How do you go about identifying the ideal connector for your design? Going the custom route certainly has its advantages, as does opting for an off-the-shelf connector. If you’re working with both, you may also run into a problem where your connectors are incompatible, so how do you get your custom connectors to work with standard ones?
We’ll answer that question and cover the basics of connector specifications so that you’re a step closer to finding the best connector for your needs.
Types of Connections
Early in the design process, the type of connector that will be used should be identified. You’ll determine the primary function of the connector. For example, will the connector need to be accessed frequently or is it a permanent fixture? This helps you decide what type of connector you should focus on.
Permanent connections are the ones designed to stay connected for the life of a product. There won't be any plugging and unplugging involved. The connection scheme could be through-hole solder PCB mounted or SMT PCB mounted or soldered to wire or crimped to wire or even welded.
Semi-permanent connections have a design that allows access for disconnecting or replacement when necessary. This happens when servicing a part or replacing a used part.
Connectors that get connected and reconnected often are active connections. These connectors can handle the wear of regular plugging and unplugging.
Disposable connectors are tailored to very specific applications and markets like the medical industry. These connectors work because they have a short or one-time usage and are disposed of rather than undergoing a sterilization process.
One of the first steps in deciding the type of connector to use is the type of connector it will be. Future steps will examine a few other key considerations.
The location of the connector on the component is a factor to consider. Does it need shielding? What about the temperature and humidity or vibration considerations? You also want to consider the environment the component is in.
The use of the connector often determines the type of materials used for the connector. The selection of connector materials including a plastic insulator, metal connector pins, receptacles, and metal or plastic shells must be determined. Decisions on each of these characteristics each have their strengths and weaknesses for connectors.
Connector planning must also take into consideration safety and regulatory demands. When it comes to power connectors, manufacturers must follow safety certifications like UL/CSA.
Many industries have their own guidelines that connectors must follow. For example, the automotive industry has automotive electronics standards such as the IATF 16949 standard for quality management for their connectors.
Standard connectors are common connectors that many different products use. They are often mass-produced by multiple suppliers and easily accessible.
The standard connector usually comes from different manufacturers. This protects the company from supply problems. With multiple suppliers providing the connector, companies aren't relying on just one provider. Most standard connectors are available when needed because of the volume of parts made.
Depending on the type of standard connector, not all of the common ones are always in stock. Manufacturers can have production problems due to shortages of some common connectors.
Sometimes manufacturers can make slight changes to their standard cable and connectors. This could cause serious problems for a manufacturer who has designed a product around a specific standard connection.
Even a small change to a connector could alter the ability of a part to function. If a company manufactures for a highly regulated industry, any change to a product must be studied and approved.
A change of design will present a problem for the manufacturer. They will have to stop production and wait until the new standard connector change is approved.
Custom connectors are preferred when a designer chooses a custom connector for a specific application, which must meet a key purpose and function for that manufacturer.
Since the custom connector is designed for a specific role, it won't have unnecessary parts or features. Standard connectors are produced for many different scenarios and often have multiple features.
This can bring their price per unit up. A custom connector can be designed for a specific need and can often be created at a much less expensive price per unit. When a part is a custom, the elements around it and how it will function are all taken into consideration, which could save money in their production.
When a part is custom designed, it can consider meeting regulatory requirements. The design will line up with all regulations and there shouldn’t be a problem with it being changed and having to be approved.
A standard connector may offer a specific number of options for pins, pin sizes and types (e.g. square, diameter, rectangular), overall mating lengths, retention feature, base metal, plating, or other important connector characteristics.
On the other hand, a custom connector pin allows you to choose the connector characteristics that meet your exact application requirements.
Custom connectors do take some planning and investing upfront. There will be time spent on the design and development of the custom part. This means manufacturers will have to plan ahead to have the parts ready.
The long-term cost savings of a custom part and other benefits can outweigh the initial investment. The manufacturer will have to work through that process to decide.
A Custom Standard Union
One of the best advantages of a custom connector is the ability to design exactly what you need. This will provide the best connection for the application and gives you creativity in the design process.
Many manufacturers are designing custom connectors so they meet the need perfectly, but can also fit a standard connection. This provides the perfect union of the custom and standard needs for a connector application.
You can benefit from the advantages of a custom connection, but also utilize the alternative for a standard connector if preferred. This could give your application an advantage in the marketplace.
Your Custom Connector Focus
A custom connection can fit your project perfectly within your overall budget while meeting design objectives. You can design the perfect part without wasting money on things you don't need. Plus, you can even design your part to mate to standard connections.
If you’re working with custom connectors or standard ones on your project, and need a reliable partner to help identify the best materials and connector solutions, look no further than Bead Electronics. We are a global designer and manufacturer of electronic connector pins and have been operating in our automated site in Connecticut for over 100 years. Click here to speak to a specialist today.