Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS3892456 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 1, 1975
Filing dateDec 26, 1973
Priority dateDec 26, 1973
Publication numberUS 3892456 A, US 3892456A, US-A-3892456, US3892456 A, US3892456A
InventorsWestmoreland Julius C
Original AssigneeWestmoreland Julius C
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Electrical connector assembly
US 3892456 A
Abstract
An electrical connector assembly is disclosed which includes a first socket member and a second plug member. The body of the socket member has a cavity therein having a predetermined cross-section. A first contact member and a shield member are positioned in the cavity. The shield member normally closes the cavity and the first contact member to the environment outside the socket member. The plug member includes a second, tubular contact member whose cross-section conforms to the cross-section of the cavity, whereby the second contact member can penetrate between the shield member and the walls of the cavity to make electrical contact with the first contact member.
Images(1)
Previous page
Next page
Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent Westmoreland July 1, 1975 ELECTRICAL CONNECTOR ASSEMBLY [76] Inventor: Julius C. Westmoreland, 7204 Plaza pnlnary Lake de Costa Carlsbad Calif. 92008 Assistant Exammer-Nell Abrams Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Reagin & Braunstein, Inc. [22] Filed: Dec. 26, 1973 [52] US. Cl. 339/40; 339/61 R [51] Int. Cl. ..H01R 13/44 [58] Field of Search 339/36, 40, 41, 42, 60 R, 339/60 C, 60 M, 59 R, 59 L, 59 M, 61 R, 6i C, 6] L, 61 M, 94 R, 94 A, 94 C, 94 L, 94 M [56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,243,990 6/l94l Thorn et al...... 339/40 X 2,450,467 lO/l948 Clark 339/94 R 2,782,391 2/l957 Kirk... 339/60 R 3,508,l88 4/[970 Buck r 339/42 3,673,54l 6/[972 Volinskie 339/94 M X FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLlCATlONS 709.389 5/l954 United Kingdom 339/40 I I I I '52 An electrical connector assembly is disclosed which includes a first socket member and a second plug member. The body of the socket member has a cavity therein having a predetermined cross-section. A first contact member and a shield member are positioned in the cavity. The shield member normally closes the cavity and the first contact member to the environment outside the socket member. The plug member includes a second, tubular contact member whose cross-section conforms to the cross-section of the cavity, whereby the second contact member can penetrate between the shield member and the walls of the cavity to make electrical contact with the first contact member,

8 Claims, 8 Drawing Figures ELECTRICAL CONNECTOR ASSEMBLY This invention relates to electrical connectors, and more particularly to an improved electrical connector assembly for making and breaking electrical contact in adverse environmental conditions, such as underwater or in an explosive atmosphere.

There are a large number of different types of electrical connector assemblies known in the prior art for making and breaking electrical contact between two or more wires. A common form of such assembly is a twopiece arrangement in which one of the pieces may be considered to be a plug or make member and the other a socket or female member. It is known that many types of such plug and socket devices can be manufactured easily and economically to make and break electrical connections in the circuits.

However. those skilled in the art have encountered many problems when attempting to use a such plug and socket assemblies in difficult environments, such as undersea or in an explosive atmosphere. In such environments. conventional assemblies have not proven adequate because of a variety of reasons. For instance, in undersea applications, the conductive sea water tends to short between the connections, and the high pressure of the sea water. at least if the connector is used in any significant depth. frequently makes it difficult, if not impossible for a worker such as a diver to insert the plug into the socket and complete the connection. Further, in explosive atmospheres, such as might be found in a mine or the like. conventional plug and socket assemblies cannot be used because of the danger of an open spark igniting a fire or explosion.

It is accordingly an object of the present invention to provide an improved electrical connector assembly for making and breaking electrical circuits.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide an improved electrical connector assembly which can be used in difficult environments such as undersea and in explosive atmospheres.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide such an electrical connector assembly which can be easily and repeatedly connected and unconnected by a worker in the environment.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide such an electrical connector assembly which can be easily and cheaply manufactured.

