Author Archives: budkinzalow

How 3D Printing is Changing the World of Cable Assemblies And Wire Harnesses

You have probably heard a good deal about 3D printing and how it is taking production industries by storm. However, the technological advances in 3D printing have started to play a significant role in the production of cable assemblies and wire harnesses. Here at Meridian Cable, we have greatly benefitted by utilizing the advancing technology of a 3D printing wire harness.

The remarkable tech for 3D printing wire harness affords excellent opportunities for rapid prototyping and a more efficient overall production timeline. But how exactly is 3D printing beneficial to Meridian Cable’s production? What tech does Meridian use, and what can 3D printers make? Plug in and power up as we explore all about 3D printing wire harnesses and other components. 

Getting Plugged in: What is 3D Printing?

First things first, let us define what 3D printing is. 3D printing is a modern wonder of innovation. A 3D printer is able to construct a component, shell, form, shape, or object from a single machine. Using a computer-aided design (CAD), 3D printers build a three-dimensional object by layering pliable material. They are typically used to create objects out of plastics or other moldable materials. A single dispenser flows back and forth across the printing field to deposit and layer the building material. 

3D printing technology has exploded over the last several years, resulting in a surge of applications for the craft. Because there is so much opportunity to build and create practically anything via 3D printing, it is no wonder that production industries are catching on to its possibilities. 

What Can 3D Printers Build? 

There are numerous examples of what 3D printers can create. The truth is, the list could be pretty nearly infinite. Everything from car parts to cell phone cases can be manufactured by utilizing 3D printing technology. This versatile technology presents a whole world of possibilities. 

In relation to 3D printing wire harness components and other related elements, 3D printing can be used to efficiently create high-quality elements. Some of the items that we have used 3D printing for are:

  • Molds for building wire harness components
  • Housings for cable assembly connectors
  • Fixtures
  • Connector shells
  • Many more components

The versatility that 3D printing offers allow us to build a wide variety of components. 

Benefits of 3D Printing Wire Harness Components

With the advancement of three-dimensional printing comes incredible innovation in how we are able to engineer our components. There are several key benefits that have presented themselves to us as one of the leading cable assembly and wire harness manufacturers in the world. 

A few of the most noteworthy benefits of 3D printing wire harness components are:

  • Cost: The cost of 3D printing is often much less than using other methods. This enables manufacturers to create quality components that cost less for both the business and the customers. 
  • Flexible Customization: 3D printing wire harness housings and other components offer incredible flexibility in what we can create. Let’s be honest; we are all about customization and building exactly what you need. 3D printing provides an astonishing potential for creating customized components. The possibilities for customization are nearly limitless because of 3D printing. 
  • Lightweight components: 3D printed parts (such as housing and fixtures) often means these components are more lightweight than other manufacturing methods. By using plastic or light moldable resin, the finished product is much more lightweight and easy to manage. 
  • Simplified production: Another great benefit of 3D printing is that production is more streamlined for wire harness parts. Because 3D printed components only require one machine to build, they are a much more efficient way of crafting the more minor elements to cable assemblies and wire harnesses. This simplified manufacturing is ideal for creating unique wire harnesses and cable assembly components. 
  • Speedy prototyping: A key bonus to 3D printing is that it enables us to create prototypes for our clients more rapidly than other manufacturing methods. This expediency means that once the design phase is completed by our on-site engineers, the prototype for your wire harness or cable assembly can be completed and tested as soon as possible.

    By fast-tracking, the production of the prototypes for wire harness components, the overall production, testing, and inspection phase moves much more rapidly. 
  • Faster production times: When the prototyping phase moves more quickly, the overall production time can be much faster. As the 3D printed components will be used in the final product, the production for the entire order can be handled expediently. 
  • Ease of reproducing future orders: Once the production of your custom wire harness is complete, it can be easily replicated from the 3D printing files for your order. This means that we can recreate an order for custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses with ease. 

And those benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. As 3D printing technology progresses, it will continue to shape the way Meridian Cable crafts custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses. Though the world is far from fully embracing the possibilities that 3D printing has to offer, we are proud to be on the cutting edge. We fully intend to continue to develop the potential of how 3D printing wire harness components can change the world of production. 

The 3D Printers that Meridian Uses for Prototyping and Production

Over the last several decades, Meridian Cable has been at the forefront of innovation in production and cable manufacturing. The 3D printers that we use are among the most precise printers available. We take pride in the tech that we use to build cable assemblies and wire harnesses. We use three different types of 3D printers, giving us a more diverse range of components and parts that we are able to print. 

The three printers that we use are:

  • Form 1 3D Printer
    The Form 1 printer uses stereolithography to print. This process involves exposing the resin to ultraviolet lights to harden. This process works because the ultraviolet laser hits the liquid resin, which causes the resin to solidify. The printing stage raises and lowers in order to expose the liquid resin to the laser, and the process repeats until the component is completed.

    Powered by specialized software, the Form 1 3D printer is capable of building finely detailed parts and wire harness components. Featuring an auto-rotation, manual maneuverability of parts, and a printing floor view, the Form 1 printer is a truly marvelous piece of equipment. 
  • Form 2 3D Printer
    The second printer that we use here at Meridian is the Form 2 printer. This innovative printer allows us to use up to 20 different materials to build components. This function is easily performed and makes the Form 2 Printer ideal for more complex builds. Once the resin is changed, the Form 2 automatically adjusts to operating correctly while using the new material. This adaptability comes in handy when 3D printing wire harness components that require alternative materials.

Working similarly to the Form 1 printer, the Form 2 functions by using a laser to harden the liquid resin. The benefits of the Form 2 are that it is capable of printing incredibly complex parts and works intuitively with the design software to build components layer by layer. Our Form 2 printer features a large viewing screen to watch the progress of the wire harness components.

  • Fuse 1 3D Printer
    Rounding off the printers we use for 3D printing wire harness parts is the Fuse 1. The Fuse 1 is a powerful printer designed for industrial 3D printing. Designed to be the ideal combination of speed and accuracy, the Fuse 1 printer enables us to create highly complex parts in record time. This ability means that we are able to produce prototypes and final components in unbelievably fast timeframes. Our Fuse 1 is an incredible asset to our 3D printing wire harness parts.

    The Fuse 1 printer operates a little differently than the Form series in that it utilizes SLS printing. SLS printing refers to Selective Laser Sintering, which is a specific process for 3D printing. The SLS process involves coating the printing bed with a powder form and then solidifying the powder with a laser. The printing bed is recoated, and the laser coagulates the next layer of powder on top of the previous one. This process is repeated over and over until the construction is complete.

    Once the printing is complete, we remove the excess powder, and the product is ready to combine with the other components.

    The Fuse 1 Printer that Meridian uses offers unique features for a 3D printer, such as low waste and industrial-strength materials. The lower waste means that more of the resin is put to use to create the part that we are printing. This feature is both environmentally conscious and economical. 

Think Meridian Cable for Your Next Project

As a leader in using innovative technology to build cable assemblies, wire harnesses, and more, Meridian Cable is here to help with your next custom project. Contact us today to utilize our innovation in 3D printing wire harness components. 

What is an OEM Cable and Who are the Engineers Behind Them? 

OEM cable assembly guide

An OEM is a broad term that refers to a part, or system of parts, that is a crucial component of a larger system. The acronym OEM stands for “original equipment manufacturer” and is used frequently across numerous industries. When it comes specifically to an OEM cable, this is a cable that is created to transfer data, power, and/or signal between different systems or electronic instruments. 

Meridian Cable builds OEM cables and wire harnesses to the exact specifications that are necessary depending on the equipment and the environment in which they are used. The customizable OEM cables that are built by Meridian are created to be insulated and shielded to protect them against the outside elements and breakages. 

Building an OEM Cable: Down to the Details 

As one of the leading custom cable manufacturers, Meridian will build a cable entirely to custom specifications. Created with even the most precise details in mind, we manufacture every OEM cable to be perfectly suited to its purpose. The options for designing a custom OEM cable are virtually limitless and open up a plethora of opportunities for applications in nearly any industry. 

When designing a custom OEM cable, Meridian Cable has options for every component within the cable. From the conductor to the jacket material, each OEM cable is made entirely customizable. 

