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1. (WO2007006336) ELECTRICAL CONNECTOR
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Electrical connector
The present invention relates to the art of electrical connectors and particularly to an electrical plug connector having a plurality of ways that mates with a complementary socket connector.

Multiple-way connector arrangement consists of a first electrical plug connector being inserted into a complementary socket connector, both connectors having respective male and female electrical terminals that are coupled together when the first plug connector mates the second socket connector.

In order to obtain a small electrical resistance between the electrical terminals of the respective connectors, the pressure between the conductive surface of the plugged electrical terminals needs be sufficient. Due to the existence of friction forces, it is therefore necessary to apply a high force during the plugging of one male terminal into one female terminal . In case the plug connector and the complementary socket connector have a large number of electrical terminals, the force required to mate the connectors increases in such a way that a manual operation may be rendered impossible.

It is therefore known that connector arrangements comprising a large number of ways generally include an additional mechanical system for scaling down the required mating force and for increasing the stroke of the element that is actuated by an operator.

WO 02/078126 illustrates a connector arrangement featuring such a mechanical system, wherein a first electrical connector comprises a slider acting as a cam and a lever to operate the slider. The slider can slide in a direction perpendicular to the mating direction and is provided with oblique slots that cooperate with respective external tabs of a second complementary connector to plug both connectors. Rotation of the lever causes a displacement of the slider by means of a gear system and consequently the mating of the first connector with the second complementary connector.

WO 04/001910 discloses an electrical connector arrangement having a mechanical system combining a slider and a lever, wherein the lever is pivotally mounted on the housing of a first electrical connector of said connector arrangement . The slider is mounted on the same housing and slides on pivoting of the lever, thereby mating or unmating the two parts of the connector arrangement .

In view of the foregoing, it is an object of the present invention to provide for an electrical connector with a less complicated mating mechanism for a multiple-way connector arrangement .

This object is achieved by means of the features of the independent claims. Advantageous features are defined in the dependent claims. Further objects and advantages of the invention are apparent in the following description.

The present invention will now be described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 is an exploded view of a first embodiment of a first electrical connector in accordance with the present invention,

Fig. 2 is a perspective view of a two-part electrical connector comprising a first electrical connector and a second complementary electrical connector, Fig. 3 is a perspective view of a two-part electrical connector comprising a first electrical connector and a second complementary electrical connector in a fully mated position,

Fig. 4 is a perspective view of a casing of a first electrical connector according to the invention,

Fig. 5 is a perspective view of a cover and a lever of a first electrical connector according to the invention,

Fig. 6 is a perspective view of a slider of a first electrical connector according to the invention,

Fig. 7 is a cross-sectional view of an assembled first electrical connector according to the invention with a cover, a lever, and a slider mounted on a casing,

Fig. 8 is a perspective view of two parts of a partially assembled first electrical connector according to the invention, a first part being a slider mounted on a casing and a second part being a lever mounted on a cover,

Fig. 9 is a cross-sectional view of a connector arrangement in accordance with the present invention in the fully mated position, and

Fig. 10 is a cross-sectional view of a first electrical connector in accordance with the present invention.

Referring to Fig. 1 to 3, the first embodiment of a multiple-way two-part electrical connector arrangement 1 in accordance with the present invention comprises a first electrical plug connector 2 and a second complementary socket connector 3, which are mateable and demateable, respectively with each other in a first connection direction X.

The first electrical plug connector 2 of the arrangement 1 comprises a casing 4, a slider 16, a cover 17, and a lever 18.

In the following the structure of the casing 4 will be described with reference to Fig. 4. The casing 4 is of electrically insulating material, which material is preferably plastics material and preferably moulded in one piece. The casing 4 is composed of a substantially parallelepipedic-shaped and hollow main body 5 that is defined by two parallel side walls 6, 7, two parallel first or front end and second or rear end walls 8, 9 and an upper wall 10.

