(19)
(11)EP 3 706 253 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
09.09.2020 Bulletin 2020/37

(21)Application number: 19161617.6

(22)Date of filing:  08.03.2019
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
H01R 13/627(2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
KH MA MD TN

(71)Applicant: Aptiv Technologies Limited
St. Michael (BB)

(72)Inventors:
  • LEHMANN, René
    90766 Fürth (DE)
  • BARTH, Bruno
    90763 Fürth (DE)

(74)Representative: Mader, Joachim 
Bardehle Pagenberg Partnerschaft mbB Patentanwälte, Rechtsanwälte Prinzregentenplatz 7
81675 München
81675 München (DE)

  


(54)ELECTRICAL CONNECTOR SYSTEM COMPRISING A SECONDARY LOCKING DEVICE


(57) The invention relates to an electrical connector system 10, in particular for a safety restraint system, comprising an electrical plug connector, including a connector housing 100 and at least two electrical contact elements 410, 420. The electrical connector system 10 further comprises a secondary locking device 300, wherein the secondary locking device includes a main body 302 and a first flexible arm 310. The main body 302 is provided with a pushing surface 340 for pushing the secondary locking device 300 from an unmated condition in a mated condition, along a mating direction A and the first flexible arm 310 extends from the pushing surface 340 to a first locking element 326. The first locking element 326 is provided at a distal portion of the first flexible arm and is adapted to lock with a corresponding first locking element of the plug connector, when the secondary locking device 300 is the mated condition. The first flexible arm has a flexible rounded portion 314 at its proximal end that connects the first flexible arm 310 with the main body 302.




Description

TECHNICAL FIELD



[0001] The present invention relates generally to an electrical connector system comprising a plug connector and a secondary locking device.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



[0002] Electrical connector systems comprising a plug connector and a secondary locking device are known in the art, e.g. for electrical connections in vehicles, such as passenger cars.

[0003] Passenger cars have nowadays a number of safety restraint systems, such as seat belts pretensions or airbags, as e.g. front and side airbags, which serve to cushion or limit the impact of a passenger with for example interior parts of passenger cars in case of an accident. Deceleration sensors in the passenger vehicle detect high deceleration values as they occur in case of an accident and send a trigger signal via wire or cable to the safety restraints system. An explosive device, known as squib, inflates the airbag or tightens the belt. The wires or cables of the deceleration sensor are connected to an electronic controlled unit and then to a squib, by means of a so-called squib connector.

[0004] To this day, the squib is usually provided with a socket or receptacle which contains two contact pins. The squib connector comprises a plug portion or a plug connector corresponding to the socket, which plug portion in provided with two terminals for the reception of the contact pins of the squib socket. To improve the connection between the squib and the plug connector, retainer inserts were developed, which are adapted to fit into the receptacle of standardized squibs and which facilitate and secure the connection between the squib and the plug connector. Alternatively to the use of retainers, secondary locking devices, such as connector position assurance members, better known as CPA members, were developed. Those CPA members are mated with the plug connector after the plug connector is coupled to a corresponding counter connector, such as a squib socket. Typically, a CPA member is designed, so that a mating to the plug connector is only possible, if the plug connector is correctly coupled to the corresponding counter connector, i.e. the CPA member cannot be mated to the plug connector, if the plug connector is in an uncoupled or incorrectly coupled condition. Further, to avoid that the CPA member gets lost when the plug connector is not yet coupled to the corresponding counter connector, the CPA member is retained in an un-mated state in the plug connector.

[0005] If the CPA member is in the mated state, it can be concluded that the plug connector and corresponding counter connector are correctly coupled. Accordingly, the CPA member provides an optical feedback for the correct coupling of the plug connector and corresponding counter connector.

[0006] Besides the optical feedback, a haptic feedback for the correct coupling of the plug connector and corresponding counter connector shall be provided by a CPA member. To achieve a haptic feedback, known CPA members are provided with respective locking elements, that lock with the plug connector upon mating. Primarily, the locking elements lock the CPA member with the plug connector. To achieve a sufficiently high retention force, typically multiple locking elements are required. Secondarily, the locking of the locking elements can be sensed haptically by the person or the apparatus performing the mating.

[0007] In known CPA members the haptic feedback is often not unambiguous. This is, as the point in time for locking the locking elements of known CPA members is dependent on the position, that is pressed for mating the CPA member. Thus, it cannot be guaranteed that locking of the various locking elements occurs at exactly the same time. Rather, the locking elements will lock one after another. Thus, the person or the apparatus, performing the mating will receive multiple haptic feedback signals and not exact one clear haptic feedback signal. This bears the risk that the mating is stopped after having received a first haptic feedback, that corresponds to the locking of a first locking element, only. Further locking elements may remain unlocked, resulting in an incorrectly mated CPA member and an incorrect coupling of the plug connector and corresponding counter connector.

[0008] Due to maintenance, e.g. of the connected airbag squib, or the like, it may be necessary to decouple the plug connector and corresponding counter connector. This requires un-mating of the CPA-member. However, un-mating is hindered by the locking elements of the CPA-member. Thus, the un-mating may damage or even destroy the CPA member.