To build a custom OEM cable, we offer the following options to select from:

  • Custom conductor size: Based on what the custom OEM cable is being used for, choosing the proper conductor size will vary. If the equipment requires higher voltage, consistently transfers high volumes of data, or needs a more dominant signal, a larger conductor may be necessary. This is an important step in the process of creating a custom OEM cable or OEM cable assembly. 
  • Custom conductor color: Rarely is a custom OEM cable going to be used as a lone cable and choosing a specific color for the conductor can help distinguish each cable from the other. This allows the cables to stay organized and color-coded to ensure that each is connected to the proper port and equipment.
  • Custom stranding size: Stranding refers to the coil of wires that is set in a spiral formation to transfer power and data more quickly than a single wire. Depending on the industry and application of the custom OEM cable, the stranding size will be widely varied. Stranding in OEM cables allows the cable to be more flexible and less susceptible to bends or breakages. 
  • Custom insulation: The insulation in an OEM cable is a crucial element that helps in containing the electric pulses that are carried through the cable. The insulation will also help create a barrier to protect the conductors from heat and other outside elements. We offer several options for custom insulation to make sure that every OEM cable is designed to the most precise specifications. 
  • Custom filler: Choosing a custom filler for an OEM cable helps to shape the cable and smooth its appearance. The filler is one of the final steps in creating a custom OEM cable and has several options to choose from. We have the option of cotton, Nylon, Kevlar, PVC, and fleece. 
  • Custom shielding and wrapping: As the OEM cable is almost complete, the wrapping and shielding need to be selected. The wrapping and shielding offer an inner layer of protection to keep the other components in a tightly wrapped bundle within the OEM cable. This layer can be made from a number of different materials that add durability, flexibility, and protection to the conductors, stranding, insulation, and filler. 
  • Custom jacket material: As the outermost layer of the OEM cable, the jacket material is an important final step in the custom cable assembly. The jacket can be composed of several different materials depending on the industry and equipment for which the OEM cable is being used. This could be chosen to increase the flexibility, maximize durability, or help protect the cable from moisture. 

Applications for Custom OEM Cables

The industries and applications for a custom OEM cable are virtually boundless. Though a common use for OEM cables and cable assemblies is found in the automotive industry. With OEM cables being built to the exact specifications of the original manufacturer, they can be utilized in nearly any industry. 

With decades of experience and quality engineering, Meridian Cable has acquired the expertise necessary to create custom OEM cables that can be used in a vast array of applications. Designed to be completely customizable, Meridian Cable has created OEM cables for several different industries. 

Industrial Control Systems

Used in manufacturing facilities, OEM cables can be utilized to transmit power, data, or signal to and from the control board to the manufacturing equipment. This type of application is an immensely complex system of operations and data that goes into the functioning of the industrial facility. These OEM cables would need to be reliable, durable, and capable of very precise transmissions. 

The talented engineers of Meridian design custom OEM cables to perfectly suit whatever functions are needed. Building an OEM cable to the smallest detail means that we produce reliable and precise cables for even the most demanding industries. 

Military Applications (MILSPEC)

With some of the strictest requirements and toughest conditions for an OEM cable, the applications in military use dictate precision. Being used in a wide variety of equipment and vehicles, military uses for OEM cables are designed to provide the dependable flow of information, signal, or power that is essential for both combat and training. 

Telecommunications 

In today’s online world, telecommunications networks are a massive industry that utilizes OEM cables. In nearly every piece of equipment used in telecommunications, there is some form of cable. A custom OEM cable may be used for a network of connections, servers, or links. Whether for an online business or communications network, the engineers at Meridian Cable can assemble an OEM cable for every telecommunications application. 

Medical Applications

OEM cables that are used in the medical field need to be some of the most exact and reliable cables assembled. Because of the important data that they transfer and equipment that they power, medical OEM cables need to be made with precision. Our team of engineers and designers takes pride in the minute details that need to be observed when creating every custom medical OEM cable. 

Automotive and Other Industries

Of course, a common industry that requires OEM cables and OEM cable assemblies is in the world of automotive repair. With several systems that interconnect through a series of cables, automotive OEM cables need to be durable and reliable to ensure the vehicle is functioning properly. Whether it is from the battery to the headlights or from the engine to the battery, the electronic components in a vehicle need to communicate constantly. OEM cables play a huge role in every automobile. 

Though the list could go on and on about the applicable industries in which OEM cables are utilized, these are some of the most frequent that the engineers at Meridian Cable delve into. 

Meet the Geniuses Behind the Custom OEM Cable Design

From concept to function, behind every OEM cable that Meridian builds is an engineering genius. With decades of experience in design, engineering, and cable creation, the team of brilliant designers at Meridian is the best of the best. Each member of the Meridian team undergoes rigorous training and years of education to ensure they assemble OEM cables with excellence and precision. 

With our on-staff engineers, multiple production facilities across the world, and advanced sourcing capabilities, we can offer an incredibly customizable OEM cable design and assembly. The engineering and design team will work directly with clients to create a custom OEM cable that is tailor-made to the most exact detail. 

With over 5,000 customizable options for OEM cables and OEM cable assemblies, the engineering behind each cable we make is extensive and truly remarkable. We are proud to turn complex cabling problems into viable custom cable solutions. The engineering geniuses of Meridian design each OEM cable to be dependable and function correctly. 

Time Tested and Quality Assured 

The engineering team puts our OEM cables through a series of operational tests to ensure quality and functionality. This means that with every OEM cable that we make, we can assure that it will function properly and be ready to integrate immediately. We are proud of the design, engineering, and customization that has gone into each cable and strive to provide nothing short of the best. We make a great effort to maintain our ISO 9001 certification, among many others, which we do through dedication to our clients and the innovation of our work. 

Design Your Own OEM Cable

With numerous ways to design a custom OEM cable that is made just for you, Meridian makes the process simple and convenient. Contact our team to get started on your own custom OEM cable. 

LiveWire Behind the Scenes: Who Makes Custom Wiring Harnesses?

how custom wire harnesses are made

Custom wire harnesses are seen in so many different applications we all use every day that it can be easy to gloss over their vital utility. From global telecommunications to advanced manufacturing facilities, our connected world relies on high-quality wire harnesses to function. But who’s behind these custom solutions making the modern world possible? 

Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know to partner with a wire harness manufacturer to get the perfect solution for even the most demanding applications.

How to Spot a Custom Wire Harness Manufacturer

Behind even the most complex wire harness designs are the skilled men and women that make up the workforce of the wire harness manufacturer. When you have superior talent and you arm them with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment available, you get a powerful combination of professional capability. 

What sets custom wire harness manufacturers apart from universal manufacturers mainly revolves around capabilities across the organization including areas such as:

  • Customization: being able to custom create the solution that fits the situation perfectly makes for more efficient and more resilient systems. Wire harnesses often have to meet strict geometric guidelines, as well as a specific threshold for the transmission of data, power, and signal. On top of the specs, there are myriad environmental variables that must be mitigated. That’s why the ability to customize conductor sizes and colors, stranding sizes, wraps, shields, jackets, and more, gets you a solution specifically engineered to satisfy the application’s requirements. 
  • Advanced Manufacturing Capabilities: customization is meaningless without the ability to manufacture each product to perfection. With full-scale design and engineering services to small batch and up to volume production, we have invested heavily in making our talent and tool crib extensive enough to handle any wire harness design project that comes through our doors. Being a UL-approved manufacturing facility with both our US and China locations means we’ve met the high thresholds of quality and capability required of the distinction. All of this translates into being able to produce the best possible custom wire harnesses for our clients.
  • Testing: having the excellent capability and executing well is still without the weight if you can’t tell for a fact that every product that rolls off your line has been 100% tested for continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality before making its way to our clients. Whether it’s life-saving medical technology or a mission-critical municipal control system, dependability matters. In addition to a variety of high-tech testing machines that can spot even the tiniest imperfections, we created our own in-house Advanced Life Testing Lab. Here, custom wire harnesses are put through a variety of harsh real-world conditions to see how the materials and design hold up. 

Custom wire harnesses hold capabilities that off-the-shelf wire harnesses simply don’t have. That’s because a wire harness engineer creates a solution to the task at hand using the right materials for the specific application.  

Industries Where Custom Wiring Harness Solutions Matter

Custom wire harnesses are seen across so many different industries because our connected world relies on these humble workhorses to work behind the scenes to power how we live, work, and play. Some of the many industries we’re proud to lend our expertise include:

Industrial Control Systems

Wire harnesses provide the crucial infrastructure within some of the most advanced industrial control systems on the planet. From a high-volume bottling facility to a city’s wastewater treatment systems, Meridian’s custom wire harnesses bring it all together in some very demanding situations. 

Medical Technology

Medical diagnostic equipment, ultrasound wands, medical imaging equipment, patient monitoring equipment—the list goes on with the many different systems in hospitals and other care facilities that rely on custom wire harnesses to function. Reusability and sterilization matter greatly with such advanced technology, while precision and reliability are simply expected. At its core, we create custom solutions in the medical field that allows for better patient care.

Military Wire Harnesses

The Department of Defense (DoD) helps create military specifications (MILSPEC) to make sure that each component in, for example, a state-of-the-art weapons guidance system, can be depended on in some of the toughest situations imaginable. We can incorporate a wide variety of different protections like overmolds and Kevlar sheathing to make sure that the custom wire harness for the military we engineer is as tough as the men and women in uniform that are depending on it.

Additional Industries 

From automotive to consumer electronics, Meridian is proud to create custom wire harnesses that deliver the perfect blend of components and expertise to get the job done. Automotive OEMs depend on custom wire harness manufacturers to produce exact specs, which is something an off-the-shelf harness typically can’t provide.

