PCB Connectors, or Printed Circuit Board connectors, are components that are used to connect printed circuit boards (PCBs) to other electronic parts, such as LEDs, sensors, displays, wires, and even other PCBs, to allow a current flow between them. This current flow enables data, power, and signal exchanges between the two PCBs, so they can carry out their predetermined functions.
Types of PCB Connectors
Generally used, you can first divide PCB connectors into 2 types:
PCB Board-to-board connectors are one of the most crucial components used during the design of various electronic devices. They generally connect two printed circuit boards (PCBs) together to generate data flow between them. These connectors are critical in ensuring that the devices they are used in function as designed.
Board-to-board connectors are essential miniature coupling plugs and sockets that enable the connection of power supply and signal between printed circuit boards (PCBs). They offer the fastest transmission speed compared to other types of connectors, reaching speeds of up to 28 Gbps. These connectors come in a variety of primary pitches, including 0.4mm, 0.5mm, 0.635mm, 0.8mm, 1.00mm, 1.27mm, 2.0mm, 2.5mm, and more.
The functioning of board-to-board connectors is based on the matching of male pins and sockets. They can be divided into several categories based on their design and usage, including fine pitch board-to-board connectors, surface-mount technology (SMT) board-to-board connectors, right angle board-to-board connectors, and spring-loaded (pogo pin) connectors. In addition, there are connectors specifically designed for special needs such as DDR memory and PCB/PCI expansion slots.
Wire-to-board connectors are PCB connectors that are used to bridge and establish a secure connection between wires and a PCB. They are used for a diverse range of applications, including automotive, consumer electronics, and industrial control systems.
Wire-to-board connectors are usually made up of a housing and a terminal. They come in various shapes and sizes, including headers, plugs, receptacles, pins, blades, or crimp-styled.
Board-to-board connectors could show up in the form of wires, or other structures. Some of the structural board-to-board connectors are as follows:
- Backplane connector
A backplane connector is a type of board-to-board connector. It connects one PCB to multiple other PCBs in a backplane system manner. A backplane system is a type of computer architecture that uses a central board, called the backplane, to connect multiple PCBs to form a perpendicular structure of boards. Each of these PCBs performs a specific function, hence they require a connector to transmit data transfer to operate.
One of the key benefits of backplane PCB connectors is their ability to handle large amounts of data and power. They can be designed to support high-speed serial data transfer, as well as high-power signals, making them well-suited for use in high-performance systems.
An example of this backplane connector is the DIN41612 connector, which is a DIN standard for electrical connectors. DIN 41612 is made up of different types (B,C, D, F, M, Q, R) and sizes, based on their application.
- Mezzanine connector
Mezzanine connectors are used to connect two printed circuit boards at a 90-degree angle and are commonly used in applications where space is limited.
Mezzanine connectors are designed to provide a secure, low-profile connection between boards, and typically consist of a male header on one board and a female socket on another board. The male header and female socket are designed to mate and connect the two boards at a perpendicular angle, allowing multiple boards to be stacked on top of each other. Mezzanine connectors come in a variety of pitch sizes, from fine pitch to high density, to accommodate different PCB thicknesses and high-speed signal requirements.
The most commonly found wire board-to-board connector is the header connector.
- Header connector
A header connector is made up of 2 parts: the female header and the male pin or pin header. The header connector will be placed on a board or component, and the other component will have the pins. Header connectors are designed to provide a secure and stable connection while allowing for easy and quick disconnection when necessary.
PCB Connectors for Different Applications
There are numerous PCBs available around the globe, and most are designed specifically for specific functions. Like its boards, their respective connectors are also uniquely designed to support the board’s function.
Here are some examples of application connectors:
- Audio/video (AV) connector
An audio/video (AV) connector is a type of connector used to transmit audio and/or video signals between different devices. AV connectors come in many different forms and are used to connect a wide range of devices, such as TVs, audio systems, Blu-ray players, game consoles, and computers.
There are several renowned AV connectors, such as
- RCA Connectors: These connectors are commonly used for composite audio/video signals and are typically color-coded (red and white for audio, yellow for video).
- HDMI Connectors: These connectors are commonly used to transmit high-definition video and audio signals between devices.
- S-Video Connectors: These connectors are used to transmit video signals and are typically used with older video devices.
- VGA Connectors: These connectors are used to transmit analog video signals and are commonly used with computers and older video devices.
- SCART Connectors: These connectors are commonly used in Europe and other regions to transmit audio and video signals between devices.
- Phone Jack Connectors: These connectors are used to transmit audio signals and are commonly used to connect telephones, modems, and other audio devices to a telephone line.
- S-terminal Connectors: These connectors are used to transmit audio and video signals and are commonly used with consumer electronics.
- DVI Connectors: These connectors are used to transmit digital video signals and are commonly used with computers and displays.
- DisplayPort Connectors: These connectors are used to transmit digital video signals and are commonly used with computers and displays.
- Automotive industry connectors
Automotive connectors play a crucial role in the functioning of vehicles and must adhere to the stringent USCAR-20 standard. This performance standard for automotive electrical connector systems demands that the electrical connectors' contact surfaces are always reliable and ensure the proper functioning of the connector throughout its entire service cycle in the automotive industry.
These automotive connectors can be categorized based on their specific installation positions within the vehicle, such as the body system, chassis system, instrument panel, engine, and safety system. Additionally, automotive connectors can also be divided into different categories based on their electrical properties, including the Electronic Control Unit (ECU), lighting circuits, temperature sensing, central electric system, air conditioning, and entertainment systems, among others. The selection of the right automotive connector is crucial for ensuring the smooth operation and performance of a vehicle.
- Card edge connectors
Card edge connectors are made up of a row of pins or contacts soldered onto the edge of a PCB and a mating header or socket installed on the device. These connectors come in various shapes and sizes to fit different PCB thicknesses and mating configurations. Card edge connectors are used to support high-speed signals up to several gigahertz, and maintain the signal integrity (SI) throughout the transmission process They are also built to withstand harsh environments, including vibration, temperature extremes, and electromagnetic interference (EMI).
An example of a card edge connector is the PCI slots in your PC.
- Power connectors
Power connectors are electrical connectors that are designed to transmit electrical power from one device to another. Some common types of power connectors include AC power plugs and sockets, DC power connectors, power terminal blocks, power distribution units (PDUs), and power over Ethernet (PoE) connectors. These connectors are typically designed to provide a secure and reliable connection between devices, while also offering protection against electrical surges, over-voltage, and over-current conditions.
- Photovoltaic (PV) Connectors
A photovoltaic (PV) connector is a type of electrical connector that is used in photovoltaic (solar) energy systems. These connectors interconnect the photovoltaic panels, inverters, and other electrical components within a solar energy system to ensure a secure, low-resistance connection between them. They are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and provide reliability to the system. Different configurations of Photovoltaic Connectors are available, including MC4, TUV, and J-Box, among others. These connectors are crucial for ensuring the safe, efficient, and reliable operation of photovoltaic energy systems.
Learn more about the various types of PCB connectors here: https://www.nexpcb.com/blog/pcb-connectors-crash-course-almost-all-the-connectors-you-need-to-know