[0009] It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide an electrical connector system, in particular for a safety restraint system, which has an improved haptic feedback and allows for a reliable coupling and de-coupling of the system's plug connector with a corresponding counter connector. Further, the size of the electrical connector system shall be reduced.

[0010] These and other objects which become apparent upon reading the following description, are solved by an electrical connector system and an electrical connector assembly according to the independent claims.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



[0011] According to the invention, an electrical connector system is provided which comprises a plug connector and a secondary locking device. The secondary locking device is also referenced as a connector positioning assurance member (CPA).

[0012] The electrical connector system may be an electrical connector system for a safety restraint system. The electrical connector system comprises an electrical plug connector, including a connector housing and at least two electrical contact elements. Further, the electrical connector system comprises a secondary locking device (CPA member), wherein the secondary locking device includes a main body and a first flexible arm. The main body is provided with a pushing surface for pushing the secondary locking device from an unmated condition in a mated condition, along a mating direction A. The first flexible arm extends from the pushing surface to a first locking element. The first locking element is provided at a distal portion of the first flexible arm. The first locking element is adapted to lock with a corresponding first locking element of the plug connector, when the secondary locking device is in the mated condition. The first flexible arm has a flexible rounded portion at its proximal end that connects the first flexible arm with the main body.

[0013] The electrical connector system may be used in a safety restraint system such as a seatbelt pretention or an airbag system, that is electrically connected to a control device of a vehicle. For actuating the safety restraint system, the safety restraint system is coupled via the electrical connector system and a corresponding counter connector to the control device of the respective vehicle.

[0014] The electrical contract elements of the electrical connector system may be electrical contact terminals (female contact elements) that are adapted to electrically contact corresponding contact pins (male contact elements) of the counter connector. Alternatively, the electrical connector system may be provided with contact pins and the respective counter connector with corresponding contact terminals. For receiving the contact elements, such as contact terminals or contact pins, the connector housing may include contact element receptacles.

[0015] The secondary locking device is mated with the plug connector by pushing the pushing surface of the secondary locking device in the mating direction A. Upon pushing, the secondary locking device is traversed in the mating direction A. The movement of the secondary locking device leads to a deflection of the first flexible arm of the secondary locking device. Thus, the the first locking element can pass the corresponding first locking element of the electrical plug connector. After having passed the corresponding locking element, the flexible arm is reflected and the first locking element and the corresponding first locking element lock to secure the secondary locking device in the mated condition.

[0016] The corresponding locking element may be provided at the connector housing or at any other suitable part/location of the plug connector, such as a cover or the like. As will be described in greater detail below, the first locking element serves for locking the secondary locking device with the plug connector and may additionally provide a clear unambiguous haptic feedback for the person or apparatus that mates the secondary locking device with the electrical plug connector.

[0017] In particular, the deflection and reflection movement of the flexible arm can be sensed haptically by the person or the apparatus that pushes the secondary locking device at the pushing surface in mating direction A. To provide a secondary locking device that can be easily mated and still provides a high locking strength and a clear haptic feedback, the first locking element is provided at a distal portion of the first flexible arm. Depending on the position of the first locking element at the flexible arm, the spring constant of the flexible arm can be varied. The further the first locking element is distally displaced in mating direction A, the lower is the spring constant and vice versa. A high spring constant results in high locking forces and a strong haptic feedback, wherein a low spring constant allows an easier locking but at the same time leads to reduced haptic feedback. Preferably, the first locking element is distally displaced from the pushing surface in the mating direction A at a distance in the range of 4 mm to 8 mm, preferably in the range from 5 mm to 7 mm and most preferably about 6 mm.

[0018] The corresponding first locking element is preferably provided at the connector housing in form of a protrusion that engages with the first locking element. The corresponding first locking element may hinder the secondary locking device from being pushed easily in the mated condition, if the secondary locking device is in the unmated condition. The mating may only be possible, if a desired mating force is exceeded. This mating force of the secondary locking device is preferably chosen higher than the coupling force of the plug connector with the corresponding counter connector. The mating force may be in the range of 10 N to 50 N, preferably in the range of 25 N to 35 N and most preferably about 30 N. The coupling force may be in the range of 10 to 40 N, preferably in the range of 15 to 30 N and most preferably about 20 N. In case the mating force is higher than the coupling force, upon pushing the pushing surface of the secondary locking device, first the plug connector is correctly coupled with the corresponding counter connector and subsequently the secondary locking device is mated.

[0019] By providing a flexible rounded portion at the first flexible arm, it is possible to provide an improved stress distribution in the flexible arm during locking and unlocking of the secondary locking device.

[0020] As the first flexible arm extends from the pushing surface to a distally displaced (i.e. in mating direction A) first locking element and as the first flexible arm is connected to the main body by the flexible rounded portion it can be avoided that the flexible arm is directly pushed by the user. Thus, damaging of destroying the first flexible arm can be avoided.