Each side wall 6, 7 has a bottom 11 and a top 12 edge. First and second spaced apertures 92 , 93 are formed in the top edge 12 of each side wall 6, 7. A shoulder 96 is formed on the bottom edge 11 of each side wall 6, 7. The external surface 13 of each side wall 6, 7 defines a bottom 14 and an upper guiding groove 15 in the bottom 11 and the top 12 edge respectively. The guiding grooves 14, 15 are substantially parallel and are designed to retain the slider 16, as will be described below. Each guiding groove 14, 15 preferably extend along a second sliding direction Y that is perpendicular to the first connection direction X.

The bottom guiding groove 14 is discontinuous and presents a front aperture 19 and a rear aperture 20 to allow the insertion of guide tabs 22, 23 of the second complementary socket connector 3 into guide slots 24, 25 of the casing 4. The top guiding groove 15 is discontinuous and presents a middle aperture 21 in order to allow the lever 18 to be pivoted, as will be described below.

A front guide slot 24 and a rear guide slot 25 are formed on each of the side walls 6, 7 and extend from the bottom edge 11 of the respective side wall 6, 7 preferably in a straight manner along the connection direction X. The front guide slot 24 is preferably shorter than the rear guide slot. The guide slots 24, 25 open at a respective opening 86, 87 through the bottom edge 11.

A front end portion 26 and a rear end portion 27 are formed on top of the casing 4 and project upwards from the upper wall 10 along the connection direction X. Said end portions 26, 27 comprise slots 28, lateral apertures 29, and a central aperture 30 for mounting the cover 17 onto the casing 4 in a per se known manner. For that purpose, the cover 17 comprises rigid tabs 33 for inserting in the lateral apertures 29 of one of the two end portions 26, 27, and rails 31 and a deflectable tab 32 for inserting respectively in the slots 28 and the central aperture 30 of the other one of the two end portions 26, 27, see Figs. 3, 5. Slots 28, lateral apertures 29 and central aperture 30 are preferably formed on each end portion 26, 27, such that the cover 17 can be mounted in two ways with the rigid tabs 33 on the front end 26 or rear end 27 portion.

The first plug connector 2 of the multiple-way connector arrangement 1 is designed to receive and retain a large number of various electrical contacts or terminals 34, see Figs. 9 , 10. On mating of the first and second connectors 2, 3, the electrical terminals 34 in the first plug connector 2 mate with, and complete an electrical connection with, corresponding electrical terminals 35 in the second socket connector 3. The used terminals 34, 35 may be of any suitable type, wherein the first connector 2 preferably comprises female terminals 34 and the second connector 3 male terminals 35. However, this may be vice versa or even mixed.

The electrical terminals 34 of the first plug connector 2 and electrical cables 36 to which the terminals 34 are connected are located in specific cavities 37 extending parallel to the first connection direction X. The first plug connector 2 can be mated or unmated, i.e. mechanically and electrically connected or disconnected, with the second socket connector 3 by moving the two connectors 2, 3 relative to one another in the first connection direction X.

The retention of the electrical terminals 34 in the casing 4 is ensured by one primary locking tab 49 per electrical terminal 34 and by two secondary locking rails 38, 39. Each primary locking tab 49 is fastened to its corresponding electrical terminal 34 and latches into a recess 50 of the casing 4 by making a snapping fit. The secondary locking rails 38, 39 are inserted respectively into the casing 4 through the end walls 8, 9 once the first plug connector 2 mates with the second socket connector 3. The inserted locking rails 38, 39 are located behind the electrical terminals 34 in the connection direction X and prevent said electrical terminals 34 being disconnected from the corresponding electrical terminals of the second connector 3.

A malleable radial seal 40 is provided between the casing 4 of the first plug connector 2 and the second socket connector 3. The upper wall 10 of the casing 4 comprises an opening 41 into which a sealing mat 42 can be installed. A sealing mat holder 43 is positioned on top of the sealing mat 42 and locked to the casing 4 by means of lateral tabs 44. Electrical cables 36 (not shown in detail) of the first plug connector 2 pass . from the cavities 37 of the casing 4 through corresponding cavities 46, 47 of the sealing mat 42 and the sealing mat holder 43 up to an end opening 48 of the cover 17, see Fig. 5. In case a cavity 46 of the sealing mat is not traversed by any electrical cable 36, a corresponding projection 45 of the sealing mat holder obstruct and seal said cavity 46, see Fig. 10.

