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Overmolded Cable Assembly Guide: What It Is and Why You Need It

molded cable assembly

Overmolded cable assemblies are icons for the strength and resiliency they add to a cable assembly. Cable overmolding is used to protect the assembly to endure some of the toughest conditions Planet Earth (and beyond) has to offer. 

As leaders in the design and manufacture of the modern overmolded cable assembly, Meridian helps our clients know when’s the best time to employ cable overmolding within their custom cable assembly design project to get the maximum benefit. 

What is cable overmolding?

Cable overmolding is a process where either insert molding or injection molding is used to combine wires and connectors into a unified piece. The cable overmolding design process involves placing the cable assembly components within a mold, then covering with a hot liquid plastic material by means of injection. Once it has a chance to cool, the final product will match whatever mold was used and if done correctly will protect the connection of the underlying wires and connectors. 

Overmolding is an ideal solution for providing a seal for cable assemblies and their connectors. This is especially useful in situations where the assemblies will face rugged or extreme conditions. As well, overmolded connectors offer medical practitioners with an assembly that can withstand sterilization procedures and also comes with built-in strain relief. 

Other considerations for multiple applications include incorporation of Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) shielding. From industrial control systems to telecommunications, the overmolding process helps to create one-of-a-kind cable assemblies built to withstand tough environments. This is achieved because of advanced mechanical strength and flexibility in design. Aesthetics also play a major role, aiding both in a good look and feel, as well as helping incorporate the assembly into an existing system.

What are the benefits of using overmolded cable assemblies?

Beefing up the construction around a cable assembly’s connection point provides several key benefits. Simply put, the benefit of using a cable overmolding means the cable assembly should last longer and perform better than it would without the added protection. 

An overmolded cable assembly provides a host of other benefits including:

  • Increasing the flexural strength, especially where the cable exits. This area is going to bear the brunt of movement in most situations so additional strength is required to make sure the connection remains reliable.
  • Increasing the level of protection overall against outside forces like temperature swings, moisture, rubbing, impacting, and shocking.
  • Enhancing the physical security for the cable assembly.
  • Increasing the strain relief provided, as well as the pull strength.
  • Creating a seal for the cable assembly connection that can be completely water-tight, resist moisture, resist oil, and provide some other resistance based on the needs of the application.
  • Helping to improve the aesthetics of the assembly and making visual cues that aid with installation of the assembly into its intended system.

The benefits of overmolded cable assemblies are many but there is an increased cost associated with adding these extra layers of protection. Careful considerations like these are best made with the help of an experienced custom cable assembly manufacturer. At Meridian, we specialize in custom solutions and can develop the perfect solution to meet budgetary and time constraints. 

Customization Options for Overmolded Cable Assemblies

One of the top benefits of using a custom cable manufacturer lies in the fact that you can tweak each element in the design process in order to produce the most efficient version of a product. Our design engineers can customize a variety of the aspects for an overmolded connectors and cable assemblies including:

  • Changing up colors to meet the client needs, make it easier to install, more aesthetically-pleasing, etc.
  • Incorporating corporate logos or names.
  • Including attachment hardware like flanges.
  • Changing the angle of the exit point whether that’s straight, at a right angle, or just about any other customization required.
  • Using any one of a number of different materials like PVC and TPU (more on these later).
  • Utilizing different processes like low pressure and injection molding.

Customization options abound when working with a custom cable assembly manufacturer like Meridian. In fact, we design over 70% of the products we manufacture. With an incredible tool crib of more than 5,000 existing tools, connectors, and other components, we can provide the perfect amalgamation of cable and wire for your assembly.

How it’s Made: Overmolded Cable Assembly Edition

In order to produce an overmolded cable assembly, you need a sophisticated piece of machinery known as an injection molding machine. The machine is able to push the overlay material into a mold at a high degree of pressure. Usually a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) or thermoset plastic is used to be injected into the mold. 

Injection Molding Machines

Knowing the right tools for the job is crucial in any design process. When it comes to injection molding machines, the engineers have to use a machine with the desired tonnage for the project. The tonnage is how much force the machine has to exert to keep the molten resin within the mold. The bigger the mold, the more force is required to produce a viable final product.

Materials

Our engineers determine the most effective materials to be used in the overmolded cable assembly. Different materials have different benefits like increasing how rigid the assembly is, or conversely, how flexible it can be. 

Common overmold materials used in cable overmolding include:

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a very common material because it has excellent durability and the ability to resist moisture. It also is able to withstand a good degree of tension and is versatile. 
  • Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is great because it resists fraying and has a high degree of elasticity. TPU is particularly suited for cold regions.

Injection

During the injectable molding process, the mold resin goes from the hopper and into the molding machine. Here, it can be mixed with different additives and then an injection screw pumps it into the mold cavity. The mold itself can be customized with things like logos or part numbers. As the material is heated in the barrel of the screw, it will begin transgressing down into the tooling for the mold. 

