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Glossary

Definitions for jargon, scientific terms and phrases used at Harwin and across the connector and electronics industries.

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Cable

A length of conducting element (often Copper) or a number of strands twisted together, covered with an insulating material (such as PTFE or PVC). Typically available on reels, suitable to be cut to length for any application. Can also have multiple bundles of cables bound together with another layer of insulation (multicore cable), or have a braided woven jacket of very fine wire covered by a further layer of insulation (coax cable).

Cable Assembly

A construction consisting of one or more connectors attached to a cable.

Cable Bundle

A collection of cables bound together, or a collection of cable assemblies bound together to form a more complex harness or loom. The binding is typically required to lower the amount of wear due to movement, or prevent the cables from touching other parts of the equipment.

Cable Harness
Cable Loom
Cable Management

The use of mechanical holding devices to hold the cables of a cable assembly stationary. Typically this is either against a cabinet wall or chassis member, or against the PCB, or the bundle itself is made very stiff and unmoving. Cable management is generally good practice to prevent wear, burning or shorts, by stopping the cables from: moving around under vibration or shock; touching other elements that could cause damage (or be damaged themselves); causing weight re-distribution with larger cables.

Cable Routing

The design showing the path that a completed cable assembly will take through the equipment. This may be done onsite, or in advance, depending on the industry. Cable management needs to be considered in the design, to ensure the cable is secured where relevant, and avoids key problem areas. Bend radiuses and strain relief are also key considerations.

Cable-to-Board

A particular arrangement of mating connectors, one of which is mounted to a PCB, the other is mounted to cable.

Cable-to-Cable

A particular arrangement of mating connectors, both connector halves being mounted to cables.

CAD Models

Files that contain code to construct a 3D virtual model of a product within a Computer Aided Design program. Some manufacturers supply CAD Models for customers to use, that they can feed into their own design - these transferable models are usually supplied in standard formats such as STEP or IGES, which many CAD systems can accept. Register or Login for access to Harwin's CAD Models.

Cans
Capacitive Coupling

The transfer of energy within a circuit or network by means of displacement current between circuit nodes, induced by the electric field.

Circuit

A closed loop of electron flow, defined and contained by various electronic devices and conductive elements connecting the devices. Can also refer to the equivalent in an optoelectronic device.

Coax cable, Coaxial cable

A cable constructed with an inner conducting element (which carries the signal current or data), with a layer of insulation, then a braided woven metal jacket or similar conductive element (for shielding purposes), then a final second layer of insulation. Used when the signal being passed through the inner conductor may be particularly susceptible to interference, such as audio or video signals.

Commercial Off-The-Shelf

Goods, materials, components and services that do not need to be commissioned as custom-made or bespoke. When used specifically in the connector industry, normally refers to connectors with a higher specification level that would be suitable for use on aviation, space or defense applications without modification.

Computer Aided Design

Software specifically developed for producing designs of any product or component. The most common CAD types in electronics are 1) for component design, which allows you to model any item in 3D space and run analysis on its features, or 2) PCB design, which has specific inbuilt features designed to help with this complicated task, such as track layout automation. Either CAD system can often import models from accepted standard formats, and output machine-readable data that can be directly used by production equipment.

Conducting Element, Conductor

A single piece of suitable material that will carry the electrical current along its length. Typically metal, the conductor may be the central wire or stranded cable in an insulated cable, a connector male or female contact, a connection point or test point mounted to a PCB, a track printed onto a PCB, or even a shielding element.

Conductive Coupling

Also known as direct coupling or DC coupling. Electrical energy is transferred through physical contact between two conductive elements, via a third conductive medium.

Conflict Minerals

Certain mineral substances that are mined in areas of conflict, where unauthorized mining and selling of the mineral may be contributing finances to the forces involved in the conflict. Currently these are listed as Tin, Tantalum, Tungsten and Gold (colloquially known as 3TG after their initials). the current main areas of concern are in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with the nine neighboring countries. See also Dodd-Frank. Harwin have a support article on Conflict Minerals.

Connector

An electrical product capable of transferring (without altering) electrical current from one device to another. Typically consists of one of more conducting element (normally metal), and may also be electrically insulated with a housing (commonly plastic). Connectors often consist of two mating halves, which can be connected and disconnected as required, either during manufacture or operation. Also known as interconnect devices. Can also refer to an equivalent device in a fiber-optic circuit, where the "conducting element" would be suitable for passing the light from one device or cable to another.

Contact Pad

A flat conductive element, made from a flat piece of metal with no additional features. Normally used to mate with a spring contact or spring pin.

Continuity Test

Testing carried out on completed cable assemblies or PCBs to ensure that the ends of a circuit are correctly connected, and maintain a steady current with no fluctuation.

Cooling

When current flows within a device or circuit, the resistance within each material causes the temperature of that material to rise. In a compact piece of equipment, with many elements, this temperature rise could be detrimental to the circuit and specific heat-sensitive components - or could even lead to a fire hazard. Certain elements can be added to the equipment to provide a way to cool down these elements, or the surrounding air. There is a choice of active cooling (fans and refrigeration pipes) or passive cooling (aluminium heat sinks). The choice depends on the space available and the severity of the problem.

Copper

Elemental substance: symbol Cu, atomic number 29. A soft, malleable, and ductile reddish-orange metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity; one of the few metals that occur in nature in directly usable metallic form as opposed to requiring extraction from ore. Its conductivity, workability and relatively wide availability has made it the conducting material of choice in the electronics industry. Depending on the application, may be used in alloy form to improve strength, wear and spring force characteristics, or plated to also improve wear and prevent corrosion.

Core

An alternative term used for the conducting element in a cable. Can be either solid (one single wire of metal) or stranded (multiple wires twisted together). These two types give different performances for flexibility and strength.

Crimping

A method of attaching a cable to a contact, that involves deformation of an area of the contact. The cable end is stripped to reveal the bare core, and is placed in the crimping area of the contact. A specific tool (with jaws or holder designed to suit the contact) is then used to deform this area of the contact, such that a compressed metal-to-metal joint is made that is both mechanically secure and electrically sound. Crimping instructions for any crimp contact should include a pull-off force rating.

Crosstalk

When two conductive elements are near each other, the current in one element can cause a current to flow (or interfere with an existing current) in the other element. It is usually caused by undesired capacitive, inductive, or conductive coupling from one circuit or channel to another. The effect is detrimental to signal integrity, and various methods can be employed to keep crosstalk to a minimum.

CubeSat

A small form-factor type of NEO (Near Earth Orbit) satellite. Based on a 10x10x10cm cube (although the final satellite can be multiple cubes), each cube is no more than 1.33kg, and often uses COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) components. Often deployed from either the International Space Station, or as secondary payloads on a launch vehicle. Popular with academia due to the lower cost and availability of COTS components.

Current

The movement of electrons (or positive ions, negative ions or holes) which is observed as an electrical flow of charge. The SI unit of current is the ampere.