Selecting & Buying Electronic Connectors - Top Tips

Tops tips for helping you choose and buy the right connectors for your particular electronic design or product: what to think about.

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Choosing the right connector for a particular use or project may not be as easy as it might seem.

There are many different varieties of connector, from power connectors to PCB connectors and insulation displacement or IDC connectors to circular connectors.

Each different type of connector has its own capabilities and choosing or selecting the right type is key, whether is a PCB connector, and IDC connector, a power connector or whatever type is needed.

Here we aim to provide some top tips to help select the right connector for your given circuit, or equipment.

Choosing or selecting the right connector needs a methodology - whether it is a power connector, PCB connector, IDC connector or whatever, it still needs the right decisions to be made so the correct type can be selected.

How to select connectors

There can be a useful order in points to consider when selecting the right connector for a particular circuit, or a particular place in a system.

Even though manufacturers provide detailed specifications for their products, it can still be difficult to select the best option for a given circuit or system, and having a logical methodology can greatly help.

  • What is the connector application:   Possibly the first step in selecting or choosing the connector is to define what the purpose of the connector is. Aspect like whether the connector is required for board to board, cable to board, cable to chassis and the like will govern many of its characteristics.
  • Consider the current:   The level of current needed by a connector will tend to govern many of the overall characteristics. Low current connectors will often be very different to those required to carry high levels of current. The current that the connector is required to carry is one of the most important elements of choosing the connector. If large levels of current are envisaged, then particular types of connector will be suitable, and these tend to be larger, and smaller connectors can be sued where smaller current levels are needed.
  • Look at the space and shape needed:   The shape and space available for the connector will also play a major part in the decision making process and it will often govern the type of connector used.
  • Environmental requirements:   The environmental requirements can play a major part in the selection of any connector. many connectors will only be applicable for benign environments, whereas others might need to operate under conditions where they have to experience far harsher conditions of temperature, moisture, vibration, etc.

    Under some conditions sealed connectors may be needed to reduce the effects of moisture ingress. Sometimes they may need to be water resistant if they are to be subjected to water rather than just moisture. This needs to be considered as part of the decision process.

    Some connectors are unlikely to experience a considerable degree of vibration, but those that are likely to experience vibration need to have restraints, locking mechanisms, or some method of ensuring they do not disengage. A push fit connector is likely to be fine for office or lab based operation, but something that is regularly handled and moved in vehicles, etc needs to be firmly mated and retained firmly mated. It should also be remembered that equipment will experience some vibration when being delivered and connectors should be chosen bearing this in mind./li>
  • Strain relief:   Most connectors either come with some form of strain relief or it is available as an option. Strain relief is particularly needed either where there is the likelihood of vibration, or where connectors need to be connected and disconnected.
  • EMC & screening:   In some instances screening is required, particularly for EMC requirements. Some connectors come with options for additional screening, or they may already have this incorporated.
  • Voltage considerations:   It is always wise to check the voltage rating of the connector, especially where high voltages are being used. In some circumstances it may be necessary to leave floating pins around any high voltage carrying pins.

Whether needing to select a power connector, a PCB connector, or even an IDC connector, having a logical approach to selecting the right connector for a given project always helps. With the variety of connectors available today, the choice can be bewildering and having a method of providing a logical way of deciding can be a great help.

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