SoldierMod.Com :: Soldier Modernisation
  SoldierMod Volume 13 - June 2014
Volume 13 Articles

Omnetics Connector Corporation logoCritical Connections

Soldier Modernisation talks to Bob Stanton, Director of Technology with Omnetics Connector Corporation

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Omnetics has decades of experience in supplying micro and nano interconnects to high tech industries such as Mil-Aerospace and Medical markets. Omnetics is known for its proven ability to adapt standard designs to mission critical needs.

Bob Stanton is director of technology at Omnetics Connector Corp. Bob began his career in Silicon Valley designing integrated circuits and hybrid microelectronics. He then worked at Tektronix Inc. focusing on portable and high speed portions of test and measurement equipment. During the last 25 years, Bob focused on leading edge cable and connector technology with emphasis on Micro and Nano-sized interconnect systems.

Q: I know Omnetics has a long history of providing micro and nano interconnects for mission critical applications. How does that history relate to your commitment to excellence and quality of your Milspec products?
A: Our Micro and Nano connector designs were first designed for the evolving needs of the rugged, light-weight, miniaturization necessary for military technologies. As military circuits evolved from very large instruments or systems, slowly down to more portable modules mounted upon mobile equipment, Omnetics expanded its offerings with new mounting designs, and offered shock and vibration proof connectors. Quality assurance has maintained the format, the testing and reassurance needed to meet those demands of custom cable and connectors. Our standard micro and nano designs are QPL approved to their specifications.

Q: Specific now to your defense division can you give me an overview of the products you are currently providing to the modern warfighter?
A: Our application specific designs are exhibited in many areas. Military helicopter pilots use a circular-nano connector with shielded wiring from their helmets plugged into a socket on the control deck. Daily use is easy because it just pushes into place. In emergencies the pilot does not need to pull, because it can break-away as needed should the operator need to jump clear of danger. Also, a number of UAVs use our Nano sized Bi-Lobe connector with pins spaced on .025” pitch giving a very high density cable that looks like the more familiar fire-wire cable, but engineered for the operational environment. This is used for higher speed video signal collection from camera lenses on the UAVs. There are various models of these, which often need to be modeled to fit inside the specific application because of the evolving sizes and shapes of the UAV family of aircraft. A key in using these ruggedized nano connectors is that they withstand high shock and continuous vibration during flight and normal and high impact landings. We also offer complete helmet cable harnesses for multiple functions on or about the field soldier’s helmet and weapon systems. Again the custom layout of the cable harness, the connectors and the mounting connectors in the equipment were adjusted to meet the extreme environment of the field soldier. This included size reduction, weight management, quick change ability and even waterproof interconnects for times when the warfighter would be going through temporary immersion or swampy areas.

Q: What would you say are the greatest challenges when designing mission critical connectors and related technology for the kinds of conflicts in the kinds of environments that warfighters are most likely to encounter today, and how is Omnetics meeting those challenges?
A: In recent years three significant military electronic evolution steps have occurred. One, active circuitry moved even further out to the portable instrument, like those being hand carried by soldiers, or circuits on surveillance devices. Two, circuit chips began using more digital than analog processing that required a different cable format, called differential signal processing to protect the integrity of the signal information. Also chip voltage levels and electrical current demand were significantly reduced by the new chip technology. And three, so much of the electronics was being packed into very small, portable modules leaving very little space for conventional size and shaped cable and connectors. These three changes, along with a renewed awareness of cost, for interconnect demand for the military needed to be met by responsible suppliers of cable and connectors.

Omnetics developed a fast-turn solid modeling service to respond to the size, weight and connector format needs. The company has added significant electrical engineering support in design and hook-up formatting to insure high speed circuit performance simultaneously with reducing size and weight. More and more fast turn modifications to the old standard size and shapes previously used are solving big problems in this highly portable military trend.

To meet these and other challenges, Omnetics has significantly increased its design, testing and certification to offer new connector configurations that function at high levels during extreme conditions. High speed digital circuitry is coming on fast and demand for those higher digital speeds are pushing past the “every-day” connector company and many standard products available.

Q: Can you share any feedback from the field from those who are familiar with and have used your cables and connectors? Do you have any anecdotes that you can share where it was said that your products made the difference in the success of a given operation, or the engineering of a particular component?
A: It is hard to give you that kind of answer because most of the time the individual soldier has no idea that our components are within the systems they are depending on. But I can say this, Omnetics enjoys a distinct advantage over our competitor’s products when it comes to soldier-worn electronics. Our extremely small nano circular harnesses offer a robust lightweight alternative to larger connectors and cable harnesses. Modern soldier systems are being fitted with thermal & night vision cameras, communication systems, range finders, navigation equipment and heads up displays. Size and weight reduction of all this incredible processing equipment is critical to the well-being and survival of the soldiers tasked with carrying the load. Omnetics produces some of the smallest, lightest interconnect systems on the market. This is why we are routinely selected by many of the leading electro-optics designers around the world and are used extensively on programs such the Soldato Futuro system in Italy. We are seeing electronics that used to take up an entire backpack now being fitted into a small box on the back of a helmet. This level of miniaturization requires small lightweight connectors such as Omnetics’ Nano 360 family of products.

Q: Without revealing anything that may be proprietary of course, what lies ahead for Omnetics? Anything new in the R&D pipeline that you are at liberty to, and would like to discuss?
A: High speed image and processing chips are providing more and more signals per chip or application. Unfortunately, as we have seen on the news, having others listening-in to transmitted data has become troublesome. Omnetics sees one trend of smaller, high-density circular cable and connectors going up in lead count. Signal integrity, and shielding for security is becoming a large concern and an important need as our industry collects more information and then routes it from one place to another. Omnetics has been increasing its family of high pin count nano-sized circular connectors and cable harnesses to meet that emerging need.

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