylinder 22 away from base portion 14.

A flange 38 is formed near the end of cylindrical shell 12 which is opposite base portion 14. The flange 38 is designed to abut a forward end 40 of the locking cylinder 22, thereby restraining the locking cylinder 42 against the biasing force of coil spring 32. The forward end 40 of locking cylinder 22 constitutes one end of a forward rim 42 of the locking cylinder 22. The forward rim 42 of the locking cylinder 22 is joined by a camming surface 44 to a main body portion 46 of the locking cylinder 22. The camming surface 44 is provided to operate a plurality of ball bearing locking members 48, in a manner which will be explained in more detail hereinafter. Although four ball bearing locking members 48 are illustrated in the Drawings (see FIG. 2), any suitable number of locking members 48 may be used. It will be understood, of course, that a greater number of ball bearing locking members tends to increase the strength of the locking apparatus, while increasing the friction involved in operating the locking member, and therefore increasing slightly the force required to lock and unlock the device. Similarly, the use of fewer ball bearing locking members, preferably not less than two, weakens somewhat the strength of the locking apparatus, and reduces the friction in the apparatus, and therefore reducing somewhat the force required to lock and unlock the apparatus. Each of the ball bearing locking members 48 is movably positioned in an aper ture 50 in the wall of cylindrical shell 12. Each of the apertures 50 is tapered slightly toward the interior of cylindrical shell 12 so that the ball bearing locking members 48 cannot fall completely through to the interior of the plug 10.

An aligning key 52 is mounted to the interior forward surface of cylindrical shell 52 to insure proper alignment between the plug and its receptacle. A lock condition indicator 54 is placed around the exterior surface of cylindrical shell 12 in an area beginning below flange 38 and extending as far as aperture 50, if so desired. The lock condition indicator 54 may, for example, be comprised of a strip of irridescent red paint surrounding a portion of the cylindrical shell 12. Clearly, other materials than paint and colors other than red may be suitably employed, although the lock condition indicator 54 must be comprised of a material which is clearly visible provided the forward end 40 of the locking ring 42 is not firmly engaged with the lower surface of flange 38 of cylindrical shell 12. Thus, if the locking cylinder is not fully closed, the lock condition indicator 54 will be visible, immediately indicating to an operator that the high voltage connector of the present invention is not properly locked.

An upstanding operating ring 56 is formed integral with locking cylinder 22, and is positioned around the outer periphery of the locking cylinder 22. The operating ring 56 may essentially comprise a ridge on the locking cylinder 22 for permitting a firm grip to be maintained on the locking cylinder 22 for moving the locking cylinder. Alternatively, a pair of cables 58 may be coupled to the operating ring 56 for remotely and/or automatically operating the locking cylinder. The ca bles 58, which may be of stainless steel, for example, may be secured to a bulkhead, or other immovable object. Thus, when a strain is exerted on the plug 10, the cables 58 will retract the locking cylinder 22 automatically. The cables 58 may be coupled to the operating ring 56 by conventional means, such as flange members 60 mounted to the ends of cables 58 to prevent the cables from slipping through apertures 62 in operating ring 56.

A cylindrical, molded epoxy glass insulator 64 is positioned inside cylindrical shell 12 toward the base portion 14 thereof. A plurality of electrical leads 66 are positioned inside the cylindrical insulator 64. A suitable potting material 68 surrounds the ends of the electrical leads 66 to hold them firmly in place. An insulating cap 70, which is preferably made of silicone rubber, is placed on top of the potting material 68, so that the potting material conforms to the shape of one side of the insulating cap 70. Silicone rubber is a particularly good material from which to construct the insulating cap 70, since it is a very good insulator, is flexible, and is substantially unaffected by wide fluctuations in environmental temperatures.

