The Differences Between Connectors, Terminals, and Connector Assemblies

Electronic assemblies and systems can be complex, containing a variety of parts and components that all work together to provide for operations. Connectors, terminals, and connector assemblies are all critical electrical components to many systems, and some may be unaware of their independent functions, capabilities, and applications. To help you understand the three and further your knowledge on electrical systems, we will discuss each and their individual functions.

In order to best understand the differences between each component type, it is best to be aware of what each part is on its own. Electrical connectors are electromechanical devices, utilized within a system in order to establish an electrical circuit through joining conductors. Connections between connectors may be established in varying ways, such as portable and removable connections, assemblies that require tools for attachment and removal, as well as permanent electrical joints. Connectors are extremely common to a variety of applications, including those pertaining to power, audiovisual, and data operations. Connectors often are classified by genders such as male plugs and female sockets which may mate with each other to establish a connection.

Electrical connectors are typically separated into four basic categories, each classified by their provided functions. Inline or cable connectors are those that have permanent attachment to a cable, allowing them to be plugged into a terminal. Chassis or panel connectors are permanently affixed to the equipment they serve, permitting the attachment of a cable to a stationary apparatus. PCB mount connectors are designed for use on printed circuit boards, attached through soldering to allow for cables or wires to be connected. Lastly, spice and butt connectors are used to conjoin lengths of cables and wires in a permanent fashion.

Electrical terminals refer to the point in which a conductor, device, or network comes to an end. The terminal may also be used to refer to the connector that is placed at this endpoint, permitting an interface for a conductor so that other external circuits may be attached. Typical electrical terminals can be the end of a wire, or they may feature a connector or fastener. Terminal blocks are electrical accessories, divided into connectors that may permit the attachment of a wire. These metal components are sealed within insulating plastic, and holes are designed at each end of the terminal block for the insertion of a wire.

Connector assemblies are extremely similar to connectors, simply serving as a grouping of connectors and contacts that have been attached together with the use of receptacles and other electrical components to create an assembled product. Connector assemblies may include connectors of all types, and they may be constructed manually, with tooling, or machines.

Despite their various differences, connectors, terminals, and connector assemblies as terms may be used somewhat interchangeably. This is due to the fact that a connector may be considered a type of terminal, and a connector assembly consists of multiple terminals and/or connectors. With such electrical components, a variety of systems and functions are made possible and may be part of networking, electronics, machines, and much more.



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March 18, 2021

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