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An Up Close and Personal Look at a Fully Automated Cable Crimp Terminal Machine

At Meridian, we get to play with a lot of cool toys in our day-to-day. In fact, we have over 5,000 existing tools and components to build the perfect custom ribbon cable assemblies for the task at hand. One seriously powerful machine at our disposal is a fully-automated cable crimp terminal machine. This beast helps our engineers produce the perfect crimp for volume applications – saving time and money. Today’s series will dive into this crimp terminal machine and show you how this unique capability helps set Meridian’s ribbon cable assemblies apart from the competition.

How to Crimp Different Sized Flat Ribbon Cable 

When it comes to speeding up the process of crimping, nothing beats a fully automated cable crimp terminal machine. With incredible accuracy and precision built-in right in, an automated crimp provides a level of exactness at a speed that is simply not possible by manual methods. Let’s take a closer look at just what it takes to pull off such accuracy and precision, assembly after assembly. 

Getting Wires Ready to be Crimped 

Large and small gauge wire alike will all have to follow quite a few steps in the manufacturing process before it ever makes its way on the automated crimp machine. Even with a fully automated unit, our engineers have to be incredibly exact with the instructions they are providing to the unit via sophisticated design software. 

One of the most basic functions in the manufacturing process is feeding wire. When you have a really small wire gauge, putting even a fractional amount of excess stress will cause the wire’s integrity to be compromised. Even this basic function requires sophisticated equipment. The wires can be fed using several manner of devices such as a pneumatic or servomotor mechanism. There are even tools that use air to help propel wires through a guide tube so that they can be processed jam-free.

There are a thousand and one other considerations our engineers have to plan for in the design process to ensure a smooth build. Small wires tend to have really good memory, that is, it tends to want to go back to a previously-held shape, such as when it has come off a spool and wants to curl up when it is released. Other challenges our team overcomes with the grace borne of experience is in the cutting and stripping stage. Even if you have the best equipment in the industry, if the technicians powering the systems aren’t precise in the configuration of the blades, the process will not yield the kind of precision we require at Meridian. You also must have an absolute minimum wire overhang in this step in order to achieve consistent quality. Even for something as simple-sounding as cutting wire, the process can be incredibly complex and precise.

Let’s consider why this is. If you apply too much force, you can compress the wire and come out with an ovular shaped cut, instead of a circle. The circle shape is critical for attaching contacts and also terminations. This is also the case with stripping, where even the minutest excess will cause the conductor to be scraped or nicked, leading to a termination that’s not as strong or resistant to corrosive substances.

All of these tools require active maintenance and calibration to ensure they perform at the level of exactness required in this industry. As our flat and ribbon cable assemblies find themselves in everything from MILSPEC communications equipment to cutting-edge medical devices, we find it vital to seek perfection in every assembly we produce.

Setting Up the Cable Crimping Machine 

When wires are really small, they require more consideration to process. As the wires move forward in the process, you must have an applicator that is very precise. These help to provide a consistent position for the terminals. Any kind of damage or deformity to the terminals will compromise the connection. The kind of precision applicators we use help to put a complete conductor inside the terminal and then will align the crimper, terminal, and anvil. 

The automated crimping machine uses an applicator ram to push the crimper down and onto the barrel of the terminal. The force applied will actually deform the wire and barrel, but by applying just the right amount, our engineers create an airtight connection. Within the crimping machine, there are many different processes that can include crimping, an application of a sealant, and wire-end twisting and wire tinning. The software controlling the machine helps to keep the timing of these processes in perfect harmony. 

Positioning can make or break the crimping process so focusing on an absolutely perfect position for the wire conductor inside the terminal is a vital step. Even the slightest variance of being too long or two short will create it’s own list of problems and the conductivity can be severely compromised. If all the strands on a conductor don’t make it inside the barrel, you can also have issues with current degradation. Individual strands are far weaker by themselves and will be subject to outside variables.

Testing and Retesting Custom Ribbon Cable Assemblies 

All of this precision may sound easy when we’re using sophisticated automated machines but some of the small wire gauges we deal with can be really, really tiny, even down to around the thickness of a human hair. With small wires, trying to keep the terminal and anvil aligned can be downright difficult, because they are so diminutive. However, this is vital as asymmetry will compromise everything we’re trying to accomplish for our client. 

Some of the most precise ways to eliminate terminal feeding and/or alignment errors is by using a highly-tuned camera and software that auto-checks the alignment. Testing also involves not just the product, but also testing the equipment that produces it regularly. Our in-house engineers test our crimpers to make sure they are not worn.  Worn crimp dies might not be able to produce a uniform deformation to the terminal during the crimp. An imbalance can produce an asymmetrical crimp, which creates a weak point in the assembly

Keeping Automated Cable Crimp Terminal Machines in Alignment

Asymmetry can also occur when certain components aren’t precisely where they need to be. If a terminal isn’t oriented correctly or if an incorrect terminal accidentally makes it into the crimp area, you can get any number of crimping errors like too tight, too loose, or even errant conductor strands. Any of these errors can cause a ribbon cable assembly to simply not provide the level of conductivity required. Failure like this can simply be annoying when it comes to a connection or can be life-threatening if present in a medical device. No matter the circumstance, quality is absolutely key in custom ribbon cable assemblies.

One of the most likely culprits of asymmetry in the system is what’s known as “flash”. This is an excess of material on the sides of the terminal and on the anvil. When there’s too much flash, you can have an error with inserting the wires properly into the terminal, sealing properly, or causing a full break which would have a negative effect on performance. Our engineers test and retest each and every cable assembly before, during, and after manufacture to ensure a strict adherence to quality control standards.

Quality Assurance and Quality Control with Flat and Ribbon Cable

As a UL-approved manufacturing facility, we have to hold ourselves to a high standard in order to meet the rigorous requirements of continued quality assurance and quality control. As we’ve mentioned, this requires a lot of testing and retesting throughout the process in order to accomplish. 

Some of the many different tests our engineers perform with crimping include:

  • Crimp Force
  • Crimp Height and Width
  • Crimp Pull-Out Force
  • Crimp Strip Length
  • Measurement of Insulation Window
  • Bend cycle testing

When you’re running a test like crimp force monitoring, you need highly sophisticated testing equipment in order to detect any defects in what can be very small wires. Our fully automated cable crimp terminal machine has built-in crimp force monitoring that is highly sensitive and can detect when there is even the slightest error in a bad crimp. Another useful tool is the micrograph which is a photo of a cross section of the crimped terminal that’s then analyzed by microscope. Super precise optics and tricks like polishing and electrolyte staining help our engineers detect any defects, even when incredibly minute.

How to Begin a Custom Ribbon Cable Assembly Order

With the tools and equipment available to our brilliant design staff, Meridian is able to pull off some truly remarkable custom ribbon builds. We provide a seamless and fully integrated process, from initial concept design, through prototyping, and onto volume production. We can even help get your product certified, whenever that’s needed. When you’re ready to go over your project’s flat ribbon cable specifications, please use our handy contact form. You can also call 1-877-806-8667 or email us at sales@meridiancableassemblies.com.

The Cable Guru’s Guide to Flat and Ribbon Cable Assemblies

colorful ribbon cables

If you’ve ever popped open your PC, you’ve no doubt seen a host of flat or ribbon cable assemblies connecting your computer’s various components. This uniquely-suited cable assembly provides a host of possible applications, especially where space constraints are a factor. 

In today’s spotlight series, we’re covering everything you need to know about this humble workhorse and detailing ways that flat and ribbon cable assemblies can significantly save your project time and money.

Flat Cable Assemblies vs. Ribbon Cable Assemblies

Flat cable assemblies, ribbon cable assemblies, even planar cable assemblies are all different ways of referring to the same unique type of cable assembly. Because the wires are laid flat and arranged parallel to one another, the finished product is wide and flat and resembles a length of ribbon – hence, ribbon cable. This shape makes it extremely flexible and able to fit in spaces where other cable assemblies would not be feasible. 

