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Making Convenient Connectors for Prototyping - Using Standard Headers
Using convenient connectors during the prototyping stage is key to getting dependable
and predictable results very quickly. In the videos for this tutorial, I will show
you how to make Do-It-Yourself connectors that are strong and very professional
in appearance. I will use standard male headers to provide for the connection to
the breadboard, and standard female headers consisting of a female housing and crimp
pins. Making the female headers is not quite as "DIY" as is the construction of
the male headers, but I use a standard needle nose pliers to do the crimping so
there is a hint of DIY in the process.
Making a good male connector sturdy and functional:
The key to a sturdy connector male connector is to provide both a mechanical and
a soldered connection. Yes, mechanics do come into play--even in the fine details
of electronics. Simply put, the mechanical connection provides more surface area
available to be soldered to the header pin. Since the short side of the header pin
has very little protrusion, it is crucial to use a mechanical crimp to maximize
the quality of the connection. To make this mechanical connection, we start by just
stripping the insulation off a very small gauge wire (I'm using a flat cable in
this case), somewhere around 24 or 26 gauge (or smaller). Now take the bare portion
of the wire and wrap it around the lead, and this becomes the mechanical connection.
Solder the wire and header pin together, and the connection is relatively permanent.
In fact I dare you to separate the wire and lead! It's tough... If you are wondering
what a non-mechanical connection would look like, just imagine the wire placed alongside
the lead and the two soldered together. It might be prettier, but I promise that
you will just about tear out your hair trying to get those two wires together!
Finally, it is advisable to cover the finished wire connections with shrink-tube
to provide insulation from adjacent pins. This will be illustrated in the first
of two videos that accompany this tutorial.
Making the Female Connector:
This is actually not much of a mystery, since we are using the standard method (except
for the tool used). The parts involved are a small crimp pin (female), and a female
connector housing of 2.54 mm (0.1 inch) pitch. Pitch is the distance from one pin
to another, measured from the center of the pins. A needle-nose pliers is used for
the crimping, as shown in the second video. I prefer to use the professional crimper,
but they are expensive and the typical hobbyist might not have one laying around.