Understanding the Difference between Male and Female Connectors
If there is anything more confusing to the uninitiated about connectors, it is the terms "male and female" assigned to identify connectors.
In engineering, however, this difference between male and female connectors can mean a huge error in mechanical design of equipment. For process equipment, it can mean a disaster.
Connectors are meant to fit neatly and seamlessly together. Otherwise, the end result is costly for plant managers and business owners. It is extremely important to understand the difference between male and female connectors and which you need most.
The Male Connector - Not a Gender Biased Term
While it may seem humorous to call any type of connector with protrusions "male," it is a basic form of connector identification. The male connection may be attached to a cable, some type of hardware or one or more wires. For instance, a home consists of many male connectors.
A two-pronged electrical plug is one example. The male connector is designed to be inserted into another piece of equipment. Using the electrical plug as an example, if the electrical plug doesn't fit snuggly into the electrical outlet, the end result is no connection to the electrical impulse in the outlet.
Which is needed more in this case is debatable. Without the plug, the outlet is useless. Without the outlet, the plug is just a plug with two prongs.
Other Types of Male Connectors
There are other easily identifiable male connectors. One familiar to most people easy to identify is their USB cable plug. At the end of a USB cable is a plug that connects to a modem or computer. These USB plugs are intended to meet computer system standards in order to be useful.
Often, male connectors have a series of prongs or "pins" that originate from a small base or adapter. It's important to understand the use of male connectors. In certain instances, there are male to male connectors attached to adaptors for the purpose of dual connections. Male connections range in size, depending on the specification for use.
Female connectors, like male connectors, may be attached to hardware, wires or cables. This is where the similarity ends. Female connectors have small holes or openings into which a male connector can be inserted.
Using the example of the electrical outlet, note the openings in the outlet await insertion of an electrical plug.
Computers also have several female connectors that allow insertion of cables for keyboards, monitors and other computerized devices. Female connectors also vary in size as evidenced by the size of female connectors on computers that allow for insertion of the USB cable.
A female connector in industrial projects may be as small as a 3/4 inch coupler or fastener or as large as a six foot pipe. Industrial female connectors may have a series of "threads" into which the male connector is inserted and tightened.
Schematic Symbols for Male and Female Connectors
For a more visible image of male and female connectors, mechanical engineers use schematic symbols. The male symbol appears as a horizontal arrow with the tip pointed outward. The female symbol appears like a letter "Y" on its side.
These symbols represent "sender" and "receiver" images, not unlike symbols used for Mars and Venus.
How to Use Male and Female Connectors
In most cases, male or female connectors can be added one to the other for a multitude of uses. Children often learn to use male and female connectors with toys that snap together such as Tinker Toys. Which male and female connectors you need depend on how they will be used. You need electrical outlets and plugs for lighting and small appliances.