A plurality of contact pins 72 through 84 (see FIG. 2) are embedded in the insulating cap 70. The contact pins are coupled to the electrical leads 66 at one end thereof, and protrude through the surface of the insulating cap 70 at the other end thereof, forming exposed male contact members. As illustrated more clearly in FIG. 2, the contact pins 72 through 82 are disposed in a generally symmetrical circular pattern around the central contact pin 84. Although seven contact pins are specifically illustrated in the drawings, it will be understood that substantially any number of contact pins may be used within the scope of the present invention. The various contact pins may also be of different sizes, representing different voltage levels or different circuit functions. For example, the contact pin 72 is illustrated as having a relatively small diameter, while the contact pin 78 has a larger diameter, and the contact pin 84, which is centrally positioned, is the largest of the contact pins. Thus, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, the central contact pin 84 represents the highest voltage circuit. For example, the voltage on contact pin 84 may be in the range of from 25 to 30 kilovolts. Similarly, the voltages applied to the other contact pins may be in the range, for example, of from O to 6 kilovolts. The larger diameter pin 78 may obviously be used to represent a particular circuit function which is not represented by the other pins in the connector. It will, of course, be apparent to those skilled in the art that the various contact pins may be sized or coded in any suitable manner which is appropriate to a particular use of the connector structure.

The insulating cap 70 is formed to include a sealing ridge 86 surrounding the base of the exposed portion of each contact pin 72 through 84. The insulating cap 70 also includes a cylindrical channel 88 surrounding the lower portion of the central contact pin 84. A flexible, tubular or cylindrical shield 90 is formed integral with the inner walls of the channel 88 of insulating cap 70, and forms a protective insulating shield around the exposed portion of the contact pin 84. The shield 90 thus forms an insulating barrier around the exposed portion of high voltage contact pin 84, preventing arcing between the contact pin 84 and the other contact pins, or between the contact pin 84 and the cylindrical shell 12, while the plug is in a disconnected state.

Referring now to FIGS. 3 and 4, a receptacle assembly 92 is shown which is adapted to cooperate with the plug assembly 10 illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. The receptacle assembly 92 includes a generally cylindrical housing 94, which is preferably constructed of the same material as the cylindrical shell 12. An outer end 96 of the housing 94 is tapered to receive a length of electrical cable 18. As with the plug assembly 10, a length of shrink tubing may be used to seal the joint between the electrical cable 18 and the outer end 96 of the receptacle housing 94. A cylindrical fitting 98, preferably constructed of the same metal as housing 94, is securely mounted within the housing 94. The cylindrical fitting 98 extends substantially outward from the housing 94, and includes a locking groove 100 located near its outwardly extended end. The locking groove 100 is adapted to cooperate with the ball bearing locking members 48 of the plug assembly 10. A ring of spring fingers 102 is coupled to the cylindrical fitting 98 at a point within the housing 94. The ring of spring fingers 102 is adapted to engage an outer rim 104 of the plug assembly 10 to both aid in the alignment of the plug assembly and the receptacle assembly, and to improve the mechanical coupling between the plug and receptacle. The ring of spring fingers 102 tends to bias the receptacle assembly toward a position at which its axis is parallel to the axis of the plug 10. However, the ring of spring fingers also permits some flexing motion of the plug and receptacle about their joint axis, even after they are locked together.

A keyway 105 (see FIG. 4) is provided in the upper portion of cylindrical fitting 98 for cooperating with the aligning key 52 of the plug 10. Thus, the cooperating aligning key 52 and keyway 105 provide a rapid and convenient method of properly orienting the plug and receptacle assemblies to permit them to be easily and conveniently mated with one another.

A plurality of electrical leads 66 extends from the electrical cable 18 into the interior of receptacle housing 94. The electrical leads 66 are individually coupled to a plurality of female connectors 106 through 118. The arrangement of these connectors is illustrated more clearly in FIG. 4 as a generally circular symmetrical pattern surrounding a central female connector 118. Obviously, this pattern must cooperate with the pattern of contact pins illustrated in H0. 2. Thus, large and small female connectors are illustrated for cooperating with the large and small contact pins illustrated in FIG. 1. Again, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that any suitable pattern of female connectors, and any suitable number of female connectors may be used, provided they cooperate with the pattern of contact pins selected for the plug assembly 10.