The liquified and molten resin starts to collect towards the end of the barrel, ready to be shot into the mold’s cavities. There is almost always extra allowance for the shot amount since some of the resin will more than likely shrink. Within just a few seconds, the mold’s cavities are filled with the molten resin. The screw is designed to continue applying pressure to allow for the resin go start to cool and begin solidifying. 

Cooling

Sometimes our engineers need to add in a circulating water or oil to help with cooling and cut down production time. Once cooled, the molded component can be removed from the mold and will bear whatever design the mold incorporates. 

What’s in a Mold?

A mold is the actual tool that is used to create the overmolded cable assembly. As a custom cable assembly manufacturer builds up their experience, they begin to amass many different tools as a project is just as likely to require the fabrication of a whole new tool to complete the job. How long a mold is used as a tool is dependent on its purpose and what it’s made out of. 

As with everything in life, the larger and more complicated the mold is, the more expensive it will be. Molds can be made with different metals or can require detail work that causes the price to fluctuate. When molds are needed to produce again and again in a volume manufacturing setting, it’s generally best to use a metal like a hardened steel. This can be more costly initially but the hardened steel molds are made to last a really long time and will produce a lot of overmolded cable assemblies during its useful life.

Molds are also commonly made out of aluminum when they are being employed during the prototype process. Prototyping provides our engineers with a chance to see how different components will all come together before moving into larger scale production. By prototyping, we’re able to spot potential issues and put safeguards in place, before project variables might otherwise hinder production. This level of commitment is what’s helped us produce the high-quality overmolded cable assemblies used in everything from military communications gear to cutting-edge hospital equipment.

Start Your Overmolded Cable Assembly Project 

As professionals in the field of custom cable manufacturing, we take great pride in the integrity of our design and products. Each and every product we produce is tested and retested before it’s ever shipped so that our clients know they can depend on the cable assembly to perform perfectly within it’s destined environment.

Overmolded cable assemblies can be the perfect addition to your custom design project to really increase the level of protection of the assembly. Providing the necessary level of protection against environmental factors helps cable assemblies last longer in the toughest environments imaginable. Contact our team now to go over your project’s unique specifications and to start the design process. 

Analyzing the Costs to Hire a Wire Harness Engineer

meeting with wire harness engineers

Wire harness engineers may seem like an expensive aspect of a wire harness fabrication project and you may be thinking, is an engineer really necessary for my wire harness build out? However, these professionals have the training, experience, and often the advanced certification required to be able to produce a wiring harness that ensures absolute continuity for the system they support. In today’s spotlight, we’ll run a complete analysis of all the costs involved and look at the value of having a wire harness engineer on your business’s next custom wire harness project.

How Much Does a Wire Harness Engineer Cost?

A wire harness engineer is typically a specialized set of electrical or mechanical engineers. These pros typically have a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering and then several years of experience under their belt before they ever sit for licensing. Once licensed, the engineer can sign and seal a set of plans for accuracy and safety.  While they are typically electrical or mechanical engineers, that can be from other engineering fields as well.

Wire harness engineers on average cost between $55 and $155 per hour depending on factors like the complexity, size of the project and their employer’s overhead. Wire harness engineers are gifted in the design, testing, and production processes required to produce a perfect solution to the client’s toughest issues. While the costs to have a wire harness engineer on your project may seem expensive, we’ll show you just how much time and money a wire harness engineer saves during custom wire harness fabrication over the course of the project. 

Benefits of Having a Wire Harness Engineer on a Custom Project

Wire harness engineers are a lot like football coaches that envision the perfect play for their team, detail everyone’s responsibility to pull it off, practice, and finally pull off the play perfectly. When you first start custom wire harness fabrication, the harness is carefully laid out on a specialized panel which allows pegs to be used to position each wire branch perfectly. The avenues of wires go off in varying directions, each with its own mission to complete. 

The wire harness engineer examines all of the terminations, connections, and other infrastructure needed to pull off the connectivity for powering the system or transmitting the signal. Using the layout grid allows the engineers to calculate dimensions perfectly to suit their intended application. When these dimensions are specified by the client, the engineer knows the input variables needed for their design parameters. This key information will help the wire harness engineer build out complex three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) models of the wiring harness before the first wire is ever extruded. 

When you have an incredibly detailed wire harness fabrication design plan in place, every step of the production process goes more smoothly. Project specifications need to be precise so that our gifted production team has the right information needed to minimize any issues and delays. 

When our production engineers receive detailed project specifications set by our experienced wire harness engineers, they’ll typically receive time and money-saving details like:

  • Spec sheets with close-up details of the connectors that show exact locations for pins.
  • A full list of wires that the project will use including the specific wire colors.
  • A full list of all the materials needed with specific part numbers.
  • A precise drawing of the final assembly with locations for labels, project tolerances, and detailed assembly instructions.
  • Specifications for testing the finished wire harness.