Custom Solutions Produce a Better Return on Investment

The main aspect of why it matters who makes a wiring harness lies in the simple fact that a custom wire harness has been made for a specific purpose. There’s a clear-cut set of specifications and project parameters that require sophisticated engineering to deliver a solution that works on time and on budget. Aligning the product with the client’s specifications means our project managers are able to deliver just what’s required to accomplish the task at hand in the most efficient way possible. 

A huge capability advantage Meridian holds lies in our ability to prototype. We may look at several different iterations of the same product all at once to see how everything from material sourcing to checking out tools from the tool crib come together under real-world conditions. In a world where logistics is so crucial to keeping industries running smoothly, having two Meridian facilities in different corners of the globe means we’re able to provide consistently high levels of quality delivered just when it’s needed. We also input sound operational management strategies like Kanban and Just-in-Time ordering in order to eliminate waste throughout the process. 

After decades of instilling quality at every single touchpoint in a wire harness journey from conception to volume manufacturing, we are able to deliver the high level of quality our clients have come to depend on us for. All of this effort translates into a better return on the investment made with a higher quality product and specifically for the industry and the application. Our wire harnesses are made to be seamlessly integrated within the existing system with whatever criteria are required to ensure long-term viability and also ease of future maintenance. 

Certifications to Look for with Wire Harness Manufacturers

Wire harness assemblies truly are integral to our way of life. That’s why the quality of the custom wire harness manufacturer matters so greatly when it comes to the quality of the solution they are able to deliver. 

Three globally-recognized certifications to look for as your compare manufacturers include:

  • IATF 16949: the absolute gold standard for automotive quality management systems is only met when you hit all of the stringent requirements set forth by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). This sought-after certification is one of the most widely used and recognized international standards specific to the automotive industry and brings together all aspects of the global automotive supply chain. We’re proud to have earned and maintain our IATF 16949 certification, especially as we produce custom wire harnesses to spec for automotive OEMs.
  • ISO 9001:2015: another globally-recognized certification you should definitely see with a custom wire harness manufacturer is the ISO 9001:2015. We’re proud to have met the rigorous standards for this certification as it pertains to quality at every single level in the organization. From customer experience to product quality, the standard also calls for continuous improvement. Never staying stagnant, our team looks to do that much better with each and every project we undertake. With decades under our belt, we can still learn, grow, and do better as we seek to represent the honor of holding this advanced certification for manufacturers. 
  • UL-Approved Manufacturers: as a UL-approved manufacturing facility and in using UL-certified wires and cables in so many of the solutions we provide, we are able to showcase quality in a tangible way every day. We are also able to help our clients get their products certified through any number of different certifying agencies. In a competitive marketplace, standing out with such a high mark of quality is crucial to our success. 

When you first compare wire harness manufacturers, one of the main differentiating factors can be certifications like these which show demonstrable experience and a continued commitment to quality. 

Talk to the Custom Wire Harness Experts

When answering the question of who makes custom wiring harnesses, you really need to answer who makes custom wire harnesses well. The team at Meridian is made up of brilliant designers, engineers, project managers, and production staff that bring together a diverse group of talents under one roof. With advanced capabilities and technology at our fingertips, we can deliver exactly what’s required and what can be depended on. Contact our team to review your custom wire harness specs and get started today. 

Wire Harness Components
Wire Harness Components

Diving into the wide world of wire harnesses can be daunting. There are simply so many variations for a wire harness that the options are truly mind boggling. But, in walks the concept of universal wiring harnesses and, poof, mind blow. So, is there such a thing as a universal wiring harness? 

Even in a space as customized as wiring harnesses, there are, indeed, universal wiring harnesses out there. We’ll look at what these curious amalgamations are, what industries use universal harnesses the most often, and where customization still plays a crucial role in the overall design.

What Are Universal Wiring Harnesses?

A universal wiring harness is one that can be used in several different applications that follow the same general set up. Some of the most prevalent universal wiring harnesses are for cars, trucks, and towing. However, because makes and models all can have their own little intricacies, some form of adaptation may be required to make a universal wiring harness fit its intended destination. 

Control modules, connection points, grommets, and other hardware are generally designed to handle multiple functions and accommodate different geometries. Therefore, you’ll see universal wiring harnesses with some typical features to make this feat easier. Lead lengths are usually pretty generous and instructions fairly straightforward. As we mentioned, though, there are almost always application-specific peculiarities that will exist and need to be customized. At this point, the question must be asked—If a universal wiring harness has to be customized, is it really universal? We’ll look to answer this head-scratcher next. 

Who Makes Universal Wiring Harnesses?

There are many, many manufacturers out there for universal wiring harnesses. A quick internet search is going to return page after page of online retailers. Most of these are going to be automotive wiring harnesses manufacturers. Now, not all universal harnesses are equal, and you need to know where you’re getting the item from. 

One of the certifications we maintain is the IATF 16949. This is one of the highest of the highs when it comes to automotive parts quality certifications and is held by only top manufacturers that can truly produce harnesses to spec. While it can seem tempting to go with that on-sale wiring harness online, it may actually cost you more in money, time, and labor if the unit fails prematurely. 

Bottom line, even with universal wiring harnesses, you need to do a little comparison shopping to make sure it’s a reputable manufacturer that has demonstrable expertise in the sector you need your harness for. 

Industries that Use Universal Wiring Harnesses

One of the most prevalent industries that you’ll find universal wiring harnesses is within the automotive sector. Automotive wiring harnesses are for specific applications where a “plug and play” solution can fit the bill. For example, you’ll see plenty of options for universal audio wiring harnesses for cars on Amazon for specific makes, models, and years. If you’ve ever done a search for a car part, you know that you need to find the right equipment based on the manufacturer’s specs. 

There are both OEM options and after-market options that may or may not be up to OEM specs. OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer and is an entity that can produce the exact specs that a manufacturer stipulates. These are usually subjected to higher quality assurance and quality control measures than the off-the-shelf wiring harnesses out there. 

Today’s cars have so many advanced components like audio systems, electrical systems, and convenience features. These all require complex wiring harnesses for helping manage the transfer of data, signal, and power throughout the system which is where “universal” can be a bit of a misnomer. You’ll more than likely still need various adapters to fit your unique set-up. 

How to Compare Options

As you start looking at different wiring harness options, it’s important to set a framework to level the playing field. We’ll show you a systematic approach to getting the best value from wiring harness manufacturers today:

  • Diversity of Options: one of the first things that you should see from a high quality wire harness manufacturer is going to be the diversity of options that they offer. As many applications require so many different individualized components to fit the needs of the project, you want to make sure the manufacturer can demonstrate expertise across multiple product lines. At Meridian, we are proud to make some of the finest quality cable assemblies, wire harnesses, coil cords, molded components, SMA cable assemblies, and other products that our world’s most advanced electronic equipment relies on. 
  • Customization: the ability to customize cable assemblies and wire harnesses is a big plus for a manufacturer. But customizing takes expertise and tooling capability. Meridian holds both with the ability to deliver the perfect solution that efficiently solves even the most complex tasks at hand. Even though there are universal wiring harnesses, at least conceptually, remember that each harness will typically undergo some form of customization to help it fit within the intended application.
  • Industry Experience: it’s hard to put a price on experience as it lends itself to so much value for the client. Your harness manufacturer of choice needs to show many years of experience in different industry sectors. From logistics to corporate governance, lessons learned from experience are invaluable for consistently achieving high levels of quality, efficiency, and reliability with each and every cable or wire harness produced. Meridian is proud to have decades of experience with some of the best and brightest cable engineers in the field today.
  • Capability: capability is what a manufacturer does, but a better way to look at it is what they do well. This means full-scale cable design and engineering services, in conjunction with, production, and global logistics. 
  1. First up, you need to have cutting edge design software and brilliant minds to engineer a perfect solution. At Meridian, we offer full-scale design and engineering services from dedicated experts.
  2. Then you need to be able to prototype and test different iterations to find the best fit. Prototyping is a crucial capability that includes testing everything from different insulation and jacket materials to seeing how sourcing logistics comes together with operations management techniques like just-in-time ordering.
  3. After that, you need to be able to rely on your extensive tool crib and deep intrinsic knowledge to manage a cost-effective and time-sensitive production schedule. This ensures on-time and on-budget solutions, every time. 
  4. Lastly, you need to see significant investments made in post-production testing. At Meridian, we created an entire Advanced Life Testing Lab where we put our units through an incredible battery of pertinent tests under stringent real-world conditions. This lets our engineers see how each component reacts to environmental factors and other outside forces to guarantee functionality, integrity, and safety with each and every harness that we produce. 
  • Certification: Last up on the comparison journey is going to be what certifications wiring harness manufacturers hold. Since a lot of universal wiring harnesses are made for the automotive electronic systems, certifications within this arena are fairly important. As we mentioned, we’re proud our quality of product and processes helped us earn the coveted IATF 16949 certification. Others out there that can really set a manufacturer apart include ISO 9001:2015 and UL certification. Both require extremely high levels of quality at every touchpoint in the organization and are internationally recognized.

