Connector carries control signals, power, water for laser
A customized Harting connector allows mixed-purpose inserts that can carry control signals, power, and cooling water from the instrument console to a handheld laser tool. This versatility has helped shorten the R&D time on a new medical instrument. See expanded image.
Taking a new medical device through all the steps required for FDA approval is a time-consuming process, so R&D engineers take all practical steps to shorten the product development cycle and time to market. At Lutronic Corp., which develops and manufactures medical devices using laser technology, R&D engineers found an ingenious way to make their job easier and faster.
Currently they are developing a medical electronics instrument with a handheld laser tool that painlessly removes hair, in a process that is permanent or does not have to be repeated for a long period of time.
The design of this instrument involves a handheld laser wand connected to a table- or floor-mounted power and control unit. Power, control signals, and cooling water needed to run from the main console to the laser head.
Major design criteria set by Andrey Degtyaryov, manager of the Lutronic R&D lab in Fremont, CA, included compact external connections with a streamlined look that make it easy for users to connect and disconnect the laser head from the console. Complicating the task was the need to carry high current and cooling water.
Using multiple lines and connectors to carry control signals, power and water would have required bulky, multiple connections at each end of the cabling, without the aesthetics and ease of use expected by medical professionals; using multiple components was not seen as cost effective. Still, developing a custom connector that could carry signals, power, and water seemed like it would be a difficult and lengthy design task.
Before undertaking such a design, Lutronic R&D engineers contacted various manufacturers.
Harting industrial connectors allow power, control, communication signals, and pneumatic lines. Degtyaryov was looking for something more streamlined than an industrial connector, but was intrigued by the addition of pneumatic feed-throughs. Subsequently, he was attracted to the Harting Han-Yellock 60 series, providing a modular design using off-the-shelf components. Lutronic R&D engineers felt it was a good candidate for adding water connections in place of the pneumatic inserts.
In fact, Lutronic had already developed small cooling water connection components for some of its other laser instrumentation. The engineering assessment was that it would be easier to add these components to the Han-Yellock housing than any other manufacturer’s connector products.
A major concern in making such a modification was the possibility of water leakage into the electrical connections, which wasn’t an issue with a pneumatic insert. To solve this problem, Lutronic designed a simple solid separator wall to isolate water from the electrical side of the connector.The connector design eliminated the need for Lutronic’s mechanical engineers to create a connector housing from scratch. The modified Han-Yellock connector has the sleek look and feel that Lutronic wants, with the possibility of private labeling, and features attractive for the medical application. It carries signals that control the temperature parameters of the laser headpiece, communications on the status of laser head control buttons and trigger assembly, and supplies cooling water to prevent overheating of the laser head.
The Han-Yellock design has a bulkhead connector with a frame that mounts to the instrument console. On the other side is the mating cable connector with a frame and hood that allows easy single-handed connection and operation of a latching mechanism, with audible and visual indication of the locking status. This ensures a safe, solid connection of the laser headpiece and cable assembly to the console, while making it easy to swap out laser heads. These features eliminate any need to return the power and control unit to the factory when only the laser itself needs service.
In Lutronic’s cable production, no assembly tools are required for the basic Han-Yellock connector. Power, signal, and communication inserts can be snapped-in from either the mating or termination side of the connector housing. There is a provision for contact bridging if, for example, a common ground is desirable across multiple pins. Thus, there is less wiring work and fewer steps in the workflow and assembly process. This elegant modular design also helps reduce assembly materials and component inventory costs.
By adapting this new connector type, Lutronic has achieved the desired visual appearance, gained design flexibility, and shortened development time. Off-the-shelf hardware also has more economical pricing, and ease of replacement, compared to a customized solution. User benefits of the Han-Yellock connector include high reliability and easy replacement of the laser tool. Together, these benefits created a compelling reason for Lutronic to adopt the Han-Yellock series.
Mark Dean is area sales manager for Harting North America.
- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com
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