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Connectors

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RF & Microwave Connectors About, Types, Applications, Selection Spec & Manufactures:

A coaxial RF and Microwave connector is an electrical connector designed to work with coaxial cables in radio and microwave frequencies range. RF and Microwave connectors are used for connecting the coaxial cable to transmitter or receivers, radios, antenna ports, industrial or scientific measurements RF and microwave instruments.

This article about RF connects will share the following details.

  • What is RF Connector?
  • Types of RF Connector
  • Prime applications of Connector.
  • Do main specifications need to consider in the RF Connector selection process?
  • RF and Microwave Connector Manufactures.

RF connectors are available for both genders, male connectors,s and female connectors. Male RF connectors are called plug type and female RF connectors are called the jack type RF connectors. The Center pin is used to transmit the data and outer for the grounding purpose. The locking mechanism of the RF and microwave connectors provides strong and reliable connections for the RF communication circuits and systems.

Gender and Polarity of RF Connectors:

  • RF & microwave connectors are available in both standard and reverse polarity modes.
  • RF standard male connectors have threads on the inside of the shell and for standard RF female connectors, threads are on the outside of the shell.
  • When mating a Plug (male connector) to a Jack (Female connector), both connectors should have the same polarity.

The standard polarity of RF connectors:

For a standard polarity male RF connector, the plug has a center pin and the plug’s outer shell has threads on the inside of it. It is mainly used for the end of coaxial RF cables. 

For standard polarity, the female connector has a socket in the middle and the jack’s shell has threads on the outside to receive the pin from the male plug and lock the connectors. It is mainly used for the end of the RF and measurement instruments.

The Reverse Polarity RF Connector:

For a reverse polarity, the male plug has a socket in the middle and the plug’s shell has threads on the inside to receive the pin from the female connector.

For a reverse polarity female jack RF connector has a centre pin that sticks out from the middle, and threads on the outside. 

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Design and Application

Applications of RF & Microwave Connectors:

  • Perfect RF connectors minimize the variation in transmission line impedance and help to reduce signal reflection and power loss in the RF cables. At higher frequencies, small impedance variations of the RF connectors cause high signal reflection and cause the loss of the original signal passing through the cable.
  • An RF connector blocks external signals like electromagnetic interference and capacities signal
  • RF and Microwave connectors provide a mechanical fastening mechanism like thread, braces, blind mate bayonet, springs, etc, and allow high mating cycles and reduce the insertion force.
  • RF connectors are used to connect the printed circuit boards to the cables and to other microwave devices and systems.

Locking Mechanism of RF Connectors:

The locking mechanism of RF connectors prevents the possibility of unintentional disconnection of devices by ensuring the mechanical connections and guaranteed to withstand mechanical stress. There are many locking mechanisms are available for the RF connectors.

  • Screw-on locking mechanism.
  • Slide-on locking mechanism.
  • Magnetic self-matting locking mechanism.
  • Snap-on locking mechanism.
  • Quick-lock.

Common types of RF connectors :

There are many types of RF and microwave connectors are available from different manufacturers from different parts of the world. Selection of RF and microwave connectors based on the specifications like mating mechanism, frequency of operation, performance, size, etc. Listed below are a few of the most commonly used RF and microwave connectors:

BNC connector

BNC RF connectors are connectors with rigid body and locking mechanisms used for low-frequency RF applications.

  • Ideal operating frequency range: 0 to 2GHz

Applications:

IF signal transmission, DC signal transmission, video signals, amateur radio, timing, and clock signals distribution.

SMA connector

SMA connectors offer Smaller size and reliable performance connectors for the low-frequency application up to 18 GHz. SMA connectors offer the best impedance matching performance over the frequency range of operation.

  • Operating Frequency Range: 0 to 18 GHz

Applications:

Radio communication, GSM, CDMA, UHF, RF power amplifiers, RF isolator, power Splitter, directional couplers, and low power UHF communication systems.

SMB connector

SMB is a rigid, easy-to-use RF connector used for low-frequency applications and offers better performance at below 4 GHz frequency of operation. It’s is mainly used to tap the RF signals from the RF circuit boards and it offers a threading locking mechanism.

  • Operating Frequency Range: 0 to 4 GHz

Applications:

Low power UHF and VHF communication systems, WiFi boars, and radio communication systems.

N-type connector

N-type RF connectors are suitable for durable applications up to 18 GHz. N-type connectors have reliable and strong thread locking mechanisms. As N-type RF and microwave connectors offer durability and better performance, it is used in most RF test equipment and matched impedance applications.

  • Operating frequency range: 0 to 12 GHz

Applications:  

RF & microwave test equipment, high power UHF, Satellite communication, Radar, communication systems.

2.92 mm connector

 

2.92 mm connectors are suitable for high frequency and microwave test applications. 2.92 RF & microwave connectors offer repeatability in high-precision RF measurement solutions.

  • Operating frequency range: 0 to 40 GHz

Applications:

High precision RF & microwave test and measurements instruments, satellite communications.