When you’ve run through the above checklist, you’ll come out the other side with a truly top-notch wiring harness manufacturer who can handle everything from small-batch prototyping to volume manufacturing, from initial design through delivery—anywhere in the world. 

Where Custom Wiring Harnesses Come In

Custom wiring harnesses are needed in just about every application. Even in OEM settings, there can be variations between models that require adaptability on-the-fly. Customization is a skill that’s learned from experience. With decades as a leader in wiring harness and cable assembly manufacturing, our team has built this capability into our DNA. 

Custom wire harnesses can incorporate so many different unique aspects including specific conductor sizes and colors, stranding sizes, materials, and utilizing UL-certified wires and cables. Our engineers work with our clients to take wire harnesses from concept all the way through volume manufacturing with a project timeline that lets us meet all milestones. 

Starting a Wiring Harness Project

meeting with wire harness engineers

At the end of the day, there are many different off-the-shelf wire harnesses and cable assemblies out there. The difference is these can be lower quality and still require significant time and effort to make them fit a system. Our team takes a different approach by delivering a solution that’s perfectly made to efficiently solve the task at hand, and given the intended environment. From custom strain reliefs to overmolding, our capabilities, advanced technology, and team of experts all come together to deliver a solution that works. 

If you’re ready to start talking wire harness specs, contact our team however is most convenient. You can call 1-877-806-8667, fill out the online contact form, or email or sales team using the links provided on our contacts page.

How To Mold/Overmold Plastic Onto a PCB

Watching a strain relief being molded onto one end of a PCB assembly using a high pressure mold and PVC looks like something out of a sci-fi movie (seriously, check out the video below). However, this process adds so much durability and protection to the assembly below and can be customized perfectly to whatever the intended application may be.

That’s why we’re dedicating this entire LiveWire post just for molding and overmolding onto PCBs and how investing in this process can add big-time strength and resiliency to your next custom cable assembly design project. 

What is a Printed Circuit Board (PCB)?

PCBs are the tiny workhorses that really make modern technology possible. It used to be that wires were connected point to point. This was tedious both for production and maintenance. Hence, the concept of printing circuits on a board. It all starts with a simply conductive sheet like copper. Usually, a sandwich insulative layer gives support to the conductive layer. Sheets get drilled with registration holes for proper alignment. CAD designs produce detailed 3D models that give the drilling machine the information it needs to drill proper hole locations. 

Etching in an alkaline solution helps produce the required tracing of copper. Usually a UV light places the mask on the copper plate and can be done in bulk. Copper traces are always checked for quality usually with an optical testing machine that watches for damage or short circuits. A solder mask coating gives the characteristic green color and provides insulation and protection. A silkscreen provides markings, symbols, or logos straight to the PCB. At this point, components can then be soldered onto the PCB. A flying probe test can be used to test connectivity. 

PCBs can either employ through hole technology or, more lately, surface mount technology, depending on the needs of the project. 

For that Matter, What is Overmolding?

Now that you’ve got a better handle on PCBs, let’s cover what overmolding is. Overmolding is a process utilizing insert molding and/or injection molding in order to organize and protect wires and connectors. When designing a cable overmold, the cable assembly components getting this upgrade are placed in a mold where they are then covered with molten plastic material with injection. This process provides the perfect solution for so many different applications requiring sealed wires and connectors, especially when these are going to be facing extreme environments. 

Consider a satellite being launched into space, or a PCB inside a hot industrial control panel, or perhaps where saltwater exposure is expected. Without a solid overmold, components can quickly be degraded by their environment and the processes the assemblies are being subjected to. 

Overmolding can also aid in protecting sensitive components from interference in the form of electromagnetic and radio frequency interference (EMI and RFI, respectively). Adding mechanical strength, durability, and flexibility overmolding has many benefits but it can also “clean up” a given component for better aesthetics and ease of maintenance down the road.

So, What is a Mold?

A mold used in PCB overmolding is a key part of our tooling inventory. After decades as a leading custom cable manufacturer, our tool crib currently consists of well over 5,000 existing tools, overmolds, connectors, terminations, and other components to pull off the perfect assembly. However, even with such a vast tool crib of things like molds at our disposal, with any sort of custom work, so comes the need for custom tools made just for the task at hand. This is where working with a custom cable manufacturer can really pay huge dividends over off-the-shelf assemblies. 

Our team truly excels at the custom design process and in fact, we design over 70% of the systems we produce. We’re basically a design shop that happens to provide cutting-edge volume manufacturing capabilities as a side hustle. All of that said, molds can be quite simple or they can be incredibly complex. They can also be made with different metals or may require additional finishing techniques to pull off the perfect final product. 

A hardened steel mold is one of the most common since these are relatively inexpensive because of their increased lifespans and suitability on volume production runs. Another key aspect of working with a custom cable manufacturer lies in the ability to prototype. We’ll typically use aluminum cast dies in the prototyping process to produce a viable and cost-effective way of testing different processes and materials to make a certain version of the same design. 

Once we zero in on the most efficient amalgamation during prototyping, we’re lightyears ahead with a proven design and pre-mapped production process. This helps ensure quality and delivers far more consistent results to our customers.

Benefits of Employing Molding and Overmolding with PCBs

When you look to increase the stoutness of a PCB component with overmolding, you’re going to get a more durable and better performing system than one that doesn’t have it. But, obviously there is a cost in adding on another level of protection, so how do you know if it’s worth the investment? Well, let’s look over a couple of the benefits of overmolding, including:

  • Stronger. Finding a big increase to flexural strength levels. If you zero in on high-traffic areas like cable exits, the addition of flexural strength means these connection points can take more wear and tear and keep on operating. 
  • Tougher. A wall of protection around the components themselves. You will find that extreme temps, water, abrasion, impacts, and other forces are no match for a high-quality overmold. 
  • Better security. Providing an additional layer of protection against even deliberate outside force, an overmold is like your PCBs personal bodyguard.
  • Better performance. Gaining better pull strength and strain relief performance metrics. 
  • Better protection. Sealing off components from caustic liquids such as oil or saltwater. 
  • Better looking. Making a more aesthetically-pleasing component. Looks sell, even with PCBs and cable assemblies. Making a final product that looks better, is easier to integrate, and easier to maintain, overmolding gives a big boost in the aesthetics department.

Meridian’s design engineers know their ways around special considerations like overmolding and can help you pinpoint when the investment would help produce the greatest return during the project. Schedule your project kick-off meeting now and get a dedicated professional personally who is there to expertly guide your project to completion. 

Customizing Overmolds

The benefits of overmolds continue in their ability to be highly customized according to the unique parameters set by our clients. Customizing the overmolds with PCBs affords many different opportunities for ratcheting up the “wow factor” including:

  • Setting different colors for better overall wire management.
  • Printing corporate logos, names, or other forms of branded messaging.
  • Providing places to integrate attachment hardware such as a flange.
  • Giving options for exit point angles, such as a right angle, to meet the needs of the project.
  • Using different overmold materials such as PVC or thermoplastics. 
  • Getting to employ different machines we have like the venerable Low Pressure Molding System (LPMS) to provide the most cost-effective solution. 

Our team is made up of masters of the budget. We work within a set of given parameters to provide the best possible solution. Projects completed on time and on budget that are mindfully created to solve the task at hand are simply what we do.

A Closer Look at the Process for Overmolding

Injection molding machines are the true workhorses pulling off this crucial bit of cable engineering. Our machines are able to reach high levels of pressure (or low as the needs of the project dictate) and push whatever molten material is desired into the molds. Thermoplastic polyurethane is commonly used as an injectable material for the mold. 

  1. The Machines: Which Injection Molding Machine to Use? 

Injection molding machines are all about tonnage. Tonnage is how much force each machine uses in order to suspend a molten resin within the mold. If a mold is huge, more force is required which is why having the right injection molding machine is crucial for success. 

  1. The Materials: Choosing Which Materials Are Best for Overmolding

Next up, there are an almost endless amount of different materials out there which produce different final results. One may provide better rigidity, another more flexibility—it all comes down to the needs of the project. However, two of the most common overmold materials include polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). PCV is common because it’s economical and does a great job at adding strength and moisture-proofing.

  1. The Process: Injection Molding at Its Finest

Once the material is chosen, the hopper on the injection molding machine is filled and an injection screw pumps it into a mold. The barrel actually heats the material into the tooled mold and continues to add pressure until cooled for solidification to occur.

Getting a Mold/Overmolded Plastic On Your PCB

Overmolding your PCB components can really increase the stoutness of the overall system. If you’re not sure where to begin, simply contact our team and we’ll help walk you through all your options.

What is Heat Shrinking in Cable Assemblies?

Heat shrink tubing can be an incredible value-added component to a cable assembly with increased strength, durability, and resiliency in one, easy package. However, there is obviously a cost involved with any additional parts being incorporated into a custom cable assembly. So, how do you best use heat shrinking in your cable assemblies to be both cost-effective and return value? 

