Networking / Connectors

Recommendations for connectors in extreme environments

Whether it's high/low temperatures, humidity, harsh cleaning agents or high degree of abrasion on cables, our panel of experts have guidance on what cables you should use

By Mike Bacidore, chief editor

Whether it's extreme temperatures, humidity, harsh cleaning agents or high degree of abrasion on cables, our five experts have guidance on what cables you should use to ensure reliability. As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) continues to gain mindshare and acceptance, the roles of the cables, connectors and wires that move the data become more important.

What recommendations can you make for connectors that need to operate in extreme environments?


Jack Zurick thumbJack Zurick, senior control systems engineer at Thermo Systems, a Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) member: Gold-plated connectors are often best used in corrosive environments and present a lower Ohmic resistance. Connectors as made by Amphenol, as well as a host of other manufacturers, have been used successfully where multi-pin connectors are required. Reliable connections can be made even more reliable where both the male and female counterparts are screwed together, as opposed to being simply pushed together in order to mate.

Dean W Smith thumbDean Smith, product marketing specialist, industrial field connectivity (IFC) at Phoenix Contact USA: The most common U.S. standard for extreme environments is defined under the United Laboratories (UL) Standard for Safety: UL 508A Type 4 or 4X protection levels. There are several options available from varying suppliers for heavy-duty industrial connectors that can meet this requirement. Building from that basic industrial connector line, variants are available for more specific areas like outdoor and railway requirements, as well. Type 4X guarantees operation under extreme temperatures, seals against high-pressure water jets and provides saltwater corrosion resistance.

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Jennifer Grace thumbJennifer Grace, product technical manager—connectivity at BalluffThe extreme environments could be high/low temperatures, humidity, harsh cleaning agents or high degree of abrasion on cables. We recommend the following types of high durability cables based on the application requirements.

PTFE low-friction, resistant to caustic agents:

  • silicone-free
  • operational temperature fixed and moving: -60…200 °C.

Molded silicone tube sealed tube, resistant to ingress, spatter resistance on nut:

  • jacket temperature fixed: -60...180 °C
  • cable temperature fixed: -50...80 °C.

Stainless steel braid—abrasion resistant, high mechanical durability:

  • jacket temperature fixed: -25...80 °C
  • cable temperature fixed: -50...80 °C.

Fiberglass: high temperature jacket, nonflammable, nonfraying:

  • jacket temperature fixed: -60…400 °C
  • cable temperature fixed:-50…80 °C.

Silicone cable abrasion and mechanical shock resistant, thermal shock resistant:

  • operational temperature fixed: -40…200 °C.

PVC coated steel armor: crush resistant, high mechanical durability.

Alex Dzatko thumbAlex Dzatko, proposals specialist at Pepperl+Fuchs: Look for connectors that have type or ingress protection ratings/certifications. Type 4X and IP65/66 are most often used in outdoor and marine environments, as these ratings protect from splashing water, ice buildup, water jets for cleaning and corrosion. IP69K connectors are used often in food & beverage and pharmaceutical industries, and they protect against hot, high-pressure water jets. IP69K protects against this cleaning process, which these industries must use to meet their required hygienic standards.

Allen Bennett thumbAllen Bennett, field application engineer at Allied Electronics & Automation: Use hermetically sealed, IP68, IP67, IP69K and connectors rated for Class I, Div. 2 environments. Class I includes flammable gases, vapors or liquids. Div. 2 includes locations where a flammable or combustible atmosphere is present only under abnormal conditions.


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