A procurement professional’s guide to custom cable design terms and techniques.
While they’re something we all use every day, the majority of us don’t think about the cords that provide power and signal to the products that we rely on. Nor do we consider the tools, techniques, and designs that went into manufacturing and cabling these products. There’s much more to the design process than simply coating a piece of copper in plastic – industrial cable manufacturing is so much more complex than this. If you’ve been tasked with creating one of these designs or are working with a manufacturer to provide cabling solutions, you’re already aware of this. When choosing a manufacturer, it can be difficult to dig through the jargon and understand things like:
- What are the highest quality materials that can be used for your product’s cables?
- Does this manufacturer design custom cable frequently, or do they usually stick to stock cabling?
Because these questions can be tough to answer, we’ve created a guide to help those looking for custom design cables understand industry terms and buzzwords.
As a cable customer, it’s important that you understand how your product will be produced, serviced, and which production methods will be effective. This all starts in the design phase. This requires hands-on interaction between the manufacturer’s designers and the final product’s design team. Because cabling is so specific, it’s best to work with a manufacturer that has engineers on staff to custom design your cords and cables. During these discussions, the following elements are important to consider. These elements will help you to determine if your manufacturer understands the custom cable design that your product needs:
- Is the manufacturer asking if these cables will be housed in another product?
- If so, are they discussing the finished product’s functionality with you?
- Are they asking about the temperatures that the product needs to withstand or if it needs to be weather resistant?
- What type of signals does this customized cable need to carry and are the manufacturers willing to utilize multiple conductors?
These are a few things to address with your manufacturer to ensure that a quality product is produced.
After your custom cable has been sketched out, designed, and your manufacturer has addressed your initial design concerns – ask about the materials they intend to use. There is a great deal of variation here, but some materials to consider are:
- The conductor material: The conductor is what the signal or data is transferred through, there is a host of metals that can perform this function, including:
- Aluminum Conductor Steel Reinforced cabling – This is a very common type of conductor as it is highly conductive, sturdy, and cost effective. This makes this conductor great for designing cables that will span long lengths.
- Thermal Resistant Aluminum Alloy Conductors Steel Reinforced cabling – These conductors have a high carrying capacity and can handle higher temperatures than many other conductors. This high carrying capacity makes them ideal solutions for adding more power to lines and refitting them.
- Copper – This is the metal that most tend to think of as soon as they think of cabling. While this metal is highly conductive, it is also very susceptible to corrosion and can be costly.
- Jacketing material: This is the outer coating of your wire or cable. It can be made to withstand various elements including chemicals, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, and extreme temperatures. Some of the common types of jacketing that we utilize are:
- Polyurethane – This is an effective form of jacketing in environments that require a coating that is resistant to cuts. This coating is also very flexible but is not suited to extreme temperatures.
- Thermoplastic Elastomer – Sometimes also called Thermoplastic Rubber, is a common choice as it is fairly versatile and resistant to higher temperatures and abrasions.
- Polyvinyl Chloride – More commonly known as PVC, this form of jacketing is known for being durable and capable of withstanding high temperatures.
As a cable design customer, it can be difficult to understand all of the terms and industry jargon that are used during the design and production process. Cables designed for niche products can be particularly difficult to manufacture as a result of their highly specialized nature. This makes understanding the process and terminology used all the more difficult. We hope that our blogs and the advice found in them are helpful as you begin to work with a manufacturer. Custom cable design manufacturing can be difficult, but remember that there is no project too big or too small for Meridian Cable.