Because of the connector’s engineering, a flat ribbon cable assembly can accomplish many connections simultaneously, which helps save time and money in the overall assembly design and production. While ribbon cable assemblies can go by several different names, they are all referring to the same versatile product.

Meridian’s high-performance automatic cutting machine at work! This machine processes a plethora of wires and cables. 

Understanding the Specifications for Common Ribbon Cable Assemblies

You can tell ribbon cable assemblies apart with two key measures – the spacing, also known as “pitch”, and how many conductors are used in the assembly. Spacing will almost always follow a set scale, but our team is well-versed in creating custom spacing solutions for a specific task at hand. The number of conductors used also follows a standardized scale, with options for customization available here as well. For the conductors themselves, we can use a variety of American Wire Gauge (AWG) sizes of stranded copper wire but ribbon cable assemblies typically run from 18 AWG to 34 AWG.  

Main Advantages of Ribbon Cable Assemblies 

Flat ribbon cable assemblies terminate into an industry-standard insulation displacement contact (IDC) socket. This means that flat ribbon cable is one of the most versatile cable assemblies on the market today. They are well suited for wire-to-board applications that are commonly found in telecommunications, networking, medical devices, industrial control systems, military applications, gaming, and a whole host of others.

Different Types of Ribbon Cable Connectors

With a wide variety of different cable connectors available for flat ribbon cable assemblies, Meridian can produce the perfect connector to fit within the application. Because the connectors allow for multiple connections simultaneously, our design engineers focus on providing the perfect components to match the existing system being implemented.

A few of the most common types of ribbon cable connectors include:

  • D-Subminiature (d-sub): a common type of ribbon cable connector so-named because of the “D” shape of their metal shield. You’ll recognize these connectors as the type usually used to connect components like monitors to your desktop computer. D-subs come in a wide variety of types all their own including M-single, F-single, M-M, and F-F. Different elements like strain relief and inserts can help customize the perfect d-sub connector for your project’s unique application.
  • Socket: too many of these versatile socket-type ribbon connectors exist to list but a few of the different variety include socket to cable, socket to cable T-P, and socket to socket.
  • Dips: dip connectors help provide a sharp 90-degree turn for the termination. They can be dip to single and dip to dip with a great many variations within those two broad categories.
  • Card Edge: resembling a credit card slot on a payment device, the card edge connector is available in varieties like the card edge to single without flange and card edge to single with drilled flange. 

Our design engineers know each of these connectors inside and out and combine decades of experience in cable assembly production to pull off some incredible feats for our clients. No matter the environment, complex specifications, or logistical challenges, our team can produce the perfect ribbon cable assembly connections needed for your custom project. 

How we Create Custom Ribbon Cable Assemblies

At our core, Meridian is, and always will be, a custom cable assembly design firm. We employ teams of in-house engineers and designers with many years of experience producing custom cable assemblies for every conceivable industry. Rare indeed is the ribbon cable assembly that goes from design to volume production without thousands of steps in between that continuously test and tweak until the perfect solution is achieved. 

Some of the many steps our dedicated project managers help keep on-track include:

  • Ribbon Cable Assembly Design Phase

When our design engineers first sit down with our clients looking for ribbon cable assemblies, they take the time to get to know the specifications needed, as good, if not better, than the client themselves. In this way, we design the perfect solution to meet the needs of the project, rather than trying to make the project fit with an off-the-shelf solution. 

With state-of-the-art CAD design software, our team sets to work to build the perfect amalgamation of wires, connectors, terminations, and other components in a digital space before the first physical pieces ever come together. Once these designs are exact, our design team will move to prototype to start testing how everything comes together in the real world.

  • Prototyping Steps for Flat Ribbon Cable Projects

The prototyping phase allows our engineers the opportunity to test a few different combinations for the materials and/or processes used in a particular flat ribbon cable assembly. We test each unit for integrity, stability, safety, and functionality and see how that specific unit’s components work together. One crucial piece of prototyping is testing different sourcing logistics. Knowing the most efficient means of producing the best variation of a particular assembly is how we’re able to consistently provide dependable products to our clients.

  • Getting Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies into Volume Production

Once we’re sure which iteration provides the best combination of form and function, we’ll move ahead with volume producing the assemblies per the project specs. Over time, we’ve built our existing tool crib into a virtual library of more than 5,000 tools, connectors, and other components available for use during production. Honing our process using Kanban manufacturing techniques and just-in-time ordering, we are always aiming to make our processes more efficient. 

  • Simulating Real-World Conditions in the Advanced Life Testing Lab

Cable assemblies are destined for any number of harsh environments and our design team has to take into account any environmental factors that can hinder the cables’ performance. 

In our Advanced Life Testing Lab (arguably one of the most fun places in our production facility), our quality assurance engineers subject the flat ribbon cable assemblies to variables like extreme temps, saltwater, abrasion, flexing, and more, all to ensure that the components we’re using can meet the demands of the project. 

When our ribbon cables are helping to power things like life-saving medical equipment, anything less than a perfect solution won’t make it past our stringent quality standards.

All of these phases require many steps in between in order to go from concept to finished assembly, ready to be implemented by the customer into their existing system. While there are many processes that must occur at proper intervals to keep a project on-time and on-budget, our dedicated project managers handle the entire project with professionalism and the confidence that comes from decades of experience as a custom cable assembly manufacturer.

How Using Ribbon Cable Assemblies Can Save Your Project Money

Flat ribbon cable assemblies are so easy to terminate because of a fixed and controlled spacing plan. This allows for ribbon cables to be able to be mass terminated using the IDC connectors we covered earlier. Typical IDC connectors will use a type of forked-contact that is able to go through insulation in order to make contact with a conductor. While there are times when one end of a cable will utilize an IDC connector and the other may be soldered or crimped, most often, both ends of a ribbon cable assembly will have IDC connectors installed. 

Because the IDCs help simplifies the termination, integration of a flat ribbon cable assembly is extremely easy to accomplish, saving the project time and money over implementing a less-desirable solution. 

Why Choose Meridian? 

At Meridian, we design well over 70% of the assemblies that we produce. With a process honed from years of providing the best quality in custom cable assembly manufacturing available, we are able to provide a turn-key solution to clients around the globe. 

Our wholly-owned manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and China means our team has control over every aspect of the design, production, and delivery of your custom flat ribbon cable assembly and can ensure the product functions dependably, cycle-after-cycle. 

Start Your Flat and Ribbon Cable Assembly Project Now

Contact our team of dedicated professionals today for an entirely different custom cable design experience. We can work within your budget to produce the perfect solution for your unique application. Get a quote through our handy contact form, call us at 1-877-806-8667, or email sales@meridiancableassemblies.com

The Ultimate Guide to Different Cable Colors and Their Purposes

At Meridian, we are asked all the time if the colors for different wires and cables follow any industry standard. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a worldwide trade association, does, in fact, issue guidance for standardization in electrical design, but the key point is that their standards don’t actually get into the details of specifying cable colors as they pertain to a specific purpose or function. Rather, the push for standardization in this arena has been more on the private industry side, with the telecommunications industry leading the way. Here, we’ll dive into the wide world of cable colors, what they mean, and what purposes they serve.

Cable Color Standards 101

First and foremost when it comes to cable color standards, one must realize that while there are institutions like the IEEE helping to provide some standardization, there isn’t yet a universally-accepted standard or even requirement in most industries. The color scheme used in one industry can be totally different from what’s used in another and can vary significantly depending on exactly when the system was put in place. 

Remember the iPhone and the first true smartphone didn’t make its appearance until 2007, with that came a huge push for new telecommunications infrastructure to support it. So, depending on the timeframe when the cables are installed in their given systems, their color standards will pretty much cover the full spectrum. 

Adding to the lack of standardization in cable colors is the variance from one country to another. With today’s global logistics, a company in the U.S. may be sourcing their cables from several different foreign countries that all use different color schemes. With the guidance issued by the IEEE, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and other industry requirements, such as those for the DOD, standardization is possible but may be a long time coming. However, next we’ll see how different cable colors can serve specific purposes in different applications. 

What Do Different Colored Ethernet Cables Mean?

