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The IATF 16949 Certification: An Overview of the Companies that Value the Designation

We’re excited to have just announced that Meridian Cable Assemblies has recently obtained a gold standard certification in the automotive industry. After a lot of hard work, Meridian has met the requirements for obtaining the IATF 16949 certification (also simply known as the IATF certification). 

To fully understand the importance of this recent achievement, we have published a two-part series that dives into the specifics of the certificate designation. In this section, we’ll highlight why this designation is so important, discuss important companies that also value the IATF 16949 certification, and look at companies that currently hold its designation.

A Short History of the IATF 16949 Certification

The IATF 16949 certification was created in 1999 by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) – a consortium of automotive trade associations and manufacturers working in conjunction with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). According to the IATF, the requirements set forth within the IATF Certification were created to bring unity to all of  “the different assessment and certification systems worldwide in the supply chain for the automotive sector.” 

The IATF Certification has since undergone various updates to reflect changes in the automotive industry standards. The most recent iteration of the document was published in 2016 as the IATF 16949:2016.

Obtaining this certification signifies to the automotive industry that Meridian’s management systems are capable of continually manufacturing quality cable assemblies and harnesses. Further, the certification recognizes our unparalleled expertise in designing an array of standard and customizable cable assembly and harness products that can meet our customer’s demands in the automotive industry.

What is the IATF 16949 Certification and Why is it Important? 

The IATF 16949 certification is a merit badge for companies that are responsible for creating and supplying automotive elements or assemblies to the automotive industry. When a company attains an IATF 16949 certification, it signifies a number of high marks about its product to a prospective buyer. 

According to the globally accredited certification body, National Quality Assurance Limited (NAQ), the IATF certification reveals that a company has developed a “process-oriented quality management system that provides for continual improvement, defect prevention and reduction of variation and waste.” Establishing this system ideally leads to a production process that consistently churns out grade-level automotive parts and assemblies. 

Companies that Require an IATF 16949 Certification

Top automotive companies around the world actively seek out custom cable and harness manufacturers that have passed the rigorous requirements of the IATF 16949. Below are a few recognizable companies that look for this gold standard.

BMW Group

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, better known by its luxury-defining acronym BMW, is a powerhouse member of the International Automotive Task Force. With customers spanning the globe, BMW has constructed a supply line that is truly complex and cost-efficient to ensure that its customers continually receive a high-caliber vehicle with a matching price. 

For this to occur, contracted companies conducting business along BMW’s supply line must also be able to invariably produce quality automotive parts that ensure BMW’s brand is upheld. To guarantee this quality, almost all of these companies are required to hold an IATF certification. 

Stellantis

Formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or FCA US LLC, Stellantis is a Netherlands-based company that oversees the production of vehicles including trucks, SUVs, and commercial vehicles. Stellantis’ portfolio boasts recognizable brands such as Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep on the consumer end, as well as Maserati on the more luxurious side. 

Regardless of brand affordability, Stellantis, like BMW, requires companies that create parts for its vehicles to retain an IATF certification to ensure quality maintenance. 

Ford Motor Company

Creator of the original American muscle car, the Ford Mustang is one of the most recognizable cars across the world. The ingenuity and attention-to-detail put into this classic, along with Ford’s other array of vehicles, has followed this car since its inception. 

Today, iconic models like the F-150 and the Mustang still retain their superb quality in every part. Like its competitors, Ford ensures quality assurance by requiring third-party companies working within its supply chain to maintain an IATF 16949 certification.  

Other Companies that Value an IATF 16949 Certification

The BMW Group, Stellantis, and the Ford Motor Company are not the only major players in the automobile industry that require its third-party contracts to hold an IATF 16949 certification. Below is a list of other recognizable and not-so-recognizable companies and organizations that value the IATF certification:

  • Daimler AG
  • French Federation of Vehicle Equipment Industries (FIEV)
  • Geely Group
  • General Motors Company
  • German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA QMC)
  • Groupe Renault
  • Jaguar Land Rover Limited
  • Italian Association of the Automotive Industry (ANFIA)
  • The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
  • Volkswagen AG 

Companies with IATF 16949 Certification

While Meridian has only recently obtained its IATF 16949 certification, there are many other companies playing important roles in the automotive industry that have, and/or continue to hold, this gold standard classification. This section will provide a small snapshot of the multitude of other IATF 16949 certification holders.  

Optimas Solutions

Optimas Solutions is a company that specializes in creating standard fastening products, such as screws, nuts, bolts, and washers for a variety of industries, including the automotive industry. 

