So, you need a custom cable, but don’t know what to look for in a cable assembly manufacturer.
One cable assembly manufacturer is not necessarily the same as another. Each has specific capabilities and experience that make them the right choice for designing and manufacturing different types of cable. But how do you even begin the search if you don’t know what questions to ask or information to provide?
Over the years, Meridian’s engineers have come up with a method to quickly determine what kind of cable assembly a customer needs that could be helpful when you are given the task of finding a wire and cable manufacturer.
Determining the General Type of Cable
The Meridian team starts with the simple assumption that all cable assemblies carry power or signal from one end to the other. The first step we take is to find out which the assembly needs to carry, or both. Since we extrude our own cable, we can handle any of these scenarios, but there are some power or signal cables we can’t make. Determining that from the beginning is critical for us and should be for you as well.
Power, for the most part, is easy to determine. The more power a cable needs to deliver, the more conductive material it requires. For example, it’s easy to pass 1 amp of current through a 24 awg conductor that is 1 foot long. However, bad things can happen very quickly if you try passing 20 amps through a 24 awg conductor. We don’t make high power cables at Meridian. If the power transmission requirements are above about 40 amps, we are upfront with the customer about our capabilities. Since we’ve been around long enough to know which companies do extrude high power cables, we will happily share that information.
It should be noted that, with power, often all you need to know is the voltage and current. In many cases, customers don’t have this information, but they do know what is on either end of the needed assembly. Most times, we can make a rough determination of the voltage and current by knowing what devices the assembly is connecting. From there, the design can be narrowed significantly enough to get the process moving.
Signals, for the most part, are complicated. Sure it’s all data, but new ways of transferring data are created all the time. For example, think of your TV 10, 20, or 30 years ago. (Some of us here at Meridian are old enough to remember TVs 30 years ago.) The number and types of connectors on the backs of TVs have changed radically over the years, but all those connectors pass signals. 30 years ago, it was not uncommon for two wires to come from an antenna on top of the TV or up on the roof. All the antennae cable passed was the image that appeared on the screen — without any data about time, channel, audio, etc. Now, the typical input is an HDMI cable that carries a ton of data — some slow, some fast, but all signals.
It’s vitally important to communicate what types of signals your cables need to carry at the beginning of your search for a cable assembly manufacturer. For example, Meridian is capable of manufacturing a wide variety of cables that carry signals. However, we are not able to make coax cables that carry signals in the high gigahertz range. Having candid initial conversations with clear requirements can save you a lot of time. The good news is you don’t need to know the exact technical parameters or specifications that will be transmitted for cable. Often, knowing the gadgets to be connected to the cable assembly and any standards the signals must conform to helps the Meridian team determine whether we can make the cable or not. If we can’t, we’ll be happy to let you know companies that can.
Questions to Consider before Talking to a Cable Assembly Manufacturer
If you are tasked with finding a cable assembly vendor, here is a simple checklist of questions to think through before you start reaching out:
- Can samples be made with off-the-shelf cable? If yes, then you can go to a lot of different vendors. If not then you need a vendor who can extrude cable, like Meridian.
- Does the cable need to carry signal, power or both? If only signal or power that makes it a lot easier to find a vendor. If it needs to carry both then a custom cable extruder like Meridian might be needed.
- If power is needed; how much? This can be expressed in technical terms (voltage/current) or by knowing what items need the power. For example, a cell phone, data input tablet, fork truck or nuclear power plant.
- If signal is needed; what kind? Many signals have technical names/specification numbers. If those are known the problem is solved and if not knowing the devices passing/receiving the signal will go a long way in determining what is needed.
- Lastly, how many assemblies are needed? This can be as low as one up to millions. It can be several for prototype, then more for Beta/First Articles/PPAP, and then on to production quantities. All vendors have a volume sweet spot. Knowing the quantity can often help save valuable time ruling vendors both in and out.
Hopefully this very simple guideline helped. (Apologies to any engineers who read this and found some of it is not technically pure. We’re happy to talk more technically…maybe a little too happy.) Obviously, there are many items to consider when designing and producing a custom cable assembly. This basic approach will help make the process of finding the right cable assembly manufacturer a little easier.
At Meridian, we have experienced designing and extruding a wide range of custom cables. If you’re ready to talk about what we can do for you, please get in touch.