[0021] The rounded portion may connect the flexible arm with the main body, so that a straight portion of the flexible arm and the pushing surface enclose an angle of about 80° to 100°, preferably of about 85° to 95° and most preferably of about 90°

[0022] The rounded portion may have a wall thickness that corresponds to a wall thickness of a straight portion of the flexible arm. The wall thickness of the first flexible arm may be in the range of 0.6 to 2.2 mm, preferably in the range of 0.7 to 1.1 mm and most preferably about 0.9 mm. Further, the rounded portion may have an outer radius in the range of 0.8 to 2 mm, preferably in the range of 1 to 1.8 mm and most preferably about 1.5 mm.

[0023] The first flexible arm may be arranged centrally at the main body, in a first direction T that is perpendicular to the mating direction A. With providing the first flexible arm centrally at the main body, it is possible to provide only a single central locking device that provides the haptic feedback. Therefore, the user (or apparatus) that mates the secondary locking device will get an unambiguous clear haptic feedback when mating the secondary locking device. Therefore, the risk of incorrect mating can be reduced.

[0024] Further, with providing a central first flexible arm, a lateral tilting of the secondary locking device can efficiently be prevented, compared to secondary locking devices that provide multiple (laterally arranged) locking elements. Thus, mating is facilitated.

[0025] The locking element of the secondary locking device may be haptic feedback means that provides a haptic feedback during locking with the corresponding first locking element of the plug connector. The locking element may be the only haptic feedback means of the secondary locking device.

[0026] With providing the locking element as haptic feedback means, a locking and a haptic feedback can be provided with a single element and therefore, the size of the connector and particular of the secondary locking device can be reduced. With providing only one haptic feedback means, a clear and unambiguous haptic feedback can be provided, and the mating can be facilitated.

[0027] The first locking element may be provided at a free end of the first flexible arm, and the first locking element may have a distal abutting surface for abutting the corresponding first locking element, when the secondary locking device is the unmated condition, wherein the distal abutting surface may have a radius in the range of 0.2 mm to 1.2 mm, preferably in the range of 0.4 mm to 0.8 mm, and most preferably in the range of 0.5 to 0.6 mm.

[0028] Providing the first locking element at the free end of the first flexible arm allows for a maximal flexibility of the arm and therefore for reduced spring forces. This facilitates the locking and the unlocking of the locking elements. Further, with providing an abutting surface that has a radius in the above described range, surface pressure can be reduced, and the mating can be further facilitated.

[0029] The rounded portion of the first flexible arm may have an outer shape that is tangential with the pushing surface. As the rounded portion of the first flexible arm protrudes from the pushing surface (preferably tangentially), the pushing surface is smaller compared to pushing surfaces of known secondary locking devices, where the flexible arms project from a surface opposite to the pushing surface. With providing a smaller pushing surface, the overall connector size can be reduced. Further, with providing a smaller pushing surface, the desired pushing position can be defined more precisely and therefore undesired tilting of the secondary locking device during mating can be prevented. This allows for a facilitated mating.

[0030] Providing an outer shape of the rounded portion that is tangential with the pushing surface allows for reduced tension in the first flexible arm during mating the secondary locking device and during unlocking the first locking element from the corresponding first locking element. Thus, the plug connector can be easily uncoupled from the corresponding counter connector, e.g. for maintenance of the electrically coupled safety restraint system, without damaging the secondary locking device and/or the first flexible arm.

[0031] The first flexible arm may comprises an unlocking element that is adapted to deflect the flexible arm when being actuated, so as to unlock the first locking element and the corresponding locking element, wherein the unlocking element may protrude from the flexible arm outwardly at a position that is distally displaced from the pushing surface. Particularly, the unlocking element may be provided adjacent to the rounded portion.

[0032] The unlocking element may be actuated with a tool, only. Thus, it can be prevented that the user unintentionally or inadmissibly un-mates the secondary locking element and/or decouples the plug connector. The tool for actuating the unlocking element may be a screwdriver or a specific unlocking tool.

[0033] With providing the unlocking element at the first flexible arm, the first flexible arm can be deflected so as to allow an easy unlocking of the first locking element and the corresponding locking element. Providing a protruding unlocking element allows to easily access the unlocking element and thereby actuating the unlocking element without damaging other parts of the plug connector. With providing the unlocking element adjacent to the rounded portion of the first flexible arm, the deflection of the first flexible arm for unlocking the locking element can be mainly provided at the rounded portion. Thereby, the straight portion of the first flexible arm can be preserved from overload due to actuating the unlocking element. Thus, a reliable unlocking can be provided. To achieve a good force transmission, the unlocking element may be directly adjacent to the rounded portion of the first flexible arm.

[0034] The electrical plug connector may further comprise a cover that covers the connector housing. For covering the connector housing, the cover may be coupled to the connector housing by any suitable means, such as gluing, welding, latching or the like. Preferably, the cover includes at least first and second primary latching elements, that are laterally provided at the cover and a central secondary latching element that is provided in a front section of the cover. Those primary and secondary latching elements can engage with corresponding latching elements provided at the housing. Latching allows an easy, detachable and cost-efficient way to couple the housing with the cover. Further, the cover can be provided with sealing means to provide moisture resistant plug connectors. For providing reliable latching between the cover and the housing, primary and secondary latching elements can be oriented in a 90° offset.

