The 5 Types of Cable Assemblies You Need to Know

molded cable assembly

Hitting the open market in search of the cable assembly you need for your unique project can be difficult. You have a custom system meant for a very specific purpose and you are looking for a cable assembly that will perform flawlessly within those parameters. Ensuring our clients have the best solutions for their complex issues is something our engineers and design team loves to do. As you ponder your project’s needs, read on for a closer look at five of the more common cable assemblies available with examples for environments where these assemblies can be best employed.

Coaxial Cable Assemblies

Assembled coaxial round, coaxial, or just “coax” cable is not new on the scene and for good reason. These little workhorses perform exceedingly well year in and year out. You probably do not have to look far around you to spot one in use – often a round black or white cable with a signature metal connector with a pin in the middle called an “F-type” connector, you hook up to your TV. Coaxial cable assemblies utilize a bundle of coax cables with any number of different terminations, connections, etc. added all to achieve the given objective in the most efficient means possible. This is where custom cable assembly manufacturers hold a significant lead over off-the-shelf or generic cable assemblies. 

Our engineers utilize the best combination of components to produce a product that works perfectly. Not, “good enough” or “just okay”. Imagine the chagrin that would ensue when a coaxial cable assembly fails prematurely and the gathering at your house misses out on the Super Bowl! Okay, so maybe watching the Super Bowl is not as critical as a piece of lifesaving medical equipment or communications instruments for our military but the exact same process from design through manufacturing is employed so our clients know they can count on our products to perform as they are intended for years to come. This is why we’ve enjoyed decades as leaders in the custom cable assembly.

What is a coaxial cable assembly used for?

At its core, coaxial is a transmitter. It helps connect radio transmitters/receivers to antennas, aids in computer ethernet connection, digital audio applications, and disseminating television signals. The coaxial cable transmits electrical signals by way of an inner conductor, usually copper, which is then insulated with a dielectric material, then wrapped in some form of shielding such as woven copper, and then wrapped up in a signature plastic jacket. Coaxial is still in use because it limits signal loss and degradation – making it very efficient at transmitting a signal.

Different Types of Coaxial Cable Assemblies

  • Hard line: used for broadcasting and radio communications. Constructed of a round copper or precious metal tubing. Hardline cables need to be able to withstand the elements so usually have special connections. Often hardline cables are thick and used to go between a ground transmitter and an antenna.
  • Radiating: also referred to as “leaky” cable, radiating cable is similar to hardline with the exception of small slots cut directly into the shield. Each slot gets a specific tune of radio frequency band/wavelength for specific transmitters and receivers. This often includes areas where antennas would not work – places like elevators, ships, or an underground subway tunnel. 
  • RG-6: often referred to as a “plain/house” cable, RG-6, as you might have guessed, is used in and around housing. Different types of RG-6 carry out different functions around your house. Think about the buried cable running from your internet provider’s signal box to your home. This cable needs special considerations like being pumped with a special gel that makes it waterproof. Others like a messenger line for RG-6 has steel wire added so that the cable can withstand the tension from running down a utility pole. 
  • Triaxial: coaxial cable with another (third) layer of shielding. This other shield acts as a ground and protects the inside shield from outside EMI.
  • Twin axial: allows for multiple conductors with its twisted pair of coaxials all within the same shield. Twin axial also helps create excellent signal transference.  
  • Semi rigid: coaxial cable with minimum flexure due to the solid outer sheath usually made of copper. A cool application is within a spectrum analyzer, which measures the magnitude and frequency of known and unknown signals.
  • Rigid line: these coaxials do not bend and are used for high power transmission applications. 

Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies

As their name implies, flat ribbon cable assemblies are flat – a neat row of wires that are neatly organized in a ribbon-like shape. Thinking of opening your computer, you will probably remember seeing an assortment of flat ribbon cable assemblies providing the transmission of power, signal, or data. 

Flat ribbon cable assemblies’ characteristic shape helps them fit in confined spaces, especially where width is an important design factor. They can also help with identification when different cables can be color-coded and easily spotted in line. Flat ribbon cable assemblies allow for mass termination with special connectors.

Cable Assemblies for Combating RFI/EMI

Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) & Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) are both different types of interference that exist all around us in our electronic dominated world. These interferences can really have a negative effect on a cable assembly’s ability to effectively transmit its power, data, or signal. Interference can easily degrade a signal to the point of not being sent/received. Imagine how devastating RFI or EMI could be in a military setting when troops on the ground are coordinating between units in the heat of battle. Thus, the necessity for cable assemblies with built-in defense mechanisms for combating RFI and EMI. 