Ethernet cables are a very common type of cable used in computer networking. They are used both in residential and commercial applications when a wired network is desired for data sharing and access to the internet. Most often an internet router uses ethernet cables in order to connect to a cable modem and will come with the kit your cable company sends you when you first sign up for services. 

However, if you’ve ever had more than one cable company or even have had one service for a number of years, you know that the ethernet cable color can vary. So, what do the different colors mean for ethernet cables? Are different colors faster than others? To find out, we’ll take a closer look at color coding specifically for ethernet cables.

  • What Color is an Ethernet Cable?

Like all cables, ethernet cables can come in several different colors. One color isn’t “better” or “faster” than another cable, but the colors can help denote the intended application. The most common colors seen with ethernet cables are grey, blue, yellow, orange, and white. If the ethernet cable is destined to be outside, it will often be black and waterproof to help it survive longer in the elements. 

  • Ethernet Cable Colors Meaning

As we’ve seen, the meaning of the color of an ethernet cable can vary depending on the where, who, and why of the intended environment. For example, with the Department of Defense (DoD), the government uses different colors of ethernet cords in order to assign a given level of classification for the data being transmitted within the cable e.g. yellow for top secret, red for mid-level, and blue generally for unclassified data.

  • Color Code for Ethernet Wires

Again, while there is no direct industry standard for one color over another, there are a few consistencies worth mentioning: 

  • Gray Ethernet: Ethernet cables that are grey are often representative of a “standard” ethernet connection such as is found in residential and commercial networks. 
  • Green Ethernet: Green ethernet cables can be used to classify a crossover connection, which are used to connect different computers and/or devices directly together.
  • Yellow Ethernet: Yellow ethernet cables are generally used for what’s known as “power over internet” (POE) connections. Interestingly, this standard was developed by the IEEE in 2009 to help classify these cords which deliver a 30W current at the level of the port when used with an ethernet twisted cable pair.
  • Blue Ethernet: blue ethernet cables are usually used for terminal server connection. A terminal server makes connections to multiple systems to a LAN network possible without having to use a modem or other network interface.

The TIA is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to create and maintain industry standards, including those for color-coding used in cable manufacturing. While these are some of the closest to standards that exist today, most of the TIA’s wiring color management schema is still viewed as a recommendation rather than a requirement. Until universal adoption takes place, there will most likely be many different colors used in ethernet cable colors. 

Patch Cable Color Standards

As we’ve come to expect, patch cable color standards may be published by ANSI/TIA but within these recommendations, there has yet to be universal adoption. With patch cable color standards, the University of Wisconsin Network Services Department is leading the way through example by helping to define what colors are to be used for every cable system on their campus. 

The standard colors used with patch cord jackets by the University of Wisconsin include:

  • Grey – used for standard ethernet connections
  • Green – used for crossover ethernet connections
  • Yellow – used for POE connections
  • Orange – used for analog non-ethernet connections
  • Purple – used for digital non-ethernet connections
  • Blue – used for terminal server connections
  • Red – used for IP cameras
  • Black – used as a general color 
  • Pink – used as an additional color option
  • White – used as an additional color option

Depending on the client and the application patch cable colors can vary. The key, however, is simple – consistency. With any new system, staying with a consistent color scheme can help save time and money with implementation and maintenance, as well as prevent a lot of headaches in the future.

Cat6 Cable Color Standards

Whether it is a Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, or even Cat6a ethernet cable, the color code of the outside of the cable should not be confused with the internal twisted wires that have their own color code. The outside color scheme is far more generic, simply helping to draw attention to the purpose of the connection. While a Cat6 cable is a twisted pair network cable that’s used for ethernet networks, it is also backwards-compatible with other Categories like Cat5 and Cat5e. However, once again we see that industry standards that are used across the board are hard to come by. 

Some of the more common color standards for Cat6 cable include:

  • Blue – denotes network connectivity
  • Yellow – generally used for wired security cameras 
  • White – also used for wired security cameras
  • Grey – used as an interconnection, also known as “jumpers”
  • Black – generally used for equipment, peripherals, and/or workstations in a network
  • Red – commonly used with VoIP phone systems or other emergency communications systems.

Network Cable Color Chart

If you’ve spent anytime looking for network cable color charts online, you may have been frustrated at the lack of continuity with different schemes. As we’ve hit on, the color standards vary widely, but the ANSI/TIA did help this endeavor with their lengthy standard – Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings or ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-A. 

While the standard goes into tremendous detail for labeling and ease of identification, an actual color chart is hard to come by. Scouring the web, we were able to find a third-party site that published their version of the ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-A standards. 

Being from a third party, this chart is for informational purposes only, to help give our readers an idea of what a network cable color chart can look like:

A Final Look: Cat5e Blue vs. Grey

While the topic of many different internet forums, the difference between Cat5e blue and grey is the same as with the other cable colors we’ve looked at. The deciding factor here is only as far as the design engineer choosing a given color. This is highly subjective and depends on the many factors we’ve already discussed such as when the Cat5e cable was manufactured, where it was manufactured, and the industry it was manufactured for. 

Getting a Custom Cable Assembly Color-Coded Correctly

At Meridian, we custom create more than 70 percent of the products we produce. That means each custom cable is made to the exact specs of the client, to work as intended within whatever electrical system the assembly is destined for. One of the keys to our success here is in our ability to create a unit that is easy to integrate into the client’s existing systems. With decades of experience and some of the very best capabilities within custom cable manufacturing, we can design a color scheme that makes sense and that can be seamlessly integrated. 

Contact our team to go over your project’s specs today.

Wire Harness Projects: The Technical Skills Needed to Complete the Assembly

Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies

From the get go, a wire harness project can be fairly complex. Once the client has laid out their needs to our in-house engineers and designers, work begins to create the perfect solution for the unique situation. From simple hand tools through fully automated manufacturing equipment, our team employs the best techniques available in wire harness manufacturing today. 

In today’s spotlight series, we’ll focus on the skills employed by our manufacturing experts and the tools they use throughout the process. 

In a Land of Automation, Hand Tool Skills Still Reign Supreme

Wire harness manufacturing has never been more automated, with new technological advancements making the process so connected, so complex that you might think that the humble hand tool is simply a bygone contraption. However, even for today’s wire harness manufacturers, skills in various hand tools are necessary in order to produce even the most complex wire harnesses in use today.

Electronics infrastructure has absolutely exploded in the last decade and with it so has the need for more automated solutions. In fact, our team of expert craftsmen and women employ a bevy of sophisticated automated manufacturing and testing apparati throughout the production process. But the truth is, there are limitations to fully-automated systems that make them far more costly or time consuming than using a hand tool for a particular task. 

For example, with a custom wire harness, there may not even be a tool designed yet for testing the unit to ensure its functionality, safety, and integrity. That’s when our designers in our Advanced Life Testing Lab go to work to create a custom testing unit to test the new product.

Cutting-Edge Wire Harness Tools and Products We Use Everyday

For wire harness manufacturers, the process is only as good as the tools used to produce the product and the tools are only as good as the skilled hands employing them in that process. Over decades in the industry of custom cable and wire harness manufacturing, we have built up a massive tool crib – an industry term for the tools available to complete a project – to well over 5,000 existing tools for connectors, junctions, overmolds, and housings. 

These tools are used to create the cable assemblies and wire harnesses that are used heavily in the industrial manufacturing sectors, with military hardware and equipment, telecommunications, medical, and truly just about every conceivable industry out there. Our expertise with these tools allows our production team to design more than 70 percent of the assemblies and wiring harnesses Meridian produces. 

While 5,000 tools would be a lot to list here, we’ve compiled some of the essential, and easily overlooked, tools and components for producing the perfect cable and wire harness for the client’s unique requirement. 

