Massive sample piles advertise the custom cable manufacturers in Huaqiangbei market. A sketch and a few part numbers is enough to get a quote on the spot. These piles reveal which connectors are standard and readily available in the Chinese manufacturing ecosystem. To avoid sourcing problems and production delays its probably best to stick with one of these common connectors in your projects.
We grabbed a sample of every cable from the piles in the SEG and HQ Mart markets, then verified the actual model against datasheets. In this post we look at the common connector families available from multiple manufacturers. Sometimes market traders call the connectors by an unofficial part number, we've included these to help you communicate with Chinese vendors.
Continue below for an overview of the 17 most common cable and connector types from the Chinese market. Try out Dirty Cables to build your own custom cables, and grab the Dirty Cables Sample Kit to explore these connectors with your own hands.
Parts of a cable
A crimp housing holds the metal crimp contacts and cable wires, and mates with a PCB or cable mount connector. The most recognizable measurement of a crimp housing is pitch, the distance between pins. Common crimp housing pitch ranges from 1mm to 4.2mm.
Crimp contacts are the metal bits that mate cable wires to connectors. Crimp materials and coatings vary, which impact the maximum power rating of the cable. Nickel plated crimp contacts are by far the most common default option. A few connectors, mostly IDC, generally have gold plated contacts by default.
Reels of crimp contacts and wire load into a crimping machine. The machine strips the wire, attaches the crimp contact, and cuts the wire to length. Specific tooling is needed to attach and cut each type of crimp. Manufacturers can't attach a crimp without the right tooling for their crimp machines.
Cable wire is generally multiple strands of copper wire that have been tinned with solder and coated in insulation. Common colors are available: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, white, gray, and black. Wire size effects the maximum voltage and current a cable can carry, common cable wire sizes range from 32AWG to 16AWG (smaller AWG = bigger wire).
Some connectors use flat ribbon cables, generally with gray or rainbow colored insulation. Common sizes:1.27mm, 1mm, and 0.635mm.
PCB mount connectors
A connector mates a cable to a circuit board or another cable. Connectors may be polarized so the cable only fits one direction, or have locking features to keep the cable from coming loose. Cables may attach to the PCB from the top (top entry) or the side (side entry).