2.4 mm connector

 

The 2.4mm RF connector is an ideal connector for low loss phase stability applications. 2.4 mm connectors are rigid and will be compatible with SMA connectors. A 2.4mm RF connector is a thicker outer wall.

  • Operating frequency range: 0 to 50 GHz

Applications:

Satellite and telecommunication systems, RF test and measurement instruments, labs testing, millimetre-wave applications

PL-259 connector

PL-259 RF connector has a strong and easy to assemble structure and it is ideal for low-frequency applications like amateur radio and marine communication systems etc.

  • Operating frequency range: Below 200 MHz

Applications:  

Amateur radio, shortwave radio communications, timing, clock signals, and low power HF communication systems.

SO-239connector

SO-239 connectors are ideal to use in the below 100 MHz frequency range.

  • Operating frequency range: Below 100 MHz

Applications:   

Amateur radio communication applications.

In addition to the above connectors, there are many general connectors are available for different RF and microwave applications.

  • SNAP-ON CONNECTORS
  • QUICK-LOCK AND SECURE CONNECTORS
  • SCREW-ON CONNECTORS
  • LOW INTERMODULATION CONNECTORS
  • RF BOARD-TO-BOARD CONNECTORS
  • BLIND MATE CONNECTORS
  • HIGH VOLTAGE CONNECTORS
  • HIGH-FREQUENCY CONNECTORS
  • SWITCHING CONNECTORS
  • MULTIPORT CONNECTORS
  • NON MAGNETIC CONNECTORS
  • SPACE COAXIAL CONNECTORS

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Basics & Selection Feature

Selection Criteria of RF Connectors

There are many parameters that need to consider in the selection of suitable RF and microwave connectors to optimize the performance of the full system where the RF connectors are used.

Electrical parameters:

Frequencies of operation, voltages, currents, type of signals like digital, analog, power, or even a combination of signals, etc which need to carry over the line are the prime factors that need to consider in the selection process of suitable RF connectors.

The high-frequency signals need a coaxial connection to avoid the coupling of signals to adjacent cables. Low-level analog signals need good shielding etc. For DC signals BNC type of connectors are ideal and high RF signals SMA / 2.92 type connectors are ideal. 

Size and space constraints:

The size, space, and weight of connectors need to match the size of the system and be able to withstand the frequency of operation.

As the current trend is reductions in the size of the electronic equipment, connectors also need to select accordingly. There are many miniature RF connectors are available to match the small size design needs of RF & microwave circuits.

Terminations of RF connectors:

Terminations of RF connectors indicate where these RF connectors pin or socket needs to connect, like RF cable, RF PCB, etc. There are several types of RF terminations are available, including soldered connections, crimped connections, press-fit, and wire-wrap. RF connector termination selection is based on the design and application of the RF project.

Environment conditions:

Temperature, shock, vibration, and humidity are the prime environmental conditions that need to consider in the connector selection. RF connector designed for meeting shock or vibration conditions often incorporates threaded coupling to support the wiring harness.

  • Those connectors that need to use in both outdoors and indoors need to meet the humidity and Temperature standards of extreme conditions.

These connectors are designed using special materials and insulators to ensure reliability during the repeatedly mating and d-mating. Designers get the supporting environmental parameters like temperature, humidity range from the datasheet of the manufactures.

Industry standards of RF connectors:

Each industry imposes different levels of Industry standards, hence designers need to select the RF and Microwave connectors meeting the industrial standards of the specific application. Even though these industrial standards are specified for the equipment or for the cables, where we need to connect these RF and Microwave connector, we need to select the RF connectors from the OEM who meets these standards for the perfect operation and meeting the entire system specifications.

RF Connector Mating Cycles:

Another critical parameter that needs to consider is the number of the mating cycle of the RF and Microwave connectors. There are RF connectors designed for the lower number of mating to a larger number like 10K cycles of meeting without the degradation of the specification. Designers need to select the connectors based on, how often RF connectors need to be mated and un-mated in the design.

  • Mating scenarios range from one-time use to 10,000 or more cycles.

In general,

  • The Industrial and RF measurement equipment needs the minimum mating cycle of thousands, as daily it needs to connect and disconnect as part of the operations.
  • For automotive application, very lower mating cycles is needed as the RF connectors stay mated throughout the life of the RF systems in the vehicles.

Reliability of RF connectors:

Reliability is the term connected to the life of the connectors or the mating cycles of the RF connectors. The reliability of the RF connector is specified in terms of MTTF (Mean Time To Failure) or MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure). It shows the calculated estimates for the life of RF connectors will perform by meeting all the specifications under standard conditional use.

As the reliability or the exact life of the RF and microwave connectors are based on multiple factors like usage, environment, etc, it is difficult to determine the exact figure.

Conclusion:

Each type of RF and microwave connector has its own advantages and disadvantages, hence the selection should be based on the application, design constraints, cost, in addition to the type of signals need to tap through these connectors.

As there are many connector manufactures are available, if you need support in the selection of suitable manufacturers, comment below in the comment box, with your application and design constraints, RFMWC is ready to support the designers in their design needs.

 Thanks & Regards

Team-RFMWC - RF & Microwave Community

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