Connectors are essential electromechanical devices used to create electrical circuits by joining two or more conductors. Due to the significant variations in applications and conductor configuration, connectors are incredibly diverse and are often designed to fit particular requirements. However, one design characteristic that is universal among connectors is the male and female ports, in which one side of the interconnect features outward-facing pins, whereas the opposite end is designed to accept those pins. One of the most common wire types in the world is the coaxial cable, which is ubiquitous in telecommunications. In order for these cables to effectively transmit signals over long distances without loss, they require a specialized BNC connector. In this blog, we will discuss the design characteristics and function of the widely used BNC class of connectors.
BNC connectors were initially designed to be used in military naval applications before being accepted to facilitate RF communications. As televisions, radio, and other electronic equipment began to depend upon coaxial cabling throughout the mid-1900s, BNC connectors became necessary and standardized for the purpose of interchangeability. With the rise of personal computing devices and networks, coaxial cables and BNC connectors became the standard interconnect assemblies for popular products like ARCnet, IBM PC Network, and early Ethernet. Although several RF and other telecommunication devices have moved to different cabling and connector options, BNC may still be found in analog video applications, radio antennas, nuclear instrumentation, and avionics systems.
In order for electrical connectors to be practical, it must be designed with interchangeability in mind, particularly concerning something as widespread as telecommunication. To this effect, most BNC connectors are manufactured to meet the standards laid forth by the military specification MIL-C39012. Like many other electromechanical devices, BNC connectors use military specifications to limit variance. This standard design features a bayonet-style lug that acts as the female connection port. They are generally considered stable up to 11 GHz, at which point losses become too high for most tolerances. Additionally, BNC connectors are designed to have similar impedance to mating cables, that of which is typically 50 or 75 ohms.
BNC connectors are typically chosen for an application based on their impedance. 75 ohm connectors feature more versatility in terms of compatibility, making them a regular choice in satellite, HDTV, police scanners, and radio receivers. All of these outputs require low loss of signal, which 75 ohm connectors may supply with ease. Although 50 ohm connectors are cheaper, they do not provide the same level of dependability as their 75ohm counterparts, however, many older analog formats work better with a 50 ohm connection.
It is common for RF connections to be densely populated and hard to reach. In such situations, trying to secure the interconnect by hand may injure the operator or the device. As a result, specialized BNC tools may be purchased for the purpose of achieving proper connection. These tools are generally handheld and feature a similar grip to a standard screwdriver in order to apply torque. When working with such tools, the operator also reduces the risk of inadvertently disconnecting the wrong connector.
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