  • Cable tying tools – even with a fairly “simple” hand tool like a cable tie, we use a wide selection of industry-approved styles and sizes, capable of using different materials and incorporating ergonomics to aid our manufacturers in keeping consistent tension around the cables. Hand cable tying tools can either be manual or pneumatic. We can also employ fully automatic cable tying systems when high-volume manufacturing is needed.
  • Cable tie mounting components – these components help to physically secure the cable ties into the rest of the assembly. With fairly broad selection here, we’re able to engineer wire harnesses with a high degree of installation flexibility.
  • Fixtures for wire harnesses – another “humble” tool that can get overlooked is the uniform spacing between wire bundles, attributing for distance and height from a wire harness board. This helps create a smooth cable tie application and can be incorporated either with hand tools or an automated tooling machine.
  • Printers and other media software – another easy to overlook tool in our tool crib are the custom printers and their associated software programs that allow our designers to incorporate the labels necessary to comply with set industry standards for identification and/or quality.
  • Ferrules – a ferrule is a small metal or plastic ring (depending on the requirements of the application) that is crimped over a stranded wire to secure, seal, and/or reinforce the connection to a terminal. A ferrule crimping tool is a vital necessity to accomplishing this task but crimping takes far more skill than you might realize. Too much or too little pressure can have negative results for the quality of the seal.
  • Built-in abrasion resistance products – our wire harness engineers have to design the perfect combination of components in order to ensure the functionality, safety, and integrity of every product we produce. Abrasion resistance products include elements like spiral wraps, heat shrinking, and grommet edging which help to protect the cables and wires, especially in tough environments.
  • Terminal tools – another custom crimping tool is used to help provide the perfect crimp for terminals. Without these, the system would not be able to function as it should. We can also use a fully automated termination system to speed up the process of crimping and indexing the connectors. This helps to maintain consistent, quality terminations. In some instances, automated termination can be up to 600 percent faster than manual termination.
  • Connector compression tools – there are a seemingly endless amount of compression connectors and terminals our gifted engineers incorporate into the system. Hand tools and automated compression machines help to ensure a uniform connection.

While these tools and products are undeniable necessities in our existing tool crib, we have many, many more vital tools and products at our disposal in order to produce a truly one-of-a-kind product for our clients. 

Advantages of Using Automated, Semi-Automated, and Hand Tooling All in One Process

You might think that fully automated systems are the way to go and why would anyone waste time anymore with a hand tool. However, there are many applications where an automated solution simply won’t provide the efficiency we need to stick to the design schedule. Often with custom wire harnesses, we’ll have to design the tools and testing equipment needed to ensure the system works as it is intended. 

Advantages to being able to employ the full spectrum of hand tools, semi-automated tooling, and fully automated tooling into our production process include:

  • Maximizing Uptime: uptime isn’t a term that’s thrown around alot, instead you often hear its opposite – downtime. With that in mind, uptime is a great measure of the reliability of your system as it shows just how long our tools and machines were up, running, and/or available to be used in the process. By using a full spectrum of different levels of automation in our tooling, we can maintain a much more consistent uptime percentage, which helps keep the production process running smoothly.
  • Reducing Cost: by focusing on keeping uptime percentages high, we can increase productivity which translates to lower costs.
  • Staying on Budget: reducing costs helps our project managers maintain a tighter adherence to the project budget.
  • Reducing Cycle Time: automation will almost always help to reduce the cycle time by increasing production speed. 
  • Sticking to the Project Timeline: by reducing cycle times, our project managers are able to better keep to the major project steps, which need to occur at specific timing intervals because different processes have different lead times. 
  • Creating Ease of Integration: as our design and manufacturing teams flex their muscle and produce custom wire harnesses that get the job done, the project would be meaningless if that component failed to integrate into the client’s electrical systems. That’s why we employ such a wide variety of tools and equipment to produce not only a functioning and safe wire harness or cable assembly, but also one that integrates easily into the client’s systems.
  • Increasing Flexibility of Design Process: lastly, the diversity of tools and the requisite knowledge in using them properly means our design team has an unmatched level of flexibility for choosing the perfect amalgamation of tools and materials to get the project done on-time and on-budget. 

The advantages for a custom wiring harness manufacturer having expertise and availability with hand tools, semi-automated, and fully automated tooling systems are many. While hand tooling may seem antiquated, our sophisticated operators are employing some of the most advanced tools on the planet to keep our various electrical infrastructures connected.

First Steps for Starting Your Custom Wiring Harness Project 

When looking over your options for wire harnesses manufacturers out there, be sure to examine both their capability and their track record. We are both proud and humbled to have been able to produce in so many different applications. Everything from the wire harnesses used in cutting edge medical equipment saving lives, to the electrical equipment keeping our troops connected, the industrial control systems powering our nation’s largest manufacturing and municipal processes, and so many more applications over our many decades in this business. 

When you’re ready to begin your custom wire harness design project, please contact our team of gifted engineers. We’ll help you create the perfect set-up for your project and have the demonstrable experience to keep the project on-time and on-budget. Contact us now to get your project started.

Quality Control: How to Test a Custom Cable Assembly

Leading Custom Cable Manufacturer | Meridian Cable

Custom cable assemblies can be fairly complex; with branches of connectors, terminations, and specialty components made just for the task at hand. The same sophisticated system that can help power industrial control systems, advanced medical instruments, and even a fighter jet, is only as good as each and every component that goes into the system. With Meridian, this requires some next-level testing techniques. 

Here, we’ll highlight all the steps of a cable assembly inspection checklist and the many ways our design team ensures our products are tested and retested for continuity, integrity, polarity and functionality before they’re ever shipped.

What Testing Looks Like for Custom Cable Manufacturers

When a custom cable assembly is being developed, it will have to undergo many different rounds of testing. This could be electrical in nature, or in relation to the mechanical appurtenances, environmental variables, or any number of different testing techniques for the purpose of validating the integrity of the design. 

With a successful test, our design engineers know that the critical components meet their intended ranges. It is not until all the different qualifications-based testing is complete, that volume manufacturing will be undertaken. Many products will require more testing both within the manufacturing process, and once complete, to make absolutely certain the cable assembly components are performing in range. 

The design team are true masters of knowing the perfect tests to perform to ensure the product works as it should. Tests can take time and need to be factored into a rock-solid project schedule to ensure the custom cable assembly project remains on-time and on-budget from start to finish. Any design-build custom cable assembly manufacturer worth their weight should have a stringent cable and harness inspection checklist in place.

How to Test a Custom Cable Assembly for Continuity

Cable assemblies essentially connect one device to another in an electrical system. Therefore, an electrical continuity test to ensure this function is both basic and crucial. A test for electrical continuity makes certain that the wires and connectors have been assembled correctly because there is an electrical current flowing. Measuring for the electrical resistance and for a free-flowing electrical connection helps our design engineers spot any points where a conductor and/or wire may be damaged or otherwise impeding the flow. 

For this test, we get to use some pretty cool equipment like a multimeter device. This little electrical testing machine applies voltage to the portion of the cable assembly being tested to get an accurate measure of the resistance being faced. Even cooler, often we’ll be able to set up this test in an automated system so that we can test multiple branches of the custom cable assembly at one time. For a custom product, this can create some high-level tweaks to design a testing procedure that accurately measures all of the benchmarks the assembly needs to hit in order to roll off the assembly line with our engineers’ mark of approval.

Another electrical test our in-house engineers employ is called a high potential (HIPOT) or high voltage test. HIPOT testing involves making certain that the insulating jacket in the cable contains no defects in its design or some other form of degradation. By using a very high voltage between two conductors in the assembly, a large amount of stress is placed on the insulating materials and connectors. If the connectors can all withstand the effects of having high voltage shot through them for a specific time frame, it is a good indicator the unit will perform well under normal conditions.

Testing Custom Cable Assemblies for Integrity

custom-cable

Structural integrity is absolutely crucial for any cable assembly, as it’s going to have to perform its duties under real-world conditions, not just in our manufacturing facilities. There are a wide number of different tests that can be used to help design staff know the relative strength of the cable assembly and its ability to resist things like fatigue and abrasion. 

Two mechanical integrity tests that are standard for custom cable assembly manufacturers include a pull test and a flex test.