To answer that very question, we’ll deep dive into the wide world of heat shrinking to show you just how useful this process can be. Bonus alert, we’ve also included a video showing wires being soldered to a DB15 connector and the solder joint covered by heat shrink tubing to give you an insider’s look into the process.  

First Off, What is Heat Shrink?

Heat shrinking, heat shrink, heat shrink tubing—these are all referring to the same process we use in custom cable assemblies every day. This process utilizes a tube that can shrink in a radial pattern around a given component when a heat source is applied. There are different processes used to produce different results within heat shrinking but in general, a one-two punch is useful for the widest varieties of applications (think acting as an insulative material, beefing up connections and terminations, or even as wire management for unbundled wires).

Step One for Heat Shrinking

With many of the heat shrinking applications we employ here at Meridian, step number one is going to be extrusion. With advanced machinery and technology, our gifted cable engineers are able to extrude conductors as small as 34 gauge or as large as 12 gauge—a really useful capability for producing high-quality cable assemblies. However, with heat shrinking, we’re actually extruding the material being used for the tubing itself. As with all of the different materials that make up a given cable assembly, tubing material can vary dramatically based on whatever application our client needs. 

Heat Shrink Tubing Step Two

Next up, our team is going to use a very detailed process with different amounts of gradual heat and variable force to produce the exact diameter of heat shrink tubing required for the project. This step requires some truly advanced computations which our cable engineers work through with the help of high-tech computer-aided design and simulation software. 

Once the specs are set, we’ll utilize advanced machinery to produce the heat shrinking effect. After heating and expanding, the heat shrink tubing can cool down but remains in the expanded state. This allows for an easy application to whatever component requires this stout level of defense. When heat is applied yet again, the heat shrinking will live up to its name and diminish in size to encapsulate the part of the assembly being worked on.

How to Use Heat Shrink Tubing Effectively

Heat shrink tubing is most effectively used as a protection mechanism that completely envelops whatever is beneath it. The cables, wires, connections, terminations, and more than comprise a custom cable assembly can be subjected to all manner of external forces that might degrade the assembly. 

When used with any one of the many applications cable assemblies find themselves in, there can be a variety of external forces hammering the assembly including:

  • Vibrations and abrasions
  • Cable strains
  • Moisture
  • Dust
  • Chemicals
  • Cuts
  • Even impacts 

At Meridian, we produce cutting-edge cable assemblies for the military, hospitals, automotive OEMs, advanced telecommunications, and so much more. Within these applications, heat shrinking can be an incredibly powerful, yet overall simplistic, way of protecting the transmission of an unfettered stream of data, power, and/or signal through the system.

But even beyond the stout level of protection that heat shrink tubing provides, another very necessary, but not all that glamorous, benefit can be found. Cable wire management is so crucial for both integration and maintenance once a cable assembly is employed in its final destination. Heat shrinking allows for a color code to be developed and used in quick identification of the myriad components by using different colored tubing. Even aesthetics can benefit from the sleek and clean look of a heat shrink tubing for a final product presentation that’s pleasing to the user’s eye. 

Bottom line, using heat shrinking within a cable assembly produces a world of benefits that can dramatically improve many different categories of the overall assembly. 

Applications For Large Heat Shrink Tubing

One of the most common applications for large heat shrink tubing projects is using polyolefin tubing because of the high temperatures this material can withstand and still hold its protective qualities. Polyolefin is a great protector but it also is more expensive than more common tubing materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC). For its low price point and ease of application, PVC tubing is one of the most common materials used in large-scale volume manufacturing. 

PVC heat shrink tubing has its own pros and cons, as does any material, which can help our cable engineers know when its use is going to provide the most bang for the buck. It is a lot cheaper than a material like a polyolefin and it’s also able to use more vivid coloring or even be made to be clear. Both of these can help with aesthetics and sound cable management principles. PVC will also provide a degree of flame resistance when that’s engineered in, as well as a few grades higher on strength and ability to resist abrasions. 

Using Heat Shrink Tubing in Your Custom Cable Assembly

Now, while PVC is great for large heat shrink tubing applications, there are so many other materials out there to choose from that each offer up their own blend of unique qualities. After decades as leaders in employing processes like heat shrinking in our cable assemblies, our team has an intimate knowledge of how, when, and where a material can be best employed depending on the needs of the project. 

There are heat shrinking out there that also have adhesives added to the lining that’s referred to in the industry as dual-wall tubing. The inner wall will actually conform around whatever is beneath it when heat is applied which can fill any voids within the system. Once hard, this produces a rock-solid defense against environmental variables. 

Other materials out there that are great for specific applications include:

  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon)
  • Silicone
  • Fluorinated ethylene propylene (FPE)
  • And other advanced materials

The main advantage to working with an established cable assembly manufacturer is going to be the knowledge and experience to know when is best to use a specific material in the assembly. Our team has seen so many different applications over the years and have kept up with the ever-increasing complexity of technology in order to produce cable assemblies that fit perfectly within their intended environments. 

Choosing When to Use Heat Shrink Tubing

Choosing the best applications is both data and intuition driven. Our team knows the materials we have at hand and the tools at our disposal to produce the perfect component for a given cable assembly or wire harness design. Remember that heat shrink tubing is produced when heat is applied to the tubing material. There are two general ways to go about the application of heat that can produce different results for the final product. Heat shrinking the material in the oven or using a hot gun are two of the most common methods we’ll employ but there are others out there for very specific applications. 

In general, the heat shrink tubing can be decided upon given the original specifications set forth by the client. Our cable engineers take these specifications as the parameters they have to work with and utilize a tool crib of well over 5,000 existing tools for connectors, junctions, overmolds and housings for cable assemblies. Knowing the specs, our team will produce tubing that can be classified into different shrink ratios. 

If you are doing research on heat shrinking ratios, you will probably see three of the most prevalent being two-to-one, three-to-one, or four-to-one ratios. This means that the original material will be two, three, or four times as large as the heat shrink tubing turns into. Precise measurements are absolutely critical in custom cable assemblies and all the more so with heat shrink tubing. Our team looks at the size of the components to computate the precise size of shrink ratio needed to produce a cost-effective solution. 

Start Your Cable Design with Heat Shrink

From a quick solution for cable jacketing, to a powerful seal against external factors that can degrade a cable assembly, heat shrinking is an incredibly useful process to have in our tool kit. When our clients need heat shrinking in a cable assembly, we’ll help examine all of the specifications and look at the application to recommend the perfect blend of materials and processes that will provide a cable assembly that can be counted on. 

Our team is also pretty finatical about quality assurance which is why each and every product we make is 100% tested for continuity, integrity, polarity and functionality before ever shipping on to the client. Contact our team today to get started. 

What a Shielded Cable Assembly Is and Why It’s Needed

shielded cable

A cable assembly is a vital piece of modern technology that truly enables the functionality of our electronic systems. From cutting-edge communications systems to high-tech manufacturing facilities, cable assemblies are the humble workhorses that make it all possible. Certain applications call for increased protection like shielding in order to ensure the integrity of data transmission from interference like electromagnetic interference (EMI) or radio frequency interference (RFI). 

In today’s LiveWire cable assembly deep dive, we’ll explore all the ins and outs of shielded cable assemblies to highlight just how useful these can be in a variety of situations.  

What is a Shielded Cable Assembly, Anyway?

Data transmitting cable assemblies require advanced protection from interference that can degrade what’s being sent through their system. Many cable assemblies have advanced protections like hermetic sealing and overmolding, as well as using specific materials like Kevlar when abrasion is a concern. However, how do you protect against external sources that are creating “noise” that can lead to a total loss of the data being transmitted? In walks shielded cable assemblies. 

Sources for external disturbances are many. To complicate matters, there are several kinds of interference and several ways that each can manifest itself. Disturbances are both man-made, as well as natural occurrences. With today’s increasingly-sophisticated electronic systems, it’s likely to have systems running near other electrical circuits or large pieces of automated machinery. Each of these systems has its own transmission of data and electrical currents which can change quickly up and down and generate disturbance. 

Why Do Cable Assemblies Need to Be Shielded?

When the noise that’s generated by nearby electronics actually leads to degradation, it can severely disrupt operations. As we discussed, cable assemblies’ jacketing, insulative, and filler materials can all be modified with a custom blend in order to provide the best protection in a given environment. Waterproofing, adding flexural strength, protection from abrasions—these are great for making a mechanically-sound assembly that functions well in its intended environment but it wouldn’t address any issues related to interference which could still render an unshielded cable assembly useless. 

That’s where shielded cable assemblies can really prove their worth. They are specifically engineered to combat electromagnetic interference. A specialized shielding is used to encapsulate the conductors below which are vital to the effective transmission of data. The shielding can both reflect back the disturbance and/or also ground it. Cable shielding has additional protection engineered specifically to the application so the amount and type of shielding that’s required can vary significantly. Our engineers help our clients look at the specific situation for the assembly to produce the most cost-effective version of the solution. Achieving this over and over again takes the right people, equipment, and intelligence of process. 