Remember that delays are incredibly detrimental to the project budget and timeline. When our design team puts together a project schedule, the timeline is based on accomplishing specific tasks at precise times in order to stay on schedule. So many moving parts require keen operations management principles. The project schedule uses principles first presented by Henry Gantt in the early 1900’s. Gantt’s charts would prove to be the basis for efficient project scheduling by showing how activities in a project are interdependent on one another. Wire harness engineers use other advanced methods like the critical path method (CPM) to determine the most efficient means to produce a custom wire harness. 

This level of sophistication in the design process helps to ensure projects are completed on-time and on-budget. A commitment to quality of the product and process is a driving factor behind Meridian’s continued certification in ISO 9001:2015. This rigorous certification requires a wiring harness engineer to be continually seeking new and better methods for production efficiencies, product quality, and even customer service. We have found the level of commitment required to maintain advanced industry certifications like ISO 9001 is what truly sets our custom wire harness fabrication design process apart.

A Closer Look at Engineering Fees & Other Costs

Unlike some wire harness manufacturers out there, Meridian does not typically charge for Non-recurring engineering (NRE) cost. So what are NRE costs? Typically, NRE costs will be a one-time cost for research and development (R&D) in order to design and test a brand new product for viability. At Meridian, we don’t charge a separate fee for something that should be inherent to a quality wire harness fabrication from the get-go. 

Starting Your Custom Wire Harness Project with a Knowledgeable Guide

Once the detailed project documentation is created and passed on to the design team to carry out, each process will follow a few familiar steps as it heads into production. Steps a meticulous custom wire harness fabrication process should follow include:

Review the Design. Rinse. Repeat. Okay so we’re not shampooing the wire harness but there absolutely needs to be a comprehensive review of the design in order to ensure integrity, safety, and functionality. When a client receives their custom design, the wire harness has to work as designed. Period. Our clients include those in telecommunications, medical and health technology, the military, automotive, and so many other vital industries that there simply isn’t room for error. That’s why the design review stage is so critical to overall project success. The process, parts, tools needed, and even personnel requirements will all be recalculated to ensure everything is correct and ready to be implemented.

Preparing the Materials. Logistics plays a really crucial role in the overall success of the project as sourcing materials needs to be as exact as the design itself. By using just-in-time (JIT) ordering techniques to minimize delays, our wire harness engineers are able to get quality components, right when they’re needed. We typically only use UL-certified wires and cables or are able to produce our own as a UL-approved manufacturing facility. 

Documenting the Assembly Process. While the materials are being sourced, your wiring harness engineers will be hard at work making sure the assembly documentation needed for manufacturing is complete and accurate. Meticulous assembly step-by-step instructions, complete with detailed images, illustrations, CAD drawings, and the final testing procedure will all be laid out. The physical assembly panel will also be readied and the pegs inserted in their required positions, as specified by the wire harness engineer’s design.  

Producing a One-of-a-Kind Wiring Harness. It is actually quite rare for a wire harness to go from design to volume manufacturing without first going through a prototyping stage. This allows our team the chance to review processes like the materials sourcing plan we outlined above and to test how different processes work in concert. By having a few different versions that each arrive at the same conclusion, our team is able to choose the most cost-effective and efficient means to produce the best iteration of the project. Our skilled production team will work to cut the right length of wires and lay the framework on the completed assembly panel, as specified in the design. This is when all of the connectors, terminations, wire bundling, and labeling is completed. With over 5,000 existing tools, connections, and terminations at our disposal, our gifted designers can put together the perfect amalgamation, perfectly suited for the requirements of the project.

Quality Assurance & Quality Control (QAQC). As we went through above, testing is a piece of the production process that arguably gets the most action. We test the final product to make sure it is absolutely in line with the specifications put forth by the client and detailed by the engineer’s design. We’ll make sure the wiring harness is performing as it’s required to, given the environmental factors it will face in situ. 

Given that each of these steps has a thousand tiny steps in between, orchestrating such a detailed operation takes a lot of knowledge, skill, and experience. The wire harness engineers of Meridian are some of the very best in their field because of the incredible diversity of projects we’ve been able to undertake. From highly complex industrial control systems to sophisticated aircraft controls, our team has the capability to design and produce the perfect wire harness to maintain system continuity.

Talking Over a Custom Wire Harness Design with a Wire Harness Engineer

When you’re ready for the precision and professionalism needed to complete your wire harness design on-time, on-budget, and to your exact specifications, a professional wire harness engineer is indispensable. Our streamlined process ensures your project is completed in a safe but efficient manner. Schedule a meeting with our team now to go over all of your project’s needs and to get the process started. 