Briefly stated, and in accordance with the presently preferred embodiment of the invention, an electrical connector assembly is provided which includes a first socket or female member and a second plug or male member. The socket member has a cavity therein which has a predetermined cross-section, preferably a circular cross-section. A first contact member is positioned in the cavity and a shield member is provided which is positioned in the cavity and has a cross-section conforming to the cross-section of the cavity. This shield member normally closes the cavity and the first contact member from the environment outside the body member. The second or plug member includes a second. tubular contact member whose cross-section also conforms to the cross-section of the cavity in the body of the first or socket member. When the two members are assembled to complete the electrical connection. the second contact member penetrates between the shield member and the walls of the cavity to make electrical contact with the first contact member.

For a complete understanding of the invention, together with an appreciation of its other objects and advantages. please refer to the following detailed description of the attached drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of an electrical contact assembly in accordance with the present invention in which the two members are not connected;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view similar to FIG. 1 in which the two members are connected;

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the electrical connector assembly of FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a socket or female member of an electrical connector assembly in accordance with a second embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of an electrical connector assembly in accordance with a third embodiment of the present invention;

FIG: 6 is a cross-sectional view of a female or socket member of an electrical connector assembly in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of an electrical connector assembly in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 8 is a plan view of the shield member of the embodiment of FIG. 7.

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of an electrical connector assembly 10 in accordance with the present invention. The connector assembly 10 is formed from the female or socket member 12 and a male or plug member 14. In the view of FIG. I, the socket member 12 and the plug member 14 are shown in their disconnected position. FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the same that shows assembly 10 of FIG. 1 shows the two members 12 and 14 in their connected or assembled position. FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the connector assembly of FIGS. 1 and 2 with the insulated body members removed. For convenience and clarity. the following detailed description is of FIGS. l, 2 and 3 simultaneously, with the same reference numeral being used to identify the same part or component in each of the views.

The socket member 12 includes a body member I6 which is formed from an electrically insulating. resilient, elastic material such as neoprene, nitrile. butadiene, butyl, polyurethane, isoprene rubber, silicone rubber. or any other suitable rubber elastomer.

The body 16 has formed therein a cylindrical cavity 18 which has its open end through the end surface 20 of the body [6. Positioned within the cavity 18 is a first electrical contact member 22, which is in turn secured to a terminal connector 24 positioned in the bottom of cavity 18. Terminal connector 24 is secured to a lead wire 26 to which electrical connection is to be made. For example. first contact member 22 may be secured to terminal connector 24 by the terminal screw 28.

In accordance with the present invention. a shield member 30 is provided which is positioned in the cavity between the first contact member 22 and the end surface 20 of body I6. The shield member 30 is chosen to have a cross-section conforming to the cross-section of cavity I8 and normally closing the cavity and the first contact member 22 from the environment outside of the body member 16. In this shown embodiment, the shield member 30 is a spherical member formed from a relatively hard, electrically insulating material such as nylon. The diameter of the spherical member 30 is chosen so that it is equal to or somewhat greater than the relaxed diameter of the cavity 18, whereby the clastic properties of the material from which the body member 16 is formed effect a tight but penetrable seal between the sphere 30 and the walls of cavity 18. This seal also effectively closes off or seals the volume 32 between the sphere 30 and first contact member 22. If desired, the space 32 may be filled with any suitable dielectric oil or the like.

The male or plug member 14 of the connector assembly also includes a body member 34, which for convenience can be made from the same material as is body member [6. However, as will be obvious from the description below. the elastic properties of the material from which body member 34 is formed is not important to the invention.

A tubular second contact member 36 is supported by body 34. The end of the second contact member 36 within the body 34 is secured in any suitable manner to a terminal connector 38, which is in turn connected to lead wire 40. which is to be electrically connected by the connector assembly 10 to the lead wire 26.

The dimensions of the tubular Contact member 36 are chosen such that its inside diameter is substantially equal to the diameter of spherical member 30, and its outside diameter is such that, when the contact mem ber 36 is inserted into the cavity IS, the walls of the cavity can stretch to accommodate the entry of contact member 36, while still retaining a tight elastic seal be tween the walls of cavity 18 and the outer surface of contact member 36.

