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1. (WO2005041363) CABLE CONNECTOR WITH IMPROVED LATCHING
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Cable connector with improved latching

The invention relates to a cable connector comprising a connector housing and at least one locking arm adapted to lock said cable connector with at least one counterpart having at least one locking element adapted to cooperate with said locking arm
US 5,011,425 discloses a connector assembly comprising a plug-in connector with a housing and a socket connector. The plug-in connector is provided with a lever-type locking element having one end provided with elements to engage with slots or recesses in the socket connector when the plug-in connector and the socket connector mate. The lever-type locking element is provided with two pivot points so that by exerting a gripping force on a gripping end of the locking element towards the housing of the plug-in connector, the con-nectors can be disconnected.
A problem of the prior art connector assembly is that such a disconnection may also occur unintentionally, especially in case of shock or vibrations.
It is an object of the invention to provide a cable connector wherein the probability of disconnection of the cable connector from a counterpart by such a shock or vibration is reduced or even negligible.
This object is achieved in providing a cable connector characterized by a deformable element arranged between said connector housing and said locking arm for supporting said locking arm. It should be appreciated that the support by the deformable element does not necessarily imply direct contact between the deformable element and the locking arm, as intermediate parts or layers may be provided in between. Fur-ther it should be appreciated that the support of the locking arm may such that an urging action is exerted on the locking arm by the deformable element in the direction of the locking element, such that the locking arm is always at least slightly supported. The deformable element prevents unintentional dis-connection, which is especially important for locking arms in a delicate balance when the cable connector and counterpart mate. The deformable element allows appropriate movement of the locking arm by manual operation in locking and releasing of the cable connector and the counterpart, while resisting forces exerted on the locking arm by shock or vibrations dur-ing e.g. transportation, internal vibrations or an earthquake. Such forces are typically distinguished from manually applied forces by a sudden, almost instantaneous, impact on the locking arm or repeatedly applied forces, i.e. vibrations or self-oscillation. Preferably the deformable element is suitable to deform on locking and releasing said cable connector from said counterpart and to substantially avoid deformation in case of shock or vibrations experienced by said locking arm. It should be appreciated that the deformable element may also be part of the counterpart in case the locking arm extends beyond the leading surface of the cable connector. Further it is noted that the deformable element may either be a separate part attached to the cable connector or an integral part of the cable connector, by moulding the deformable element to the cable connector.
In an embodiment of the invention the deformable element is a cushion of substantially elastically deformable organic material. The properties of such elements are suitable or can be tailored to fulfil the force dependent characteristics for the deformable element to resist forces resulting from shock and vibrations. Preferably the cushion is a foam, such as a polyurethane foam, such as PORON®. The characteristics of the foam, e.g. with respect to the cell -structure having an appropriate mixture of open cells and closed cells, are such that optimum deformability is achieved.
In an embodiment of the invention the connector housing is arranged to abut said locking arm before said
deformable element is fully deformed. In this way the maximum deflection of the locking arm is determined. The advantage of such an arrangement is that destruction of components of the cable connector, such as the deformable element or the locking arm, may be avoided.
In an embodiment of the invention the cable connector is provided with a locking arm of a lever type with a first pivot point positioned away from the centre of said locking arm. Such a locking arm is typically in a delicate balance that may be disturbed by shock or vibrations. Preferably the cable connector further comprises an actuator arm of a lever type with a second pivot point adapted to cooperate with said locking arm to lock and release said cable connector and counterpart . Such a seesaw arrangement provides a user friendly cable connector.
The invention further relates to a deformable element for use in a cable connector as described above, wherein said deformable element further comprises an adhesive surface for attaching said deformable element to said cable connector. The deformable element may be shaped and dimensioned to distribute deformation forces in a predetermined manner.
It is noted that connection arrangements that take measures against shock and vibrations are known as such from the prior art. WO 02/071548 discloses an arrangement aiming to protect said arrangement against dust and water, wherein seals are provided that improve behaviour against constant, extreme vibrations and shocks. However such an arrangement is much more complex compared to the invention, that provides a simple inexpensive solution for a cable connector to deal with shocks and vibrations. This is particularly important for the connector industry as profit margins are low in this field, such that improvements allowing simple, low cost solutions are pre-ferred.
The invention will be further illustrated with reference to the attached drawings, which show a preferred
embodiment according to the invention. It will be understood that the invention is not in any way restricted to this spe-cific and preferred embodiment.
In the drawings :
Fig. 1 shows a connector system comprising two cable connectors according to an embodiment of the invention;
Fig. 2 shows a detailed view of a cable connector as displayed in Fig. 1 ;
Fig. 3 shows a more detailed view of some components of the cable connector shown in Fig. 2, and
Figs. 4A and 4B show a mode of operation of the cable connector according an embodiment of the invention.

