The physical construction and pinout are what characterize the properties of electrical connectors. However, other factors are considered, including contact resistance, size, resistance to vibration, ruggedness, insulation between the pins, resistance to pressure, lifetime or number of operations before failing, reliability, resistance to contaminants such as entry of water, and the ease for connecting and disconnecting.
To prevent electrical connectors from being connected to the wrong pins or inserted incorrectly, many are keyed. These connectors may also have a locking-type mechanism, which is commonly seen in the form of certain pins that make contact before others upon insertion, or by breaking first on disconnection. As such, the circuits within the connectors that apply power are protected.
In most cases, customers want electrical connectors that are easily identified upon visual inspection. However, customers also prefer connectors that can be assembled quickly, those made for assembly with standard tools, and connectors that are affordably priced. Keep in mind that electrical connectors have different properties, meaning no one connector offers all of the ideal properties that a person a might want.
The Keying Process
As mentioned, it is common to find keyed electrical connectors—those with some type of mechanical component that prevents connection except with a connector that matches correctly. As such, interactions are not damaged. This also prevents damage when connectors are jammed together at the wrong angle, or when using imperfectly fitted plugs.
As a prime example, to ensure proper orientation, XLR electrical connectors have a notch whereas Mini-DIN plugs are designed with a plastic projection that fits into the socket’s corresponding hole. This projection stops people from trying to push the two together.
As for the locking mechanism found on electrical connectors, these help prevent poor environmental sealing, as well as inadvertent disconnection. The locking mechanism is designed to lock levers of different kinds, as well as toggles and screw locking. Based on the requirements for the application, many manufacturing companies test the housings with locking mechanisms under harsh and varied environmental conditions. In this case, things like water spray, shock, dust, and vibration, among others, are the primary focus.
To ensure complete safety, it is imperative to purchase high-quality electrical connectors—those designed and manufactured by a reputable company.
Common uses for electrical connectors
Electrical connectors are an electro-mechanical device used to join electrical circuits as an interface. For this, engineers use a mechanical assembly. These connectors are comprised of jacks, which have a female end and plugs with a male end. What makes electrical connectors so important is that they can be used for both temporary and permanent solutions, including using an adaptor to bring dissimilar connectors together.
When it comes to electrical connectors, there are literally hundreds of different types. Within the world of computing, electrical connectors, also referred to as physical interfaces, are commonly used. While cable connectors are connected to devices with wires, electrical connectors connect electrically.
Because there are so many different end-products, electrical connectors have unique roles. Following are some examples of the electrical connectors used most frequently.
- 8P8C—Using the acronym for “eight positions/eight conductors,” these electrical connectors are modular, complete with eight positions that all contain conductors. Although there are many uses, these connectors are most recognized in CAT5 and Ethernet cables. Although these connectors resemble RJ45 cables used for landline telephones, the socket into which the end of the connector fits is different.
- D-Subminiature—These electrical connectors are found on IBM-compatible computers and certain modem ports. Although primarily used for testing, computers, and telecommunications, D-subminiature electrical connectors come in variants, some with solid machined contacts, crimp and PCB mounts, thermocouple contact options, and so on.
- USB—Using the acronym for Universal Serial Bus, this connector is standard to interface devices. Although commonly used in the manufacturing of Mac, Apple, and PCs, these electrical connectors come in different types and serve different purposes.
- Power—More commonly referred to as AC power plugs/sockets and DC connectors, there are several types of this sort of connector. For example, these also encompass industrial and multiphase power plugs/sockets, as well as NEMA connectors. The primary purpose of these electrical connectors is to prevent people from being shocked accidentally if they come into contact with energized conductors. Included with power connectors are safety ground connections and power conductors.
- Radio Frequency—Another common use for electrical connectors is the radio frequency (RF) connector. Used at radio frequencies, it is essential that these connectors do not change the transmission line’s impedance.