In the Age of Right Angles
There was a time in cabling history where every cable made had an inline connector terminated at each end. But that time ended long ago, though, and slowly but surely angled connectors have become more prevalent. Today, L-com offers a large variety of right-angle cables and adapters for all kinds of connectivity systems. Why are right angles such a good idea, and why has it taken so long for right angles to catch up with newer standards?
Drawings and the Real World
When a design engineer sits down to create something, adding cables to the drawing is relatively easy: draw a straight line and put it between the two devices to be connected, call out what it is, and maybe add arrows for those who don't understand that you mean to plug it in here. This is fine, and a busy engineer working on all manner of systems doesn't have time to specify the way a cable should hang outside of a box or rack panel. But in the real world that detail is quite important, and can mean the difference between a good setup and a headache for users. The space where a connector can mate with a jack is shrinking as we're all trying to fit more connections into smaller areas. Smaller connectors help, but a better solution is a cable designed with a right angle.
Adding a right angle to a cable is not as easy as just molding it differently. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome in the design, including how to keep the signal integrity (especially in the case of twisted pairs in Category rated cables or USB), how to allow a space for someone to solder the conductor (as in many right angle coaxial connectors), and how to protect the sensitive solder or crimp points from EMI/RFI and from physical strain. A cable manufacturer has to plan for these things and engineer a viable solution to them.
Right Angles Today
Fortunately, we've come a long way from the early days of right angles, and today you have many superior options to choose from. In all cases, though, it is a very good idea to specify when you need a right angle cable and to plan for the eventuality that your designed device may be shoved in a corner of a closet with barely any room for cables to connect. Buy right angle cables up front and save yourself the hassle.
Right Angle USB
USB is a phenomenal standard and technology, and it has revolutionized consumer electronics with the ease of connecting and disconnecting on the fly. But often you have to connect to the back of a PC or the side of a thin laptop and have minimal space. Right angle USB cables solve this problem while still providing the speed and convenience we've all come to love. Check out L-com's right angle USB cable summary page here:
Right Angle Coaxial Cabling
Right angle coax connectors have been around for many years. A firm crimp can ensure physical strength, and they usually have a removable "back plate" that allows access to solder the conductor to the pin. Doing this in the field, however, is not easy, so L-com offers a range of factory-terminated right angle coax cables.
L-com organizes its coax cable assemblies by type of coax cable and then by connector type.
Right Angle Ethernet Cabling
There's a good reason Electronic House Magazine awarded L-com's right angle Category 5e cables with product of the year in 2012. Ethernet cabling is particularly tricky to terminate because the individual conductors inside the cable are twisted together to reduce crosstalk. Add to that the ever increasing speed and bandwidth of networks, and keeping the twists from breaking down becomes much more important. But when you bend an Ethernet cable, whether it be premise wiring or patch cords, you can untwist the pairs and lower the cable's actual category rating. L-com fixed this with patent pending "pair guides" that hold the pairs together through the right angle. In busy and cluttered networking closets, these Cat5e unshielded, Cat5e shielded, and Cat6 cables are the best answer.
Right Angle Fiber Optic
Like Ethernet cabling, fiber optic cabling is sensitive to bends. In this case, it is because of the glass material in the core that carries the light signal. If you are going to leave a fiber optic cable plugged in at an angle, you owe it to yourself to get right angle fiber optic cables. They are about the same price as straight cables, but will outlast them in these kinds of applications.
Right Angle Adapters
If you can't find a factory-terminated right angle cable that is right for you, consider a right angle adapter. They are available for most cabling systems, including Ethernet, coaxial, USB, HDMI, and D-Subminiature. They are inexpensive and easy to store in a desk drawer somewhere in case you need one.