With our ability to prototype different types of shielded cable assembly, we apply to test in real-time just how each and every component comes together. If it doesn’t fit within the strict project management timeline and budget we’ve developed with our clients, then we’ll move on to the next solution that does. Quality assurance and quality control (QAQC) is a dedicated science that requires process management engineers to be skilled in eliminating waste and capitalizing on efficiencies. We have found such attention to detail is how you produce shielded cable assemblies that can be depended on no matter what the situation or level of complexity is. 

Different Types of Cable Shielding for Different Applications

Whenever you start to explore your options for shielded cable assemblies, you will likely see one of two prevailing types of shieldings present which are foil shielding and braided shielding.

  • Foil Shielding –  foil is one that uses a thin sheet of reflective material such as copper and aluminum. The foil method generally employs an additional layer of something like polyester synthetic fabric to beef up the overall construction. Foil taping with a material like Mylar can be truly game-changing to help amp up coverage for the assembly from the harmful effects of EMI and RFI. 
  • Braided Shielding –  By weaving together bare strands of a material like tinned or regular copper, you can achieve a great EMI-shielded cable assembly. That’s because the braided cord is a great way to ground the system and provides ease of termination, especially when soldering or using an automated crimp machine as we have at Meridian. The only downside you will find with a braided shield is that they are not going to give you the complete coverage you get with foil. 

Think about how the weave comes together, on a small scale, but there nonetheless, will be small gaps in coverage no matter how tight your weaving is. The tradeoff there though is that braided shields are typically more effective but add size/bulk and cost to the final cable assembly design. 

Interestingly, many shielded cable assemblies rely on both braided shielding and foil/tape shielding. These are best utilized when there are a lot of electronic systems in a confined space, like what you might find at a busy data center.  

How Do You Test Shielded Cable Assemblies?

Testing shielded cable assemblies is paramount to product quality but it takes some dedicated processes and documentation standards in order to do it right. We have held industry-recognized certifications like the ISO 9001:2015 for decades based purely on our level of fanaticism with quality in everything we do. Testing, therefore, is one of the most involved processes you will find at Meridian. 

Even from concept, we’ll be looking at continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality. This first occurs in a digitized environment while different designs come to life with the help of computer-aided design software. We’ll run virtual simulations on individual components to see which designs best meet the needs of the project. 

Once complete, we’ll typically move forward with small batch prototyping. As we’ve looked at, this helps test the entire process for each design from start to finish. Just-in-time ordering, Kanban, and lean six sigma principles all come into play as we manage logistics, sourcing, manufacturing, testing, and shipping each individual component. The iteration that is most efficient in how it accomplishes every criteria is most likely to move forward with volume manufacturing. 

Last up is a visit to Meridian’s pride and joy – the Advanced Life Testing Lab. Cycles to failure, cable flexing to failure, retraction compliance—no matter what type of test is needed to confirm the data behind each unit’s performance, we make it happen under harsh, real-world conditions. Freezing and scorching temps, moisture, caustic substances, and more await each shielded cable assembly that rolls off the line to make sure it has what it takes to perform exactly as required for years to come.  

Industries that Use Shielded Cable Assemblies

Shielded cable assemblies provide their best benefit in particularly noisy environments or where the possibility for interference could possibly jeopardize the integrity of the data. In either case, industry stakeholders recognize the need for quality cable assemblies produced by trusted manufacturers. 

Shielded cable assemblies keep the modern world running and you’ll find them in just about every industry out there including:

  • Industrial control systems – think of a busy factory floor, a bottling facility, or even your city’s utility systems. Industrial control systems are tight environments, filled with a lot of electronic noise. Cable shielding helps keep each system operating as it should eliminate costly downtime and inefficiencies.
  • Medical technology – when diagnostic or surgical equipment performing well literally means saving lives, the cable assemblies powering these systems simply have to work. A host of additional design considerations play into medical cable assemblies beyond shielding including things like bio-sensitive jacks and specialized strain reliefs.
  • Telecommunications – our society is more connected than ever and relies on a steady stream of data from around the world. Advanced communications equipment like satellites and towers all require complex shielded cable assemblies to make sure data is uninterrupted. 
  • Military, Automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and many others! 

Depending on what the design calls for, shielding helps to reduce or completely block EMI in a shielded cable assembly. The type and amount of shielding used in each industry is going to vary on a case-by-case basis based on the application at hand. This is where custom cable manufacturers have a steep edge over off-the-shelf cable assembly producers.

Shielded Cable Assemblies Manufactured With Precision

Having the tools and the talent in cable assembly manufacturing is only part of the equation for a truly exceptional experience for your customers. At Meridian, we’ve invested in the quality of both our product and our processes, which include customer service and interaction just as much as the quality of the manufacturing process. When you invest in getting that much better with each and every project you undertake, the results really do start to speak for themselves. Ready to discuss the details of your shielded cable project? Contact our team however is most convenient for you and we’ll start the process of getting you the perfect solution.

Intro to PCB & Cable Harness Assemblies for Industrial, Controls & Instrumentation Applications

electric wires PCB motherboard

Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are laminated pieces of conductors and insulators providing layers of protection for the overall assembly. Soldering allows electronic components in precise locations to provide their respective use as connectors between terminations all in an efficient and controlled manner. Providing electrical connection and mechanical support, these workhorses make electrical components in a circuit’s usefulness possible within a vast array of electronic devices. 

Within the cable harness assembly sphere, PCBs for industrial controls and instrumentation are crucial components to the functionality of some of the world’s most complex systems. In today’s LiveWire insider’s look, we’ll cover all things PCBs in industrial and instrumentation to give you a better idea of how these components keep so many electrical systems running.

PCB Cable Assembly Manufacturing 101

Our connected world has increased in technological advancements at an exponential rate and the need for both commercial and industrial PCBs has risen in lockstep. Not only do PCBs and cable harness assemblies need to be highly capable but getting these products into the hands of clients given the many supply chain restrictions seen today takes a proven supply chain management system in place.

At Meridian, we deliver these kinds of exceptional results every day with a full line of some of the most advanced manufacturing capabilities available. From prototyping runs to making sure every component comes together perfectly to massive volume manufacturing, PCB assembly along with the custom cable assemblies provides total box, as well as sub-assembly set-ups for even the most challenging circumstances. 

PCB assembly can take many different shapes, depending on the needs of the project. There’s flex PCBs and standard rigid boards, single boards, double boards, multiple layers, and even specialized aspects like through-hole printed circuit boards. All of these require a perfect set of design parameters and precise engineering to provide a useful final product that will easily integrate into its intended system. 

Applications for PCB & Cable Harness Assemblies

PCBs really wouldn’t get very far without the perfect cable assembly and wire harness making integration possible. That’s where our full complement of custom cable and wire harness design and production capabilities comes into play in a big way. Whether it’s for a fully automated industrial control system for a waste-water treatment plant or a high-volume bottling facility, these PCBs and cable harness assemblies simply have to work. 

You’ll find PCBs in every electronic system imaginable, especially within the industrial and commercial marketplace. OEMs, as well, rely on the expertise we provide to provide the perfect solution within their overall system. A few of the many applications you’ll find include: 

PCB Assemblies in Medical Instrumentation

PCBs within the medical industry requires some very sophisticated processes to produce just what’s needed. PCBs start with screen printing where even the most precise specs can be ingrained into the design. Surface mounting also requires precision where testing and optical inspection systems can ensure exact fits per spec. You’ll see a blend of fully-automated processes, semi-automated, and even manual aspects to pull off the perfect build of a basic board. 

A few of the many different unique PCBs used in the medical field include:

  • Flex PCBs: these flexible printed circuit boards can be employed in many different applications where space constraints are an issue. Flex circuit boards utilize substrates with natural flexural strength to bend without breaking. This helps to provide a smaller and higher density design for mounting which in turn helps to reduce waste in the assembly process and enhances overall reliability in the system.
  • Rigid Flex PCBs: you can have the best of both worlds by combining rigid PCBs and flex PCBs in a hybrid circuit. Flex layers usually run between the rigid layers to give full connectivity on both the top and bottom of the PCB. The lightweight and compactness afforded to rigid flex PCBs is their main advantage. Designs help engineers fit these in smaller spaces, which in turn can be utilized in advancements like miniaturization which is at the frontier of some of the most cutting-edge medical technologies on the horizon.
  • Back Flex PCBs: these hybrids utilize special polyamide compounds and other unique aspects like water-soluble solder before being coated and baked in special ovens. The end result is a highly functional piece of equipment that is lighter in weight, thinner, more flexible, and can be directly integrated into advanced medical electronic systems.

From diagnostic hardware to advanced medical electronics, and cutting-edge medical imaging devices, PCBs and medical cable assemblies provide the crucial connection that makes today’s top-rate medical care possible.