Looking for a Wire Harness Engineer? Top Things to Think About

Wire Harnesses Design

Being a wiring harness engineer may not seem all that glamorous until you start to think about the truly groundbreaking modern electronics that these professionals help power. Cutting-edge medical equipment, state-of-the-art military hardware, telecommunications satellites, and more all rely on some truly gifted engineering in order to fit within the parameters of their environments. 

Meridian’s engineers and production staff are some of the very best in custom wire harness fabrication. Read on as we cover what all it takes to be the creative geniuses that are wire harness engineers.

Wondering what a wire harness engineer actually does? 

Wiring harness fabrication involves some incredibly complex design steps in order to produce a product that’s perfectly suited for its intended use. Starting with sophisticated design software, a wire harness engineer takes countless measurements and computations in order to build a virtual model for the wire harness. 

The wiring harness engineer focuses on designing a harness that will allow the safe and dependable distribution of power, data, or signal throughout a system. These outputs, in turn, provide the means to power an industrial control system, medical device, radio, etc.  With a keen understanding of mechanical and electrical engineering requirements, our engineers interpret the environmental, structural, data, power, and/or signal needs of the project, specify the necessary requirements, and then assimilate all of the data into the final design of the wiring harness

The Marks of a Good Wire Harness Engineer

Wiring harness engineers almost always have a strong background as an electrical or mechanical engineer. To become an engineer in the U.S., you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an accredited school. Licensing requirements vary from state-to-state, but most states require professional licensure in order to practice as a professional. 

Either during school and/or after you complete your bachelors, engineers-in-training (EIT), will need to complete a certain amount of time under a professional engineer (PE) before they are able to sit for a licensing exam. Once passed and as a practicing PE, engineers are able to sign and seal a set of plans, which means they’ve been reviewed and deemed satisfactory for safety, integrity, and functionality in design.

Certifications in Wiring Harness Fabrication

Like we just read, individual certifications are really important for wire harness engineers. An engineer with the experience and aptitude to pass rigorous certification standards has proven they know the best practices, techniques, and applications in modern wiring harness design. However, a wire harness engineer might be hampered in their effectiveness if their company isn’t additionally certified with industry-recognized credentials like those issued by the ISO and UL.

ISO 9001

The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, is an international organization facilitating standardization across industry. The ISO 9001:2015 standard details what it takes to be recognized as having an effective quality management system in place. This standard requires two specifics – the ability to consistently provide a product that meets customers’ standards and any regulatory/statutory requirements, as well as a focus on customer satisfaction, which in part requires continual process improvement. The professional manner of the wire harness engineers working at Meridian helps make it possible for us to continue to maintain the rigorous requirements for certification in ISO 9001:2015.

  • Fun Fact: Yes, International Organization for Standardization’s acronym is IOS, but the original founders noticed that the acronym changes for other languages, as well. In keeping with their mission towards standardization, they decided to go with ISO from the Greek ‘isos’ – meaning equal.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Certification

Another really important designation that really reflects the quality of the men and women behind the custom wire harness fabrication process is the globally-recognized “UL” stamp on a product. Meridian is both a UL-approved wire and cable extruder and a manufacturing facility. This means we’ve met the tough standards set forth for quality and safety set forth by UL and are able to put the coveted UL stamp on different products we manufacture. 

We also use UL-certified products in our designs so our wire harness engineers are working with the highest-quality components from the get-go. Additionally, we’re able to help our clients get their own products certified as meeting UL quality requirements.

Industries Wire Harness Engineers Design Products For

Wire harness engineers have some of the greatest diversity of experience among electrical engineers anywhere. That’s because unlike an electrical engineer at a given company that’s usually only working within a single industry, wire harness engineers get to design products that are employed in an incredibly diverse mix of industries.

Just some of the industries that Meridian’s engineers get to flex their wire harness design muscles in include:

  • Industrial Control: industrial control systems are crucial as the brains behind automated manufacturing such as with bottling facilities. They can also apply to automated systems controls such as with a municipal water facility. These applications require incredibly complex electrical systems in order to operate efficiently and dependably. Wire harness engineers provide the infrastructure needed to facilitate the transmission of power, data, and/or signal within these essential systems. 
  • Medical: wire harness engineers working on medical equipment projects will have to think beyond traditional wire harness manufacturing as they incorporate special considerations like bio-sensitive connectors and safety jacks. These unique applications help make modern advancements in life-saving equipment possible. 
  • Telecommunications: telecommunications infrastructure today is needed at a record-breaking pace as our world becomes more interconnected and dependent on communications systems to keep the global conversation going. Wire harness engineers help to design the systems to fit within new and existing telecommunications systems, requiring a keen understanding of the needs expressed by the client and the ability to adapt.
  • Military: military wire harness projects often need to conform to tough MILSPEC requirements in order to be depended on when our men and women in uniform are engaged on the modern battlefield. Custom wire harness fabrication for military projects causes our wire harness engineers to be even more hyper-focused than usual in order to produce a product that is safe, durable, and reliable.
  • Other examples include: automotive, aerospace, aircraft, and energy-related projects are all part of a Meridian wire harness engineer’s wheelhouse. Bottom line, we have the tools and expertise to produce the perfect solution for even the most customized requirements.

