Waterproof Plastic Connectors: Ethernet, USB, & HDMI
Waterproof connectors typically involve an encasing, often plastic or mechanized plastic depending on the application, that is at a specific IP rating. Waterproofing is required on cable assemblies when connectors and ports are going to come into contact with moisture.
This article is going to look at some common connectors and waterproofing requirements.
IP ratings, or International Protection Markings by their formal name, are most commonly referred to as Ingress Protection ratings. This is because IP ratings refer to the level of protection a seal gives on an electronic casing or enclosure against solids (dust, dirt, tools etc) and moisture. In other words, how strong is the item in preventing “ingress” or entry of foreign matter into a connector or unit.
IP ratings are determined and published by the International Electrotechnical Commission, an organization established in 1906 to set forth global international standards for all electronics.
All IP ratings begin with IP and are then followed by 2 numbers. Occasionally a final letter will be added indicating additional information, however that is optional. IP ratings do not have hyphens, so if you see a device indicating IP-8, the manufacturer may be providing false or invalid certification.
The first number in the IP rating indicates the electrical item’s protection against solids. The second number indicates the item’s protection against liquids/moisture. Please see the below graphic to better understand the protection ratings on the first two numbers.
In terms of a waterproof connector, you would be looking for one with a rating of IP67 or IP68, depending on the application. IP67 has only been tested with a limited depth and span of time. IP68 offers greater protection against liquids and at depths of more than 1 meter.
The optional letter that can be added at the end of an IP rating, such as IP23S, can indicate one of 4 things:
H - High Voltage
M - Device moving during water test
S - Device standing still during water test
W - Weather conditions
Although traditionally IP ratings have been mostly seen on valves and electrical boxes, they are increasingly found on smartphones, tablets, and cameras as manufacturers seek to market how rugged their devices are to consumers.
Typical industries that use waterproof connectors include:
- Construction (Fixed / Portable)
- Signage and Displays
- Grounds and Landscaping feature lighting
Examples of applications for waterproof connectors include:
- LED Street Signage
- Medical Imaging Equipment
- Airplane Onboard Video System
- Home Theater
- Audio/Video Equipment (home/office conference)
- Game Consoles
- Security systems
- Ships and boats
RJ45 - Industrial Ethernet
The RJ45 connector is a term that actually refers to a different connector altogether: the 8P8C connector. The original RJ45 connector came into use as a standardized telecommunications connector to connect telephone networks. When computers first started coming out, the 8P8C connector was mistakenly referred to as the RJ45, so much so that even today it is widespread terminology for ethernet connectors.
The difference between the original 8P8C connector and the RJ45 is the pin positioning. 8P8Cs can actually plug into RJ45s, however the reverse is not true.
Despite the evolution of this mistake in terminology, the RJ45 is used to refer to ethernet connectors.
Waterproof RJ45 connectors need to be a minimum of an IP67 rating.
USB has released three versions: USB 1.0, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0, with several iterations of those versions.
There are 7 types of USB connectors:
This is the standard, flat, rectangular shaped connector that is most commonly used and recognized. All computers have USB A sockets. It is the 4-position connector.
This is a square shaped USB connector, that is primarily used for devices such as printers or older cameras. It is not as common these days due to modern devices moving to a smaller connection. It is also a 4-position connector with the same pin outs.
Mini A and Mini B
These are variations of the Type A and Type B where connector size is significantly smaller. These mini versions are used on smaller devices to conserve space, such as portable cameras, cell phones, and video game controllers. It has 5 positions, where the 5th pin is used as a device indicator.
Micro A and Micro B
The Micro USB’s are another step forward in minimizing space used in devices. You will commonly see these sockets on Tablets, smartphones, and video game controllers. The Micro and Mini Series are slowly being phased out and moving on to Type-C.
USB Type C is the newest USB standard that is becoming increasingly popular and favored. This is a reversible connector which means it can be plugged in either orientation. It has high transfer rates and can handle multiple functions due to its 24 pins (Power, video, audio, and data capability).
For more information on USBs, please see our article Everything You Need to Know About USB Connectors.
Waterproof USB connectors need to be a minimum of an IP67 rating.
HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. It is a proprietary interface used for transmitting audio and video signals. Although there have been updated versions of the technology rolled out since its original release, they all use the same cable and connector.
There are five HDMI connectors:
Contains 29 pins, with the same bandwidth as Type A and high-resolution displays such as WQUXGA.
This is a mini connector with 19 pins designed for use with portable devices.
This is an even smaller mini connector, with 19 pins.
This is an Automotive Connection System with a locking tab to prevent the cable from vibrating loose.
Waterproof HDMI connectors need to be a minimum of an IP67 rating.
When selecting the IP rating best for your waterproof protection, you must carefully consider the application. And we can help!
We are a total interconnect solutions company with 50 years global experience in delivering interface connectors and cable assemblies.
Circuit Assembly offers IP67 & IP68 connectors for almost every harsh environment, waterproof, and temperature range of -40ºC to 105ºC emplacement. These connectors are made of a high-performance engineered plastic that is rated UL94-V0 flame resistant.
We offer connectors in multiple mounting configurations, cables, solder, IDC, couplers, and are REACH & RoHS compliant. The connectors come in screw-locking, push self-locking, and bayonet locking styles to meet any type of area requirements.
Reach out to our team at Circuit Assembly for waterproof connector advice on your project today!