In the following the structure of the cover 17 will be described with reference to Fig. 5. The cover 17 adapted to be mounted on top of the casing 4 comprises two side walls 51, 52, an upper wall 53, two end sections 54, 55, and a bottom opening 63 for mounting the cover onto the casing 4. The end opening 48, through which extend the electrical cables 36 connected to the electrical terminals 34 carried by the casing 4, is part of one of the end sections 54, 55.

Each side wall 51, 52 of the cover 17 comprises a projection 56, 57 formed on its external surface. The projections 56, 57 have preferably a round circumference and are preferably located in the middle of a bottom section 64 of the side walls 51, 52. The two projections 56, 57 define an axis Z being perpendicular to the directions X and Y and perpendicular to the two side walls 51, 52. The plane defined by the connection direction X and the two projections 56, 57 of the cover 17 is preferably a plane of symmetry of the upper wall 53 of the cover 17.

The upper wall 53 of the cover 17 is composed of a front surface 58 followed by a front sloping surface 59, a middle surface 60, a rear sloping surface 61, and a rear surface 62. The edges between the different surfaces 58, 59, 60, 61, 62 of the upper wall 53 are preferably chamfered. The front surface 58 and the rear surface 62 are preferably coplanar and parallel to the direction Y and to the bottom opening 63. The sloping surfaces 59, 61 depart from the front 58 and rear surface 62 up to the middle surface 60, which is preferably parallel to the direction Y and more distant from the bottom opening 63 than both front and rear surfaces 58, 62.

The cover 17 comprises tabs 94 that are formed on the lower edge of the side walls 51, 52. Said tabs 94 are designed to latch into the first apertures 92 of the casing 4, as will be described below.

In the following the structure of the lever 18 will be described with reference to Fig. 5. The lever 18 is preferably U-shaped and has a pair of substantially parallel arms 65, 66 connected to a base portion 69. Each arm 65, 66 of the lever 18 has at its free end opposite to base portion 69 an aperture 61 and a pin 68.

The pin 68 comprises an upper surface 104 and a lateral surface 105 having preferably a circular shape. The pin 68 is formed projecting externally on the respective arm 65, 66. According to further embodiments, the pin 68 can project internally on the respective arm 65, 66.

The pin 68 is designed to translate into a channel 97 of the slider 16 on pivoting the lever 18 relative to the assembly comprising the casing 4 and the slider 16. While translating into said channel 97, the pin 68 rotates relatively to the axis Z.

Each arm 65, 66 defines an inner section 70 and an outer section 71, the inner section 70 being delimited by the base portion 69 and the aperture 67, and the outer section 71 being delimited by the aperture 67 and the free end of the arm 65, 66.

The two apertures 67 and the two pins 68 are respectively aligned according to the direction Z. If assembled, the two apertures 67 of the lever 18 are fitted to the projections 56, 57 of the cover 17, i.e. the two apertures

67 are locked on said projections 56, 57. With this arrangement, the projections 56, 57 define a pivot axis for the lever 18 to allow the lever 18 to pivot relatively to the cover 17 and thus to the casing 4.

The length of the inner section of the arms 65, 66 is chosen greater than the distance between said pivot axis defined by the projections 56, 57 and the two sloping surfaces 59, 61, such that the lever 18 can abut against the front 58 and the rear 62 surface of the cover 17. The lever 18 can thus be pivoted from a front position (see Fig. 5) , in which the lever 18 is located above the front sloping surface 59 and abuts against the front surface 58, up to a rear position, in which the lever 18 is located above the rear sloping surface 61 and abuts against the rear surface 62.

