I have a system with an RS-485 bus master and up to 12 slaves. The master and slaves are located in different assemblies and are connected with an RS-485 bus that is inside a cable harness. The cable harness also provides power and other comms. The RS-485 bus is twisted shielded pair with 24 gauge conductors. All connectors are -38999 with 20 gauge contacts. There is no guarantee all slaves will be connected to the bus so I cannot route the bus into a slave and back out to shorten stub length. Data rate will be greater than 1Mbps - goal is 10Mbps if bus architecture will support it.

Total bus length is estimated to be about 12 feet long. Each stub on the harness is estimated to be about 6 inches from the main part of the harness. Stub length inside the slave assembly is about 2 feet. Stubs on the main harness are separated by about 8 inches.

My question is what is the best practice for 'attaching' a stub to the bus. Should each stub be spliced into the main twisted shielded pair? Or should the main bus be crimped into a single pin at each stubs' terminating connector, i.e., pin acts as splice for main bus? Or, is there a better option such as the inline bus couplers found in MIL-STD-1553 buses?

Two RS-485 Stub Attachment Ideas

Edit: The question is about whether splices or two wires in a single pin is a better method for tying into a bus or does it matter. It is understood shorter stub lengths are better and termination will only happen at the extreme ends of the bus (not on stubs).

  • \$\begingroup\$ What data rate are you going to use? \$\endgroup\$ – TemeV Jan 24 '19 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Updated question with data rate greater than 1Mbps but 10Mbps is goal. \$\endgroup\$ – Scottlysan Jan 24 '19 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would also be interested in an answer to what the best practice for this kind of problem is. The given answers so far do not answer this question. \$\endgroup\$ – anroesti May 4 '19 at 11:42

Without going into too much math, I'd say keeping the stub length shorter would be better because it would reduce transmission line effects:

Data transmission lines should always be terminated and stubs should be as short as possible to avoid signal reflections on the line. Proper termination requires the matching of the terminating resistors, RT, to the characteristic impedance, Z0, of the transmission cable. Because the RS-485 standard recommends cables with Z0 = 120 Ω, the cable trunk is commonly terminated with 120-Ω resistors, one at each cable end (see Figure 5, left).

Source: www.ti.com/lit/an/slla272c/slla272c.pdf

So use the Stub Starts at connector option, this means tying the bus at the pin and not using a splice. Keep capacitance low to improve bus performance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer. I edited the post so it's hopefully more clear my question is about the best practice for tying into the bus and not about where to terminate the bus. \$\endgroup\$ – Scottlysan Jan 24 '19 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Data transmission lines should always be terminated and stubs should be as short as possible to avoid signal reflections on the line." This means you should splice the bus at the connector. You should "Use the Stub Starts at connector option. Keep the stub as short as possible away from the bus \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Jan 24 '19 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ meta.stackexchange.com/questions/126180/… \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Jan 24 '19 at 17:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asserting either a splice with three wires or a pin crimped with two wires are viable options and neither is preferred over the other, i.e., that stub length trumps and should dictate how the stub attaches to the bus? \$\endgroup\$ – Scottlysan Jan 24 '19 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ It really depends on what you want in bus performance, if your running slow busses like 1Mbps then it probably doesn't matter. If you want to maximize performance, you'll make the stub length shorter. As far as splicing goes I couldn't comment on that unless I had connector specs and wiring requirements. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Jan 24 '19 at 18:51

See these MAXIM application notes on that. Basically, terminate only at the two ends, and keep stubs short (like your right hand connections) https://maximsupport.microsoftcrmportals.com/en-us/knowledgebase/article/000103009 https://maximsupport.microsoftcrmportals.com/en-us/knowledgebase/article/000099654 enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer. I edited the post to hopefully clarify my question is not about terminating the bus - what is the best method to tie into a twisted shielded pair with another twisted shielded pair. \$\endgroup\$ – Scottlysan Jan 24 '19 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I still think your right hand drawing is the way to go. \$\endgroup\$ – CrossRoads Jul 3 '19 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ 2 feet is not short for RS-485. \$\endgroup\$ – SteveSh Jan 16 '20 at 15:28

At the lengths of stubs you are talking about, it comes down to wiring convenience.

If you have a free choice (ie, you're designing the equipment), it all depends on what kind of connectors you're using

  • Putting two connectors on the equipment makes makes it quick and tidy, and can have the absolute minimal stub of a few millimetres. However, removing a node disconnects the downstream slaves temporarily.
  • Putting one connector on the equipment with a T-connector (if available for your connectors) solves this problem but the wiring isn't so nice
  • Putting the T in the main wiring with a "drop" cable means the bus is always fully connected, but more difficult to make changes. This also has the downside of giving the longest stubs.

Anyone who used 10Base2 connectors is probably still traumatised by how hard it was to fault-find: the T-connectors were always going wrong. Personally I tend to prefer "two sockets on slave device".


In direct answer to your question the right-hand topology is the better of the two. Shorter stubs are always better than longer stubs, unless you're deliberately looking for a suck out at some frequency, due to the quarter wave stub you have.

Have you run a signal integrity simulation of this? Based on my experience with RS-485 (and LVDS), a 2 foot stub (which is what you're stuck with inside the slave) is going to be a deal breaker with '485.

All of the the other things mentioned in the OP's question (connector type, type of splice, etc) is down in the noise compared to the problems you're going to see with 2 ft stubs.

I'll see if I can Hyperlynx working on my laptop. Been having problems since WIN10 was forced upon me.


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