Guidelines for purchasing circular connectors

Successful purchasing of circular connectors is as much about choosing the right supplier as it is about getting to grips with the technical requirements, says Doug Mercer, European Marketing Manager for PEI-Genesis.

Even though the humble circular connector performs just one very simple function - joining together signal and/or power lines - the task of sourcing exactly the right connector for a particular application can be surprisingly complicated.

As well as ensuring that the connector’s electrical performance matches the requirements of the job in hand, there are many mechanical variables to be considered, including shell size, shell style, coupling mechanism, number and size of contacts, contact arrangement and keyway polarization.

Circular multi-pin connectors are widely used in the industrial, transportation, aerospace and defense sectors, where they can be subjected to quite extreme environmental conditions. Therefore, to ensure that they provide reliable performance and a long service life, the connectors must be of a rugged construction and capable of resisting high levels of vibration and shock.

Often they will require RFI shielding or sealing against the ingress of dust and moisture. Furthermore, they must be able to cope with frequent coupling and uncoupling without loss of performance and may have to operate over an extended temperature range.

Straight away it can be seen that a huge number of variables are involved. Buyers may therefore decide that they would benefit from some specialist knowledge and advice, and so they might get in touch with a connector manufacturer. However, when the subject of delivery times arises, it may come as a surprise to be quoted 10-12 weeks. Depending on circumstances, manufacturers may be able to supply some parts more quickly, but even then it would probably still be 5-6 weeks.

If the requirement is more urgent and does not allow the luxury of such long lead times, the buyer may decide to contact a broadline distributor instead. Traditionally, distributors have handled only finished products - stocking the most popular lines and providing a rapid delivery service on those items. However, product lines like multi-pin connectors can be configured in an almost infinite number of ways, so it is virtually impossible for distributors to carry a stock profile that will satisfy every customer’s requirement. In short, there is almost no chance that the right product will be sitting on the distributor’s shelf.

Franchised assembling distributors such as PEI-Genesis take a different approach. Instead of stocking ready-assembled connectors, they hold a vast inventory of connector piece-parts and assemble them to order to satisfy customers’ exact requirements. While some assembling distributors quote 7-10 days for this service, only PEI-Genesis has managed to reduce the cycle time (i.e. the time taken from the order arriving to the moment the finished products are dispatched) to less than 48 hours.

This unrivaled speed has been achieved by a massive investment in piece-part stock – some $45million between the company’s two assembling facilities in Southampton and South Bend, Indiana - coupled with the in-house development of machines to automate the connector assembly process.

PEI-Genesis works in close partnership with leading connector manufacturers such as Amphenol, ITT Interconnect Solutions (Cannon and VEAM), Cinch, so buyers can be assured of receiving products of the highest quality.

For customers who do not know the part number of the connector they require, PEI-Genesis has a specialist engineering team who can provide advice on the correct product to use for a particular application. The company is completely geared up to dealing with a large number of relatively small-volume orders, and there are no minimum order quantities on any of the product lines it stocks.

While purchasing connectors direct from the manufacturer can be the best option for high-volume orders on a planned delivery schedule, assembling distributors such as PEI-Genesis provide the best way of obtaining the exact connector for an application in the shortest possible time.