The cover 17 can include tabs 72 on each of the front sloping surface 59 and the rear sloping surface 61. The tabs 72 are deflectable inwardly and comprise a blocking surface 73 that is adapted to block the lever 18 into its front or rear position. The blocking surface 73 thus prevents any unintentional pivoting of the lever 18 being in the front or rear position.

When the lever 18 is pivoted away from one of its two blocked positions, the lever 18 strikes the corresponding tab 72, 73 that consequently deflects inwardly. However according to another embodiment, it may be necessary to actively push the corresponding tab 72 inwardly to remove the locking of the blocking surface 73 and to be able pivot the lever 18 away from its front or rear position.

In the following the structure of the slider 16 will be described with reference to Fig. 6. The slider 16 comprises two parallel lateral walls 74, 75, which are inserted into the guiding grooves 14, 15 of the casing 4 and which are moveable along the guiding grooves 14, 15 in the sliding direction Y. In the first and shown embodiment the slider 16 is composed of two distinct parts being the two lateral walls 74, 75. However, according to other embodiments the slider may be substantially U-shaped, the two lateral walls 74, 75 being connected to a base portion (not shown on the drawings) that is perpendicular to both lateral walls 74, 75. The slider 16 is preferably moulded from plastics material in one or two pieces depending on the embodiment .

The two lateral walls 74, 75 are symmetrical with respect to the plane defined by the directions X and Y. Each lateral wall 74, 75 is substantially plane and has an inner 76 and an outer 77 surface, an upper 78 and a lower 79 edge, and a first or front section 80 and a second or rear section 81. The upper 78 and the lower 79 edge of each lateral wall 74, 75 comprise respectively an upper 98 and a lower 99 rail adapted to make a sliding fit with the guiding grooves 14, 15 of the corresponding side wall 6, 7 of the casing 4, when assembled.

Each lateral wall 74, 75 of the slider 16 has a pair of inclined front 82 and rear 83 guide channels formed therein, which open at a respective openings 84, 85 through the lower edge 79 of the slider 16, and which end at a respective channel end 88, 89. The guide channels 82, 83 are preferably straight and are formed in the lateral wall 74, 75 from the inner 76 to the outer 77 surface, as shown in Fig. 6. However, according to other embodiments the guide channels 82, 83 are only formed in the inner surface 76.

The openings 84, 85 in each lateral wall 74, 75 of the slider 16 have the same spacing as the openings 86, 87 in the corresponding side walls 6, 7 of the casing 4, such that the openings 84, 85 can align with the pair of spaced openings 86, 87 of the casing 4.

The guide channels 82, 83 of each lateral wall 74, 75 are inclined in the same direction and present the same inclination angle α with respect to the sliding direction Y. Said angle α is comprised strictly between 0 and 90 degrees and is preferably comprised strictly between 0 and 45 degrees, and more preferably at about 20 degrees, in order to facilitate the movement along the connection direction X of the guide tabs 22, 23 of the second socket connector 3 when the slider 16 is moved along the sliding direction Y.

The front guide channel 82 extends from the opening 84 to the channel end 88 towards the front section 80 of each lateral wall 74, 75 with the angle α with respect to the sliding direction Y. The projection of the front guide channel 82 onto the connection direction Y is substantially equal to the projection of the front guide slot 24 of the casing 4 onto said connection direction Y.

The rear guide channel 83 is preferably composed of an additional straight slot 90 that starts at the opening 85 and extends in the connection direction X. According to a preferred embodiment the slot 90 and the opening 85 are not delimited by two surfaces like the opening 84 but only by one surface, see Fig. 6. After this slot 90, the rear guide channel 83 extends, like the front guide channel 82, in a straight manner up to the channel end 89 towards the front section 80 of each lateral wall 74, 75 with the angle α with respect to the sliding direction Y. However, according to other embodiments the rear guide channel 83 does not comprise the additional slot 90. The projection of the rear guide channel 83 onto the connection direction Y is substantially equal to the projection of the rear guide slot 25 of the casing 4 onto said connection direction Y.

