Connector Corner

September 13, 2018

Know Your Connectors – The importance of choosing the right connector

The importance of connectors is extremely significant in the design process of systems. When designers fail to realize the importance of connectors, it unfortunately contributes to the failure of products. One simple mistake a designer could make is neglecting the necessary space for a connector to properly function or even fit into a box in general. As the demand for higher speeds, quicker rise times, and greater densities increase, connectors are becoming increasingly critical for system design. Once the appropriate connector is chosen for design, it is very difficult to change for a number of reasons. The available space, electrical resistance, insertion force, cost, and many more factors make the decision and change process very challenging.

Although there are thousands of options to satisfy connector needs, there are always compromises that designers have to make. Designers clearly want to choose the best option, but so many variables must be considered to choose one. They must begin by clearly identifying the technical specifications needed and document them. Characteristics and cost of the connector should be observed. Characteristics are expressed in numerical identification based on size, material, finish, and more. All of these specifications make the decision process much easier to communicate the needs with value-added distributors. Some notable examples include USB, RS-232, and RJ-45.

These specifications and nomenclature come from several governing bodies. Different approval agencies have requirements that must be satisfied for the logistics process. Aircraft manufacturers, governments, defense agencies, and more have their own rules and standards that dictate how inventory is managed.

Sales and marketing usually have some input into the connector nomenclature process. They usually observe the texture, size, color, and other aspects according to customer preferences. The decisions are usually made according the physical and visible characteristics of connectors. Sales and marketing usually add input in the production and forecasting decisions for these connectors as well.

Safety approval agencies get involved when documenting the safety concerns while using these products. Flammable material can sometime be involved in the build process and must be taken into consideration. The contact retention housing must also be observed, so FOD can be prevented. Insulation is also very important when using conductive metals. Some of such agencies that observe these aspects are Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

There are also different Levels of Interconnection (LOI) and each of these different levels may have different needs. For example, levels zero through four are extremely complex in relation to others and typically need to be expertly mated and manufactured by professionals. These layers can be more delicate and require special care, in some cases. Although close attention is required for assembly, they tend to be handled by less-skilled working. This indicates to manufacturers and designers that certain degrees of robustness must be considered during the initial manufacturing stages. Polarization, strain relief, and other features must also be considered as well.

An engineer will typically oversee the quality of components and their assembly into a finished connector. The engineer is expected to thoroughly understand how these components interact with one another and ensure that their functional requirements are met. The engineer will then approve or deny the connector’s use in the system and require further improvements until the design is acceptable.

When looking at all these factors collectively, connectors seem to be a much greater factor in the design process than many may realize. Connectors can sometimes be the sole reason for system failure and designers should be very careful when deciding which compromises they are willing to make. Connector selection should take place very early in the design phase and qualified personnel with a great understanding should make the decision.

Besides being a value-added distributor for the key connector suppliers, did you know Air Electro is one of the most successful connector manufacturers in the industry? The one would wonder why? The answer is simple. We have expert design engineers in house who can turn an OEM’s drawing into a prototype or a connector sample in the matter of days considering we have millions of connector components and contacts in stock.

Click below to find out more about our manufacturing capabilities and see for yourself why many of the key OEMs in the industry come to Air Electro first when they need a custom connector solution.

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