[0035] Further, the cover may include a retention element that is adapted to engage with the first locking element of the secondary locking device, so as to prevent the secondary locking device to be separated from the plug connector, in a direction opposite the mating direction A, when the plug connector is in an unmated condition.

[0036] As the retention element interacts with the first locking element of the secondary locking device, no additional retention element is required at the secondary locking device. Therefore, the size of the secondary locking device and the plug connector can be further reduced. In case, a single retention element is not sufficient, additional retention elements can be provided at the cover and/or the secondary locking device, as will be described in greater detail with reference to Fig. 3C below.

[0037] The retention element(s) prevent that the secondary locking device is getting lost during the manufacturing process or the coupling of plug connector with the corresponding counter connector.

[0038] The above described retention element of the cover may be a secondary retention element, and the cover may further include at least one primary retention element. The primary retention element may be provided laterally at the cover and may be adapted to engage with a respective corresponding primary retention element of the secondary locking device, wherein the corresponding primary retention element may be provided on a guiding leg of the secondary locking device. Providing primary and secondary retention elements allows for a more reliable retention of the secondary locking device at the plug connector. Further, with providing the primary retention element(s) at a guiding leg of the secondary locking device, the size of the plug connector can be further reduced.

[0039] The retention force of the secondary locking device may be in the range of about 40 N to 80 N, preferably about 50 N to 70 N and most preferably at least 60 N.

[0040] The cover may comprise first and second primary retention elements a single secondary retention element. Primary and secondary retention elements may be angularly offset to each other in an angle of about 90°. Thus, providing a reliable retention.

[0041] The plug connector housing and/or the cover may further include a rear guiding surface. The secondary locking device may include a corresponding rear guiding surface that may be arranged on the guiding leg, for slidingly guiding the secondary locking device during mating in the mating direction A. The rear guiding surface of the connector housing is provided at rearward section of the plug connector, wherein the first flexible arm is provided at a front section of the plug connector. Providing a rear guiding surface, prevents the secondary locking device during mating from undesired tilting. As the flexible arm is be deflected for locking the first locking element with the corresponding locking element, a force that is oriented substantially perpendicular to the mating direction will occur. This force can be supported by the rear guiding surface and a tilting of the secondary locking device can be prevented. Thus, the mating is facilitated.

[0042] Further, the corresponding primary retention element of the secondary locking device may protrude from the guiding leg in a direction perpendicular to the surface normal of the corresponding rear guiding surface. This allows to minimize a gap between the rear guiding surface of the connector housing and the corresponding rear guiding surface of the secondary locking device. This is as no space must be provided for guiding the corresponding primary retention elements past the guiding surface. Thus, the guiding can be improved and tilting of the secondary locking device can be avoided or at least reduced.

[0043] The connector housing may further include a front guiding surface, wherein the secondary locking device may include a corresponding front guiding surface for slidingly guiding the secondary locking device during mating in the mating direction A. With providing additional front guiding surfaces in a front section of the plug connector, the guiding can be further improved, and a tilting of the secondary locking device can be avoided or at least reduced.

[0044] The plug connector housing may comprise multiple rear guiding surfaces and/or front guiding surfaces and the secondary locking device may comprise multiple corresponding rear guiding surfaces and/or front guiding surfaces, that are separated from each other. The rear guiding surfaces may be provided at a lateral position on either side of the center of the plug connector distributed in the first direction T. The same may be applied for the front guiding surfaces. Thus, improved guiding can be achieved, and a lateral tilting can be prevented.

[0045] Further, the corresponding rear guiding surface and/or the corresponding front guiding surface may be arranged in parallel and perpendicular to a deflecting plane of the first flexible arm. This allows to efficiently prevent a rearward tilting of the secondary locking device during mating, as the mating force can be supported by the respective guiding surfaces.

[0046] Further, the rear guiding surface may be provided at least partially at a guiding protrusion, that protrudes against mating direction A from the plug connector housing, wherein the guiding protrusion may extend at least partially through the cover.

[0047] With providing guiding protrusions at the plug connector housing that are provided with the rear guiding surface, the rear guiding surfaces can be extended in the mating direction, thereby further preventing a tilting of the secondary locking device. Still further, with providing a guiding protrusion that protrudes at least partially through the cover, a non-divided guiding surface can be provided, and the secondary locking device can be smoothly guided in sliding contact during mating. In particular, a stepped portion in the rear guiding surface can be prevented.

[0048] The first locking element of the secondary locking device and the corresponding first locking element of the plug connector may contact each other when the secondary locking device is in a mated condition, A contact angle α between the contacting surfaces of the first locking element of the secondary locking device and the corresponding first locking element of the plug connector may be forwardly inclined.

[0049] The contact angle α is defined as being an angle between the mating direction A and a surface normal of the contact surface of the first locking element. Forwardly inclined means, that the contact angle α is inclined from the mating direction towards the fort section of the plug connector. With providing a forwardly inclined contact angle, the retention force can be increased. In particular, the retention force may be least 30 N preferably at least 40 N and most preferably at least 50 N.

[0050] The object is further solved, by an electrical connector assembly in particular for a safety restraint system, comprising an electrical connector system as described above as well as a corresponding counter connector adapted to at least partially receive a plug portion of the plug connector housing and a secondary locking device.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS



[0051] The present invention is now described by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
Fig. 1
is a schematic exploded view of an electrical connector system according to an embodiment comprising a plug connector housing, a cover and a secondary locking device;
Fig. 2A
is a schematic side view of an electrical connector system in an assembled condition;
Fig. 2B
is a schematic top view of the electrical connector system of Fig. 2A;
Fig. 3A
is a schematic cut view of the electrical connector system of Fig. 2A, wherein the secondary locking device in in an unmated condition;
Fig. 3B
is a schematic cut view of the electrical connector system of Fig. 2A, wherein the secondary locking device in in a mated condition;
Fig. 3C
is a further schematic cut view of the electrical connector system of Fig. 2A, wherein the secondary locking device in in an unmated condition;
Fig. 3D
is a further schematic cut view of the electrical connector system of Fig. 2A, wherein the secondary locking device in in an unmated condition;
Fig. 4A
is a schematic perspective view of the secondary locking device;
Fig. 4B
is a schematic perspective view of the secondary locking device of Fig. 4A;
Fig. 5
is a schematic perspective view of the cover;
Fig. 6A
is a schematic perspective view of the plug connector housing, and
Fig. 6B
is a schematic perspective view of the plug connector housing of Fig. 6A.


[0052] Figure 1 shows a schematic exploded view of an electrical connector system 10 according to an embodiment. The electrical connector system 10 comprises a plug connector housing 100, a cover 200 and a secondary locking device 300. The housing 100 has a plug portion 110 that is at least partly received in a corresponding counter connector, when the plug connector is plugged/coupled to the corresponding counter connector. Further, the plug connector housing is provided with first and second primary corresponding latching elements 112, 114, which are adapted to be latched with first and second primary latching elements 212, 214 of the cover 200. The corresponding latching elements 112, 114 are preferably provided as latching protrusions, such as latching noses, wherein the first and second primary latching elements 212, 214 of the cover 200 are preferably provided as a deflectable snap lock latch that has a through hole therein. The snap lock latch is adapted to connect to the corresponding latching elements 112, 114 that are laterally provided at the housing 100.

[0053] Further, the housing is provided with a secondary corresponding latching element that is adapted to be latched with a secondary latching element 216 of the cover. The secondary latching element 216 of the cover 200 is provided at a front section and is formed as a deflectable snap lock latch having a through hole, wherein the through hole is adapted to lock with the corresponding secondary latching element 116 of the housing 100. The secondary corresponding latching element 116 can be provided as a protrusion. As shown in Fig. 1, the protrusion that forms the secondary corresponding latching element 116 can be intersected by a fenestration in the housing so that the secondary corresponding latching element may include two protrusions, that each lock with the secondary latching element 216 of the cover.

[0054] The plug connector housing 100 is adapted to receive first and second contact elements 410, 420, which are provided in the embodiment shown in Fig. 1 as contact terminals. Contact terminals 410, 420 are electrically connected to first and second cables 510, 520. For receiving the cables, the plug connector housing 100 is provided with first and second cable receptacles 151, 152, which at least partially receive the cables 510, 520. The first and second cable receptacles extend to a rear section of the plug connector housing 100.

[0055] Further, the electrical plug connector system 10 comprises a secondary locking device 300, which is also called CPA or CPA member. The secondary locking device 300 has a main body 302 which is provided with a pushing surface 340 for pushing the secondary locking device 300 from an unmated condition in a mated condition along a mating direction A, as will be described in greater detail with respect to Fig. 3A and 3B.

[0056] The secondary locking device 300 comprises a first flexible arm 310 that is arranged centrally at the main body in a first direction T that is perpendicular to the mating direction A. The first flexible arm 310 extends distally (i.e. in mating direction A) from the pushing surface 340 to a first locking element 326 which is provided at a distal portion of the first flexible arm, preferably at a free end of the first flexible arm 310.

[0057] The first locking element 326 is adapted to lock with a corresponding first locking element 126 of the plug connector, wherein the corresponding first locking element 126 is preferably provided at the plug connector housing 100. Further, when the secondary locking device 300 is in the unmated condition, the secondary locking device 300 is secured at the plug connector by retention elements. In particular, the first locking element may serve as corresponding retention element that engages with the secondary retention element 226 provided at cover 200. Thus, it can be prevented that the secondary locking device 300 gets lost during storage of the plug connector system 10, and/or the assembly of the same.