This diversity of experience is what makes our custom wire harness design process so unique. We’re able to apply the best practices we’ve honed from decades of providing solutions to our client’s most complex issues and produce truly one-of-a-kind products at-scale.

A Day in the Life of a Wire Harness Engineer

At Meridian, we take pride in our work and it shows in everything we do. We recognize the incredible wealth of talent that each of us individually brings to the table and do our best to foster creativity and inclusion at every level within our organization. As wire harness engineers are designing products that meet our clients’ needs, you might find them at one of several steps in the wiring harness fabrication process. 

Design Stage

During this stage, you’ll find our wire harness engineers hard at work using a myriad of software tools. With thousands of different computations needed, sophisticated software programs help to make sure a wire harness will be able to perform it’s crucial job of supporting the cables and wires comprising the electrical system under a given set of parameters. 

Prototyping Stage

It’s quite rare for a product to go from design to volume manufacturing without a lot of little steps in between. One crucial stop is for prototyping. This allows our wire harness engineers the chance to compare how a few different sets of components come together to solve the issue at hand. Wire harness engineers will evaluate the efficiency, as well as the efficacy of the different options and select the most applicable solution.

Production Stage

During production runs, wire harness engineers are making sure their designs are coming together uniformly in a smooth and efficient manner. Working towards efficiency in manufacturing requires process improvement techniques such as kanban and just-in-time (JIT) ordering.

Testing Stage

Before a product is ever shipped to the customer, a wire harness engineer will need to make sure the product has been tested and retested for three key elements – functionality, safety, and integrity. 

No matter where you are in the process, having experienced professionals managing all the intricate tasks that go into a production run is what helps us ensure projects are completed on-time and on-budget. We’ve found this level of commitment is what truly sets apart a custom wiring harness manufacturer’s products from off-the-shelf options.

Talking Over Project Specs with a Wire Harness Engineer

When your system requires a perfect solution to fit inside even the tightest of parameters, our gifted wire harness engineers can deliver. Contact our team to set-up a time to discuss your project’s specifications in more detail. We’ll help you understand our process, timeline, and what to expect throughout your wiring harness fabrication project.

Top Tips & Tricks for Crimping Wires in Wiring Harness Manufacturing

wire and cable manufacturers

Crimping wires as part of the wire harness manufacturing process may seem like a no-brainer step where any crimp will do. However, we’ll show how this seemingly simple process can absolutely make or break your project and the best methods used by the best manufacturers in the business to ensure a  perfect crimp, every time.

What Separates Custom Wire Harness Manufacturers’ Crimping Methods

At its most basic, crimping is simply the joining of wires to some form of fitting. The fittings help the wires connect to other components of the wiring harness assembly or to other wires themselves. The crimp is actually deforming the connector so that the components stick together. There are crimping hand tools, semi-automated tools, and fully automated crimping machines that our team uses with our custom wire harness projects.

What separates custom wire harness manufacturers is the quality of the crimp. This may not seem like an exact science when we’re deforming components to make them stay together; however, crimping needs to be exact to an incredibly precise level in order to ensure the cables’ transmission of data, power, or signal isn’t degraded. 

How to Test Crimps for Quality 

Quality testing is performed in a variety of ways and should be present throughout the manufacturing process and is something we take really seriously at Meridian. We’re really proud and humbled to continue to maintain our ISO 9001 certification. This certification is geared specifically at rating a manufacturer’s commitment to quality by grading both the quality assurance/quality control program itself and of the continued commitment towards improving this process. This level of commitment is what truly sets apart a quality crimp and a quality product.

A few of the different ways that we look to test crimp-quality include:

  • Crimp Force
  • Crimp Height and Width
  • Crimp Pull-Out Force
  • Crimp Strip Length

Running through these tests, sophisticated testing equipment is required to ensure the validity of the test data. To detect minute defects, you need a machine capable of tiny measurements. With our fully automated crimp terminal machine, there is a built-in crimp force monitor which is super sensitive in order to spot even the tiniest error in a crimp. 

Top Tips for a Perfect Crimp in Wiring Harnesses

Whether your princess involves the best hand tools for crimping all the way to a fully automated crimping machine, engineers still need to be involved throughout the process in order to ensure strict adherence to the specifications of the project. Here, we’ve highlighted several areas we pay special attention to while crimping wire harness components in order to create the perfect solution to our client’s unique needs.

