Altium Designer Makes Connector Creation and Placement Easy

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: August 20, 2021

Shock resistant PCB connectors are essential in many applications that require high-reliability, such as aerospace or medical equipment. There are many connectors that are engineered to be shock resistant so that they maintain a constant electrical connection during operation, but what’s the best way to locate these connectors for use in your PCB layout? The supply chain and component creation features in Altium Designer can help you find the shock-resistant PCB connectors you need, and you can easily place and route them in your PCB layout.


PCB design software with advanced tools for creating and placing shock-resistant PCB connectors.

Rugged electronics assemblies that are built as multi-board systems require PCB connectors that are also shock-resistant. This is an important requirement in aerospace, military, automotive, and industrial electronics as electrical connections in these systems require mechanical strength and stability. PCB assemblies like backplanes, rack-mount systems, and many other systems require a rugged electrical connector that is shock resistant, vibration resistant, and moisture resistant to comply with industry testing and performance requirements for high-reliability systems.

Once you’ve selected your shock-resistant PCB connectors, it’s time to place them in the PCB layout and make the required electrical connections in your design. The best CAD tools will give you the tools to create connector footprints, import 3D STEP file models, and define electrical connections in your pinout.

Selecting Rugged Shock-Resistant PCB Connectors

If you’ve never selected or used rugged PCB connectors, there are some important criteria to consider for your system. Shock-resistance is an important consideration for many mechanical applications, but there is much more to consider when selecting rugged connectors for many designs. The most important specifications you should consider in connector datasheets are:

  • Shock resistance: defines the resistance of a connector to a mechanical shock, such as might be experienced if the board is dropped or collides with another object.
  • Vibration resistance: defines the ability of a connector to maintain an electrical connection during a specific vibration. This may be a single value specified at a single frequency.
  • Ingress protection: normally quoted as compliance to a specific standard (e.g., IP 67 for backplane connectors).
  • Insulation resistance: defines the capability of the connector to prevent leakage current between leads in the pinout.
  • Current and voltage ratings: defines the maximum allowed current at a specific test voltage; the connector should not be operated beyond these electrical limits. 
  • Operating temperature: the maximum and minimum temperature at which the other specified ratings can be considered valid; connector temperature should not exceed these limits, otherwise the design may be unreliable or the connector may fail.
  • Form factor: the connector form factor includes everything from the presence of a locking mechanism or shroud, to the pinout and overall size of the connector.
  • Processing: defines whether the electrical connector is surface mount or through-hole (e.g., with pogo pins), and whether the connector can pass through wave soldering.

The applications of shock-resistant PCB connectors include routing interfaces between boards, rugged mechanical supports for two or more circuit boards, and interfacing with cable assemblies. This applies to rigid or flex circuits, both of which might require very specific levels of vibration and shock resistance. Now matter the applications of shock-resistant PCB connectors in your circuit board, you need tools to help you narrow down to the specific boards you need in your design.

Find the Best Shock-Resistant PCB Connectors You Need

To find the best shock-resistant PCB connectors for your circuit board, you need a set of search and filtration tools that help you narrow down to specific components in the supply chain. Altium Designer makes this easy with the integrated Manufacturer Part Search Panel, a simple tool that lets you search and import components into your circuit board schematics and your PCB layout.

PCB part search custom connectors
Altium Designer gives you a complete view of the PCB supply chain with the Manufacturer Part Search Panel.

Working With Custom Connectors in Your PCB Layout

Some designs are completely proprietary, including your connector designs. Mechanical and electrical aspects of a design will dictate how the connector can be added into your circuit board. If you are using custom components in your PCB layout, you need three sets of data:

  • Schematic symbols showing the pinout and pin names for use in schematic sheets
  • PCB footprint showing the physical arrangement of pads and holes used to mount the connector
  • A 3D model for use in mechanical modeling, normally imported from a STEP file

The process for creating a component with these data is easy when you use a powerful CAD package like Altium Designer.

Easily Create and Manage CAD Data for Your Custom Connectors

Altium Designer’s complete set of circuit board design tools can be used for all aspects of component creation, including arranging pads/holes for your custom connectors, placing 3D bodies, defining courtyards and mechanical keepouts, and much more. The best part is you don’t need a separate program and you don’t need to learn a different set of tools to create PCB footprints. All the CAD tools you use in Altium Designer can be used to create component footprints and schematic symbols, and it’s easy to import STEP models for your components into your PCB libraries.

MCAD design PCB connectors
Place and view rugged PCB connectors with the native 3D PCB design features in Altium Designer.

A Complete Toolset for Placing Rugged PCB Connectors

When you need to create and place your rugged PCB connectors, you need a complete set of component creation tools to build your schematic symbols, PCB footprints, and import 3D models into your components. Altium Designer’s toolset includes all the PCB CAD features you need to create custom PCB footprints for rugged connectors, high pin count connectors and FPGAs, high ball count BGA components, and much more. Altium Designer offers much more than just CAD tools for components, you’ll have the tools you need to find components from the PCB supply chain and import them into your PCB libraries.

Altium’s ECAD features take your designs a step further by integrating with other design software like Fusion 360, Autodesk Inventor, and much more. PCB designers and mechanical teams can work together to ensure shock-resistant PCB connector placement doesn’t violate mechanical constraints. PCB design teams that use Altium Designer will have more than a PCB design software application, design teams can take control over the entire product development process.

Stay Productive in Altium’s Rules-Driven Design Software

Altium Designer’s complete set of circuit design, layout, and documentation features were built to work together thanks to a powerful rules-driven design engine. This complete set of PCB design tools is unified in a single application that catches design errors as the PCB layout is created and components are placed, helping you stay productive in advanced electronics design.

In addition to the PCB CAD features in Altium Designer, the external design tools are easy to access with a set of free extensions that are accessible within Altium Designer. No other design platform provides the same level of productivity or is as easy to use as Altium Designer. Invest in your designs and stay productive with the best PCB design tools in Altium Designer.

Rugged PCB connector shock resistant
You can examine and evaluate board mating in 3D with shock-resistant PCB connectors in Altium Designer.

Creating, placing, and routing PCB shock resistant connectors shouldn’t be overly complicated or require external component creation services. With Altium Designer, you can create all the CAD data you need to work with components in your PCB layout and model the mechanical behavior of your board in 3D.

Altium Designer on Altium 365 delivers an unprecedented amount of integration to the electronics industry until now relegated to the world of software development, allowing designers to work from home and reach unprecedented levels of efficiency.

We have only scratched the surface of what is possible to do with Altium Designer on Altium 365. You can check the product page for a more in-depth feature description or one of the On-Demand Webinars.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 2500+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

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