Electrical Connectors

Objectives

  • Review the function of a connector
  • Demonstrate the use of common connectors
  • Explain the different configurations of connectors
  • State best practices for connector inspection and maintenance

What Is a Connector?

A connector (also known as a physical interface) is a device for joining different parts of electrical or optical circuits. Basic connectors have two parts: plugs (male) and jacks (female).

Some connectors can be easily connected and are usually used on external cables. There are also system integrated connectors that may require a tool for removal and assembly.

There are many types of common electrical connectors, but in this lesson we will be focusing on the commonly used industrial electrical connectors.

Connector Terminology

The two halves of a basic connector are typically referred to as male and female, as a direct analogy to human physiology. The male connector typically has one or more protrusions that fit inside a female connector. This is done to ensure safety and proper functionality when connecting (mating) the two parts together.

Male
Female
Male
Female

With electrical connectors, the gender may not be obvious. Sometimes the connector that appears to be male, actually has pins inside, and even though the female connector appears to be male, the protrusion actually has holes in it to receive the pins from the male connector.

A connector in a fixed location is called the jack and the portion that plugs into it is called the plug. Typically, the plug is male and the jack is female, but it’s possible for a male connector to also be a jack, and a female connector to be a plug. This can cause some confusion, so it’s best to use male and female to describe the gender of the connector only, and to use plug and jack to describe whether it’s fixed or mobile.

Jack
Plug
The connector on the left (Jack) has the ability to be mounted in a fixed location whereas the connector on the right (Plug) is mobile. In this case, the jack is male and the plug is female.

Schematic Symbol

This is the typical symbol used for connectors. Below are some examples of other ways a connector might be represented on a schematic.

Male
Female
Schematic Symbol for Electrical Connectors

Example Schematics


The connectors are circled in red on the schematics.

Types of Connectors

There are many types of electrical connectors that are used for power, data, signal or control.

Power connectors are used to connect a power source to different system components.

Data connectors are used to connect data processing modules together.

Signal connectors are used to connect high frequency analog and digital signals.

Control connectors are used to connect control valves to hydraulic, pneumatic or electromagnetic actuators.

Connectors can be connected in many different ways including by pin or plug and socket, crimp, solder, and/or screw.

Pin/Plug & Socket Connectors are typically made up of a male plug and a female receptacle that when connected, complete the circuit.

Crimp Connectors are connected with special crimping pliers, that tightly compresses (crimps) an exposed wire to a connector.

Solder Connectors are joined by melting a metal filler to bond the two metal workpieces. The metal filler (solder) has a lower melting point than the two workpiece metals.

Screw Connectors are held tightened and held together by screw-type mechanism or set screw.

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