[0058] The first flexible arm 310 has a flexible rounded portion 314 at its proximal end wherein the flexible rounded portion 314 connects the first flexible arm 310 with the main body 302. Preferably, the rounded portion 314 is tangentially arranged with respect the pushing surface 340. The rounded portion 314 allows to minimize stress in the flexible arm 310 and therefore allows a reliable locking and unlocking of the first locking element 326. Still further, as the rounded portion 314 extends from the pushing surface 340, the pushing surface is smaller compared to known secondary locking devices and thus allows a more central force application of the pushing force. Thus, tilting of the secondary locking device 300 can effectively be prevented. Still further, as the rounded portion 314 extends from the pushing surface to the axial arranged part of the first flexible arm 310, it can be avoided that the first flexible arm 310 is directly pushed. Thus, buckling of the first flexible arm can effectively prevented.

[0059] Figure 2A is a schematic side view of the electrical connector system 10 in an assembled condition, wherein the secondary locking device 300 is in an unmated condition. As shown, the cover 200 is latched to the plug connector housing 100 by means of primary latching element 212 and the corresponding primary latching element 112 as well as by secondary latching element 216. Further, cable 520 extends rearwardly out of the plug connector housing 100 and is held by cover 200 in the cable receptacle. As the secondary locking 300 device protrudes from the cover 200 in the unmated condition, the secondary locking device 300 serves as an optical feedback means for a user. It can be optically controlled whether the plug connector is correctly plugged (or not) and whether the secondary locking device is correctly mated (or not). If the secondary locking device is correctly mated with the plug connector, the secondary locking device 300 is received in the plug connector as shown in Fig. 3b. As described above a secondary locking device means at the same time, that the plug connector is correctly coupled to the corresponding counter connector.

[0060] Figure 2B is a schematic top view of the electrical connector system. As shown in Fig. 2B, the pushing surface 340 is centrally provided at the secondary locking device 300 and therefore allows for a central transmission of the pushing force. The rounded portion 314 extends from the pushing surface 340 and connects the flexible arm 310 with the main body 302 at the pushing surface 340. As the rounded portion (at least partly) extends in the mating direction A, the rounded portion 314 and the flexible arm 310 cannot be directly pushed by a user.

[0061] Figure 3A is a schematic cut view of the electrical connector system 10 shown in Fig. 2A, wherein the plug connector is cut along line a-a (cf. Fig. 2B). Fig. 3B shows the electrical connector system 10 of Fig. 3A in a schematic cut view, wherein the secondary locking device is now in a mated condition.

[0062] As shown, the cover 200 is latched to the plug connector housing 100. In the unmated condition, the secondary locking device 300 protrudes over the cover 200 in a direction opposite to the mating direction A. In this unmated condition, the first locking device 326 engages with the secondary retention element 226 of the cover 200 and is thereby prevented from getting lost. Upon pushing the pushing surface 340 in mating direction A, the first flexible arm 310 is deflected in a forward direction and the first locking element 326 is likewise moved in a forward direction and can pass by the corresponding first locking element 126. After having passed the corresponding first locking element 126, the first locking element 326 locks with the first corresponding locking element 126 and the first flexible arm 310 is (at least partially) reflected. Further, in the unmated condition, as shown in Fig. 3a, the first locking element 326 abuts the corresponding first locking element 126 with a distal abutting surface 327. The distal abutting surface 327 has preferably a radius in the range of 0.2 to 1.2 mm, preferably in the range of 0.4 to 0.8 mm and most preferably in the range of 0.5 to 0.6 mm. Thus, surface pressure is reduced, and the mating can easily be initiated.

[0063] As shown in Fig. 3B, the first locking element 326 has passed by the corresponding first locking element 126. In the mated condition, the first locking element 326 of the secondary locking device 300 and the corresponding first locking element 126 of the plug connector contact each other, wherein a contact angle α between the contacting surfaces of the first locking element 326 and the secondary locking device 300 and the corresponding first locking element 126 of the plug connector is forwardly inclined. Thus, the retention force for the locking can be increased.

[0064] Figure 3C is a schematic cut view of the plug connector system along line c-c as shown in Fig. 2B. The plug connector housing comprises first and second coupling elements 162, 164, which are adapted to couple with corresponding coupling elements of a corresponding counter connector (not shown). Accordingly, if the plug connector is coupled with the corresponding counter connector, the plug connector is securely held in the corresponding counter connector. In Fig. 3C, the secondary locking device 300 is in the unmated condition. In the unmated condition, the secondary locking device 300 is held in the plug connector by first and second primary retention elements 222, 224 that engage with corresponding primary first and second retention elements 322, 324 and therefore prevent the secondary locking device 300 from getting lost. As shown, the retention elements 222, 224 as well as the corresponding retention elements 322, 324 are provided as protrusions, that engage with each other, if the secondary locking device is pulled against mating direction A.

