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9 PCB-to-PCB Connector Types Explained

Different PCB-to-PCB connector types

Connectors allow you to link two or more PCBs together. That being said, different PCB-to-PCB connector types are available. These can be male or female headers, right-angle connectors, etc.

To choose the right option for your specific project, you must understand each connector and when or where to use it. This article lists and explains the various designs of the BTB connector.

What are PCB-to-PCB connectors?

A PCB-to-PCB connector is a type of connector that you can use to join printed circuit boards. The typical connector of this type comprises these major parts:

  • Housing: the connector housing is an insulating material, typically plastic.
  • Contacts: also called pins, the contacts are usually a metal, such as copper alloy.

BTB connector pins must offer the least resistance. As such, they need to be a highly conductive material. Options for these connector parts include brass, beryllium copper, and phosphor bronze.

BTB connector pins also come specially coated. The coating protects them from corrosion damage, increasing the overall connector’s lifespan.

The connector housing is mostly plastic, such as PBT and ABS. For high-temperature applications and usage environments, polyimide provides a better choice.

Connectors eliminate the need for cables, plus you can use them for both power and signal transfer. Note that a PCB-to-PCB connection can be temporary or permanent. It depends on the application requirement.

PCB-to-PCB connectors
Automotive board-to-board connector types
Resource: https://www.techbriefs.com

PCB-to-PCB Connector Types

PCB board-to-board connectors are commonly classified based on the head design type, their alignment or that of the boards, and their mounting method.

Each connector type fits a particular usage condition or need, making selecting the right design of the device crucial. Below, we explain the different types of B-to-B connectors available today.

Male and female pin header connector types
Male and female pin header connector types
Resource: https://publiclab.org

by Head Design

A PCB-to-PCB connector can be a pin header configuration, box header, or socket construction. These connector types differ in the position of their contacts in the header. More about them below:

Pin header Connector

The pin header connector comes designed with a “male header. “That means an enclosure or housing molded around the pins. It’s, therefore, also called a male header type of connector. Easy to design and use, this is one of the most economical options.

Box Header Connector

The box header is the opposite of the pin header. Its design is a “female” connector, with the header inside the housing made of insulating material. The box header B to B connector is also called a shrouded header, seeing that the housing encloses the terminals.

Header Socket Connector

This type of board-to-board connector features sockets. The sockets are where the mating male hander is supposed to connect to. This design allows for easy electrical connections.

You can also call the socket head connector female header or receptacle connector. During use, it mates with the pin header type, forming a secure connection that can reliably transfer data or energy signals.

Mezzanine board-to-board connector types
Mezzanine board-to-board connector types
Resource: https://www.ept.ca

by Alignment

Manufacturers also categorize PCB board-to-board connectors by alignment. In other words, the reference is linked to the connector or circuit board orientation. In that regard, we have the following types:

  • Planar (horizontal)
  • Mezzanine (parallel)
  • Right angle (perpendicular or vertical), and
  • U-shaped connectors.

Planar Connector

Also called the horizontal board-to-board connector, the planar type suits electronic circuit boards that align horizontally in an electronic device or system.

Mezzanine Connector

This connector type assumes a vertical alignment, connecting circuit boards that stack together inside a device or system, one above the other.

The mezzanine BTB connector is popular when a modular design of an electronic circuit is necessary. A typical application for this connector type is the high-speed stacks of communication equipment.

Right-Angle Connector

The right-angle board-to-board connector is called a perpendicular or daughter connector. It connects a mother and daughterboard at right angles. An example of its application is the hard drive of a PC or similar device, where space is a significant factor.

U Shaped Connector

As the name suggests, these board-to-board connectors form a “U” shape. They’re mainly used instead of strips to connect an array of LED circuit boards.

You can plug the U-shaped connector into a female type of connector. You can also solder it to a PCB instead. Soldering involves the use of what’s called through-hole technology.

Board-to-board connector SMD
Board-to-board connector SMD
Resource: https://www.elektormagazine.com

by Mounting Method

PCB-to-PCB connectors are plugged or soldered types. Most often, you solder to their respective boards. Soldering can involve the use of surface mount or through-hole technologies.

Based on this classification method, board-to-board connector types are the thru-hole and the SMT device. Let’s take a look at these two connectors and their characteristics.

Thru-Hole Connector

A through-hole connector is mounted using a PCB technology called through-hole. In the thru-hole method, connector leads go through holes on the PCB and are soldered on the opposite side.

Through-hole connectors are studier than the SMD types. As such, they make the best option if an application requires regular plugging and unplugging.

SMT Connector

SMT stands for surface mount technology. It involves soldering the connector on the same side as its location, which means mounting it on the PCB surface.

The SMT board-to-board connector is best for applications that do not involve frequent connections and disconnections. It doesn’t form a mechanically robust joint with the board.

Note: In addition to the above-listed types, B to B connectors may also be classed based on the following:

  • Their pitches. The pitch refers to the spacing between connector pins or contacts.
  • By the number of pins or sockets and if they come with a single, double, triple, or quadruple row configuration.
  • Connectors are also available in custom designs. These include configurations that cater to space requirements, alignment, and other specified features.

Conclusion

PCB-to-PCB connectors are handy devices for linking two circuit boards together. With the different connector types available today, you can select a design that best fits your project. These can range from pin and socked to box headers. They can also be connectors mounted on the PCB surface or through it. To sum it up, your application requirements should dictate your selection criteria.

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