A tab 91 is formed on the upper edge 78 of each lateral wall 74, 75 on a resilient arm 95. Each tab 91 is adapted to make a snap fit in the first aperture 92 or the second aperture 93 in the top edge 12 of each corresponding side wall 6, 7 of casing 4, see Fig. 4.

A channel 97 is formed on the inner surface 76 of each lateral wall 74, 75 to receive the pins 68 of the lever 18. According to alternate embodiments, the channels 97 can be formed on the outer surface 77 of the lateral wall 74, 75. According to further embodiments, the channels 97 traverse the corresponding lateral walls 74, 75 of the slider 16, i.e. they extend from the inner surface 76 up to the outer surface 77.

A first or upper channel end 110 of each channel 97 opens in the upper edge 78 at an opening 106 in order to introduce the pin 68 of the lever 18. Each channel 97 extends from the upper channel end 110 up to a second or lower channel end 111 according to the connection direction X substantially in a straight manner.

In the plane defined by the directions X and Y, the channel 97 is delimited by the opening 106 and by a first or front side wall 107, a second or rear side wall 108, and an end wall 109 that are formed on the slider 16. The side walls 107, 108 are perpendicular to the direction Y and extend in the connection direction X from said opening 106 to the end wall 109. In alternate embodiments, the channel 97 is not delimited by an end wall 109 but rather by a further opening in the lower edge 79.

When the slider 16 as well as the cover 17 with the lever 18 are mounted on the casing, the pins 68 of the lever 18 are located in the channels 97 of the slider 16. On pivoting the lever 18 relatively to the casing 4, the lateral surface 105 of the pins 68 presses on one of the side walls 107, 108. A pivoting of the lever 18 in the direction of its rear position causes the lateral surface 105 to abut against and press on the front side wall 107, and vice versa.

In the following the second complementary socket connector 3 will be described with reference to Fig. 2. The second socket connector 3 of the connector arrangement 1 comprises electrical terminals 35 designed to be coupled with the corresponding electrical terminals 34 of the first plug connector 2, see Fig. 9.

The second socket connector 3 has a casing 100 having side walls 101. Two guide tabs 22, 23 are formed externally on each side wall 101. The guide tabs 22, 23 on each side wall 101 comprises a first portion 102 that builds the base of the guide tabs 22, 23 and a second portion 103 projecting outwardly. The first portion 102 is dimensioned to fit into the openings 86, 87 of the casing 4 and the second portion 103 is dimensioned to fit into the openings 84, 85 of the slider 16.

In a preferred embodiment, the first portion 102 of the guide tabs 22, 23 has a circular section, which diameter corresponds to the size of the openings 86, 87 of the casing 4, The section of the second portion 103 substantially consists in a half circle, which projection onto the sliding direction Y corresponds to the size of the openings 84, 85 of the slider 16.

The two guide tabs 22, 23 have the same spacing as the openings 86, 87 of the casing 4 and as the openings 84, 85 of the slider 16. In case the rear guide channel 83 comprises an additional slot 90, the guide tabs 22, 23 are not formed at the same level with respect to the connection direction X: the corresponding level difference is equal to the level difference of the channel ends 88, 89 of the guide channels 82, 83 with respect to the connection direction X. The side walls 101 of the second socket connector 3 fit inside the side walls 6, 7 and end walls 8, 9 of the casing 4 of the first plug connector 2.

The spatial arrangement is such that during mating and unmating of the connector assembly 1 being assembled, the guide tabs 22, 23 pass through the openings 84, 85 of the slider 16 and slide along the inclined guide channels 82, 83 in such a manner that the guide tabs 22, 23 function as cam followers and the guide channels 82, 83 function as cam surfaces. The guide tabs 22, 23 also pass through the openings 86, 87 and slide along the guide slots of the casing 4 along the connection direction X.

