Connectors are complicated things. They are amongst the most difficult components for an engineer to select, simply because they are available in such a huge array of variations.

This is the natural result of the different tasks that connectors are asked to perform in some of the most demanding environments on earth.

The customer faced with such a vast range of options naturally might find it difficult to select the correct product for their design. And yet, even with the entire connector industry to provide solutions, there are times when a customer might not find exactly the connector they need.

The customer is then faced with the choice to work with a connector manufacturer to design and create a completely custom connector. This is a very costly endeavour, however, and the economics may prevent the customer from pursuing this course.

Many of the connector manufacturers have realised this, and so there are an increasing number of choices from the world of modular connectors. Modular connectors allow customers to create their own connector design from a number of existing elements.

The elements themselves are already designed, tooled and ready for manufacture, meaning that there should be no engineering time required to get the connector into production. All that remains is for the customer to choose the features they need to create their perfect connector.

There are a number of different approaches to modular connectors that have been taken by different manufacturers.


The first, and possibly simplest, is the building block approach, typified by the Han Modular series from HARTING. In this case, HARTING has created a large number of individual modules that perform different functions. The customer simply purchases the modules he needs and arranges them in the order that suits his need. These modules are then assembled into a frame to create the final connector.

This approach will be very familiar to anyone who has played with LEGO building blocks and it offers some of the same advantages – the customer is completely free to assemble their connector to suit his application.

There are disadvantages to this concept. The customer must order each of the individual components, adding to his inventory and record-keeping burdens. However, the flexibility of this systems means that the customer can reconfigure the connector by simply taking it apart and starting again, should the need arise.


At the other end of the scale is the approach taken by manufacturer Positronic Industries with their Scorpion family. In this system, it is the mould tool itself that is modular. To create a connector, the customer selects the modules he needs as before.

The manufacturer then creates the mould tool from a number of standard dies, arranged according to the customer’s design. The plastic connector is then moulded as a single piece before the contacts are installed.

The Scorpion is therefore a single-piece connector that allows the customer to order a single part number. The customer does lose some flexibility as the connectors are fixed, and if requirements change in the future they cannot be reconfigured. However, the Scorpion could be described as a custom connector without the custom price tag.

We have seen that there several different methods to tackle the problem of modular connectors, but they all share one feature. The customer must choose from a huge list of options which can be difficult without assistance from the manufacturer.

Traditionally, this would have required a face-to-face meeting, and may have taken time to ensure that the design was correct. This is an expensive method, and not all manufacturers have the capability to deliver this personal service.

TraceParts have introduced a real alternative to this slow face-to-face method with Online Configuration technology. This technology places the capability to make complex selection tasks easier directly into the hands of the engineer.

The Online Configurator offers a real-time, 3D view of the product. With a few clicks, the customer can add or remove options as he requires, creating a version of the product that is configured for his own requirements. At every step of the process, the 3D view is updated so that the customer is seeing an accurate representation of the product he will be ordering, without the need to become an expert in the manufacturer’s product range.

configurator products

Once the customer has selected the options he requires, the Online Configurator will produce a part number that can be added directly to the customer’s order. In addition, the Configurator will deliver a 3D model that the customer can include in his design, and a datasheet with the full specifications of the part.

Using the Online Configurator takes just a few minutes, and in the process the customer has become familiar with the part he has ordered.

This reduced the customer’s design time, making him more responsive to his clients, and it builds confidence in his mind that he has selected the right part for the job. At the same time, your sales team has saved time as they have not had to help the customer through the process of selecting your products, allowing them to concentrate on the tasks that make them more effective.

The Online Configurator makes purchasing complex products easier. By enabling the customer to focus on choosing the options he needs, he saves a huge amount of time reading pages of catalogues or holding technical meetings. He has the confidence that the part he has chosen is correct, has solved one of his many design problems, and the manufacturer has gained a satisfied customer.

Take a look at this example of how the Online Configurator solves a complex product selection problem, and read how this manufacturer has placed this technology at the heart of their customer service.

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David Pike

David Pike is better known as Connector Geek. With nearly 30 years of experience in the world of interconnect, David enjoys helping engineers understand more about exciting engineering solutions.

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