Positioned within the contact member 36 is a spring 42 and a second spherical member 44, which may be identical to spherical member 30. One end of the spring 42 is secured to terminal connector 38, and its other end is secured to the second spherical member 44. The function of the spring 42 and the second spherical member 44 will be apparent from the description below. The second contact member 36 also includes two vent ports 46. These vent ports 46 allow the escape of any water within the assembly when the members 12 and I4 are assembled under water. In addition, preferably all interior and exterior surfaces of the second contact member 36 except those portions of it which actually make contact with a first contact member 22 are coated with a film ofinsulating material such tef Ion to prevent the assembly from being shorted out by conductive seawater when the connector assembly 10 is being used under water.

When it is desired to make electrical connection between the lead wires 26 and 40, the male or plug member 14 is inserted into the female or socket member 12 until the end portions of second contact member 36 make secure electrical contact with first contact member 22. FIG. 2 shows the connector assembly IO in this position. As the members are so assembled, the second contact member 36 is inserted into cavity 18, and penetrates between the shield member and the wall of cavity 18 to make electrical contact with the first contact member 22. As this occurs, the shield member 30 forces the second spherical member 44 back into the interior of second contact member 36, compressing spring 42 as it does so. During the time of insertion, and thereafter, as long as the elements are assembled, the walls of cavity 18 form a tight seal with the external surface of second contact member 36, thereby maintaining the shield between the first contact member 22 (and thus the actual point of electrical contact between the contact members 22 and 36) and the environment outside of the connector assembly I0. Also, as the elements are so inserted and assembled, any water within the assembly can escape from the interior through the vent ports 46.

When it is desired to break the electrical connection between the lead wires 26 and 40, the members 12 and 14 are separated. As this occurs, spring 42 and spherical member 44 provide suitable force on the shield member 30 to retain it within cavity 18 as the second contact member 36 is withdrawn from the cavity.

Thus, the electrical connector assembly I0 just described is a simple. foolproof arrangement for making and breaking electrical connection in an adverse environment such as under water, and is one which can easily and repeatedly be effected over and over by a worker such as a diver in this adverse environment.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a second female or socket member 50 which could be substituted directly for the member I2 of FIGS. I and 2. The member 50 is identical to the member 12 except that the shield member is formed from two spherical members 52 and 54, to provide additional sealing when the plug member is inserted into the socket member 50. Also, in the em bodiment of FIG. 4, the element 56 serves as both the terminal connector for the lead wire 58 and as the first contact member which makes electrical connection with the second Contact member from the plug, which is not shown in this figure.

FIG. 5 shows a crosssectional view ofa second elec trical connector assembly 60 in accordance with an additional embodiment of the present invention, The con nector assembly 60 comprises a first socket or female member 62 and a second plug or male member 64 and is generally similar to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 through 3 except that the shield member 66 is a body of revolution having the shape shown in FIG. 5, instead of being a spherical member, and is mechanically secured by any suitable means to the first contact member 68 and the terminal connector 70. In other re spects, the member 62 is similar to the member 12 of FIGS. 1 and 2.

The member 64 is similar to the member I4 of FIGS. 1 and 2 except that the second contact member 72 has no spring and sphere arrangement within its interior, since in this embodiment, when the second contact member 72 is withdrawn, the shield member 66 is retained within the cavity in member 62 because it is mechanically secured to the elements in the bottom of the cavity.

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of a socket or female member in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention. The embodiment of FIG. 6 may be thought of as a combination of the embodiments of FIG. 4 and 5. In FIG. 6, the shield member 82 has the general form of two spherical portions and a capped cylindrical portion, with the capped cylindrical portion being retained by the first contact member 84 in the manner shown. An Oring 86 is provided around the groove or depression defined between the two spherical portions of shield member 82. This arrangement provides additional sealing between the shield member and the body of the female member 80. The member 80 may then be used with a plug or male member, such as the member 64 of FIG. 5, to complete an electrical connector assembly.

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of an electrical connector assembly 100 in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention. As is shown therein, the connector assembly 100 includes a socket member 102 and a plug member 104. The assembly 100 includes two connector assemblies for making electrical contact between a first pair of lead wires 106 and 108 and a second pair of lead wires 110 and 122. Obviously, the connector assembly 100 could be expanded to provide connection between any desired number of pairs of lead wires, but for simplicity and clarity, only two such pairs are shown in this embodiment.

The connector assembly 100 is generally similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 6 above except that the shield member is formed from a body section 114 and an O-ring 116. Details of the body member 114 are shown in FIG. 8, which is a plan view of the body mem her 114.

