Connectors are sometimes an afterthought in a PCBA. For most simple designs, such as development boards or microcontroller boards, you’ll find a board populated with pin headers, possibly USB, and probably a power connector of some kind. For more complex systems that go beyond prototyping, there can be many unique connectors for power, data, or a combination of these.
This article marks the first in a short series on connector selection, testing, placement, and many other aspects of connectors that are sometimes overlooked. What often seems like a relatively simple choice to make can have major impacts on reliability, signal integrity, and even thermal behavior. In this article, we’ll focus on the main specifications that are important for connector selection, as well as when to consider working with a manufacturer to produce a custom connector.
Which Specifications Drive Connector Selection?
Connectors generally perform a simple task; they provide electrical connections between two devices through a cable. Those connections between two connectors can transfer power, signals, or both. Some connectors are specifically designed for data connections, usually for a specific digital interface (such as Ethernet, USB, etc.). Other connectors are specifically intended to provide high voltage and/or current to a device, possibly alongside data. The range of possibilities is very broad.