The Common Components of an Electrical Connector

Electrical systems are often complex assemblies, containing a number of different parts that all work together to make operations and powering possible. Across assemblies and applications, one of the most basic components of electronics is the connector, that of which serves to connect electrical circuits for the transfer of power, data, and audiovisual signals. While connectors are often specifically designed for the system they will connect to and the Contact springs they will handle, most feature many of the same physical components that make operations possible.

Contact springs are an essential element of connectors, offering a path for a signal, power, or ground to be transmitted. In order to keep the separable interface formed and maintained, the contact spring is also designed to induce force perpendicular to the contact surface. It is also paramount that the spring provides insertion and extraction force, contact force, contact retention, and contact wipe for physical properties, while resistance, current rating, capacitance, inductance, and bandwidth are all important electrical requirements. Types of signals connectors generally come in one of two types, receptacle or plug variations. While the receptacle is often just a spring member, the plug is a rigid element that produces normal force for the contacts through receptacle deflection and helps the connector take on overstress in the instance of an insertion misalignment.

For the contact spring, finishes are often used to guard the base metal from corrosion and film formation. Depending on the exact finish that is applied, a number of properties can be achieved to accommodate specific environments or applications. While metals in general are the most popular finishes, either noble or non-noble metals may be chosen based on requirements.

While elements like the contacts and contact spring are important for basic functions, they would be at major risk of damage and failure without proper protection. As such, a connector shell or housing is used to guard internal components from stresses, temperatures, moisture, etc. These housings are often insulated and mechanically shielded, maintaining contact positions while supplying specific protections. Oftentimes, the connector shell will be made of a plastic or non-metal material like PET or PBT.

As connectors will come in the form of male and female counterparts that mate together, there must be a suitable interface to facilitate this attachment. This element comes in the form of the contact interface, those of which are mechanical elements that guide the pins or contacts of one connector into the sockets of another so that an optimal connection can be established for the relay of signals. The entire surface of contacts will not be touching the mating contact, only the high spots known as asperities. To ensure this is the case, the housing will be specifically designed to control how elements are attached.

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