1. Making Sure the Wire’s Insulation is All the Way Inside the Crimp Tab

On a crimp, the tab is what holds a wire tight and makes sure that the wire itself is fully covered. With a stripped wire, there absolutely has to be enough wire for the crimp tab to be completely covering the wire. The tab helps create a firm grip on the wire and also can grab a bit on the wire’s insulation to really secure the connection. With unstripped wires, we use crimp tabs that can make direct contact with the wire. This really is the preferred route since it saves time and is equally effective while maintaining the integrity of the wire.

The engineering that goes into this step is with the end-use of the user in mind. Our engineers design and test our product to withstand the type of variables the system is likely to face. Typically our tests run to the extreme side with things like water spray, salt exposure, extreme temps, and bending/stretching. We do this to make sure we know for a fact that a product works exactly as it’s supposed to when it rolls off the final assembly line and before it ever ships to our clients.

2. Ensuring the Wire Itself is Free of Defects Before Crimping

When you start comparing your crimp options, you really should start with the wire itself. We use UL-certified wires with known specifications so that our engineers can perfectly map out how the final product will perform under a given set of circumstances. Using a quality, proven product from the start is what helps ensure a wiring harness can be counted on to perform as intended. You can have the finest crimp in the world, but if the wires themselves are flawed, the final product will be less than stellar. 

3. How to Check Connectors to Make Sure the Wire is Fully Retained

Any sort of loose connection is going to be the biggest degrader for the wiring to transmit its supply of power, data, or signal. As a wire is having it’s terminals connected, there are several checks along the way that can help ensure a quality wire retention. 

4. Looking Closely at Crimp Indentations 

Wiring harnesses provide the wire management infrastructure needed in today’s sophisticated electronics. Crimp indentations help with the wire management plan, as well as the overall presentation. Proper alignment is also integral for ensuring a crimping tab is making good contact and actively gripping the wire. With several different kinds of crimping profiles out there, the proper indentation, done to the precise angles required, is what ensures the integrity of the connection.

5. Watch for Tears, Pulls, or Other Defects in the Insulation

Another way we pay incredibly close attention to quality is through the use of a micrograph. This sensitive equipment takes a cross section of a crimped terminal and analyzes it literally under a powerful microscope. When we polish and/or use methods like electrolyte staining, our quality assurance team is able to spot even the smallest of defects in the insulation and other integral components. This level of quality is what helps our clients know they can depend on the product they receive. With many of our wiring harnesses being used in medical, military, industrial control, and telecommunications, we know our products are simply too vital to ever allow a premature failure.

6. Ensure Crimp Tabs Don’t Damage the Wire Insulation

While we’ve shown that using insulation inside the crimp tab can benefit the integrity of the connection, as with our last tip, the engineers need to make sure that there is no further damage done to the wire insulation. It can be very easy to inadvertently damage the delicate components within a wiring harness, which is why it’s so crucial to have continuous checks throughout the process. 

When a crimping tool is being used, especially with hand-tools, there needs to be an exact exertion of force to properly grip the wire but not to damage the insulation. The same principle applies during all phases of the manufacturing process. If there’s defects in the insulation, there’s a good chance for damage and/or degradation of the harness prematurely.

7. Inspecting the Final Product

Any form of wire separation, damage to wires, damage to insulation, or abnormalities present within the many different terminals, connectors, wires, or any other component is simply not tolerated from a quality custom wire harness manufacturer.

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing quality because it’s that crucial for success in everything we do here at Meridian. As we’ve stated, when your products are being used to help our men and women in uniform, our doctors on the frontline of the medical field, or the vital communications equipment we all rely on to stay connected, you tend to take ensuring quality seriously. One of the biggest advantages we bring to our clients was the advent and ongoing use of our Advanced Life Testing Lab. This state of the art testing facility allows our engineers to subject a product to the harshest conditions imaginable to measure just how far these products will go for our clients/ When we’ve reached the best combination of different components to reach a desired outcome, we move forward in the manufacturing process. 

Quality control continues even through the final production run as each and every product we produce is tested before it ships so that when our clients receive the product they can have peace of mind knowing the integrity, safety, and functionality has been tested and retested.

Getting the Best Crimp for Your Custom Wiring Harness

Crimping wires might seem straightforward but lower tier manufacturers simply aren’t able to offer the level of sophistication in equipment or expertise to ensure that the crimp is performing flawlessly. At Meridian, we pride ourselves on being custom wire harness manufacturers. By designing over 70% of the assemblies and harnesses we produce, we’ve built up an incredible knowledge and capability base. In fact we have over 5,000 existing tools, connections, and components that allow our design team to be able to produce the perfect solution, on-time and on-budget. 

When you’re ready for a whole new experience working with a custom harness manufacturer, please call on our team of cable and wire harness professionals.