[0065] Figure 3D is a schematic cut view of the electrical connector system along line d-d as shown in Fig. 2B. Figure 3D illustrates the guiding of the secondary locking device 300 during mating. For providing a sliding guiding of the secondary locking device 300, the plug connector housing 100 comprises a first rear guiding surface 132, that is provided at a guiding protrusion 131a which protrudes in a direction opposite to the mating direction. As shown, the guiding protrusion 131a can extend through the cover 200 thereby providing an elongated guiding surface 132. The rear guiding surface 132 is arranged opposite to a rear guiding surface 332 of the secondary locking device 300. During mating, these two surfaces 132, 332 slide along each other thereby guide the secondary locking device 300 in the mating direction A. The rearward guiding surfaces prevent the secondary locking device from tilting backward. Further, the plug connector housing 100 comprises a front guiding surface 136 that supports a front guiding surface 336 of the secondary locking device 300. The front guiding surfaces support the guiding in the mating direction A and prevent tilting of the secondary locking device effectively.

[0066] Figures 4A and 4B are schematic perspective views of the secondary locking device 300 of the plug connector system 10. The secondary locking device 300 comprises a main body 302 and a flexible arm 310. The flexible arm 310 extends centrally in a mating direction A from the main body 302. The flexible arm 310 is connected to the main body 302 by rounded portion 314. Further, the secondary locking device 300 comprises first and second guiding legs 330, 331. These guiding legs are provided with first and second rear guiding surfaces 332, 334 as well as with first and second corresponding primary retention elements 322, 324. The retention elements 322, 324 protrude from the guiding legs 330, 331 in a direction that is perpendicular to the surface normal of the rear guiding surfaces 332, 334. Thus, a gap between the rear guiding surfaces 332, 334 of the secondary locking device 300 and the respective rear guiding surfaces 132, 134 of the plug connector housing 100 can be kept minimal. Thus, guiding is improved and tilting of the secondary locking device during mating can be effectively prevented or at least reduced.

[0067] Further, the secondary locking device 300 comprises first and second front guiding surfaces 336, 338 for providing an axial guiding at a front side portion of the secondary locking device 300. Still further, the secondary locking device may comprise a first latching arm 351 with a first primary latching element 352 and a secondary latching arm 353 with a second primary latching element 354.

[0068] Figure 5 shows a perspective schematic view of the cover 200. The cover 200 comprises first and second primary latching elements 212, 214 as well as a secondary latching element 216 that is provided centrally at the front end of the cover 200. Further, the cover 200 provides first and second primary retention elements 222, 224 and a secondary retention element 226.

[0069] Figure 6A shows a perspective schematic view of the plug connector housing 100 and Fig. 6B shows a top view of the plug connector housing 100. The plug connector housing 100 comprises a plug portion 110 that can be received at least partially in a corresponding counter connector. The plug connector housing 100 comprises first and second primary corresponding latching elements 112, 114 and a secondary corresponding latching element 116 for latching the cover 200 to the plug connector housing 100. A first corresponding locking element 126 is provided so as to be adapted to lock the first locking element 326 of the secondary locking device 300. For providing elongated rear guiding surfaces 132, 134 the plug connector housing 100 comprises guiding protrusions 131a, 131b that protrude in a direction opposite to the mating direction A. First and second electrical contact receptacles 141, 142 are provided for receiving e.g. electrical contact terminals of the plug connector.

[0070] The above described electrical connector system, provides an improved haptic feedback and allows for a reliable coupling and de-coupling of the system's plug connector with a corresponding counter connector. In known electrical connector systems, comprising conventional secondary locking devices (CPAs), the plug connector insertion and the mating of the CPA to the plug connector system includes two assembly phases. In a first assembly phase, the plug connector is inserted into a corresponding plug connector. In a second assembly phase, the CPA is mated. During the mating of the CPA, typically at least two force peaks occur, which correspond to the haptic feedback that is provided by the multiple locking elements of the CPA. This double peak is undesired, as the user who locks or mates the CPA may stop the mating after having sensed the first force peak. However, after having sensed the first force peak, a conventional CPA is not properly locked. During the mating of the CPA of a plug connector system according to any one of the above described embodiments, only one force peak occurs and thus, the user will have a clear and unambiguous haptic feedback. Accordingly, the risk of an unintentional incorrect mating can be reduced.

LIST OF REFERENCES



[0071] 
10
plug connector system
100
plug connector housing
110
plug portion
112
first primary corresponding latching element
114
second primary corresponding latching element
116
secondary corresponding latching element
126
corresponding first locking element
131a, b
guiding protrusions
132
first rear guiding surface
134
second rear guiding surface
136
first front guiding surface
138
second front guiding surface
141
first contact element receptacle
142
second contact element receptacle
151
first cable receptacle
152
second cable receptacle
162
first coupling element
164
second coupling element
200
cover
212
first primary latching element
214
second primary latching element
216
secondary latching element
222
first primary retention element
224
second primary retention element
226
secondary retention element
300
secondary locking device (CPA)
302
main body
310
first flexible arm
312
unlocking element
314
rounded portion
322
first corresponding primary retention element
324
second corresponding primary retention element
326
first locking element
327
distal abutting surface
331
second guiding leg
332
first rear guiding surface
334
second rear guiding surface
336
first front guiding surface
338
second front guiding surface
340
pushing surface
351
first latching arm
352
first primary latching element
353
second latching arm
354
second primary latching element
410
first contact element
420
second contact element
510
first cable
520
second cable
A
mating direction
T
first direction
α
contact angle



