News Column

Patent Issued for Connector Assembly with Polarity Correction/Protection

July 23, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventors Gingrich, III, Charles R. (Mechanicsburg, PA); Kohler, Raymond Howard (Souderton, PA); Luksic, Marek T. (Dillsburg, PA), filed on June 1, 2012, was published online on July 8, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8770993, is Tyco Electronics Corporation (Berwyn, PA).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The electrical grid connecting America's power plants, transmission lines and substations to homes, businesses and factories operate almost entirely within the realm of high voltage alternating current (AC). Yet, an increasing fraction of devices found in those buildings actually operate on low voltage direct current (DC). Those devices include, but are not limited to, digital displays, remote controls, touch-sensitive controls, transmitters, receivers, timers, light emitting diodes (LEDs), audio amplifiers, microprocessors, other digital electronics and virtually all products utilizing rechargeable or disposable batteries.

"Installation of devices utilizing low voltage DC has been typically limited to locations in which a pair of wires is routed from the voltage source. Increased versatility in placement and powering of low voltage DC products is desirable. Specifically, there is an increasing desire to have electrical functionality, such as power and signal transmission, in the interior building environment, and specifically in the ceiling environment, without the drawbacks of existing systems.

"Commercial building spaces such as offices, laboratories, light manufacturing facilities, health facilities, meeting and banquet hall facilities, educational facilities, common areas in hotels, apartments, retirement homes, retail stores, restaurants and the like are commonly constructed with suspended ceilings. These suspended ceiling installations are ubiquitous, owing to their many recognized benefits. Such ceilings ordinarily comprise a rectangular open grid suspended by wire from a superstructure and tile or panels carried by the grid and enclosing the open spaces between the grid elements.

"Many relatively low power devices are now supported on such ceilings and newer electronic devices and appliances are continuously being developed and adopted for mounting on ceilings. The ceiling structure, of course, typically overlies the entire floor space of an occupiable area. This allows the ceiling to support electronic devices where they are needed in the occupied space. Buildings are becoming more intelligent in energy management of space conditioning, lighting, noise control, security, and other applications. The appliances that provide these features including sensors, actuators, transducers, speakers, cameras, recorders, in general, all utilize low voltage DC power.

"A conventional grid framework, such as one used in a surface covering system, includes main grid elements intersected by cross grid elements therebetween. The main and cross elements form a grid of polygonal openings into which components such as panels, light fixtures, speakers, motion detectors and the like can be inserted and supported. Known systems that provide electrification to devices, such as lighting components, in conventional framework systems utilize a means of routing discrete wires or cables, principally on an 'as needed' point-to-point basis via conduits, cable trays and electrical junctions located in the space behind the grid framework.

"These known systems suffer from the drawback that the network of wires required occupy the limited space behind the grid framework and are difficult to service or reconfigure. Moreover, the techniques currently used are limited in that the electricity that is provided is not reasonably accessible from all directions relative to the framework plane. For example, electricity can be easily accessed from a ceiling plenum, but not from areas within or below the plane of the grid framework of a suspended ceiling system. Further, the electrical power levels that are typically available are not safe to work with for those not trained, licensed and/or certified.

"In order to reduce the problems described, track systems have been utilized. In such track systems, the tracks typically require wiring and mechanical support from the area behind the grid framework. Connecting devices are positioned between and in electrical communication with the tracks, thereby providing power from the tracks through the connecting devices to devices attached thereto. Existing track systems are typically viewable from the room space and are aesthetically undesirable. Further still, known track systems typically utilize higher voltage AC power and connect to AC powered devices, requiring specialized installation and maintenance.

"In an effort to overcome some of the problems with prior systems, internal bus bars have been positioned in the ceiling grid. One such system is described in the documents related to the Emerge Alliance. Such systems provide electrical power through two parallel bus bars embedded within the support rails of a suspended ceiling. However, the bus bar electrical connection points are symmetrically arranged without any visual or mechanical indication of the polarity orientation. If the polarity orientation of the device does not match the polarity orientation of the busbars or rails of the grid, the device may not function or may be damaged. Therefore, devices which are currently connected to the bus bars must be correctly oriented with corresponding electrical polarity or employ some type of separate secondary polarity protection/compensation scheme.

"What is needed is a connector which connects the device to the grid and which protects the device from failure or damage when the polarity orientation of the device does not match the polarity orientation of the rails of the grid. In particular, what is needed is a connector which corrects for polarity misalignment and which can be inserted into the grid at any orientation without damaging the device attached thereto, thereby eliminating the need for a separate secondary polarity protection device. The present invention accomplishes these needs and provides additional advantages."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "An exemplary embodiment is directed to a connector which connects a device to a grid and which protects the device from failure or damage when the polarity orientation of the device does not match the polarity orientation of the rails of the grid. Polarity protection includes not allowing the connection to be made between the device and the grid if the polarity orientation does not match. In addition, polarity protection also includes polarity correction which corrects for polarity misalignment and allows the device to be connected to the grid at any orientation without damaging the device attached thereto.

"An exemplary embodiment is directed to a connector assembly for installing a device to a ceiling grid, the ceiling grid having conductors provided therein. The connector assembly includes a housing with contact arms mounted in the housing. Contact portions of the contact arms extend from the housing and are placed in electrical engagement with the conductors when the connector assembly is mated with the ceiling grid. Mounting members extend from the housing. Mounting sections of the mounting members are placed in mechanical engagement with the ceiling grid to provide a mechanical connection between the ceiling grid and the connector assembly. A polarity protection member is provided in the housing. The polarity protection member protects the device from failure or damage when the polarity orientation of the device does not match the polarity orientation of the conductors of the grid.

"An exemplary embodiment is also directed to a connector assembly for installing a device to a grid having flanges with conductors therein. The connector assembly has a housing with contacts mounted in the housing. The contacts have contact arms which extend from a surface of the housing. Contact portions of the contact arms are positioned to make an electrical connection with the conductors of the grid when the connector assembly is mated with the grid. A first mounting member and a second mounting member are movable between a first position in which grid mounting sections of the first and second mounting members are configured to not engage the flanges of the grid and a second position in which the grid mounting sections of the first and second mounting members are moved away from each other to engage the flanges of the grid to provide a mechanical connection between the grid and the connector assembly. A polarity member is provided. The polarity member protects the device from failure or damage when the polarity orientation of the device does not match the polarity orientation of the conductors of the grid.

"An exemplary embodiment is also directed to a connector assembly for installation on a ceiling grid having conductors therein. The connector assembly includes a housing, contact arms, mounting members, a cam member and a polarity member. The contact arms are mounted in the housing and have contact portions. The mounting members are mounted in the housing and have grid mounting sections. The cam member is provided in the housing and is movable between a first position and a second position. The polarity member protects the device from failure or damage when the polarity orientation of the device does not match the polarity orientation of the conductors of the grid. As the cam member is moved from the first position to the second position, the cam member biases the contact portions of the contact arms into electrical engagement with the conductors of the ceiling grid and biases the grid mounting sections of the mounting members mechanical engagement with the ceiling grid to provide a mechanical connection between the ceiling grid and the connector assembly.

"Other features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following more detailed description of the preferred embodiment, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings which illustrate, by way of example, the principles of the invention."

For more information, see this patent: Gingrich, III, Charles R.; Kohler, Raymond Howard; Luksic, Marek T.. Connector Assembly with Polarity Correction/Protection. U.S. Patent Number 8770993, filed June 1, 2012, and published online on July 8, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8770993.PN.&OS=PN/8770993RS=PN/8770993

Keywords for this news article include: Tyco Electronics Corporation.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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