What to Look for When Comparing Wire and Cable Harness Manufacturers

Cable Manufacturer

When you start looking for the perfect solution to your unique cable and wire harness needs, it can be a bit daunting trying to decide between different manufacturers. Just looking over websites might only give you a partial picture as to the capabilities of one firm over another. So what do you use to compare different cable and wire harness manufacturers? 

Today’s spotlight is focused on how to find the best manufacturer to meet the specifications your project demands. 

Past Experience in Custom Wire and Cable Harness Manufacturing

There are many off-the-shelf cable and wire harnesses out there but rarely do these products check all of the boxes the end-user needs to ensure safe and reliable function. Simply put, manufacturers with limited experience in custom cable and wire harnesses will lack the expertise needed to adapt during the manufacturing process. 

With decades of experience under our belts as a custom cable and wire harness manufacturer, Meridian is uniquely poised to meet the tough demands of some of the most demanding projects on Planet Earth, and beyond. 

First up, always look at a manufacturer’s track record for producing products of the same nature as your custom build. We are proud to have produced the harnesses necessary to provide critical infrastructure in industries such as the military, medical, industrial, and telecommunications. 

  • Military – the military subjects cable and wire harness components to some of the harshest environments on the planet. Building to MILSPEC takes many years of experience and some truly gifted designers, as these products need to be extremely tough. With military men and women counting on the electronic systems our harnesses help make possible, our commitment to integrity, functionality, and safety is paramount.
  • Medical – the medical field uses incredibly advanced equipment to save lives, diagnose, and treat patients every day. Some of these electronics require sensitive considerations like a biomedical jack or specialized strain reliefs. Knowing our cable and wire harnesses must perform exactly as required within medical devices and equipment is all the more highlighted when someone’s health and wellbeing are on the line.
  • Industrial industrial control systems help to power the automation behind massive processing and manufacturing facilities. As well, these systems help control utilities and other necessary municipal functions like water treatment facilities. Cable and wire harnesses play an integral role in providing the infrastructure needed to transmit power, data, and signals throughout the system.
  • Telecommunications – today’s world has never been more connected, nor have we ever relied so heavily on communications infrastructure to keep the data flowing. With a heavy emphasis on beefing up the world’s telecommunications capabilities in the last few decades, Meridian has been at the forefront by providing the specific harnesses needed in highly-sophisticated and sensitive communications equipment.

While these four industries represent the core of Meridian’s prowess as a cable and wire harness manufacturer, we have also built up an incredible level of expertise in a vast number of other industries, as well. The best manufacturer is one that is familiar with your industry and can anticipate the needs of the project, even before the client may have fully articulated them. 

From the very first concept meeting right through volume production, our gifted designers and engineers have the experience necessary to produce a product that we know will work as intended, under whatever circumstance our client needs them to. This is where having an experienced custom manufacturer pays huge dividends and can save a project both time and money.

Capabilities of the Custom Wiring Harness Manufacturer

Next, as you compare different harness manufacturers, make sure to pay close attention to the capabilities they have. This may seem basic, but in manufacturing there are many companies that offer a very limited scope of capabilities and may be sourcing the majority of components from other manufacturers. 

Meridian is proud to custom create over 70% of the products that come off our assembly line. In addition to a wealth of experience, this has enabled us to build an incredible tooling inventory from which to choose from to complete the task exactly as required. In fact, we have amassed over 5,000 existing tools, connectors, and other components to be available to complete the project. During the design phase, we also employ some of the most sophisticated design software available today to produce a digital blueprint to follow all the way to volume manufacturing. With such a massive “library” of tools and equipment at our disposal, we have some of the highest levels of capability in the industry. 

Having a blend of hand tools, semi-automated, and fully-automated equipment provides a great level of product breadth and depth when it comes to manufacturing harnesses. We are able to produce a wide range of different harnesses and can also produce many different iterations of one particular type. We have found this combination of experience and capability to be crucial to our success as a custom wiring harness manufacturer.

Commitment to Quality

Quality can be overlooked as you compare different manufacturers as everyone says they are committed to it. If everyone is doing it, what does it really matter? Actually, a great deal as one’s definition of what quality is and what requirements it places on every step of the manufacturing process can vary. 

We’ve mentioned that our cable and wire harnesses are used in some pretty exacting industries, where a mistake can mean much more than time, money, or our reputation. With so much at stake, we take quality to extreme levels. 

With Quality Assurance and Quality Assurance (QAQC) engineers whose sole mission is to ensure functionality, integrity, and safety of the product and the process, quality becomes very much data-driven. Testing is a crucial step that is implemented throughout the design and manufacturing process in order to ensure quality. It is indeed quite rare for a product to go from concept to volume manufacturing without a prototyping phase. We are proud to be able to say we test each and every product multiple times throughout the process but especially once complete and before the product ships to our customers worldwide. We want our clients to be absolutely sure the product they receive functions reliably cycle-after-cycle.