The cable assembly’s shielding plays a huge role in protecting the electronic cables from RFI and EMI. Special materials like aluminized mylar and even fleece and cotton can all be utilized depending on the environmental factors that need to be mitigated against to provide the best operating environment for the assembly. Our design team tackles tough challenges like creating RF/EMI cable assemblies each and every day, contact us now to chat with a friendly expert over your project specs today.

Molded Cable Assemblies

Overmolds or molded cables are complete cable assemblies that have had their wires and connectors combined into one, seamless component. In order to accomplish this, the cable assembly has to be put in a mold where a molten plastic is then injected within the mold’s cavity space. When it has cooled and been made solid, it will have completely encapsulated the junction of the connector and the wire. 

Benefits of a Molded Cable Assembly:

  • Increased flexural strength at the point where the cable exits – the exact spot where the majority of the cable and connector movement will take place.
  • It creates a good resistance towards common factors like abrasion, shock, or impacts.
  • Aids in security when the components are safely encapsulated under a hard resin.
  • Increase the amount of available strain relief with increased pull strength.
  • It can make a component anywhere from waterproof to water-resistant, depending on the needs of the project.
  • Really helps with installation when a simple piece of an assembly comes with visual indication to assist with connecting.

Being able to design the tools needed to produce custom overmolds for a project is critical. With three decades in the industry, we’ve amassed more than 5,000 tools for creating overmolds and other components. Chances are good we already have the perfect overmold tooled, but if not we can create a one of a kind solution for a custom cable assembly.

Cable Assemblies for the Military

Military applications are known to be incredibly harsh. Harsh terrain, tough environmental factors, RFI/EMI, and some of the highest usage rates will likely greet a cable assembly destined for use in military settings. Our men and women in combat rely on cable assemblies like the ones we are proud to produce to do everything from fly a close run bomber mission in a supersonic fighter jet to allowing troops the ability to communicate with one another and their commanders, which are often worlds apart. 

We have built a specialized experience in creating cable assemblies made for strict military standards. Often cable assemblies for the military need to engineered with high flexural strength to withstand hundreds of thousands of cycles. With quick runs for long periods of time, flexural capability becomes key to keeping the electronic system functioning optimally. Our design team has an array of tooling available just for military applications such as customized strain reliefs and overmolded connectors made for the harshest of conditions.

Advantages of Custom Cable Assembly Manufacturers

There are many off the shelf options available for cable assemblies but while these may seem like a cheaper solution, we’ll show you how these can cost far more than a custom solution. The benefits of custom cable assembly manufacturing are many, including:

  1. Ability to Prototype: by creating several iterations of a given design, our team is able to look at how different combinations perform under the real-world conditions of its intended environment. Prototyping helps us analyze cost and project time to decipher the perfect path to meet the project’s budget and timeline.
  2. Testing: prototypes and even those that are not are all tested and retested to ensure functionality and safety. We even created our own testing laboratory to put our units through the most realistic testing possible. We maintain several automated Cirrus testers but have also created completely custom testing setups when the product they are testing is a brand new creation.
  3. Reduce Costs: with our approach, we will map out the best components, the best sourcing plans, reserve the right tools in our project plan, and create a roadmap that leads to an on time and on budget project. With an off the shelf cable assembly, you are taking a gamble as to how it will stand up within your system. We know just how costly delays are, so engineer our products to work as intended cycle after cycle.
  4. Fits Your System Perfectly: rather than a generic unit, a custom cable assembly is just that, custom. The custom cable assembly we provide will be perfectly suited to solve the issue at hand, in the most efficient means possible.
  5. Certified for Quality: any custom cable assembly manufacturer of merit needs to be certified by the ISO for quality control and quality assurance and needs to use UL certified components. Maintaining our ISO 9001:2015 and being UL approved ensures clients know that the products that they are using in their critical applications have come from a reputable company, producing the highest quality products. Off the shelf cable assemblies will be hard to determine exactly where the various components came together.

How Meridian Does Custom Cable Assemblies Differently 

We are glad that you are exploring Meridian Cable for your custom cable assembly needs. Our products include wire harnesses, coil cords, molded components, and all of the various connections and machinations needed to create the perfect connection within an electronic system. After three decades, we are proud to be known for our enthusiastic attention to quality. We ensure each and every product works, every single time because these products are simply too vital to fail. Contact our design team now to review your project’s specs and get the process started.