PCB for Networking and Telecommunications Controls

The type of high-frequency chip carriers and advanced fiber optics found throughout our communications infrastructure is what powers global connectivity. At the core of these systems is, you guessed it, PCBs and custom cable harness assemblies. There are many specialized considerations within telecommunications

For example, a data access switch relies on PCBs that are in compliance with Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) directives. From broadcasting to the communications system for a commercial office setting, PCBs make the electronics systems “talk” to one another in an efficient and secure manner. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) devices, video conferencing, cell towers, high-speed internet, even secure servers for the military and department of defense—all of the systems rely on PCBs and cable harness assemblies to get the job done.

PCB and Cable Assemblies for Automotive Applications

Whether it’s a camera module in the vehicle, lighting that adjusts to the time of day and even the curvature of the roadway, or other forms of automotive electronics like LIDAR systems going into self-driving features, PCBs, and automotive cable assemblies make it all possible. With our IATF 16949 certification, Meridian stands as a recognized leader in high-quality automotive assemblies. We utilize our advanced capability in design and production to provide OEMs with the perfect set-up for easy integration, whether that’s a small-batch prototype run or full volume manufacturing.

Engineering the Perfect PCB Cable Assemblies for Industrial Controls

From robotics to everyday consumer electronics, advanced LED lighting, and more, our society relies on PCBs in just about every facet of life. Behind these products and services are the industrial control systems that make automation possible. Municipalities rely on industrial control systems to power water and utility grids, smart infrastructure, and a number of other critical components we rely on every day. 

Engineering cable types like braided, coaxial, multi-conductor, and too many more to list, Meridian has the design capability to start with known specifications and fit these to the project at hand. With a tool crib of well over 5,000 existing overmolds, junctions, terminations, connections, and other crucial elements, our team has the expertise and capability to deliver the perfect solution to even the most complex industrial control system. 

Quality is at the Core of High Functioning PCB Assemblies

Quality assurance and quality control (QAQC) is built into the heart of any custom cable manufacturer worth its weight. We have advanced accreditation in quality control systems that make sure we’re that much better with each and every production run we undertake. Our ISO 9001:2015 certification is actually wholly dependent on the QAQC program we have in place and our ability to continually demonstrate our commitment in this area. This extends from customer service all the way to design and production. 

Testing is an absolutely critical portion of quality control. We use other techniques like Lean Six Sigma, Kanban, and Just-In-Time ordering to have the most efficient processes possible, but testing is how we guarantee that each and every assembly is 100% known to be in line with specs for continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality before shipping.

Meridian’s Advanced Life Testing Lab is one of the coolest parts of our entire operation, where each and every assembly and harness is put through the harshest conditions and tests imaginable to make sure they are up to the task they are being asked to do. Whether that’s a pull test, flex test, using extreme temperatures, chemical resistance tests, or a whole battery of others, we make sure that the assembly can perform. 

As a UL-approved manufacturing facility, we can also help our clients get their products certified through UL. We’ll typically develop a sample that’s ready to be tested and the UL design team uses their own battery of tests to make sure it’s in line with OSHA, ANSI, and other applicable standards. 

Start Your PCB Project with Dedicated Professionals

Meridian has decades of experience as a leader in cable assembly design and manufacturing. We’ve accomplished this with a commitment to quality in everything we do. From that first client interaction through volume manufacturing, you will find a superior level of quality built into every step of your project’s journey. Discover why so many of our clients have come to depend on us when complexity and technical expertise are required to get the job done on time and on budget. Contact our team today to discuss the needs of your PCB cable harness assembly project.

Is a Wire Harness Different from an Electrical Harness?

Wire Harnesses

Ah, the age-old question. The quick answer is no, there is no difference between a wire harness and an electrical harness. Wire harnesses and cable assemblies themselves are often used interchangeably but these two components each play their own critical part in the overall system. 

In today’s LiveWire deep dive, we’ll highlight the humble wire harness however you refer to it to see just how intense the engineering can be behind these workhorses that make today’s ultra-complex technology possible.

Wire Harness, Cable Harness, Wiring Harness – What’s the Difference?

No matter what name you call it by, the wire harness is the infrastructure behind some of mankind’s most technologically advanced machines in the modern age. A wire harness is made up of various components that support, protect, and simplify electrical design within a wide variety of industries. Meridian produces wire harnesses for industrial control systems and the military, for cutting edge medical units, automotive assemblies, telecommunications, and so much more. 

From fighter jets to sports cars, wiring harnesses are almost literally the glue that holds everything together. However, if you ask the average buyer what’s the difference between a wire harness and a cable harness assembly, they may be hard pressed to answer. 

That’s because cable assembly and wire harness are so often used interchangeably that they have spawned all manner of different name combinations that are still incorrectly referring to different things. While there is no difference between a wire harness and an electrical harness, a cable assembly and a wire harness are two distinct engineering marvels. 

So, What is a Wire Harness Exactly?

The wire harness itself is an engineered grouping of cable assemblies typically constructed with some form of insulative or other protective material. A cable assembly is used to transmit data, power, or signal through its system and a wire harness facilitates this functionality with various support structures. 

Whether it’s cable straps and ties, Kevlar sleeving, specialized mylar tape, or an endless variety of other combinations, the wire harness is what simplifies the integration of cable assemblies into the large system. The term “plug and play” comes to mind with the ease of integration that one can think of with a well-designed and manufactured wire harness. However, there should be noted that there is a huge difference between an off-the-shelf assembly and one that has been custom designed to meet the challenges of the application. While a cable assembly can be as simple as a male to male coax cable, a wire harness can integrate multiple breakouts with different cable assemblies, conductors, terminations, and connections all in one complex system. 

It is this multifaceted usefulness that allows Meridian’s top cable engineers the ability to construct the custom wire harnesses used in everything from medical diagnostic equipment to communications infrastructure.

The Many Benefits of Using a Custom Wire Harness 

Ease of Integration

The typical car, truck, van, or SUV is going to have many feet of cables in order to connect all of the important components. The custom wire harness is one that has been specifically made to OEM standards in order to easily integrate into the vehicle either during manufacturing or when repairs are necessary. As you might expect, each manufacturer has its own specifications for exactly how each component should fit within the system. With high standards, automotive manufacturers and OEMs look for a specialized custom cable and wire harness manufacturers that have proven capability in this field. With Meridian’s IATF 16949 certification, our team has demonstrated we have the knowledge, skills, abilities, and commitment to the quality required in the automotive sector. 

Built to Spec

The automotive sector is only one industry where ease of integration is a major benefit of custom wire harnesses. Advanced medical equipment that have special concerns like bio-medical jacks and strain reliefs all require specific engineering to meet the demands of the application. That’s where a custom cable harness helps provide the stout engineering needed to meet the needs of each individual project. Take for instance MILSPEC cable and wire harnesses. These have to meet strict DOD guidelines for quality and exact specifications in order to both be integrated easily into a military system, but also to be able to withstand some of the harshest conditions imaginable. 

Perfectly Suited for the Environment

A custom wire harness provides protection against excessive vibrations, moisture, dust, humidity, caustic chemicals, temperature, and a wide range of additional variables. A custom component has also been engineered just for the space it’s going in, which means consideration for size optimization. 

How Our Team Designs a Complex Wire Harness 

The very first part of a custom wire harness design is looking at the requirements of the client. That means our engineers are busy calculating geometric, as well as, electric components to meet the needs of the project. The design is established in a virtual computer aided design (CAD) 3D system that allows the engineer a chance to build and test different components under different scenarios all before a physical assembly board is ever even utilized. 

Once the engineer finalizes the design that works best based on the models, we’ll usually move forward with a schematic that tells our skilled manufacturing team where everything goes on the assembly board for the wire harness. At Meridian, we design more than 70 percent of the assemblies and harnesses we produce which really makes us a design firm that happens to produce some of the best assemblies available today.

The assembly board provides a life-sized mapping of the entire harness assembly and each individual component of the overall design. With everything ready to begin manufacturing, our team can move forward in the production process. 

Manufacturing the Most Advanced Wire Harnesses on the Planet

Every wire in a wire harness starts out as a single strand of a conductor, usually copper. At Meridian, we extrude our own wires and can get them incredibly small and incredibly exact, depending on the needs of the project. Wires are cut to length and all labeled according to a master plan provided by our engineers. Wire management is a crucial component to any cable manufacturer’s repertoire and another benefit to using an experienced team of the best in the business. Conductors can be fitted with whatever connector or terminals are required because we have such a massive tool crib to tap throughout the process. 

Even better, if we don’t have the tooling required for a really custom job, we have the advanced machinery to make, test, and retest the component on the spot. Better still, we are a UL-approved manufacturing facility so we can even help get a harness certified through various agencies when that’s what our clients need. 

Are Wire Harnesses Assembled Manually?

Yes, even with the incredibly sophisticated machines we have at our disposal, a lot of the wiring harness assembly process is done manually by very skilled hands. There are a great many different processes throughout the process that benefit from semi-automation or even fully-automated processes, but there is still quite a bit that is done by hand because it’s simply more efficient. 

