Six road blocks in high-voltage connector design (and how to overcome them)

& -May 23, 2013

Designing a high-voltage cable assembly and connectors can be very challenging. There are many aspects of the cable assembly that must be considered.

Before beginning the design you must answer some general, but very important questions like: What is the operating voltage and current? What type of environment will the cable be operating in? Will the cable be required to meet any specifications? Are there any specific requirements from the customer?

After you have answered these first round questions you can begin drafting a design. We have come up with the six most common design road blocks and tips on how to avoid and overcome them.

Size Constraints
Size constraints often make the challenge of designing a high-voltage connector and cable assembly extremely difficult. Generally the high-voltage cable assembly is the last piece of the puzzle that customers think about when designing their equipment.

Often times the space required for a high-voltage connection that meets their operating requirements isn't available. The industry is constantly moving towards smaller lighter assemblies with increased operating thresholds. Using spacing to offset high voltages has become a thing of the past.

Companies now look to the design team to come up with a solution that will resolve these issues and still keep the cost of the cable assembly down. Generally a custom connector design is required to achieve this goal.

Designing around an existing connector
Designing around an existing connector can prove to be extremely difficult. Customers come in with an existing connector that they cannot deviate from. Generally these connectors are not performing up to their requirements, or mate to another component that is a grandfathered part of their design.

Another reason could be the connector needs to perform at an increased performance threshold that cannot be met with the current configuration. Whatever the case may be, an in-depth analysis of the inner working of the connector assembly is required. Working closely with the customer, the engineering team will analyze all aspects of the design: what materials are utilized? What are the mechanical and electrical properties of the materials? What aspects of the design can be changed to meet the required specification without affecting the fit, form and function of the design?

Cost
With the economy in its current state, a major hurdle in HV design can be keeping the cost down. This can prove to be difficult when trying to design a reliable, effective, robust connector that meets or exceeds the customer's requirements. In many cases performance ends up taking a back seat to reduced cost.

There are a few techniques used to minimize cost without compromising on performance. For example, by utilizing existing materials that are stocked and readily available, using hardware from existing designs, and incorporating them into the new design, and by using existing tools, molds, and jigs and designing new components from cost-effective materials that won't compromise on performance.

Manufacturability
The manufacturability of the design is a key component. The design may look good on paper but can it be built easily? The difficulty of the design affects the direct labor time required to build the cable assembly, which affects the cost.

The difficulty of the design also affects the ability to maintain a repeatable, reliable process. If the process is not repeatable you will have inherent cable failures. These potential processing issues should be caught and addressed during the design review.

Next: Materials

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