The Three Common Types of Electrical Connectors

Electrical connectors are one of the most important elements of electrical devices and systems, allowing for communication to be established and operations to be carried out. With connectors, systems can benefit from proper signal transmission and power distribution that is essential to basic functionality. Based on the application at hand and the types of signals that are being handled, one may use three main types of connectors, those of which vary based on their termination ends. In this blog, we will provide a brief overview of each, those of which are board-to-board connectors, cable/wire-to-cable/wire connectors, and cable/wire-to-board connectors.

Board-to-Board Connectors

Board-to-board connectors are capable of attaching printed circuit boards together without using any cables, allowing one to save space for the benefit of more restricted systems. In order to establish a connection, the PCBs are placed in parallel or perpendicular configurations while being electrically attached with connectors. For a stacking configuration, a specialized connector known as a mezzanine connector is used, though these are also used to describe perpendicular or parallel arrangements as well.

When choosing between connectors for board-to-board connections, it is important to consider separability, stack heights and tolerances, constraints, and mountings. Factors such as separability are often important as one may wish to have a permanent connection, while others may be concerned with the lifecycle of the connectors themselves. To ensure proper health and operability, backplane systems should utilize connectors that offer optimal impedance matching and shielding while also having the ability to withstand multiple insertion and removal cycles.

Wire/Cable-to-Wire/Cable Connectors

True to their name, these connectors are used to connect two wires or cables, and the connector will be a permanent fixture on the wire with a separable interface provided. With crimping tools, a permanent connection can be established. Insulation displacement contact (IDC) methods are also used, those of which are carried out by inserting the insulated wire within a slot of a sharpened metal beam. Crimping tools and methods are generally best for when a discrete wire connection is desired, while IDC is best for multiconductor cable conductor termination. Such connectors may also feature a number of housing designs, common options include rectangular and circular housings, metal shells, and much more.

Wire/Cable-to-Board Connectors

As the final common type, these connectors are used to attach a wire or cable to a PCB. While similar to wire-to-wire connections in terms of the wire attachment, the board connections will be press-in or soldered two-piece connector parts. In some applications, card edge connectors are still used. Specific wire-to-board connectors are still available on the market as they serve a variety of applications, though their popularity is beginning to wane as more assemblies are now adopting cable-to-board connectors so that the benefits of IDC can be harnessed.


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December 15, 2022

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