  • Pull Test – this helps our design team see the points of failure for the wires, connectors, and other components in the system. With a measured approach, we can know the exact weight load that the system’s architecture can withstand. This is especially useful when a client has a specific load in mind e.g. the cable assembly must be able to stand up to no less than 50 pounds of tension without its integrity being compromised. There are several variations on the pull test that can be run to achieve the desired computation. For example a pull and break, as it sounds, tests the components to failure where, conversely, a pull and hold tests the components being held at a constant rate for a specific period of time. The pull test can involve sophisticated automated testing units or can be as simple as a cable assembly with a weight attached.
  • Flex Test – thinking of a cable assembly being employed in its intended environment, the components are going to be twisted and bent in all manner of different ways as it is fitted within the structure of the overall product such as inside an automobile. The cable assembly doesn’t just naturally have the ability to flex for a lifetime without breaking, it’s a very specific engineering consideration of the design process. Hence, the necessity of performing a flex test with just about every custom cable assembly that’s ever produced. Special flexural strength machines can be used to evaluate the assembly’s durability while being flexed and bent to ensure the components – the jackets, sleeves, and other materials – are the right combination for the assembly’s intended environment.

Whatever test is used, our design engineers employ the right steps of a mechanical integrity test in order to ensure the unit is absolutely solid before it ever reaches the client and can withstand exactly what’s being asked of it cycle after cycle. 

How to Perform a Harness Inspection Checklist for Polarity

Polarity configuration is important to be able to test before a cable assembly is ready to be employed. Typical polarities in cable assembly manufacturing run “a”, “b”, and “c”, each with their own specifications. With the evolution of new components, so comes the evolution of new testing techniques. Some of the sophisticated testing units we use can perform simultaneous checks at once such as a polarity check and a continuity check. This helps save time and keeps the project on schedule.

How we Test a Cable Assembly for Functionality

How the unit will perform in the field is arguably one of the most important tests we can do to ensure the unit meets the standards it needs to. To do this, we designed our very own advanced life testing lab where our design engineers get to throw all manner of different environmental factors at an assembly and measure how it responds to certain variables. The custom cable assembly may be subject to incredibly harsh conditions, especially when employed by our men and women in the military, so the components need to be able to withstand these. 

Some of the tests our design team will look at during this phase can include:

  • Extreme temperatures
  • Airtight/Watertight 
  • Salt water corrosion
  • Chemical resistance

For many components, these tests aren’t nice “options” to add onto your order, they are absolutely critical for the success of the system. Whether the application is medical, military, telecommunications, or some other critical function, we know our clients rely on the custom cable assembly our team produces which is why we subject the components to so many different environmental factors. This helps the design team spot any weaknesses that need to be tweaked and mitigated against. 

How we Test a Cable Assembly for all the above

Many times a cable assembly must be tested for continuity, polarity, integrity, hi-pot and for any embedded components such as resistors, capacitors or diodes.  While it is possible to test each parameter as described above, that could be a lengthy process, not cost effective and possibly miss something.

When an assembly requires these multiple levels of testing it is best to use an automated, computerized tester.  Here at Meridian we use Cirrus testers.  Our engineers create a “golden sample” that is tested by hand using various methods.  Once the “golden sample” is confirmed it is used to program the computerized tester.  Once programmed the tester can be used to test all the remaining assemblies, and do so much quicker.

Getting a Product Certified Through UL

With decades of experience as a custom cable assembly manufacturer of distinction and holding status as a UL-approved production facility, our team is quite gifted at helping get a client’s product certified through UL. We’ll help develop a sample that’s ready to be tested and UL’s design team will then put the components through their paces with a battery of testing to make sure it meets OSHA, ANSI, and other standards. Once a product meets all of the criteria, UL will issue a certificate that lets a UL-logo be placed on the products that are manufactured. That UL logo is recognized worldwide as a product that’s known to have been tested for safety and functionality. Not stopping there, our team can assist with the periodic audits UL performs, in place to ensure the continued adherence to UL standards.

Start Your Custom Cable Assembly Project Now

Our design engineers are gifted professionals, well-versed in designing the perfect testing parameters to ensure your product meets everything you’ll need it to do, safely and securely for the lifespan of the system. We take great pride in developing a comprehensive testing program that ensures each and every product off our assembly line has been tested until it has been made certain that it will perform as intended. 

Ready for a whole new experience with your custom cable design project? Contact our team now to get started. 

Everything You Need to Know About the SMA Connector

SMA Connector for RF Signals

The SMA connector is an incredible workhorse, offering a wide variety of applications from which it can provide the perfect solution. Because of its versatility, the SMA connector is used in every industry from telecommunications to medical. In today’s spotlight series, we’ll hone in on the venerable SMA RF connector, which provides a critical function in today’s cutting edge medical devices.

What is an SMA connector?

First off, SMA stands for sub-miniature type A. Subminiature connectors are small, hence the name, and are useful in high-frequency applications. This is because SMA connectors are able to provide a steady broadband connection from the KHz range on up to 18 GHz. The inherent reliability of the SMA connector is achieved from a constant impedance of 50 ohms and also because of its low reflection. Electrical impedance is simply a measure used to find the level of opposition that gets applied to a current inside a circuit when the voltage gets applied to it. 50 ohms is considered a good middle ground in the realm of standard characteristic impedance. 

SMA connectors can achieve low reflection and good attenuation because of their shape, which helps to maintain a uniform connection contact. The SMA is coaxial, with the characteristic screw-type coupler; however, these should not be confused with standard coaxial hooking up a home’s cable or internet. To hook up an SMA to a coax requires a special adapter. 

Standard SMA Connector Specs Snapshot:

  • Utilizes a one-quarter inch and 36 thread type coupler
  • Male SMA connectors use a five-sixteenths inch hex nut. This allows the application of torque by a standard one-half inch wrench. The applied torque can be used to easily tighten or loosen the connector.
  • Female SMA connectors utilize a thread for coupling that is 4.32 millimeters long.
  • Employs a special silicon rubber O-ring. This helps to provide separation between the body and the coupler which in turn creates a barrier to outside environmental factors like dust.

Even within a specialized connector like the SMA, there are several different types. Next up, we’ll focus on a Meridian specialty, the SMA RF connector, which provides the crucial connection many different devices in the medical industry rely on to run effectively.

How SMA RF Connectors Help Medical Breakthroughs Happen

RF stands for radio frequency and applies to a range of coaxial electrical connectors. The SMA is one of the most used of the RF-type connectors. Because of the screw-type coupler, the SMA is sturdy mechanically and offers durable performance throughout the life of the system – really important considerations for life-saving medical devices. 

SMA RF connectors come in a male and female variety to provide the crucial connections high frequency medical devices need to consistently send and receive power and data. Male SMA connectors are easily recognizable because they resemble a standard coaxial connection with a center pin inside of its threaded barrel. The female connector acts more like a sleeve which helps provide a good, sturdy connection between the types. Female connectors are usually affixed to a stable device and the male is then used in a removable wire connection for the greatest flexibility within the electrical system.

The sturdiness of construction, extremely reliable performance, and how it fits perfectly into the electrical system is what makes the SMA RF connector the go-to for fields with complex requirements like the medical industry. We produce tens of thousands of SMA RF connectors for medical devices each year. Designing and producing each to exacting standards, we are able to power the devices medical staff rely on to diagnose and treat patients every day. 

Designing the Perfect SMA RF Connector

SMA RF connectors can range from a single connector, customized to provide the perfect connection in an existing system, to a custom cable assembly that provides multiple SMA connections and adapters for providing the greatest range of application. Many SMA RF connectors available today utilize a right angle design but there are also straight angle designs available, all depending on the circuit. Right angle design is a popular choice because it helps maintain the impedance we discussed earlier at a standard level. 

Meridian’s gifted engineering and design team has to calculate the dimensions and structural components of the connection to incredible preciseness. Further, our production team must be absolutely flawless in their assembly, with special attention to the soldering. Too much soldering can lead to what’s known as an impedance mismatch. Impedance mismatch can also occur when the dimensions aren’t exactly right, a mechanical failure, or even when too much air surrounds the contact within the connection. 

