Staying Connected - February 2009

Choosing a Custom or Standard Connector

When designing a new device, one of the decisions that medical equipment manufacturers are often faced with is choosing a connector and mating receptacle.  For some applications, a standard or off-the-shelf connector is a good option.  For other applications, a custom or hybrid connector may offer a better solution.


Example of a custom 10-position
edge card connector with
positive latch


Keyway prevents non-keyed
connector from being plugged into
DB-style receptacle

Some of the reasons why a device manufacturer may consider a custom medical connector instead of an off-the-shelf connector are:

  • A unique design is required to assure that only a specific connector can be mated
  • Connector design needs to match the profile of the device
  • An off-the-shelf connector does not meet specific design requirements
  • A single connector must interconnect a variety of signal types (high voltage, low voltage, high bandwidth)
  • An off-the-shelf connector is not a cost effective solution
  • Custom logo or markings on the connector are desired or required
  • Long lead-times can be a problem for off-the-shelf connectors

A custom connector design can enhance safety.  Unique pin-to-socket patterns or connector shape can prevent mating by incompatible connectors.


Custom low-profile connector
for ambulatory monitoring

With a custom connector solution, design and tooling fabrications costs are generally incurred.  These up-front charges can be a roadblock to choosing a custom connector solution.  However, once design and tooling are complete, a custom connector can often cost much less than off-the-shelf connectors.

Physical Properties

With a custom connector solution, each desired physical property can be addressed.  A custom connector can be designed so that mate and un-mate force matches specific customer requirements.  This force is composed of the friction from each pin and socket as well as the mechanical interface of the connector and receptacle.  Employing a “tool safe” design allows the final force to be “dialed in” with minor tool modifications to give the exact feel desired.


Example of IP67 rated plug
and receptacle – can be
submersed 1 meter for 1 hour
either mated or unmated

Moisture protection is often a consideration in medical interconnect systems.  Off-the-shelf connectors typically incorporate shells and pre-molded boots or collars.  When these components are assembled into a finished connector, they typically do not offer a high degree of ingress protection.  Custom overmolded connectors can be designed with any required ingress protection (IP) rating.

Availability of connectors from major suppliers can also be an issue with lead times of 6-12 weeks being common.  Once tooling has been fabricated, the lead time for custom connectors can be much shorter than for off-the-shelf connectors.

Design Input Requirements

The first step in achieving a custom connector solution is establishing design requirements.  Factors that must be considered include:

  • Number and type of contacts (pins or sockets and specifications for each)
  • Cable configuration (ECG, defib, power, analog, digital, bandwidth, pneumatic, fiber optic, or combination of one or more.)
  • Cable diameter, material and shape
  • Strain relief
  • Shielding requirements for both connectors and cable
  • Voltage and current requirements
  • Size constraints and/or desired physical size
  • Ingress protection (IP) requirements or rating
  • Number of mate and un-mate cycles
  • Locking mechanism – if any - or friction fit
  • Keying requirements
  • Desired mate and un-mate force
  • Cleaning and sterilization requirements
  • Standards and regulatory compliance
  • Logos, markings and serialization

Custom connector designed to follow
the contour of the device case


Custom connector with customers logo
molded into connector body

Custom Connector Components

A custom connector typically involves an injection molded hard plastic insulator into which pins, sockets or both are inserted.  Termination of conductors to the pins or sockets by solder or crimp is most common.  This assembly is then overmolded with a rigid material such as polypropylene which holds the construction together and provides physical strength.  A second overmolding with a material such as a thermoplastic elastomer gives the connector the desired color, finish, look and feel.

Hybrid Connectors

Another option is to use a hybrid – an off-the-shelf connector with custom overmolded grip and strain relief.  Design and tooling costs can be less than a custom connector yet the finished product can have the look, feel, and some of the additional performance advantages of a custom connector.  Besides lower NRE costs, a hybrid connector can have a shorter design and development schedule than a fully custom connector design.


Off-the-shelf connector with
custom overmolded bend relief


3M MDR style connector with custom
angled overmolded strain relief

Freedom From Legacy Designs

Affinity is in a unique position when compared to the many companies that produce medical connectors.  Because we are not a connector company, we routinely incorporate connectors from all major manufactures into our products if this option best matches our customers design requirements.  Since we are not constrained by legacy designs, we are free to create an entirely new connector when a unique interface is required.


Example of a custom in-line
21-contact connector design


Molded pocket on flat surface of
connector was designed to provide
prominent display of customer’s logo

Summary

A custom or hybrid connector can provide unique features and benefits to a medical device requiring an interconnect system.  Safety and reliability can be enhanced and with reasonable volume; a custom connector may be a very cost effective solution.

