The Common Tools Used With Circuit Board Connectors

common tools circuit board connectors electronics equipment

When you work with electronics and electrical things, you're not going to be using your hands. The risk of getting something on a board that shouldn't be there or disrupting something is quite high. There are also materials that you shouldn't be handling with your bare hands. While the risk is minimal, you also don't want to get electrocuted while you work. 

There are various tools for accomplishing all sorts of tasks. You might be working with a picoblade connector or a JST specification, you might be tinkering with a copper board or using another material. As long as you work with electronics, you're going to run into and need these very common tools. 

Original Vs Generic 

First, we go over the key differences between original and generic tools. The two of them may seem similar, but there are key differences that can change the approach you take to your work. 

Single-Action 

The typical generic tool is more involved, rather than single-action. An original tool handles the contact insertion and crimping in one take. Generics, on the other hand, require you to handle the insulation separately from the crimping. 

Force 

The correct force is also an issue. Generic tools don't always apply sufficient force, and you need to work a little harder. In some cases, you might also find yourself applying too much and causing damage to the wire. Thin and small gauge wires are the most likely to suffer from incorrect amounts of force. 

Locators 

Original tools have locators, meant to hold terminals in place as you work. This means your crimping is perfect each time. However, generic tools don't have these, so you have to line them up correctly. 

Accuracy 

Insulation accuracy is also a difference. Original tools are built so they don't pierce insulating materials. This is not the case with a generic tool. Terminations are subject to a lot of mechanical stress if you use a generic tool, so they're not going to last as long as they otherwise could. 

Cost 

Finally, there is the issue of cost. Original tools cost more, even ones that are second-hand. At the same time, you might find that they only work on a single type or a family of connectors. Generic ones are much cheaper and broader in use. 

Family By Family 

Now, as we've mentioned, there are numerous crimping tools used for specific families of connectors. This applies whether you're working with wire to board or board to board. As such, the most common tools will correspond with the typical connectors you'll find. This means that you're most likely to encounter two based on the most prominent manufacturers: Molex and JST. 

JST PH 

The WC-240 crimp tool is meant for the JST PH family of connectors. It's easy to use, but fairly standard. Apart from the differences listed above, there's not a lot that sets the original apart from the generic. Much like the connectors, they're used for, they're low-cost and likely to see use in most consumer-level electronics applications. 

JST XH 

The XH family, also from JST, uses the WC-110. A curious difference in the original versus the generic is a curling of the insulation around the crimping. This allows it to press neatly against the insulator without any damage, solving an issue with the XH family tendency to tear that off. Generic tools don't generate this same effect. 

Molex KK 

The Molex KK line uses the 63811-8200 as the official tool. Yes, we know it's a bit of a mouthful. In general, the main difference is the use of force. The generic one requires far more force to get the job done, leaving you at higher risk of over-crimping. You might also risk the wire being severed, forcing you to start anew. Using the official Molex crimper is much easier. 

Molex SL 

For the SL line from Molex, you use either the 63825-8800 or the 63811-8700. This is a case where the generic tools achieve comparable results with the official ones. Once you master the amount of force applied, there is little to no difference between the original tool and a generic version. The only issue is that with the generic tools, you often run the risk of pulling on the wires and tearing it right out if you're not careful. 

Molex Mini Fit 

The Molex Mini Fit line also has its own dedicated tools. In particular, you have a specific extraction tool. They're meant for taking out contacts that have come pre-inserted or you just want to remove to correct an error. These specialized tools work with the Mini Fit family, allowing you to pop the contacts right off without having to spend hours fiddling around with needles otherwise. 

Conclusion 

Using the proper tools is essential in any project you choose to undertake. The wrong ones can cost you time that you might not have, or even damage what you're working on. When it comes to electronics, it is important to have the right tools for the right family of connectors.

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