Prototyping allows our engineers a chance to test how different variations come together and function together as part of the larger system. We are also able to measure how well we can source the necessary materials to complete the project both on-time and on-budget. Manufacturers that skip prototyping will generally be costing more in the long run as the product undergoes real-world conditions and may even lead to premature failure. 

We even created a means to test our products under real-world conditions in our Advanced Life Testing Lab. Factors like salt spray, water, humidity, heat, friction, and bending all need to be considered and mitigated against within a cable harness’s engineering. The Advanced Life Testing Lab gives our engineers a chance to review how components hold up under the actual conditions they’re likely to face. This also gives a chance to tweak anything that doesn’t meet the exacting standards set forth in the project plan.

What Industry Certifications Matter Most 

Continuing with our discussion of quality is the certifications that a manufacturer possesses. You may not necessarily group a certification with quality; however, Meridian is proud to be certified exactly for our commitment to quality. 

ISO 9001 is an internationally recognized certification that has incredibly high standards. We are very proud to have and maintain our certification in this rigorous quality assurance standard. ISO 9001 requires a continued commitment not just to quality of the product and the process, but also in customer service. By continuing to focus on making our processes better, we have continually sought to eliminate process waste and fix any issues before they impact a project. 

Another truly crucial certification to look for in your cable harness manufacturer is that of a UL-approved manufacturing facility. The little stamp with the “UL” inside a circle on the bottom of most every electronic product you purchase means that product has met the stringent requirements as set forth by UL, or Underwriters Laboratory. UL is one of only a very small handful of government-approved independent standards creators. As a UL-approved facility, we are able to produce products that meet UL’s strict requirements and can help get our client’s products UL-certified, as well when it’s desired.

Starting Your Custom Wire or Cable Harness Project

Starting your project can seem daunting when you first start comparing cable and wiring harness manufacturers. However, by going with a manufacturer with the unique experience, capabilities, commitment to quality, and certifications necessary to produce custom solutions, you can be sure your harness is perfectly suited to meet the demands required of it. At Meridian, we are proud to have built a reputation as a manufacturer that can deliver, no matter what specifications are required. Contact our team today to start reviewing your project’s unique specs and see what sets our process and products apart.

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

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

How to Crimp Different Sized Flat Ribbon Cable 

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

Getting Wires Ready to be Crimped 

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

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

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

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

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

Setting Up the Cable Crimping Machine 

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

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

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

Testing and Retesting Custom Ribbon Cable Assemblies 

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

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

Keeping Automated Cable Crimp Terminal Machines in Alignment

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

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

Quality Assurance and Quality Control with Flat and Ribbon Cable

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

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

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

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

How to Begin a Custom Ribbon Cable Assembly Order

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

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

colorful ribbon cables

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

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

Flat Cable Assemblies vs. Ribbon Cable Assemblies

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

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

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

Understanding the Specifications for Common Ribbon Cable Assemblies

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

Main Advantages of Ribbon Cable Assemblies 

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

Different Types of Ribbon Cable Connectors

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

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

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

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

How we Create Custom Ribbon Cable Assemblies

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

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

  • Ribbon Cable Assembly Design Phase

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

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

  • Prototyping Steps for Flat Ribbon Cable Projects

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

  • Getting Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies into Volume Production

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Using Ribbon Cable Assemblies Can Save Your Project Money

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

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

Why Choose Meridian? 

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

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

Start Your Flat and Ribbon Cable Assembly Project Now

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

The Ultimate Guide to Different Cable Colors and Their Purposes

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

Cable Color Standards 101

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

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

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

What Do Different Colored Ethernet Cables Mean?

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

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

  • What Color is an Ethernet Cable?

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

  • Ethernet Cable Colors Meaning

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

  • Color Code for Ethernet Wires

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

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

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

Patch Cable Color Standards

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

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

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

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

Cat6 Cable Color Standards

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

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

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

Network Cable Color Chart

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

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

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

A Final Look: Cat5e Blue vs. Grey

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

Getting a Custom Cable Assembly Color-Coded Correctly

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

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

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

Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting-Edge Wire Harness Tools and Products We Use Everyday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Steps for Starting Your Custom Wiring Harness Project 

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

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

Quality Control: How to Test a Custom Cable Assembly

Leading Custom Cable Manufacturer | Meridian Cable

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

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

What Testing Looks Like for Custom Cable Manufacturers

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

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

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

How to Test a Custom Cable Assembly for Continuity

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

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

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

Testing Custom Cable Assemblies for Integrity

custom-cable

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

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

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

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

How to Perform a Harness Inspection Checklist for Polarity

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

How we Test a Cable Assembly for Functionality

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

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

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

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

How we Test a Cable Assembly for all the above

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

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

Getting a Product Certified Through UL

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

Start Your Custom Cable Assembly Project Now

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

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