Getting the most out of RF coaxial connectors

2nd August 2021
Joe Bush

When selecting a connector for your industrial application, finding the right component for the job is key. For applications that rely on audio-visual equipment, telephony equipment or antennas, this means putting thought into selecting radio frequency (RF) coaxial connectors that will suit your needs.

RF coaxial connectors are used in a wide range of settings, playing an increasingly prominent role in the design of critical instrumentation used across a variety of sectors and industries. In order to get the very best out of this equipment, buyers need to be aware of how they function, what their benefits are and what factors to consider when choosing the best connectors for your specification.

Here, Northern Connectors explore the basics of how RF coaxial connectors work, and the questions you should be asking in order to extract the maximum benefit from these specialised, high-performance industrial components.

RF coaxial connectors: the basics

RF coaxial connectors are the cylindrical components used to connect coaxial cables and carry high-frequency, multi-megahertz electrical signals between devices.

Designed to deliver rapid signal transmission speeds of around 10Mbps while preventing electromagnetic interference or capacitive pickup, coax connectors can be used to connect devices to each other or to external power supplies, with a broad variety of different sizes, fastening methods and specifications available.

RF coaxial connectors are specially designed for use with devices that transmit radio frequency data, and feature components that have been optimised to provide consistent and reliable electrical resistance at the point of connection. For added stability, they also often incorporate secure fastening mechanisms, including bayonet locking or screw thread locking systems, while others offer a higher level of resistance to harsh environmental conditions or water ingress.

The versatility of RF connectors means they are often used in a wide range of applications, with the most common uses being:

  • Antennas
  • Broadcasting equipment
  • Data routers
  • Industrial and scientific measuring equipment
  • Television receivers
  • Two-way radios
  • Wi-Fi devices with removable antennas
  • Wireless communication systems

Because each of these applications may require a different connector size or design, it may be necessary to seek out expert advice or guidance on which type of connector would work best for your specification.

What should you consider when selecting an RF coaxial connector?

In order to ensure you are getting the best RF coaxial connector that will work with your existing equipment and deliver the performance you require you should consider the following factors:

Voltage, frequency range and impedance: In order for your RF coaxial connector to work properly with your system, you must check the specified voltage, frequency range (measured in Hz) and characteristic impedance (measured in ohms) of your existing cabling, and make sure that the connector matches this. Failing to do so could result in decreased performance or damage to the equipment.

Size: RF coaxial connectors are sold in many different sizes for various applications, with newer models tending to be smaller. As a rule, smaller connectors tend to experience a certain trade-off in terms of power handling, so make sure you are choosing a component that meets the needs of your system.

Gender type: Most connectors are sold in one of two forms, with one side featuring a pin contact and the corresponding half a socket contact. You must check your application preference before selecting your connector.

Termination and fastening method: Connectors are designed to fasten to their respective cables, and to each other, in different ways. You will need to check whether soldering, crimping or clamping is preferred to attach the connector to the cable, as well as thinking about which locking mechanism will work best. Screw-on connections tend to be more secure, whereas bayonet fastening methods are easier to install and remove, and snap-on connections are ideal for saving space.

Environmental requirements: You should consider how robust your connector needs to be, and how much protection it will need to offer against the elements. In environments where your equipment is likely to be subjected to extreme temperatures, dust or water, it is better to select an RX coaxial connector with a higher temperature rating and IP rating, in order to ensure a more reliable performance.

Manufacturers: Different brands specialise in different technologies and within different arenas, so it is beneficial to select a manufacturer with a proven track record in your field. Our partners Radiall are regarded as one of the industry’s most qualified manufacturers of RF coaxial connectors for harsh environments and offer the widest range of connectors within this category, meaning this could be an ideal place to start your search.

The benefits of RF coaxial connectors

By considering all of these factors and getting the right technical advice before sourcing your components, you will be able to find the very best RF coaxial connector for your needs, allowing you to take advantage of all the benefits they offer.

These components have proven to be highly effective in preventing interference or electrical resistance from undermining the performance of your critical systems, with the newest systems offering significant advances in reliable data transmission and at lower costs. No matter what your audio-visual or data transmission needs may be, there will be an RF coaxial connector that is able to meet and exceed your requirements.

Take your time when selecting an RF coaxial connector, and you will be rewarded with a high-quality connection solution that can be a key part of your technical setup for years to come, delivering excellent and reliable performance no matter the circumstances.

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