Carbon Fiber Electrical Connectors

Carbon Fiber Electrical Connectors

Xerox Corporation has developed a way to make carbon fiber into connectors that can conduct electricity just like a traditional metal connector can - but it is more reliable, costs less to produce and can withstand the harshest of environments.

The technology, called CarbonConX, can replace metal electrical connectors used in a variety of industries and environments, including aerospace, consumer electronics, automotive, underwater electrical devices, medical equipment and more. Xerox has now made the technology available for licensing and is showcasing it this week at the NEPCON electronics manufacturing and components trade show in Boston.

CarbonConX uses "pultrusion" to bundle thousands of thin carbon fibers into one coated, rigid element - like packing thousands of straws together into a solid block or rod. It takes about 1,000 fibers to make a rod 0.3 millimeters in diameter.

When the rod is cut, each end therefore is densely packed with thousands of points available to make electrical contacts. That means that the carbon connector is more reliable than metal - and, at the same time, structurally stronger and more resistant to breakage because of the characteristics of the polymer and carbon bundle.

CarbonConX technology, also known as "distributed filament contacts," is protected by a portfolio of more than 30 patents. Carbon fibers are commonly used in engineering and manufacturing, but Xerox is a pioneer in using it in conductive applications. Researchers from Xerox's Wilson Center for Research and Technology in Webster, N.Y., led by scientists Stanley Wallace and Joseph Swift, have worked extensively with carbon fiber technology, steadily fine-tuning it for wider fields of use.

Xerox originally invented CarbonConX to efficiently bleed static electricity away from electrical components inside printers and copiers, as fast-moving paper generates static charges that need to be channeled to the ground. arbonConX has since proven to be the preferred technology to improve contact reliability in a printer's internal "dirty" environment. For example, the metal components and ball bearings used to conduct power to drive shafts within a printer would get gummed up, over time, by paper and toner dust and other particles. Replacing them with solid carbon connectors that were more reliable and virtually never needed to be replaced has saved Xerox millions of dollars in manufacturing and machine repair costs over the years. Today, about 75 percent of high-end Xerox printers use CarbonConX technology.

Publication date: 14/06/2002

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