The DNA of a Connector


So, what is inside a connector?

Have you ever stopped to think; “What am I connecting this cable to?” when you insert a cable into a product. Simply put, the insides of a connector are made up of contacts and wires—mind you, extremely “simply put.”

The engineering that goes into an interconnect solution is vastly more complex than we may assume as we plug in our cellphones at the end of each day. Within that “simple” cord are numerous pieces that can vary from connector to connector—contact housing, the contacts themselves and any number of wire variations, shielding, etc.

Focusing specifically on the contacts that are critical to each connector, there are what’s referred to as “male”/static contacts and “female”/compliant contacts in each interconnect solution. There are three primary types of mating contacts:

  1. Pin and Socket
  2. Blade and Beam
  3. Pogo Pin and Pad

What are the Contact Mating Types?

  1. Pin and Socket
    • Pins and sockets are either machined or stamped.
      • - Machined — High quality, long life but high cost.
      • - Stamped — Reasonable quality and durability at a much lower cost.
  1. Blade and Beam
    • Typically, a simple, flat stamped “blade” for the fixed contact OR a simple, flexible stamped beam for the compliant contact.
    • Good performance vs. cost (when executed properly)
    • Tooling is extremely simple and parts are very economical
    • Easier and more cost effective to automate assembly
  2. Pogo Pin and Pad
    • A spring-loaded pin that is pressed and held against a flat mating pad
    • Contact integrity can be compromised due to lack of wiping action during mating (wiping cleans the surfaces)
    • A separate mechanism is necessary to hold against the separating force created by the pogo pin spring.

How do contacts connect to the wiring?

  1. Solder contacts:
    • Contacts are designed to have the wires soldered to the contacts. Requires soldering skills and time.
  2. Crimp contacts:
    • Wire is inserted into a hole or other aperture in the contact and the wire interface region of the contact is squeezed (deformed) tightly against the wire. This method makes for quick connections; good process controls are required to assure proper crimp quality. Requires crimp tooling (dies).
  3. Insulation Displacement Connector (IDC):
    • Contacts have a slot with sharp edges. Wires are pressed into the slot without the need to strip the insulation. The edges of the slot cut through the insulation as the wire is being pressed into the slot. The contact slot is sized to securely interface with the conductor (interference fit). Contact must be sized for a specific wire gauge. Works best with solid wire. Rapid connection of multiple conductors. Stripping time and controls are eliminated.

We've peeled back the covers a little bit and you can start to see the intricacies of a connector. But connectors, like onions, can look so simple from the outside but as you peel back layer-by-layer and look a little deeper the true complexity becomes more apparent. Continue on to learn more about what makes up the connector and, more specifically, the cabling on the interconnect.



How can ATL Technology help with your next connector or interconnect project?

ATL Technology in an interconnect solutions company, we specialize in design, development, and production of devices that are connector based. We succeed by incorporating our partners engineering teams with our engineering teams, their project management with ours, and so on.  We use our experience and expertise to benefit our partners by commercializing innovative devices that are accessing and treating previously untreated conditions in the human body.


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