Claims

1. An electrical connector system (10), in particular for a safety restraint system, comprising:

an electrical plug connector, including a connector housing (100) and at least two electrical contact elements (410, 420), the electrical connector system (10) further comprising

a secondary locking device (300), wherein the secondary locking device (300) includes a main body (302) and a first flexible arm (310), wherein the main body (302) is provided with a pushing surface (340) for pushing the secondary locking device (300) from an unmated condition in a mated condition, along a mating direction (A),

and wherein the first flexible arm (310) extends from the pushing surface (340) to a first locking element (326), the first locking element (326) is provided at a distal portion of the first flexible arm (310), and wherein the first locking element (326) is adapted to lock with a corresponding first locking element (126) of the plug connector, when the secondary locking device (300) is in the mated condition, and wherein

the first flexible arm (310) has a flexible rounded portion (314) at its proximal end that connects the first flexible arm (310) with the main body (302).


 
2. The electrical connector system (10) of claim 1, wherein the first flexible arm (310) is arranged centrally at the main body (302), in a first direction (T), that is perpendicular to the mating direction (A).
 
3. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the locking element (326) of the secondary locking device (300) is a haptic feedback means that provides a haptic feedback during locking with the corresponding first locking element (126) of the plug connector, and wherein the locking element (326) preferably is the only haptic feedback means of the secondary locking device (300).
 
4. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first locking element (326) is provided at a free end of the first flexible arm (310), and wherein the first locking element (326) preferably has a distal abutting surface (327) for abutting the corresponding first locking element (126), when the secondary locking device (300) is the unmated condition, wherein the distal abutting surface (327) has a radius in the range of 0.2 mm to 1.2 mm, preferably in the range of 0.4 mm to 0.8 mm, and most preferably in the range of 0.5 to 0.6 mm.
 
5. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the rounded portion (314) has an outer shape that is tangential with the pushing surface (340).
 
6. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first flexible arm (310) comprises an unlocking element (312) that is adapted to deflect the flexible arm (310), when being actuated, so as to unlock the first locking element (326) and the corresponding locking element (126), wherein the unlocking element (312) may protrude from the flexible arm (310) outwardly at a position that is distally displaced from the pushing surface (340), wherein the unlocking element is preferably provided adjacent to the rounded portion (314).
 
7. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of the preceding claims, the electrical plug connector further comprising a cover (200) that covers the connector housing (100), the cover including a retention element (226) that is adapted to engage with the first locking element (326) of the secondary locking device (300), so as to prevent the secondary locking device (300) to be separated from the plug connector, in a direction opposite the mating direction (A), when the plug connector is in an unmated condition.
 
8. The electrical connector system (10) of the preceding claim, wherein the retention element (226) is a secondary retention element, and wherein the cover (200) further includes at least one primary retention element (222, 224), the first retention element being adapted to engage with a respective corresponding primary retention element (322, 324) of the secondary locking device (300), wherein the corresponding primary retention element (322, 324) may be provided on a guiding leg (323, 325) of the secondary locking device (300).
 
9. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the plug connector housing (100) and/or the cover (200) further includes a rear guiding surface (132, 134), and wherein the secondary locking device (300) includes a corresponding rear guiding surface (332, 334) preferably arranged on the guiding leg (330, 331), for slidingly guiding the secondary locking device (300) during mating in the mating direction (A).
 
10. The electrical connector system (10) of the preceding claim, wherein the corresponding primary retention element (322, 324) of the secondary locking device (300) protrudes from the guiding leg (330, 331) in a direction perpendicular to the surface normal of the corresponding rear guiding surface (332, 334).
 
11. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the connector housing (100) further includes a front guiding surface (136, 138), and wherein the secondary locking device (300) includes a corresponding front guiding surface (336, 338) for slidingly guiding the secondary locking device (300) during mating in the mating direction (A).
 
12. The electrical connector system (10) of any of claims 9 to 11, wherein the corresponding rear guiding surface (332, 334) and/or the corresponding front guiding surface (336, 338) are arranged in parallel and perpendicular to a deflecting plane of the first flexible arm (310).
 
13. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of claims 9 to 12, wherein the rear guiding surface (132, 134) is provided at least partially at a guiding protrusion (131a, 131b), that protrudes against mating direction (A) from the plug connector housing (100), wherein the guiding protrusion (131a, 131b) extends at least partially through the cover (200).
 
14. The electrical connector system (10) of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first locking element (326) of the secondary locking device (300) and the corresponding first locking element (126) of the plug connector contact each other when the secondary locking device (300) is in a mated condition, and wherein a contact angle (α) between the contacting surfaces of the first locking element (326) of the secondary locking device (300) and the corresponding first locking element (126) of the plug connector is forwardly inclined.
 
15. An electrical connector assembly, in particular for a safety restraint system, comprising;
an electrical connector system (10) according to one of the preceding claims;
a corresponding counter connector adapted to at least partly receive a plug portion (110) of the plug connector housing (100) and the secondary locking device (300).
 




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