Figs. 1-3 shows cable connectors 1 of a connector system 2 for connection with a counterpart 3 of an interface 4. The counterpart 3 comprises a plurality of socket connectors S with terminal pins 5 for connection to the wires of a cable C via the cable connectors 1. The socket connectors S further comprise locking elements 6 adapted to cooperate with locking arms 7 of the cable connectors 1. The locking arms 7 comprise locking hooks 8 for snap fitting with the locking elements 6. Preferably the locking hooks 8 of a locking arm 7 are locked in locking elements 6 of adjacent counterparts 3 to spread forces experienced by the cable connector 1 over the socket connectors S .
The cable connectors 1 comprise a connector housing 9 with a contact block 10 for terminating the wires of the cable C and a holder part 11 that holds the contact block 10, e.g. by snap fitting. It is noted that the electrical contact points at the front of the contact block 10 for connection with the terminal pins 5 have been omitted in the drawing. The contact block 10 further comprises guiding elements 12 to fa-cilitate mating of the cable connector 1 and the socket connectors S. The holder part 11 further includes a recess R to connect the locking arm 7 to the cable connector 1 by sliding the locking arm 7 into the recess R.
The locking arm 7 in Figs. 2 and 3 is of the lever type, wherein a first pivot point PI is positioned away from the centre of the locking arm 7. Such a locking arm 7 is typically in a delicate balance that may be disturbed by shock or vibrations. The locking arm 7 can be actuated via an actuator arm 13 of a lever type with a second pivot point P2 that is adapted to cooperate with the locking arm 7 to move the locking hooks 8 into and away from the locking elements 6 of the counterpart 3 while locking respectively releasing the cable connector 1. This arrangement of the locking arm 7 and actuator arm 13, also referred to as a seesaw arrangement and explained in more detail in US 5,011,425 column 3, line 30 -column 4, line 65 which part is incorporated herewith by reference, comprises a base 14 that can be slid into the recess R to connect the seesaw arrangement to the cable connector 1. Basically the seesaw arrangement allows manipulation of the actuator arm 13 in a downward or upward direction resulting in a movement of the end of the locking arm 7 comprising the locking hooks 8 in a downward respectively upward direction, in order to provide a cable connector with user friendly lock-ing performance. In manipulation of the actuator arm 13 a gripping element 15 of the connector housing 10 can be employed as a finger support. It should be appreciated that while the invention is hereinafter illustrated for a cable connector 1 employing a locking arm 7 in a seesaw arrangement with the actuator arm 13, the invention relates to all types of cable connectors that have available or can be changed to have available room for accommodating a deformable element as described below.
According to the invention a deformable element 16 is arranged between the connector housing 10 and the locking arm 7 to support the locking arm 7, i.e. the deformable element 16 is arranged such that it substantially avoids movement of the locking arm 7 if it is not intentionally operated. The deformable element 16 preferably is elastically deformable, wherein the original shape of the element 16 is substantially restored after deformation. The dimensions of the deformable element in the original state, i.e. no deformation, are preferably in the range between 1-10 mm, such as a length of 6mm, a width of 3 mm and a thickness of 1 mm. The deformable element 16 may have alternative shapes and dimensions to distribute deformation forces in a predetermined manner. The larger the area of the deformable element the higher the force required to compress the element 16.
The deformable element 16 in Fig. 3 is a cushion of substantially elastically deformable organic material, such as a foam. Basically the material of the deformable element 16 should be such that it behaves rigidly if shock or vibrations are experienced, while it can be easily deformed if a more gradual force, such as in case of manual compression, is ap-plied. Preferably the cushion 16 is a foam. The
characteristics of the foam 16 may be such that an optimum balance is obtained between the amount and/or density and/or size of closed and open cells of the foam. A foam with cells all closed may indeed give too much resistance for unmating the cable connector, while a foam with a entirely open structure may lack adequate spring force. A suitable material for the foam cushion 16 is polyurethane, such a PORON . The cushion 16 comprises an adhesive surface 16A to attach the cushion 16 to the locking arm 7 or the connector housing 9. As a result the element 16 can be easily mounted to the cable connector 1. However, it should be appreciated that other ways of attachment to either the cable connector 1 or, in case of a locking arm 7 extending beyond the front surface of the contact block 10, the counterpart 3 belong to the scope of the invention.

Preferably the cushion 16 is located near the end of the locking arm 7, i.e. in the neighbourhood of the locking hooks 8.
Figs. 4A and 4B illustrate a mode of operation of the cable connector 1 according to an embodiment of the invention.
Assume that in Fig. 4A the cable connector 1 is locked or latched to the counterpart 3 shown in Fig. 1. In this situation the locking hooks 8 cooperate with the locking elements 6 of the counterpart 3. In case of shock or vibrations deformation of the cushion 16 is substantially avoided by its intrinsic characteristics such that substantial movement of the locking arm 7 does not occur. In this case the cushion 16 behaves as a rigid element. It is noted that the distance D between the pivot point PI and the end of the locking arm 7 at the locking hooks 8 is substantial in the display arrangement. If shock or vibrations are experienced, indeed the absence of the cushion 16 might have led to a detachment of the locking hooks 8 from the locking elements 6 resulting in a disconnection of the cable connector 1 from the counterpart 3. The presence of the cushion 16 thus provides a more robust cable connector 1.
However, if a user or operator intentionally disconnects the cable connector 1 from the counterpart 3 , he handles the locking arm 7, e.g. by manipulating the actuator arm 13 of the seesaw arrangement. In this situation the cushion 16 de-forms on movement of the locking arm 7 such that the locking hooks 8 detach from the locking elements 6 and the cable connector 1 is released from the counterpart 3. The
characteristic of the cushion 16 is such that it easily deforms when such a handling force is applied. As illustrated the holder part 11 of the connector housing 9 comprises a surface 11A that is arranged to abut the locking arm 7 before the cushion 16 is fully compressed. The height of the cushion 16 in this state is e.g. 0.4mm.