Imagine if any of these were to occur during a risky surgery, where hospital staff is dependent upon the many medical devices around them utilizing SMA RF connectors. 

Different Ways to Mount SMA Connectors

  • Panel Mount: this is a female mount made for tough conditions like in the military and industrial settings. With a two-hole or four-hole configuration, panel mounts are easily applied to instrumentation and wireless infrastructure.
  • Bulkhead Mount: female mount with a thread length that is usually longer than the typical 4.3 millimeters to more easily attach to a wall or panel using a nut and washer.
  • Through-Hole Mount: can be vertical or 90 degrees and comes in non-magnetic varieties that are used often in the medical field.
  • Edge Mount: vertical mount that comes in both a standard and drop in variety. 

Losing signal or power mid-procedure isn’t an option which is why our clients have come to know they can depend on Meridian for a quality product that is designed to function as intended cycle-after-cycle.

Does UL-certification matter with SMA RF Connectors?

Creating a product for a device that literally can mean life and death for a patient is a matter no custom cable manufacturer should ever take lightly. We’ve already seen where small deficiencies in the connection can lead to catastrophic failure. This is one of the many reasons we utilize UL-certified components in all of our products, including the SMA RF connector. 

UL-certified components have been tested and verified for their structural integrity, durability, and overall functionality. This allows our design team to utilize components that have known and very specific operating ranges. In this way, we can piece together the perfect amalgamation for even the most complex custom cable assembly

Meridian is proud to utilize UL-certified components and to maintain status as a UL-approved manufacturing facility, having met the stringent quality assurance and quality control (QAQC) requirements of Underwriters Laboratories (UL). We also are proud to have had and continue to maintain our certification as ISO 9001:2015. This difficult to achieve certification requires demonstrable and exceedingly high QA/QC programs that focus not just on quality of the product, but of the entire process – which includes cradle to grave design, sourcing, prototyping, mass assembly, testing, but also emphasizes customer service/satisfaction. 

Making an SMA RF Connector That Performs Flawlessly in its Application

Impedance matching is a crucial step with custom SMA connectors. The design and test teams of Meridian rely on decades of experience in custom cable manufacturing to select the perfect SMA connector to do the job, in the environment, and in conjunction with the other elements of the system – especially terminations. These different components all must work in perfect harmony for the electrical system to perform as it should. 

To produce a one-of-a-kind solution that works perfectly in its intended environment, we are fanatical in our approach to quality. As discussed, quality starts with the very first client contact, through every step of the design and manufacturing process, and then beyond with an industry-leading product warranty. We test each and every product that rolls off our assembly line so that our clients know the product they receive will perform under their exact specifications. 

How do you test SMA RF connectors?

It is indeed rare to go from design straight to volume production without many periods of testing and prototyping in between. Prototyping allows our design team to test several different configurations of the same SMA RF connectors in harsh real world conditions. Often these are even tougher than the actual circumstances the system will face every day. We call this our “advanced life testing lab” which subjects the components to all manner of freezing temps, scorching heat, salt, and other environmental factors that need to be mitigated against during the design phase. 

Aiming for as close to perfection as humanly possible, we also employ highly accurate, automated Cirrus testers. However, there are times such as when the product is entirely unique, that we must design a correspondingly unique and entirely-custom testing unit to ensure the component’s functionality, structural integrity, and above all, safety. 

How to Get a Custom SMA RF Connector Project Started

When you need the perfect solution for a medical device requiring a SMA RF connector, our team is readily available to complete the project on-time and on-budget. Our design managers work with you to understand all of the complexities surrounding your project, set production milestones, lock out the appropriate tools from our massive tool crib, and manage the entire process to ensure the product is made to your absolute satisfaction. Contact us today to go over your specs and outline your options with our dedicated sales team.

The Ultimate Guide to Wire Harness Manufacturing Terminals

In today’s spotlight series, we’ll look at an easily overlooked but absolutely vital component of the wire harness manufacturing process – the humble terminal. We’ll explore how terminals provide the perfect match for conquering the connection needs of the project and are just an important consideration for our wire harness design team as any other piece in the system.

What is a terminal in wire harness manufacturing?

Simply put, wire terminals terminate conductors. Coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, wire terminals are specific for the connection that is required for the application. Within the greater wire harness manufacturing process, wire terminals play a critical role in establishing the necessary connection. Wire terminals have to be designed within the constraints of the project, which requires extensive expertise in custom wire harness manufacturing in order to meet the time and budgetary constraints established. 

Different Types of Wire Terminals for the Task at Hand

Getting up to date with your terminal terminology is crucial for understanding how selecting the best components for the task at hand helps the entire system run cohesively, cycle after cycle. There are many different types of terminals, including an array of specialty terminals made just for a very specific task. The most common wire harness manufacturing terminals include:

  • Push-on Terminals: these terminals are made for connecting quickly and can be configured as a male or female connection. They also have a wide variety of available options to cater to the individual application. These include considerations such as heat shrink, vinyl, nylon insulated, non-insulated, high temperature, and completely customized. We’ll dive a little deeper into the unique advantages gained from each of these options later in this post.
  • Butt Connectors and Splices: providing a wire to wire connection, these terminals are used to connect or splice two, or more, wires together. This could be to lengthen, change, or repair a certain wire. Butt connectors come with available options such as nylon or vinyl insulated, non-insulated, heat shrink, and high temperature.  These can be used in the field for repair work should a wire need splicing or repairing.
  • Ring Terminals: ring terminals are crimped or soldered and are used to connect a wire to a stud or a post.  When attached to large gauge wires they are sometimes referred to as Lug Terminals. Ring terminals are commonly used for power or ground connections. Ring terminals are usually made of a copper alloy, making them easier to solder or crimp to provide a secure, protective connection. Ring terminals come in a variety of types depending on the application such as non-insulated, vinyl, nylon, heat shrink, and high temperature.  
  • Spade Terminals: these terminals are used to connect a wire with a stud or screw to make an electrical connection. The spade terminal is common in automotive applications. Spade terminals come in a wide variety of sizes and options as well. Some of these options include non-insulated, vinyl, nylon, and heat shrink. 
  • Fork Terminals: used to connect wires to components that use a clamping hold down. Because of its shape, the fork terminal is easy to install and uninstall. Fork terminals can come non-insulated, with vinyl or nylon insulation, and with heat shrink. 
  • Bullet Terminal Connectors: bullet connectors are used a lot in automotive environments because they are pretty easy to connect and disconnect. One very commonplace they are used is in the plugs connector a trailer to a vehicle.  Another useful aspect is that they can come fully insulated to prevent moisture intrusion. Bullet terminals can be vinyl or nylon insulated or heat shrunk to meet the requirements of their intended system.
  • Bare Copper Eyelets: these unique terminals are generally used in the automotive industry as a connection for battery cables to electrical equipment. These connectors have to be able to safely conduct high voltages hence they are made of pure copper, which is an excellent conductor. 
  • Terminal Blocks and Terminal Strips: these support elements help to organize the mass of wires to different electrical circuits. This is what allows multiple wires to all be connected within the same circuit. 
  • Flagged Terminals: simple terminals that provide a secure connection in tight spaces or when another terminal such as a quick connection is not ideal. These are often called Quick Connect or Quick Disconnect terminals. Flagged terminals are easy to connect and disconnect and can be either insulated or non-insulated. They are often used to connect a wire to a circuit board that has a mating spade terminal.
  • Hook Terminals: the open-ended connector is simple, but extremely durable and effective and can be used in a variety of applications. Resembling the shape of a small hook, it can easily attach to a stud or screw. 
  • Quick Disconnect Terminals: as the name implies, this terminal is produced to easily be connected and disconnected. These are often called Flagged/Flag terminals.  The terminal can either be insulated or non-insulated, depending on the environment. Our team has integrated this type of terminal in the projects of many different clients, but primarily they are used in the automotive or industrial sectors. 
  • Specialty Terminals: at Meridian, we have decades of experience in providing custom solutions to clients. With that expertise, we can design the perfect custom terminal to meet the requirements of the project. Custom adapters and connectors like “X” and “Y” connectors help solve the complex connection aspects of the project.
  • Most terminals are crimped on the wire.  The tooling required to properly crimp a terminal is critical.  At Meridian, we have the correct tooling to crimp terminals from most major suppliers, including, but not limited to Molex®, Amp®, Amphenol®, JST®, Souriau®, Deutsch® and Panduit® to name just a few.

