A Beginner’s Guide to Electronic Connectors

For anyone that’s getting into the world of making or tinkering with electronics, it’s important to know what connectors are. You need to know the difference between a USB Type-B and a JST, for instance. You need to know what their functions are and where they are used. Getting these right can go a long way towards your mastering this exciting field, whether as a hobbyist or as a professional.

Connectors may seem a little dull compared to other components. However, getting them from a quality supplier like Scondar is important. They are a crucial part of any electronics project and you probably encounter using them in your daily life without really thinking about it.

Definition

First, what is a connector and what does it do? As the name implies, a connector is meant to connect two things together. In this case, it binds two subsections of the circuit. You’ll see these used in instances when you want the link to the temporary at some future point. This means things like peripheral devices, power inputs, or components that are liable to see replacement over time.

Associated Terms

Connectors have a number of terms associated with them. They’re also divided into various categories, which typically are best for specific applications.

Gender

Every connector has a gender, male or female. If it is something that plugs in, it’s male. If it’s something that’s plugged into, it’s female. However, this rule can sometimes seem like it isn’t followed because a few types look “male” but are functionally female and vice-versa. This can cause confusion, though the generality applies more often than not.

Polarity

Connectors also have a polarity. This term means that they can only be used in one orientation, preventing them from being incorrectly used. For instance, some connector types use different widths for the contact point, meaning that they only go in one way and not the other.

Contact

A related term is “contact.” This is the area with metal parts that form the electrical link and is also the area most likely to have problems. The contact point can oxidize or otherwise be damaged, weakening the ability to form a connection.


Connectors usually have multiple contact points in a pattern, and the distance from the center of one of these points to the center of the next is known as the pitch. This is one of the main points of differentiation between families of connectors. Otherwise, they would look very similar to one another.

Mating Cycle

Connectors are not indefinite devices. Each time you plug something in and then pull it out, that’s a mating cycle. They break down as things are plugged in and out. Depending on the technology, the number of times you can connect something in and out can vary. These can range from the theoretical thousands in USB connectors to the limited number you get when you’re using board-to-board ones.

Mount

The term mount has been known to confuse people because it is used in various ways. In some instances, you use it in reference to how the connector mounts in use. In others, you’re looking at the angle relative to how it attaches. Finally, it might also refer to how it is attached mechanically.

Strain Relief

The final term to know is strain relief. When a connection is formed, there is a tendency for it to be fragile, and it is necessary to provide some support to ensure that the link remains mechanically sound. This is the strain relief, a portion of the connector meant to accomplish this exact goal.

Common Types

There are various types of connectors. The two most common for people to see would be USB and power, because of how common these are in the world. Apart from connecting terminals to portable devices, USB connectors also see use as a means of delivering power and charging devices. Common power connectors include the ones you see that go into electrical outlets.

Of particular type are what are called “phone” connectors. These are a type that is recognizable because they are the plug at the end of the headphones that come with your phone. They see use in audio and music equipment, from headphones to audio output systems to computers. These are very common because of their general purpose connectivity for audio purposes.

There are also pin heads. These are a broad spectrum, meant to be used for a number of connection types. On one side, you’ll find pins soldered to a PCB that is usually on parallel to it or at an angle. The pitch will vary from connector to connector, with an equally varying number of individual pins in a row.

The common pin head connector will have a single or double row and may come in male or female versions. The pitch is about 1″ but others are not unheard of.

Conclusion

Connectors are a crucial part of modern electronics and are going to play a part in any electronics project you do. Learning what they are, what terms are used around them, and how best to use them is crucial. Their function is simple, but there’s a lot to discover about them.

You may also like to read: What is Printed Circuit Board?

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