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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

Armor? How Yesterday. Link me up!

Modern combat soldiers are exposed to nasty conditions just like their predecessors – but now they have satellite radios, GPS devices and other sensitive electronics to worry about. And a small Camarillo outpost of German manufacturer ODU Co. Group plays an integral role in keeping them all hooked up. The company makes cable assemblies as well as connectors that might attach a radio to an antenna, or a GPS device to a computer. And all of it must work despite bad weather, percussive blasts and even deliberate electromagnetic interference that would disable top-shelf consumer products. “These connectors are designed to withstand conditions of a battlefield,” said Brendan Dempsey, business development manager for ODU-USA, the North American division of company, which is headquartered near Munich. For example, one product is a push-pull connector that locks on tight and requires a squeeze of a button to detach from a cable. But there also is a break-away version more adapted to settings where a cable can get snagged on a tree branch or a wire. “That will minimize risk,” Dempsey said. To improve survivability in rugged environments, the connectors are dipped in a bath of nickel plating to improve the connectivity and then a bath of ruthenium that dulls the finish to a non-reflective matte gray. The contacts in the connectors are copper material plated with gold. The company also designed a series of caps to fit over the connector ends or the ports on the equipment to keep out water, sand and dust. And the caps are made of plastic so they make no noise if struck against something, in case troops are in a situation where they must be silent. While the light-weight connectors are made in Germany, China or Romania, the Camarillo facility employs 75 and manufactures cable assemblies. The local office also provides product development and sales. David Pheteplace, senior vice president with Bishop & Associates Inc., a market research firm in St. Charles, Ill., said the industry is growing and profitable – especially for companies serving niche markets, such as the military, that buy premium products at premium prices. “That allows higher margins,” he said. ODU’s connectors start at $30, and revenue for the year is projected at $38 million. It is not a coincidence the company is in Camarillo since Pentagon contractors are a big part of its business. Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., and Raytheon Co. are among its giant defense customers in Southern California. – Mark R. Madler

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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