Understanding the Electrical Specifications of Board-to-Board Connectors

Board-to-board connectors are pivotal in modern electronics, enabling the connection of printed circuit boards (PCBs) without the use of wires. These connectors come in various forms and are made from materials like plastic and metal, designed to meet specific electrical and mechanical requirements. Understanding the electrical specifications of these connectors is crucial for designers and engineers to ensure compatibility, performance, and reliability in their electronic devices.

Technological Interface

Board-to-board connectors are typically manufactured using two main types of technological interfaces: surface mount and through-hole.

  • Surface Mount: These connectors are mounted directly on the top of a PCB. They feature short headpins that do not extend past the board, allowing for a more compact design. While they are generally less expensive and can be produced smaller, they may have weaker solder connections compared to through-hole connectors.
  • Through-Hole: This type involves connectors that use contacts installed through drilled holes in the PCB. The contacts are then soldered on the opposite side of the board to complete the power connection. Through-hole connectors are widely used in prototyping due to their compatibility with various circuit boards and robust connections.

Buyer Specifications

When purchasing board-to-board connectors, customers may specify various features, types, and contacts to ensure the connector meets their specific needs. These specifications can include the type of header, gender settings of the connectors, and the arrangement and material of the contacts.

  • Header Requirement: Headers can be box headers that encapsulate their contacts or pin headers that expose the contacts. The choice between these types depends on the mechanical and electrical requirements of the application.
  • Gender Settings: Connectors come in male (plugs) and female (receptacles) settings. The male connectors fit into the female connectors to establish a connection.

Connector Contacts

The contacts in board-to-board connectors are crucial as they transmit electrical energy. They may be arranged in one or two columns and are often made of metal plated with materials like silver, nickel, copper, or gold to enhance performance. The pitch of the contacts, or the distance between them, affects the connection density and can influence factors like arcing and electrical performance.

  • Pitch: Typical pitches range from under 0.5 mm to 5 mm. A larger pitch means lower connection density, which can be beneficial or detrimental depending on the application.
  • Plating: Gold plating is common for contacts due to its optimal electrical connection properties, although it is more expensive. The choice of plating material affects the electrical performance, soldering ability, and durability of the contacts.

Special Features

Board-to-board connectors may also have special features to suit various environmental and application-specific needs:

  • Environmental Protection: Some connectors are designed to be resistant to liquids, chemicals, and other environmental factors. Hermetically sealed connectors, for example, can be waterproof or chemical-resistant.
  • Connection Methods: Features like locking systems prevent unwanted disconnection, while quick connect features allow for rapid assembly and disassembly.

Board to Board Plating and Contact Material

The plating and contact material of board-to-board connectors are typically made from high-quality materials like copper alloy. These materials are chosen for their electrical characteristics, ease of manufacturing, and cost-effectiveness. Metal plating layers are added to improve electrical performance, soldering ability, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, temperature tolerance, and overall appearance.


Board-to-board connectors are essential components in a wide range of electronic applications. Understanding their electrical specifications is key to selecting the right connector for a given application and ensuring reliable and efficient performance. From the technological interface to special features and contact materials, each aspect of a board-to-board connector plays a role in its overall functionality and suitability for specific tasks. As technology continues to advance, the importance of comprehensively understanding these connectors’ specifications becomes ever more critical in the design and implementation of electronic devices.

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