Should Your Sensor Have A Connector Or Pin Terminals?


Courtesy of Jewell Instruments LLC

When it comes to measuring the activity of your project, it’s nice to have options. High precision sensors can offer plenty of selections from the range of your measurements to the output of your readings, but a sensor is only as good at its connection.

Connectors and pin terminals are common and dependable connections that relay your readings from within the sensor to the screen in front of you. These two options each have advantages and limitations and deciding which is better for your application depends on some factors.

The Benefits of a Connector

A connector is generally the way to go when you need to implement your sensor in a harsh environment such as bridge or dam monitoring. It will be exposed to plenty of weather, temperature and vibration so you’ll need some extra security. Plugging a cable to a connector is quick and easy, provides a shield from harsh conditions and reduces strain on the cable, which is particularly useful for running that cable over a long distance.

A connector is also more versatile. Some sensors come with a DB-9 connector, which is becoming more popular and can provide power and point-to-point communication between two devices.

Limitations of a Connector

Connectors can be worn out if they are continuously disconnected so in “set it and forget it” cases such as OEM or geotechnical monitoring, this will be a plus. A connector will also take up more space so if you’re monitoring a bridge, this probably isn’t a concern, but if you’re OEM, this feature will have to be accounted for. Finally, the mating connector is not included with every sensor you purchase making for an additional expense.

Benefits of Pin Terminals

Pin terminals are a good idea if you’re on a budget and need to save space in your design. No additional materials are needed other than the mating connector and the sensor will have smaller dimensions to ease your OEM design process.

Limitations of Pin Terminals

The trade off is more maintenance and set up. Pin terminals are left exposed creating a greater possibility for the electrical connections and pins to break and contacts to become soiled or oxidized. The pins can also be susceptible to misconnection that can potentially damage the sensor. This is not much of a problem for OEM applications where the sensor is concealed within an enclosure, but for geotechnical monitoring, you’ll need something with more protection.

To Conclude…

The connector versions have been the more popular and sturdier choice for a variety of applications, but if you’re looking to save space and money with a design meant to protect the sensor, pin terminals are the way to go. Jewell offers pin and connector options on most of its force balanced accelerometers and inclinometers and other models include wire connections.

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