A suitable potting material 68 is placed in the receptacle housing 94 to hold the electrical leads rigidly in place, and to seal the connections between the electrical leads 66 and the various female connectors 106 through 118. An insulating receptacle cap 120, which is preferably formed of molded glass epoxy, is mounted within the receptacle housing 94 and the cylindrical fitting 98. The potting material 68 conforms to the inner surface of the receptacle cap 120, forming a tight seal therewith. Each of the female connectors 106 through 118 extends through the receptacle cap 120 to permit insertion of the contact pins 72 through 84, respectively, into them. The receptacle cap 120 is formed to include a recess 122 at the opening of each of the female connectors 106' through 118. The recesses 122 are designed to cooperate with the sealing ridges 86 of the plug assembly 10 to hermetically seal all of the electrical connections when the plug and receptacle assemblies are mated. A cylindrical channel 124 is formed in the receptacle cap 120 between the main body of othe receptacle cap and the central female connector 118. This channel is adapted to receive the shield of plug assembly 10. Similarly, a protruding cylindrical portion 126 of the receptacle cap 120 is adapted to interfit with the channel 88 of the plug assembly 10.

The mating and locking of the plug and receptacle assemblies may be accomplished as follows. The locking cylinder 22 is first withdrawn either manually, or through the cables 28 against the biasing force of coil spring 32. The locking cylinder must be withdrawn a sufficient distance so that its forward rim 42 is positioned adjacent the ball bearing locking members 48. The receptacle 92 is then advanced toward the plug assembly 10, with its keyway 105 aligned with the aligning key 52 of plug assembly 10. The protruding cylindrical portion 126 of the receptacle assembly must also be positioned to slide over the shield 90 of the plug 10. However, since the shield 90 is constructed of flexible silicone rubber, the shield 90 will bend slightly to accommodate the protruding cylindrical portion 126 of the receptacle, thereby aiding in the axial alignment of the receptacle and plug assemblies. The receptacle as sembly 92 is then inserted into the plug, or vice versa, so that a camming surface 128 located at the protruding end of the cylindrical fitting 98 engages the ball bearing locking members 48. The camming surface 128 forces the ball bearing locking members out through apertures 50 in the wall of cylindrical shell 12, so that the ball bearing locking members protrude into an annular space defined by the outer surface of cylindrical shell 12 and the forward rim 42 of locking cylinder 22. The receptacle assembly is then advanced until the contact pins 72 through 84 are firmly mated with the female connectors 106 through 118, respectively, and the sealing ridges 86 are positioned in the recesses 122. In this position, the locking groove 100 is positioned substantially adjacent to the ball bearing locking members 48. The locking cylinder 22 may then be released, to move forward under the biasing force of coil spring 32. The camming surface 44 on the locking cylinder 22 will thus force the ball bearing locking members 48 into the locking groove 100. However, if the locking groove 100 is not fully aligned with the ball bearing locking members 48, the locking cylinder 22 will not return to its fully closed position, in which its forward end 40 abuts the flange 38. Thus, the lock condition indicator will be clearly visible, informing the operator of the connector that the connector assembly is not fully locked. The operator may then apply a pushing force to the operating ring 56, which will force the ball bearing locking members 48 down the inclined edges of locking groove 100, until the ball bearing locking members are positively seated in the locking groove. In this condition, locking cylinder 22 will be fully closed, and the lock condition indicator 54 will no longer be visible.

To disconnect the plug and receptacle assemblies, the locking cylinder 22 is first withdrawn, and the receptacle 92 is pulled away from the plug assembly 10. THis pulling motion causes the sloped edge of the look ing groove 100 to cam the ball bearing locking members 48 out through apertures 50 into the space defined by the inner surface of the forward rim of the locking cylinder 22 and the outer surface of cylindrical shell 12. The receptacle 92 may then be withdrawn completely from the plug assembly 10.

Various modifications of the high voltage quick dis connect assembly of the present invention are possible. For example, the contact pins and the female connectors can be interchanged. Thus, the contact pins 72 through 84 can be positioned in the receptacle assembly 92, and the female connectors 106 through 118 can be mounted in the plug assembly 10. This reversal of the connector parts in no way influences or changes the operation of the present invention.

