By Roy Phillips, Managing Director, Intelliconnect (Europe) Ltd.
Intelliconnect (Europe) Ltd provided a new design of rugged corrosion and waterproof connector to a UK start-up company who manufacture a unique system for remote monitoring of the wall thickness of pipelines used in the petrochemical, oil and gas industries. The end system uses discrete RF modules directly connected to specific points on an installation to provide remotely managed continuous measurement and monitoring of pipeline wall thickness. Traditionally this activity is carried out manually with inspection staff having to regularly access the relevant areas over a complete installation or site. This can be a very costly, time consuming and potentially error-prone procedure.
The Measuring equipment is designed to be installed indoors or outdoors in a wide range of environments in oil refineries or on pipelines from desert to near arctic conditions. the system needed to be waterproof and to be capable of withstanding ingress of liquids sand and dust. A range of waterproof TNC/MCX bulkhead mount adaptors, waterproof TNC plug connectors, waterproof quadraxial (4-way for signal and data lines) connectors were required all of which would have to be ATEX approved in the equipment by the customer. There were also a number of internal cable assemblies requiring ATEX approval, which required careful selection of heat shrink sleeves.
Among the challenges were the following:
- The outdoor environment of up to 200⁰ C operating temperature for an ultrasonic thermocouple temperature unit.
- Waterproof to IP68, impervious to liquid, sand and dust, capable of meeting ATEX approval (material selection, cable assemblies)
- A custom connector 4-way Quadraxial design that was aesthetically similar to the TNC adaptor design, with the ability to ensure the correct device was fitted to the correct TNC bulkhead adaptor.
This project was a development from existing TNC/MCX adaptors, plus a new design of quadraxial (4 way) connector. Standard and reverse polarity designs ensured that incorrect device connection could be eliminated, and the materials data and samples were submitted to undergo ATEX approval testing.
The adaptors were waterproof both at the bulkhead and sealed internally to prevent moisture ingress through the internal connector components when unmated.
A mating TNC plug connector, sealed to IP68 rating was specially developed and assembled with a 200⁰C rated cable (approved by the customer) designed to meet the specific requirements.
A custom designed 4-way mated pair of connectors were designed, developed and prototyped to be submitted for customer approval and qualification. The design in ATEX approved materials required a specially designed alignment feature to ensure successful mating of the 4 contacts whilst still providing an IP68 sealed connector.
With the end customer’s product qualification finalised and certified, the measuring system entered the marketplace after a relatively long development cycle, caused mainly by the launch of the new manufacturing company.
The Intelliconnect TNC/MCX adaptors (standard and reverse polarity) are now firmly established as a standard production Pisces adaptor which have been in production for over 12 years. Similarly, the mating half TNC plug connector is now in full production and is a standard item in Pisces waterproof connector range.
The 4-way connectors are housed in an identical TNC adaptor body and are currently in production and available for other applications. The same IP68 rating applies ensuring that the connectors are sealed in their unmated condition as well as when connected to the bulkhead panel.
Intelliconnect (Europe) Ltd. is the largest UK based manufacturer of RF, microwave, waterproof and cryogenic connectors and cable harnesses suitable for applications including wearable technology, medical, telecoms, satcoms, military, aerospace, space, general microwave communications, rail traction, oil and gas and marine.
In addition to manufacturing the market leading Pisces range of waterproof RF connectors and value-added service, Intelliconnect can deliver custom designed connectors in just 8 to 10 weeks from customer approval of a design drawing.
It recently launched and fast-growing cryogenic cable assembly business CryoCoax supplies the growing market for quantum computing, medical, research, test and measurement and the emerging low temperature computing markets.
Intelliconnect’s cable division are specialist manufacturers of affordable, high quality, high frequency microwave cables including triaxial assemblies, semi-rigid, semi-flexible and cryogenic cables as well as standard RG/LMR type products. Cables can be waterproofed to IP68 and include special features including phase matching and ruggedised assemblies for use in harsh environments.