The Tiny Connector that Saved Christmas

The Tiny Connector that Saved Christmas

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree stands lit, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in New York. The 77-foot tall Norway spruce is covered with more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and topped with a Swarovski star. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Tishman Speyer)

TE Connectivity, a $12 billion global industrial technology leader whose connectors and sensors usually enable electric vehicles, medical devices, smart factories and other technology that makes the world safer, sustainable, productive and connected, is ensuring that the star atop the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree shines bright throughout the holiday season.

After dealing with some problematic connections last year, Rhode Island-based Orion, the fabrication partner responsible for ensuring that the star’s 3 million Swarovski crystals remain fully lit at the top of the 75-foot tree, came to TE for a better solution.

At first, Sara Mulkey, inside sales representative for TE’s Industrial and Commercial Transportation business, was confused why Orion, a company known for creating extravagant events and attractions, was reaching out to a team whose products generally can be found inside buses or construction equipment. But it made sense once Mulkey learned more about the problem.

“The connectors were failing, and they needed something much more robust,” Mulkey said. “They saw our sealed connectors on and after learning more about how our products are designed to perform flawlessly in harsh environments, they knew we were the perfect partner to reach out to for help.”

They needed a strong and durable connector that would handle wintery weather conditions high above Manhattan and keep the 106,000-lumen star glowing over the city. (For comparison, a 100-watt light bulb clocks in at around 1,750 lumens.) The connector, to be used on the power supply cord to the star, needed to be waterproof and able to withstand high strain, as the connector would be put to the test as the star was hoisted to the top of the tree. They ended up selecting TE’s DEUTSCH HD30 connectors for the treetop star, as well as its replica on the ground that allows visitors a close-up view.

Though the conditions at Rockefeller Center aren’t as rough as what these connectors face in their more common applications on a city bus route or construction site, ensuring a reliable connection for the star is important, especially in 2020, when the tree acts as a beacon of hope at the end of a challenging year for everyone.