Some of the processes done by hand include:

  • Incorporating a terminated wire or wires that are different lengths into the assembly board.
  • Make sure the cable assemblies are appropriately placed through sleeves and/or conduits.
  • Ensuring cable breakouts are appropriately taped and marked. 
  • Manually crimping where required.
  • Installing various binding methods such as cable ties throughout the system.

When it’s a small batch such as for testing or prototyping, the hands-on process can really pay off with efficiency and quality; however, as we mentioned above we’ll use automation wherever it saves time and money in the process.

A sampling of different processes we can automate include:

  • Utilizing our fully automated crimping machine like the AMP crimping press.
  • Making automatic or manual soldering with our Quick 376D solder station.
  • Using our KAMsnaps press machines for two-part snaps.

We have hundreds of machines like the ones above and continually invest in new technology that allows the process to be that much better with each and every run. It’s this level of quality that separates off the shelf from truly custom manufacturers.

Meridian is Your Source for Custom Wire Harnesses 

When it comes to quality, it pays to be a little persnickety. Our team is able to maintain our ISO 9001:2015 and IATF 16949 certifications because we have a verifiable quality control system in place that truly governs everything we do. With continuous process improvement, we’re always seeking to do that much better. That includes everything from a customer’s first interaction to prototyping different wire harnesses and solving even the most complex issues for our clients. No matter the challenge, our experienced team has the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to adapt and overcome. 

Whether you need a small batch for certification or require volume manufacturing, Meridian has stood as a leader in custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses for decades. Contact our team now to start reviewing your project specs and get started.

The Ultimate Guide to Finding Quality Telecom Cable Assemblies

High quality telecom cable assemblies are the humble workhorses that keep enterprises running, through even the most uncertain times. At Meridian, we design and manufacture assemblies used around the world to keep our global society connected. In today’s LiveWire deep dive, we’ll be taking a look at what all goes into custom cable assemblies for telecommunications and the top benefits of having a trusted cable manufacturer partnership. 

What is a Cable Assembly Used in Telecommunications?

The telecommunications industry understandably has some pretty tight requirements. Literally, telecom cable assemblies are going in some extremely tight spaces such as between the walls and floors in large commercial buildings. They may be subject to heat or friction, moisture or caustic chemicals, altitude, and 1,001 other environmental factors. They’re also subjected to various forms of interference like electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI). 

All of these factors have to be planned for and mitigated against with the right combination of conductor, insulators, fillers, connectors, terminations, sheaths, and more. Going further down this rabbit hole, all of those components have to themselves be made to a high level of quality, and preferably should be UL-listed so that integrity and safety are maintained. With all of the right parts and pieces, a cable assembly used in telecommunications can provide unfettered transfer of data, signal, and power around the world and even beyond. 

Aerospace and military telecommunications are some of the most demanding applications; however even the infrastructure required to maintain today’s global communications networks itself requires the highest level of quality humanly possible in their assemblies. 

Benefits of Working with a Telecom Cable Assembly Manufacturer

When you choose to get your custom telecom cable assembly from an experienced manufacturer, you’re going to get a lot of beneys that add value and produce measurable returns for the investment made. 

A few of the benefits you can expect to see with your new custom cable assembly can include:

  • More Accurate Specifications: we are a design firm that manufactures custom cable assemblies. Our engineers work to provide perfect specifications which can then be implemented during manufacturing. For example, we have both the technology and the skilled personnel to be able to provide incredibly precise soldering specifications, even to within .015 pitch. Our testing capabilities are also off the chart with Cirris testing units that can spot the smallest imperfections and even custom testing units to make sure that never-before-seen assemblies can perform under whatever conditions are expected of them.
  • Ability to Meet Quantities All the Way to Volume Manufacturing: we can produce qualification samples, do prototyping runs, and offer full-production testing before moving all the way to volume manufacturing. Not every manufacturer can produce small batch and volume manufacturing side-by-side in the same facility but with our expansive tooling inventory and advanced systems, we can produce whatever is needed to meet the individual demands of the project.
  • Better Flexibility in Design & Manufacturing: telecom cable assemblies have to be inherently flexible and we most definitely have a vast array of tests to meet even the strictest flexural requirements. But we also have flexibility in our manufacturing process because we have two wholly owned and operated UL-approved manufacturing facilities in both the U.S. and in China. This is what’s allowed us to pivot to the changing needs of the project and deliver the perfect solution. 
  • Next-Level Quality Assurance: from the top down, our entire organization is built around quality. It’s a part of literally everything we do. In order to maintain our ISO 9001:2015, we have to be able to demonstrate an actionable quality assurance plan is in place, is working, and itself is being continuously improved upon. That level of accountability lends itself to better cable assemblies.

Whether you have an older set-up that needs a cable assembly not being produced anymore or you need an entirely new custom cable assembly for your application, partnering with a trusted telecommunication cable assembly manufacturer is going to multiply the value your assembly project provides.

Where to Get UL Recognized Cable Assemblies for Telecom

UL, LLC, formerly Underwriters Laboratories (UL), is one of only a handful of safety certification agencies approved by the U.S. Government to create and test safety standards across many different industries. UL standards for wires and cables are stringent because these components are so vital to just about every facet of modern life. The UL wire and cable testing and certification process is able to test and evaluate nearly 100 different wire and cable categories to both national and international standards. These pertain mostly to safety and performance thresholds that need to be met with today’s telecom assemblies.

Using UL certified wire and cables in our designs means our engineers are using something that has known specifications and has been tested for safety. This makes for a better design and a better product. Because we are a UL-approved manufacturing facility, we can help put the coveted “UL” mark of quality on the bottom of a product and can even help get products certified through many different agencies. Meridian is also an approved wire and cable extruder which means literally from the first strand of copper onward, our products are built to the highest specifications from the most demanding certification agency in the world. 

For single conductor wires, multi-conductor cables, and more being certified by UL to produce our own components to this superior level of quality permeates into every single cable assembly for telecom projects we undertake.

How Can You Use Telecom Cable Assemblies?

The telecommunications industry is a very broad sector with a myriad of companies and agencies seeking to transmit data and signal, whether that’s video, audio, text, or otherwise, around the world. The equipment making global communication possible holds some of the most technologically advanced systems in the world. 

Just a few of the many different applications and ancillary uses around the telecom sector include the following: 

  • Transmission and Switch Controls – lines that are transmitting are switched both in and out of a network so that the efficiency of an electrical system is optimized. Cable assemblies make this possible. 
  • Telecommunications Systems – covers a wide variety of transmission methods through different mediums including wires and radio signal, optical, and electromagnetic systems. Without cable assemblies for telecommunications systems, none of this transmission could occur.
  • Transmitting Video – the wireless transmission of video across locations is accomplished because a wired video signal can be converted into a wireless signal. All of this is accomplished through, you guessed it, telecom cable assemblies.
  • Antenna Connectivity – distributed antenna systems (DAS) can be vast networks of different nodes that are run to a common source between them via a wireless transport medium. Once again, cable assemblies for telecom help make this marvel of modern engineering possible.
  • Distribution Board – in order to get electricity safely into a building, you need a distribution board. The cable assemblies help provide the distribution board the power that’s then distributed around to different breakers and secondary circuits.
  • Networking Cores – this is the heart of modern telecommunication systems, allowing for the service that governments, businesses, and consumers alike rely on to be connected via an access network. 
  • Internet exchange point (IXP) – this is the physical location from which telecom infrastructure companies like internet service providers and communication providers connect and “exchange” internet traffic.

To accommodate growing demand for connectivity, ever-more sophisticated systems need to be engineered to meet even the most stringent requirements. As a design-first manufacturer, we rely on our vast experience and massive tooling inventory to produce the one-of-a-kind solution the world may have never seen before. In fact, we design more than 70 percent of the products we manufacture which is why our capabilities in custom telecom cable assemblies are so far reaching.

Sectors Rely on Quality Telecom Cable Assemblies to Get the Job Done

As a whole, the telecommunications industry is responsible for providing telephone, TV, internet, and other communications mediums to the world. Consumers are everyone from governments to businesses, and individual users. Whether it’s for local data transfer, longer geographical distances, the internet, wireless data, or private lines, the telecommunications infrastructure our cable assemblies help to connect is vital to our modern way of life. 

That’s why quality matters when it comes to telecom cable assemblies. You want a manufacturer that has the proven track record of delivering the best-in-class assemblies that can be relied on cycle-after-cycle. With decades of global telecom cable assembly manufacturing under our belts, this is exactly what our clients have come to expect from our team.

Start with a Trusted Cable Assembly Manufacturer

At Meridian, our expansive capability was born from decades of designing and manufacturing the highest quality telecom cable assemblies available. Whatever your project demands, we have the tooling inventory, processes, and people to deliver effective solutions. Contact us today to start reviewing your project’s specs with our team. We’ll review all the options available to deliver your perfect telecommunications cable assembly on-time and on-budget.