custom board to board connectorsBoard-to-board connectors are regarded as ‘core’ connectors in electronic product design, but standard off-the-shelf components are not always right for the application. Frequently, requests for customisaton assume that the easiest way to find the perfect fit is to alter a pin header, with special heights, PCB spacing or void pins. However it is often the PCB receptacle which presents the best opportunity for modification. Caroline Ebbage, Business Manager for Connectors at GTK, provides an overview of how different modifications to these connectors can help OEMs with design challenges.

Keying plugs and ‘blind-mating’ applications

Blanking contact positions in PCB receptacles can be used to address a number of design requirements. For example, blanked contacts at either end of a receptacle can help prevent sideways misalignment of an unshrouded header, especially helpful where visibility or access when mating PCBs is limited. Blanked positions can also provide a ‘keying’ system where connectors of the same size are used on the same PCB, when matched with a header with an equivalent void pin position.

In lower volumes, blanking can easily be achieved with factory-fitted keying plugs, saving labour and cost at the point of PCB assembly. For high volume requirements, tooling can often be adapted at relatively low cost to include a moulded blank.

Re-designs of the chamfered ‘lead-in’ of the housing to enhance the width and depth can help guide mating pins in blind-mate applications. 

Connecting other devices

As well as mating with a pin header, the PCB receptacle is also often used to provide a connection to the PCB of other components, such as sensors or LCD displays. These devices do not always have standard square pins which the receptacle is designed to accept. LCDs, for example, may have round pin profiles with diameters slightly too small to provide a reliable connection when inserted into the receptacle. With a modification to the spring-leaf contact within the receptacle, the connectors can accommodate the narrower pins.

Creepage and clearance

In some applications, creepage and clearance can be a concern. One way of resolving this is to remove one or more contacts from within the housing, to increase the distance between the contacts. Where volumes justify bespoke tooling, the connector can be redesigned to adjust the contact position within the housing.

Caroline added, “These are just some examples of how GTK can modify standard connectors to meet the needs of specific customer applications. We help customers find innovative ways of achieving their end goal, whilst trying to avoid excessive additional costs. We have the capability to design and manufacture completely bespoke connectors but, in many cases, modifying standard connectors provides the solution that the customer needs.”

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