Key Factors to Consider When Using Miniature Connectors

Miniature connectors not only have to meet the same performance standards as larger connectors; they also have to be robust enough to survive being assembled into a finished product. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion webinar on miniature connectors, sponsored by Design World magazine, which reviewed this and other key topics.

At Molex, we’ve found that the biggest factor driving increased use of miniature connectors is the booming market for mobile phones and other handheld devices. As the use of these products grow, so does demand for smaller and lower-profile components. While there are other important uses for miniature connectors, such as military and medical products, the sheer size of the handheld device market makes it the key driver. The connectors used in these applications must be capable of very high data speeds. For example, speed capabilities of 10 Gbps on miniature board-to-board connectors are common, and some advanced miniature board-to-board connectors from Molex can handle up to 20 Gbps.

The connectors used in these applications are really small. For example, Molex offers board–to-board connectors as small as 0.35mm pitch. We also produce FPC connectors as small as 0.2mm pitch. The connector size depends on the application. For example, PCBs have a very high premium on space, and smaller connectors will provide more space for other components, making the designer’s job easier.

Miniature connectors must be robust and user-friendly. For example, Molex added metal cover nails on some board-to-board connectors to protect the connector housing wall by making it stronger and less prone to breakage during assembly. Also, we have SlimStackTM Armor board-to-board connectors with metal cover nails that can handle power while also providing protection for the housing wall during assembly. At the same time, miniature connectors from Molex offer a more generous lead-in alignment than some competitive products, so assembly technicians are better able to find the “sweet spot” when they mate the connectors.

Maintaining good retention force on connectors after mating is important—especially since connectors are getting smaller. Features such as audible click and tactile feel are also important because they allow operators to know when connectors are properly mated.

In the future, connectors with even smaller pitches will be needed. That will likely require the development of new manufacturing technologies—not only for the connectors, but also for the flexible cable that mates with them or the PCBs onto which the connectors are soldered.

Check out the full webinar here: