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PCB plug connectors: Small yet powerful!

created by Harun Ilhan, Product Sales Manager Connectors and Cables, Rutronik Elektronische Bauelemente GmbH |   Knowledge

Space is at a premium on the boards of most end devices, and so plug connectors also need to shrink. An overview of mini plug connectors with additional features.

Secure connection

A secure mechanical connection in applications with a high pull-off force or vibration risk is guaranteed, e.g., by plug connectors equipped with an active latch locking mechanism. Unlike other systems, active latch housings with standard headers of a plug connector series always fit together, thereby guaranteeing 100% modularity and exchangeability within a connection system.

Plug connectors for automobiles and other vehicles

Reliable signal communication under any operating conditions - including those with a high vibration risk - is particularly essential with engine control devices in automobiles, especially for safety-critical components such as the airbag and ABS/ASR. This also applies to applications in other vehicles and in industrial machinery (factory automation).

Connectors with position assurance mechanisms (Terminal Position Assurance, TPA) have a locking mechanism that prevents the contacts from accidentally becoming disconnected. When plugged in a certain position, the position assurance mechanism, which is implemented in the form of a lever, can secure the lever either on the plug connector itself or on a counterpart connector so that neither can be separated from the other. However, it is not absolutely necessary for the plug connector to be connected using the lever. It is also possible to provide the lever as an additional part at the plug connector. In this case, it basically assumes the role of the position assurance mechanism when engaged.

Excellent contact reliability in high-vibration applications is offered by DuraClik™ connectors from Molex with LV214 certification. They help to save lots of space on the board thanks to their 2.00mm pitch and positive locking design. Moreover, the plug connectors are resistant to high temperatures.

The Minitek Microspace™ connectors with a 1.27/1.50mm pitch from Amphenol ICC offer primary and secondary contact retention, poka yoke polarization, as well as a "visual mismatch prevention system" that prevents incorrect connections. They also benefit from a compact construction and thus a PCB footprint that is half the size of comparable plug connectors on the market.

IP68 plug connectors for harsh environments

The SSL 1.2 plug connectors from Amphenol Industrial with IP68 protection when plugged are, for instance, ideal for use in wet and dirty environments. The pre-assembled connectors provide considerable savings potential on the board and in use.

Less is more

The practice of coating plug connector housings in plastic is being used less and less to reduce costs even further. Contact protection is now hardly relevant anyway, in part because the boards are installed so as to be inaccessible or are encapsulated by casting. Additionally, the plastic does not perform any locking or retention function. While cutting down on unnecessary plastic is also good for the environment.

The patented STRIPT™ plug connectors from AVX - originally known as "naked" - are among the cheapest connectors in this segment. They require neither the space nor the assembly costs required for plastic insulation. Even so, Insulation Displacement Connectors (IDC) enable gas-tight, castable connections with secure contacts that can also withstand vibration. The connectors are also available with poke-home WTB technology. The individual UL-certified contacts provide the same performance as complete plug connector solutions.

The miniature Griplet® IDC from Amphenol ICC is a low-cost solution for wired connections. Due to its flat, compact design with a height of 3.7mm and a surface of 4.0mm x 6.1mm, the plug connector is ideal for limited-space applications in harsh environments. It can hold multiple wires of 20-32 AWG. Double connection points with tension relief ensure stable operation even under extreme temperature, impact and vibration conditions.

Optimizing costs during production

The optimization of costs during the production process is enabled by Adam Tech. This manufacturer is able to replace designed-in plug connectors while ensuring compatibility - all the while maintaining maximum quality at competitive prices. In accordance with patent rights, a variety of customized reproductions are possible. Alternatively, the plug connectors can be created with pin compatibility thus avoiding any existing weak points in the reproduced plug connectors. Seeing as connectors are becoming increasingly popular, also in automotive applications, Adam Tech is currently obtaining TS16949 certification.

Find components at www.rutronik24.com.