Conductors are vital to the success of any custom wiring project. The Pros and Cons of Cable Assembly Conductor Materials.
As soon as the topic of Cable Assembly Conductor Material is brought up during the cable manufacturing and design process, you likely envision a long strand of copper and assume that is what goes into all wiring products. However, as with everything involving wiring – it’s much more complex than that. Two of the most common conductors used when cabling industrial wiring are bare wire and tinned wire.
While they each have their own benefits, they also come with their own set of downsides depending on the product and environment that they will be housed in. It’s important to utilize your manufacturer’s insight and expertise when choosing a conductor for your cable’s wiring, and are not just choosing one over the other based on price. This can be detrimental to the final product and prevent the manufacturer’s cable assembly from being as effective as possible.
Here, we’ll discuss two of the most commonly used types of conductors and the pros and cons of each:
Cable Assembly Conductor Material: Bare Copper
As the name suggests, bare copper is simply a strand of copper without any type of coating on it.
Pros of Bare Copper
The major benefit of using bare copper is that it costs less than coated copper. An additional benefit of bare copper is that it does not take as long to produce because it does not have to be covered with a fine layer of tin, so fewer materials are required for its production. Bare wire may be beneficial in reducing production time if the wiring has to be custom extruded, so it may be useful if there is an extreme need to speed up the production process. These factors combined can reduce the price of bare wire by as much as 15% compared to tinned wire.
Bare wire is also a great choice if your manufacturer intends to use crimp connectors. Crimp connectors can be used to connect wires to one another or to a terminal by clamping the metal arms of the connector tightly around the conductor. This method is more effective when used with bare wire than tinned wire. If a specific type of connector must be used, it’s important to take this into account before settling on a conductor and beginning to manufacture your product.
Cons of Bare Copper
An issue with bare copper is that it is susceptible to corrosion and oxidation. This oxidation is often visible as the copper begins to change color and turns green as a result of exposure to the elements. Over time, this oxidation begins to hinder the copper wire’s conductivity and may even corrode it to the point that the wires begin to degrade. To avoid this, solvents can be used to clean the wire, but this is a tedious process and requires the use of an array of chemicals. If the wire will not be housed in a spot that is easy to access and service, this may not be the best option for your product. If the wire will be stored in a relatively dry environment and will not be exposed to moisture or humidity, the bare copper wire may be suited for the project, as it is not likely to require this level of maintenance.
Cable Assembly Conductor Material: Tinned Copper
The copper conductor is housed in a thin layer of tin to protect it from the elements.
Pros of Tinned Copper
Tinned copper conductors are suited for custom cable that will be housed in humid conditions, near saltwater, and for products that require an extended lifespan. Because of this, this is often the preferred type of wiring used in the marine industry to protect the copper conductor from succumbing to oxidation. The tin used to cover these conductors can also add strength to the wiring system which can contribute to the longevity of the product.
Tinned cable is a useful Cable Assembly Conductor Material that requires a connector to be soldered onto the assembly’s cables. The tin coating is helpful when soldering terminals onto the wire and can make the process easier and more effective.
Cons of Tinned Copper
Tinned copper tends to be more expensive than bare copper as a result of the additional materials needed and the increased time and effort it takes to produce this type of wiring. Because of the price increase, many are hesitant to utilize this type of wiring for their products. Admittedly, this type of product can become increasingly expensive when creating a cable with multiple conductors in it, and depending on your product, each wire strand may need to be coated in tin individually. However, the additional functionality and lifespan of tinned copper often results in lasting benefits that outweigh the initial cost.
Choosing the right type of conductor material for your next project is dependent on your product’s intended lifespan, location, and the desired durability of the end product. It’s important to work closely with your manufacturer, engineers, and designers to determine the type of conductor that your product will need to be as effective as possible.