Never Pay for a Programming Header Again!

Off-board connectors are expensive to purchase and usually expensive to install.  If they are necessary for a design, then you have to bite the bullet and purchase them.  Fortunately, the cost is amortized over the lifetime of the project.  For most electronics projects though, the often-used rectangular programming headers are one-time-use devices — and it’s hard to justify the extra BOM expense for a part whose entire useful lifetime is about three minutes.

For large projects, most engineers get around this by creating a spring-loaded test/programming fixture.  But the cost of that is usually 4-5 figures.  So what’s a medium-sized project engineer to do?

Enter the Tag-Connect — a one-time purchase / many-time-use spring-loaded programmer.  These cables plug into your favorite programmer/debugger and transfer signals and power between your programmer and your PCB. 

Image of 10-pin tag-connect from tag-connect.com.

After you purchase the connector, you simply need to add a test-point to your pcb-layout library and voila, you’ve got a free programming header for all of your future projects.

This footprint provides the other half of the mating connection. Image from https://www.tag-connect.com/product/tc2050-nl-fp-footprint.

As projects continue to decrease in size, some engineers don’t want to sacrifice the layout space, so the folks over at tag-connect have created edge-connect — headers that connect through castellated vias on the perimeter of a PCB.

Granted, the tag-connect and edge-connect won’t be right for every project, but it’s another idea to add to your toolkit in case it makes sense for a future project.

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