Printed circuit boards (PCB) serve as the mechanical support and electrical connection hub for the communicating electronic components of devices, and they may be assembled together to create multi-board designs. When creating more complex assemblies that contain numerous components and printed circuit boards, it is important that the correct connectors are chosen to facilitate communications, power supply, and more. In this blog, we will discuss how to choose the right connectors for a multi-board design, ensuring that your devices function efficiently and as intended.
To facilitate the connections of multiple PCBs in a multi-board design, there are countless types of connectors that may be chosen from. As such, one should always consider the specifications of a connector and the application or assembly so that a comparison may be made. Additionally, there are also a number of common factors that may affect performance, reliability, and compatibility. The first and foremost question that one should answer when deciding between connectors is what type of connection is to be established. Whether creating board-to-board, board-to-cable, power/battery, or computer peripheral connections, each may require a different type of connection to ensure proper operations. Additionally, determining whether the data is routed through serial or parallel mediums is important as the required pin number of connectors may vary.
Connectors also regularly come with their own limitations, possibly presenting a roadblock in PCB design. All connectors feature a value of impedance which affects the current resistance based on frequency limits. Current capacities are also a property to consider, serving as the limit of power that a connector can handle before becoming damaged. Generally, current capacity is determined between mating male connector and female connector components, and manufacturers will typically provide limitations on the datasheets of their connector products. It is important to know that specifications for current limitations may be given on a per-pin basis, affecting the overall value for the connector itself.
Beyond the connector, it is very beneficial to consider the environment and application that such components would be placed in. If the environment features extreme heat or fluctuating temperatures, a connector or cable with environmental protection would be useful to prevent a breakdown or loss of performance. Manufacturers will often provide information regarding the operating temperature range of particular components for this reason. Beyond temperatures, the assembly and space of the multi-board design can also affect connector choices, making the difference of whether an SMT or through-hole mounting connection should be established.
While connectors can be very robust components that may assist in the facilitation of communication, they can degrade over time and require replacement or repair. If a connector will be regularly disconnected and connected, a more durable component may be needed with more robust properties as compared to conventional copper connector types. With continued removal and installation, the contacts of components can wear out over time, eventually resulting in a faulty part. To best protect connector and cable components, one should ensure to implement a solid connection and grounding every time.
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