As is shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, the member 114 is formed as a body of revolution having two enlarged, generally cylindrical portions 118 and 120 which seal against the interior wall of the cavity in the body of member 102. A cylindrical portion 122 of smaller diameter is formed between the portions 118 and 120. The O-ring 116 is supported within the space around the cylindrical portion 122. The capped end portion 124 is provided to be retained by the contact member 126.

While the invention is thus disclosed, and several embodiments described in detail, it is not intended that the invention be limited to these shown embodiments. Numerous modifications will occur to those skilled in the art which lie within the spirit and scope of the invention. For example. for some applications it will not be necessary to make the body member of the socket member out ofa particularly resilient material. instead, if one of the O-ring versions of the invention is used, the body can be made out of a relatively rigid material, the shield member can have a somewhat smaller diameter, and the O-ring will provide the necessary seal between the members. In another possible modification, the body member can be formed from a relatively rigid material, and the shield member can be formed from a resilient or elastic material to allow the second contact member to penetrate between the shield member and the walls of the cavity. Also, although in the preferred embodiment of the invention, the cross-section of the cavity, the shield member and the contact members is circular, any other desired cross-section could be used, if desired. A proper seal can be obtained from other cross-sections as long as the cross-sections conform to each other within the elasticity of the materials used. It is thus intended that the invention be limited in scope only by the appended claims.

What is claimed is:

1. An electrical connector assembly comprising:

a first member including:

a body member formed from a resilient, elastic material and having a cavity therein having a predetermined cross-section,

a first Contact member positioned in the cavity,

a shield member formed from a rigid material positioned in the cavity, the shield member having a cross-section conforming to the cross-section of the cavity and normally closing the cavity and the first contact member to the environment outside the body member, and

means for supporting the shield member in the cavity such that the shield member can move axially along the cavity, and

a second member including a second, tubular contact member having a hollow interior whose crosssection also conforms to the cross-section of the cavity and which can receive the shield member into its hollow interior, whereby the second contact member can penetrate between the shield member and the walls of the cavity to make electrical contact with the first contact member.

2. The electrical connector assembly of claim 1 in which the cavity in the body member has a circular cross-section.

3. The electrical connector assembly of claim 2 which further comprises elastic means for sealing between the shield member and the walls of the cavity and for allowing the second contact member to penetrate into and be withdrawn from the cavity to make and break electrical contact with the first contact member.

4. The electrical connector assembly of claim 3 in which the elastic means comprises an O-ring on the shield member.

5. The electrical connector assembly of claim 1 in which the shield member is a spherical member formed from insulating material.

6. The electrical connector assembly of claim 5 which further comprises retaining means for retaining the shield member within the cavity while the second contact member is being withdrawn from the cavity.

7. The electrical connector assembly of claim 6 in which the retaining means comprises a second spheri cal member within the second contact member and spring means for urging the second spherical member out of the second contact member.

8. The electrical connector assembly of claim 5 in which the shield member further comprises a second spherical member formed from insulating material and positioned in the cavity.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US2243990 *Aug 6, 1938Jun 3, 1941ThoraElectric outlet conduit
US2450467 *Oct 26, 1945Oct 5, 1948Clark Charles LPolarized house wiring receptacle and plug
US2782391 *Oct 2, 1952Feb 19, 1957Gen Motors CorpWaterproof line connector
US3508188 *Aug 27, 1968Apr 21, 1970Buck Jon RUnderwater electrical quick disconnect
US3673541 *Aug 6, 1970Jun 27, 1972Amp IncComposite electrical and fluid or air connector
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6196854 *Mar 8, 1999Mar 6, 2001Hawke Cable Glands LimitedElectrical connector
US6324416 *Sep 23, 1999Nov 27, 2001B. Braun Melsungen AgConnecting device for intra-atrial ECG-lead
US20070032112 *Jul 30, 2004Feb 8, 2007Oscar RenauttSelf-adjustable junction connector system
WO2003090320A1 *Apr 17, 2003Oct 30, 2003Hawke Cable Glands LimitedAn electrical connector
Classifications
U.S. Classification439/137
International ClassificationH01R13/523
Cooperative ClassificationH01R13/523
European ClassificationH01R13/523