As you can see, the possibilities for different connections and terminals doesn’t stop at type. After our engineers figure out the perfect type of terminal to provide the desired result, then they must piece together many different available options that serve to protect and preserve the connection. We’ll cover the options for wire harness manufacturing terminals in greater detail next. 

Choosing the Best Design Options for Wire Harness Terminals

You have many different choices when it comes to your terminal’s design. Depending on the environment, there are a variety of considerations to make:

  • Heat Shrink – made for high performance, heat shrinking provides a watertight seal to the terminal connection so is best used when water, salt, or steam exposure are probable environmental risks. Resistant to abrasion and the effects of aging, heat shrink also helps with pullout strength and strain relief.
  • Vinyl Insulated – when insulation is required, vinyl affords the most economical route to go. The insulation helps to protect against short circuits.
  • Nylon Insulated – nylon insulation is more durable and can withstand higher temperatures making it ideal when the environment is hot and tough, such as might be seen by our military.
  • Non Insulated – this type of terminal is typically the most economical of the design choices. It is often used when the project does not present any special characteristics or additional protections.
  • High Temperature – typically an element like nickel plated steel is used in the terminals construction to help it withstand temperatures in the realm of 900 – 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. These can be found in common consumer applications like ovens, cars, and light fixtures.
  • Overmold – this is done when either a special shape is required, a group of terminals need to be in one package or if a certain shape is desired for cosmetic reasons.

How Terminations Get Insulated

Nylon insulation and vinyl insulation are both great options for providing protection for the terminations in your custom wire harness. Vinyl insulation is the more economical of the two but still affords great protection. That’s because vinyl insulation employs a PVC sleeve that’s tapered permanently to the barrel to protect against vibration and also provides mechanical stress relief. If you need to kick it up a notch, nylon insulation is made extremely rugged to provide maximum performance protection against high vibration and stress.

Wire Gauge Sizes for Wire Terminals 

When exploring your options for different wiring terminals, it is important to remember that there is a correct size for every wire gauge and it will always have a crimping die to match. Insulated terminals come in common sizes that correspond to a color system. Most times, wires larger than 10 gauge will be required to have a terminal that’s not insulated. Your Meridian design team will skillfully employ the perfect gauges with the appropriate terminal to efficiently solve your project’s requirements.

Why a UL Rating Matters for Wire Harness Manufacturing Terminals

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification is something you’ll hear us discuss often because it is such a vital piece of the manufacturing puzzle. Using UL-certified components and being a UL-approved manufacturing facility means the client benefits by knowing the things going into their product, as well as the manufacturer behind the product, have met high levels of quality assurance thresholds. Quality is determined based on testing components to know their exact specifications and tolerances and then to provide this as a standard across the industry. 

When a facility doesn’t use UL-certified components in their design they are taking a gamble with something that hasn’t been tested and retested for functionality, durability, and integrity. As a UL-approved manufacturer, our manufacturing processes have been scrutinized and have been found to be of the professional caliber required to maintain this high honor. This all translates to better products for our clients. 

With clients in industrial controls, telecommunications, military, medical, and other critical sectors, each and every product off our line is designed, tested, and retested under the most stringent of conditions so that we know it will keep on performing as intended cycle-after-cycle.

Picking the Best Terminals to Get the Job Done

Our team prides itself on solving our client’s most complex wire harness problems with a small team of elite professionals each working together to bring your project’s tough specifications to life, both on-time and on-budget. When it comes to designing the perfect product, our team excels at perfecting the minutiae, while effectively managing the ‘big picture’. Contact our team now to go over your options for a custom wire harness that perfectly meets the project’s needs.

What Makes Custom Cable Assemblies So Complex?

Custom cable assemblies are manufactured to be exact, specific to their purpose in a virtually limitless amount of different configurations. While our designers and engineers are some of the best in the industry, completing a one-of-a-kind custom cable assembly takes thousands of minute details in order to perform flawlessly under real world conditions. Getting from concept to final product can be a challenge, but our team has proven time and again, no matter how complex or demanding the project may be, we have the experience, tools, and capacity to pull it off flawlessly.

Here we’ll explore what makes custom cable assemblies so complex and how a custom cable manufacturer can be a value-added partner in your project’s success.

Complexities of Custom Cable Assemblies

Providing full product lifecycle services, our team has to be intimately aware of a thousand different considerations simultaneously in order to produce the best product possible. What makes cable design so complex as there is rarely ever two situations that are entirely the same. Even when the data, singal, or power transmission requirements are similar, the environmental variables that our custom cable assemblies will encounter during their lifespans is hard to replicate exactly so require a custom solution. 

Several key areas help us control the vast amount of different processes needed in order to go from the client’s need we are presented with to a fully-functioning cable assembly performing its function in the field. 

  • Design: bringing together state-of-the-art design software that lets us model an entire system in a virtual environment as well as truly gifted designers and engineers gives us incredible capacity as tough problem solvers. Our design team loves a challenge. Need a molded component rugged enough for sub-zero temperatures? We’ve done it. Need a bio-connector with built-in strain reliefs for specialized medical equipment? We’ve done that too. 

The design phase allows our elite team of proven cable design professionals the opportunity to compute vast amounts of data and different permutations in order to put together whatever is needed from the batch. This may be qualification samples, prototype iterations, or even full scale volume manufacturing. However, it is indeed rare to go straight from design to volume manufacturing without several rounds of prototyping in between. 

  • Sourcing: Meridian cable is a UL-approved production facility and we use UL-certified components in all of our products. We have the capacity to source components in a manner consistent with just-in-time ordering in order to be as efficient in our manufacturing process as possible. During prototype runs, we are able to compare different sourcing combinations in order to see which iteration will produce the most efficient production run. This level of detail is a huge advantage to using a custom cable assembly manufacturer in your project as your budget is able to be more effectively allocated. 
  • Prototyping: prototyping allows our design team to produce several different versions of the same product in order to test every aspect of manufacturing. We want the production run to be smooth and prototyping allows us to compare how each phase comes together. This includes looking at how different designs come together with different sourcing plans and which tools are right for the job. Prototyping also allows for a significant amount of product testing early on in the product’s development. This can help us avoid unnecessary delays further down the line.  
  • Testing: we follow incredibly rigid quality assurance and quality control procedures that we have honed after decades as leaders in the custom cable assembly manufacturing industry. Our almost fanatical attention to detail means each and every product that rolls off our assembly line has undergone multiple rounds of intense testing to ensure continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality. We use stout Cirrus automated testers for the majority of production runs but have on many occasions produced a custom testing set-up when the product is something entirely new. Our testing procedures follow strict ISO 9001:2015 certification standards. 
  • Volume Manufacturing: Before going into full volume manufacturing mode, our design team uses project management tools like the critical path method to begin mapping out the activities needed to complete the project in the most efficient means possible. Volume manufacturing may sound like a brute force attack but in reality it takes many steps all in it’s own in order to run efficiently. Following Kanban manufacturing principles helps us remove waste from our production runs. 

Other lean operations tactics like the just-in-time ordering mindset we covered earlier all help our volume manufacturing occur in as systematic and ordered fashion. We have well over 5,000 existing tools, overmolds, connectors, and other components we have built into our process after many years experience specific to this industry. This broad knowledge and capability helps us to be able to scale our runs incredibly judiciously which simply helps us produce better products, faster – saving our client’s time and money.

Benefits of Custom Cable Assemblies

Fans of Livewire will know we have covered the benefits of using a custom cable assembly in our spotlight series often. Versus off the shelf options, the custom cable assembly is hands down the best solution specific to the unique issue your project faces. 

