What to Look for and Ask about when Planning
When it comes to selecting items to be purchased, the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” continually rings true. In today’s consumer market, an incredible number of choices are available to meet every need and every budget. The trick is finding the best value that maximizes both.
The same can be said in the industrial market. What you may not be aware of is that the number of choices is just as broad. In the world of connectors and cable assemblies, we see options and price points in every category from simple, low-voltage charging cables to specialized, high-voltage assemblies designed to power some of the most sophisticated manufacturing equipment.
High-voltage requirements are expanding at a rapid pace and found in a wide range of applications, including:
- High-voltage power supplies
- Semiconductor fabrication equipment
- Plasma technology
- Fusion technology
- Ultraviolet curing systems
With every application, particular care and attention to detail are crucial. A poorly designed high-voltage connector assembly can have catastrophic results if specific design elements are overlooked.
What Is High Voltage?
The term “high voltage” means different things to different people, but most in our markets center on the basic principle of safety. Various references define high voltage as “an electrical potential large enough to cause injury or damage.” Commonly, the numeric definition depends on context.
Two key factors to consider:
- The possibility of causing a spark in the air
- The danger of electric shock by contact or proximity
Of course, the latter is debatable, as anyone who has closed the circuit on a 9-volt battery can attest.
Let’s put some of this into perspective. Here are some common voltages to consider:
- Canine shock collar: 5 V
- Household outlet: 120 V
- Electric fence: 2,000 – 8,000 V
- Static shock: 30,000 V
- TASER®: 50,000 V
The International Electro-Technical Commission and its national counterparts (IET, IEEE, VDE, etc.) define high voltage as above 1000 V for alternating current, and at least 1500 V for direct current—and distinguish it from low voltage (50–1000 V AC, or 120–1500 V DC) and extra-low voltage (<50 V AC or <120 V DC) circuits. This is in the context of building wiring and the safety of electrical apparatus. In electric power transmission engineering, high voltage is usually considered any voltage over approximately 35,000 volts. This is a classification based on the design of apparatus and insulation.
Regardless of the definition, when reviewing methods to safely connect a high-voltage power source with the intended device, certain design considerations must be taken into account.
- Operating voltage
- Operating environment
- Space constraints
Corona (No, not the Beer!)
As the voltage increases, the stress imposed on both the conducting and insulating materials can be exponential. A key element of this is the introduction of corona. Loosely defined, corona is an electrical discharge that occurs through the ionization of air molecules surrounding a conductor that is electrically charged. Over time, these electrical micro-discharges, can have significant impact on both insulating materials and surrounding equipment. In addition to this, corona can also induce a radio frequency that can have significant impact on sensitive test and measuring equipment.
Of course, delivering this level of performance in a predefined space increases the challenge of safely carrying high voltage from point A to point B safely, efficiently, and economically. There are literally thousands of designs and manufacturers to choose from. However, before sending a preliminary design to be quoted, consider the key elements above and narrow your selection of qualified manufacturers based on their experience and competence in delivering on these challenges.
For more than 40 years, Caton Connector’s innovative, high-voltage cable assembly technology has been used worldwide in a wide range of system applications requiring safe, reliable connection solutions. We’d love to help you with your next high-voltage custom connector solution. Contact us to begin the conversation.