Plastic insulating covers can also be provided to cover the mating surfaces of the plug and receptacle assemblies, when the assemblies are not mated. These covers protect those handling the disconnected plug and receptacle assemblies from the danger of high voltage shocks, and also protect the connector assemblies from physical damage.

Although in the preferred embodiment of the invention described above, the insulating cap 70 of the plug assembly is made of silicone rubber, it could also be made of harder, non-resilient molded glass epoxy, if desired. The receptacle cap 120 of the receptacle assembly 92 would then preferably be made of a soft, resilient material, such as silicone rubber.

Obviously, numerous additional modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to be understood that within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein.

What is claimed as new and desired to be secured by Letters Patent of the United States is:

l. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly comprising:

a plug assembly including a housing having an opening at one end thereof,

movable lock operating means mounted around at least a portion of said housing and movable axially of said housing,

actuating means coupled to said lock operating means for actuating said lock operating means,

a plurality of movable locking members positioned in apertures in said housing, said housing including means for limiting movement of said locking members inwardly of said housing, said locking members being movable outwardly of said housing,

a resilient biasing member surrounding the housing and located rearwardly of the locking members for biasing said lock operating means in a first direction,

said lock operating means including a plurality of surfaces for engaging and selectively positioning said plurality of locking members in locked and unlocked position,

indicating means mounted on said housing capable of providing a locked and unlocked visual indication and responsive to positioning of said locking members a predetermined distance outwardly from said point oflimited inward movement thereof for providing said unlocked visual indication,

a first plurality of electrical connectors positioned within said housing, and

insulating means mounted within said housing surrounding at least a portion of said first plurality of electrical connectors,

receptacle means for mating with said plug assembly including:

a protruding portion shaped to fit into said opening in said housing, said protruding portion defining a locking groove means for interfitting with said plurality of locking members,

said receptacle means including a ring of spring fingers for resiliently engaging an outer surface of said housing of said plug assembly.

2. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in claim 1 wherein:

said receptacle means includes a second plurality of electrical connectors for engagement with said first plurality of electrical connectors.

3. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in claim 2, wherein:

said receptacle means includes a body of insulating material surrounding at least a portion of said second plurality of electrical connectors,

said body of insulating material including a sealing configuration for forming a hermetical seal with said insulating means of said plug assembly.

4. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in claim 1, wherein:

said insulating means includes a cap portion formed of a material which is resilient, highly insulative, and impervious to wide fluctuations in environmental temperatures.

5. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in claim 1, wherein:

said insulating means includes a cap portion formed of silicone rubber.

6. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in claim 1, wherein:

said first plurality of electrical connectors includes a plurality of connectors placed in a circular pattern and a first high voltage connector located at the center of said circular pattern,

a first tutublar insulating portion surrounding and extending beyond the end of said high voltage connector,

and receptacle means for mating with said plug assembly having a circular pattern of second connec tors for cooperating with the first plurality of connectors and a second high voltage connector for engaging the first high voltage connector, and a tubular insulating portion surrounding the second high voltage connector and extending beyond the end thereof for mating with the first tubular portion.

7. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in claim 1, wherein:

9 10 each of said locking members comprises a ball bearating means is moved in said first direction.

ing. 10. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in 8. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in claim 1. wherein: claim I, wherein: said actuating means includes a protruding ring said indicating means comprises a ring of brightly formed integral with said lock operating means.

colored material. H. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in 9. A high voltage quick disconnect assembly as in claim 10, further comprising: claim 1 wherein: a plurality of cables coupled to said protruding ring said plurality of surfaces includes a cumming surface for permitting remote operation of said actuating for forcing said plurality of locking members tomeans. ward the interior of said housing as said lock oper-

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Classifications
U.S. Classification439/258, 439/277, 439/157, 439/312, 439/180, 439/374, 439/348, 439/181, 439/281
International ClassificationH01R13/627, H01R13/64, H01R13/635, H01R13/633, H01R13/641
Cooperative ClassificationH01R13/6276, H01R13/641, H01R13/635
European ClassificationH01R13/635