Here’s our top 4 reasons you should always work with a custom cable assembly and wire harness manufacturer:

  • Prototype, Prototype, Prototype

We just highlighted how prototyping is an incredibly cost effective way to ensure the production run is smooth and efficient. Prototyping helps our design team look at several different configurations simultaneously in order to source the very best components not just physically but also with the manufacturing process. Checking out the right tools from our massive tool crib, sourcing the best materials, comparing activity process times, determining the correct testing procedures to ensure product safety, integrity, and functionality – all of these processes and their associated sub processes can be tweaked to the nth degree during prototyping in order to ensure a great product that is viable to produce. 

  • Built-in Budget Defense

When you utilize a custom cable assembly manufacturer, you present our team with a problem and the budget we have to work with. Knowing the project parameters is the first step in the design process. Our team acts as a true fiduciary with our client’s budget. That means we treat it as if it were our own and try to get really creative in our intelligent problem solving. Any way that we can make the run more efficient means our client can allocate their budget all the more efficiently. 

Off the shelf options means you are taking a chance with the product. When the application is vital, any kind of delay or malfunction costs vital time and money. Off the shelf options also don’t give you much in the way of unique configuration. Most circumstances will have at least a few attributes that are all their own. With an off the shelf option you may be left trying to make last minute corrections in order to make the component fit the situation.

  • Schedule, Followed

During the design phase, our team lays out a road map for successful completion of the project with all of the necessary activities in order to get there. There are many different methods for computing project efficiency, but one industry standby and one we mentioned above is called critical path method (CPM). With CPM, all of the network activities are listed with their associated time requirements. Using a simple algorithm, you can plan your project out in order to fall under a specific time period. Completing projects on time and on budget is a skill we are proud to employ.

  • Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC)

As we have highlighted, a custom cable manufacturer is only as good as its QA/QC process. Our QA/QC engineers are fantical in their approach to quality and in the continuous improvement of the process. This is one of the requirements in order to obtain and maintain ISO 9001:2015 certification. We are extremely proud to receive this designation which is an international recognition of the quality of the process, the quality of the customer experience, and the quality of the commitment towards continuous improvement. We have developed strict testing guidelines that ensures each and every product coming off our assembly line is known to be performing as it should before it ever leaves our production facilities. Our products are used in so many different vital functions – from industrial control systems, to military applications, hospitals, to global communications. Thus, our products simply must work as they are intended, cycle after cycle.

Ready to See the Benefits of a Custom Cable Assembly in Your Complex Project?

We have seen just how beneficial a trusted custom cable manufacturer can be when the situation calls for a complex solution. While the process carries a multitude of different activities in order to produce, the final product with a custom cable assembly is one that was designed and produced specific to the problem at hand. 

Get in contact now to go over your specs with a knowledgeable member of the Meridian design team. You can also call us at 1-877-806-8667 or email: sales@meridiancableassemblies.com

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.

Cable Harness Assembly from Prototype through Production

Wire Harness Components

With over 5,000 existing tools at our disposal, chances are good we’ve got everything we need to produce even highly complex and completely customized solutions. However, there are many instances where we’ve had to design a totally new tool or testing mechanism when a solution is a never-before-seen amalgamation. We leverage decades in the industry to produce products for our clients that we know will stand up to whatever application they will be utilized in and also can be delivered within a viable framework, given the time and budget constraints of the project. 

Aerospace, automotive, lighting, and alternative energy are just some of the many different industries we stand ready to serve with our custom solutions to even the most complex problems our clients present us with. While solving problems is something our design engineers are really good at, the solutions are only viable if all the pieces of design and production can meet both the budget and timeline set forth for the project. With strict adherence to kanban manufacturing techniques, just-in-time ordering, and efficient, worldwide logistical support, we are able to deliver full-functional and repeatedly-tested cable assemblies and wire harnesses to clients anywhere in the world.  

Cable Harness Assembly Design and Manufacturing

Our design and manufacturing process follows a set protocol towards maximizing a project’s budget, meeting project milestones and ensuring the absolute functionality of the final product. Here’s a quick snapshot of a few key elements of the process:

  • Needs Assessment: we will examine all of the specifications for your project and seek to understand all of the elements at play for how and where the system will be employed. This is where initial design elements are started to be placed together which will later be developed into working prototypes. 
  • Extruding: our in-house extruding machine can extrude conductors as small as 34 gauge and all the way up to 12 gauge. These conductors make up the building blocks of both cable assemblies and wire harnesses. They can be stranded or braided, filled with insulation, wraps, shields, and other components depending on the project needs. Connectors, overmolds, terminations, and housings help bring the cables and wires together within an electronic system.
  • Prototyping runs: we will usually produce several iterations to not only test a unique combination of components for accomplishing a given task, but will also look at how those components are sourced to see if a given assembly is viable. 

Why Certifications Matter

One of Meridian’s greatest strengths lies in our Quality Assurance program. Each and every product that rolls off our assembly line will be tested through multiple iterations to ensure continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality. Prototyping allows our design staff to gauge different configurations and sourcing in order to find the most efficient means of solving the problem at hand. 

Maintaining an ISO 9001:2015 is no easy task and certification to which we are extremely proud to have held for nearly 20 years. ISO 9001:2015 requires a company to demonstrate they have advanced quality assurance processes in place and also mechanisms for continual improvement in both product and production, but customer service as well. Additionally, we are an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certified production facility and predominantly use UL-certified components. UL certification means our products have been independently-verified for structural integrity, functionality, and safety. This allows our design staff to utilize a component with a known specification, that’s been stringently tested, rather than creating a whole new component from scratch.

If your cable or wire harness supplier isn’t ISO certified and doesn’t utilize UL-certified components, they have not made a solid commitment to quality assurance and you will be taking a huge risk with the products they produce.

Cable Harness Assemblies for Industrial Controls

Industrial control systems, or industrial process controls, require a complex array of signals, data, and power to be sent at just the right time in the production process in order to provide the intended function. These systems provide almost complete automation for the operations and performance monitoring functions within many critical infrastructure systems like water, power, and civil transportation systems, as well as in manufacturing settings like a bottling plant. 

Meridian’s custom-built wiring harness and cable assemblies provide the necessary infrastructure for these process controllers to perform at their best. Particular considerations for industrial control systems include incorporating components that ensure the fidelity of the process. For example, engineering in radio frequency interference (RFI) avoidance measures, which can include specialized shielding, helps to avoid costly delays within an industrial control system when a wrong signal is sent/received and causes some crucial function to not be performed. Even small delays in an industrial setting can be incredibly costly. Hermetically-sealed connectors, strain reliefs, and cable stops are all utilized to ensure the system operates as intended cycle after cycle.

Cable Harness Assemblies for the Military

Cable harnessing companies operating in support of providing our military with crucial electronic systems components knows their products will more than likely be deployed in some pretty extreme environments. Not only must they contend with extreme temperature swings, sand, dirt, dust, and mud, but also exposure to water, salt, and corrosive materials must be accounted for in the cable assemblies and wiring harnesses being used for military purposes. Our men and women in uniform count on our products to assist them in everything from navigation to communication, and increasingly are being utilized to empower unmanned systems such as UAVs. Special considerations in design can include incorporating Kevlar into the sheathing material to prevent cutting and aluminized mylar to prevent interference.

In support of their mission, our design team comes together to produce a solution that works within the usually tough parameters set forth by our clients in military contracting. We are adept at meeting project and budgetary milestones to deliver the perfect solution to the complex problem at hand.

Cable Harness Assemblies for Other Industries

Aerospace, automotive, lighting, and alternative energy are just some of the many different industries we stand ready to serve with our custom solutions to even the most complex problems our clients present us with. While solving problems is something our design engineers are really good at, the solutions are only viable if all the pieces of design and production can meet both the budget and timeline set forth for the project. With strict adherence to kanban manufacturing techniques, just-in-time ordering, and efficient, worldwide logistical support, we are able to deliver full-functional and repeatedly-tested cable assemblies and wire harnesses to clients anywhere in the world.  

Ready to Go Over Your Project Specs?

Our team stands ready to review your project’s unique specifications and will deliver a solution perfectly suited to match your needs. Contact us now to start the design process