Whether you need an off-the-shelf connector, a custom connector, or a hybrid, we can help.  Affinity Medical Technologies has experience and expertise in designing and manufacturing custom medical connectors and cable assemblies.  Let us become part of your design team.  Contact Affinity Customer Care at 949-477-9495 or email to customercare2@affinitymed.com.

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Meet Eric Schnitzler – Affinity Medical Production Supervisor


Eric “oversees” all aspects
of Affinity Medical production

If you are looking for the Production Supervisor at Affinity Medical Technologies, chances are he will not be sitting at his desk; more likely he is somewhere on the production floor.  Eric Schnitzler joined the Affinity team as Production Supervisor in 2006 and had an immediate positive impact on production.

Shortly after completing his duty in the United States Army as a helicopter crew chief and co-pilot, Eric began a twenty-five year career with a major aerospace manufacturer.   During this time his primary focus was team leadership and supervision but Eric also gained valuable experience in Lean Manufacturing and ISO certification.
Eric supervises the Affinity production team on a daily basis, overseeing all aspects of cable assembly and molding.  To complete orders on time, Eric works closely with the managers of planning, manufacturing, quality, engineering and sales.  “We all work very hard to make sure shipments to our customers are on-time” said Eric.

Recently, Eric participated in additional “Lean Manufacturing” training held at Affinity Medical.  Since then, he has been working daily with Affinity team members to implement lean practices throughout the production floor that will improve productivity and help Affinity Medical improve its already high 99.2% on time delivery performance.


Eric Schnitzler supervises all
aspects of Affinity Medical production

When asked what he likes most about his job at Affinity, Eric said, “I love the challenge of producing consistently high quality products in a positive, productive manufacturing environment resulting in a high level of customer satisfaction.” 

Eric received his BA in Business Management from the University of Phoenix and also holds an Associate Degree in Aircraft Technology.  During his time away from Affinity, Eric relaxes by playing and “wrestling” with his two puppies; a miniature schnauzer named “Baby” and a Scottish terrier, “McDuff.”  He enjoys traveling, cooking and shopping with his wife Kelly and the entire family cheers for their daughter Cassandra at her soccer games.   In addition, Eric and his son Garrett spend many hours working together restoring Garrett’s first car to “mint condition.”

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Bonded Leadwires



Connector end of 5-lead
bonded leadwire set

One of the capabilities of Affinity Medical Technologies is offering our OEM customers a variety of choices in leadwires.  One option that has increased in popularity is bonded leadwires.

Bonded leadwires help eliminate wire tangle that is common when individual leadwires are used on Holter, event, or telemetry monitors.  The greater the number of patient leads, the greater the opportunity for the leadwires to become tangled.  Tangled leadwires can lead to incomplete monitoring and patient discomfort.

Affinity Medical Technologies offers both shielded and unshielded bonded leadwires and in various configurations from two to ten conductors and in several wire diameters and wire colors.  Almost any length lead is possible with the bonded wires typically separated into individual conductors 12 to 15” from the patient.


Bonded leadwires with
wire diameter of
1mm, 1.5mm, and 2mm



Shrink wrap at point bonded wires
separate into 5 individual leads

The engineering team at Affinity has experience in designing bonded leadwire systems for medical monitoring.  If you would like to see samples of cables incorporating bonded leadwires, contact Affinity Medical Customer Care at 949-477-9495 or email to customercare2@affinitymed.com.

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Announcements and Information


El Capitan, the world’s
largest visible granite rock
Image source: Wikipedia

Trivia

The town of Modesto, California was named in honor of its founders who were too "modest" to name it after themselves.

El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is the largest visible granite rock in the world. It's twice the size of the Rock of Gibraltar.

The driest place on Earth is Calama in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.  Calama is the capital of El Loa Province and has a population of 143,000.  Average annual precipitation is just 0.2 inches with many years having no measurable rain!  The River Loa, Chile's longest, flows through the city providing water.




Suzann Sitka and Candy Golding
the Affinity Customer Care team

Affinity Customer Care - Hours of Operation

Affinity Medical Technologies customer care specialists are available from 7:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. Pacific Time.

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Affinity Medical Technologies

1732 Reynolds Ave
Irvine, CA 92614  USA
Phone: +1 949 477 9495
Fax: +1 949 477 9499
Email: CustomerCare2@affinitymed.com
Website: www.affinitymed.com