In the following the assembling of the first plug connector 2 will be described. Prior to mating, the slider

16 consisting of the two lateral walls 74, 75 is inserted on the casing 4 through its front end wall 9 side. The slider 16 thereby slides along the grooves 14, 15 until it reaches its opened position when the tabs 91 make a snap fit in the first apertures 92 in the top edge 12 of the side walls 6, 7, see Fig. 8. At the same time, the shoulders 96 of the casing 4 locks the lower rails 75. In this position, the opened or not locked position, the openings 84, 85 of the guide channels 82, 83 of the slider are aligned with the openings 86, 87 of the casing 4, such that the guide tabs 22, 23 of the second socket connector 3 can be engaged therein.

Once the slider 16 is in the opened position, the assembly cover 17 and lever 18 can be mounted on top of the casing 4 such that the tabs 94 of the cover 17 enter and latch into the first apertures 92 of the casing 4. During this step, the lever 18 is in its rear position, i.e. it abuts against the rear surface 62 of the cover 17, such that the pins 68 of the lever 18 can be engaged into the channels 97 of the slider 16.

Prior to mating, the first plug connector 2 is therefore assembled, wherein the slider 16 is in its opened position, the lever 18 is in its rear position, and the openings 86, 87 of the casing 4 are aligned with the openings 84, 85 of the slider 16.

When mating the first plug connector 2 with the second socket connector 3, the casing 100 of the second socket connector 3 is mounted into the casing 4 of the first plug connector 2. The first portion 102 and the second portion 103 of the guide tabs 22, 23 respectively enter the openings 86, 87 of the casing 4 and the openings 84, 85 of the slider 16. The guide tabs 22, 23 are then inserted into the guide slots 24, 25 of the casing 4 and into the guide channels of the slider 16 along the connection direction X until they strike the slider 16. The connector assembly is in a pre-mated position.

The complete mating is obtained by pivoting the lever 18 relative to the casing 4 from its rear position to its front position in abutment with the front surface 58 of the cover 17.

As the lever 18 pivots relative to the casing 4, the pins 68 of the lever 18 slide in the channel 97 in the connection direction X relative to the slider 16 such that the lever 18 drives and moves the slider 16 in the sliding direction Y relative to the casing 4.

The pivoting of the lever 18 relatively to the casing 4 indeed causes a circular movement of the pins 68 in the plane defined by the directions X and Y. The movement of the pins 68 along the sliding direction Y causes the lateral surface 105 of the pins 68 to push the front side wall 107 of the slider 16, such that the slider 16 is moved along the guiding grooves 14, 15 in the sliding direction Y. The movement of the pins 68 along the connection direction X is effected between the upper and lower channel ends 110, 111 in the channel 97 of the slider 16.

During the translational motion - along direction Y - of the slider 16 caused by the pivoting of the lever 18, the guide tabs 22, 23 of the second socket connector 3 are forced by the guide channels 82, 83 of the slider 16 to slide into the guide slots 24, 25 of the casing 4 along the connection direction X in order to mate the first 2 and second 3 connectors .

When the first 2 and second 3 connectors become fully mated, the pins 68 reach the channel ends 88, 89 of the respective guide channel 82, 83. Further on, the tabs 91 of the slider 16 make a snap fit in the second apertures in the casing 4 to retain the connector assembly 1 in the fully mated position. To further ensure the retention of the fully mated (or closed or locked) position of the connector assembly 1, the lever 18 makes a snap fit with the tab 72, 73 of the cover 17.

To unmate the first plug connector 2 and the second socket connector 3, the lever 18 is released from the tab 72, 73 and pivoted from its front position to its rear position for reverse movement to that described above for mating.

According to a second embodiment of the present invention, the lever 18 pivots around projections that are formed on the casing 4, whereas in the first embodiment the lever 18 pivots around projections 56, 57 formed on the cover 17.

The length of the arms 65, 66 of the lever 18 according to the second embodiment has to be sufficient to allow the installation of the electrical terminals 34 together with the electrical cables 36 into the first plug connector 2. An advantage of the first embodiment over the second embodiment thus is that the lever 18 cannot constitute an obstacle to the installation of the electrical terminals 34 and the electrical cables 36 because the cover 17 with lever 18 is mounted on the casing 4 after the cables are installed.