Jasper Rubber

Jasper Rubber manufactures molded, extruded, and lathe-cut, rubber, plastic, and thermoplastic materials for automotive components. Jasper’s products are recognized for their standard grade and are commonly sold in the US and exported to countries such as Mexico and Canada. 

Covercraft Industries, LLC

Covercraft Industries is a leader in creating custom covers for vehicles of all sizes. Evolving from humble beginnings in California, Covercraft’s products have become internationally recognized for their quality and durability earning them the status of the “world’s largest manufacturer of custom patterned vehicle covers” (retrieved via Covercraft website). 

Mecavit

Mecavit is an Italian company that manufactures fasteners such as high-quality screws. With 60% of its business overseas, Mecavit is truly an international company that services automotive clients in the European Union and Russia. 

Tempel Facilities

Tempel Facilities is an international manufacturing company that produces high-quality, magnetic laminations for motors. 

AIM Solder

AIM Solder is a manufacturing company that supplies solder assembly materials and products to the electronics industry. Within the automotive industry specifically, AIM is a global supplier of solder paste, solder wires, and solder bars. 

Mayfield Engineering Company Incorporated (MEC, Inc.)

MEC, Inc. is a third-party contract manufacturer that supplies an array of “prototyping and tooling, production fabrication, coating, assembly, and aftermarket services to the automotive industry” (retrieved via MEC website). Its products are used in a variety of vehicle markets including commercial, power sports, construction, and military markets. 

Mill Steel Company

The Mill Steel Company specializes in servicing steel. Among its various steel service centers in the US, the Mill Steel Company has received its IATF certification for its production of steel coils that are designed to meet the custom needs of its customers. 

Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments is known to many as the company that produces high-end calculators that help students pass their complicated math classes. While this is true, Texas Instruments is also involved in the creation of a variety of products that are across the spectrum for multiple industries. Within the automotive industry, Texas Instruments is known for manufacturing integrated circuits for automotive systems.

Midwest Rubber Company

A competitor of Jasper Rubber, the Midwest Rubber Company also manufactures high-quality plastic and rubber components for the automotive industry. Midwest Rubber Company specializes in dip-molding and dip-coating techniques for car parts. In fact, you may find Midwest Rubber Company’s rubber products on your own vehicle’s windshield wipers. 

Nissin Manufacturing Co., LTD.

Nissin Manufacturing Co. is a Japanese manufacturing company recognized for its production of metal and powertrain parts for the automotive industry supply chain. 

Schweizer

Schweizer is a manufacturer of spring technology. Schweizer has industrial hubs in Europe and Asia and holds multiple IATF certifications for the production of strip springs, clamping springs, and wire springs, to name a few. 

Where Does Meridian Cable Assemblies Fit In?

As you can see from the list of certification holders in the previous section, the scope of the IATF 16949 extends across every aspect of the automotive industry’s supply chain. From the smallest screw to the rubber trim on a windshield wiper, the IATF certification ensures that quality is maintained across the product spectrum. 

As a recent recipient of the IATF 16949 certification, Meridian is primed and ready to employ our cable assembly expertise for all of our customers in the automotive industry and elsewhere. We have an array of products that will almost certainly fulfill any cable assembly or wire harness needs that you may require. If you do not find what you are looking for, we have the capability to manufacture a customized product to meet your exact specifications. 

Get Your Custom Cable Project Started Now

Ready to get started? We guarantee that you will be satisfied with the end result. Call 1-866-866-0544 or head to our contact page and a member of our team will be in touch shortly. 

Meridian Cable Assemblies Achieves IATF 16949 Certification

Meridian Cable Assemblies Achieves IATF 16949 Certification

Meridian Cable is proud to announce that we have met the rigorous demands to achieve the well-respected IATF 16959 certification. This standard applies to automotive quality management systems and is only provided to those who demonstrate true quality in everything they do. From customer service to reducing defects in products, the team at Meridian is proud that the work we do every day meets the criteria to obtain this leading certification in manufacturing. 

Read on as we cover what the IATF 16949 certification is and why it’s so sought after for products related to land-based transportation applications.

What is an IATF 16949 Certification?

The IATF 16949 is known as the “International Standard for Automotive Quality Management Systems”. Obtaining this certification is no easy task. A manufacturer will have to demonstrate continual improvement within their quality management. This deals with everything from quality assurance in products to minimizing any waste in the supply chain. As for the IATF itself, that’s the International Automotive Task Force, which in conjunction with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), developed this certification specifically for the automotive industry. 

IATF 16949 wants to see that a manufacturer has quality at the forefront of everything they do. Quality that is embedded in an organization is going to showcase itself throughout the day-to-day operations. Quality assurance and quality control (QAQC) are factors that are measured and then set as a benchmark. With continued improvement to processes relative to this benchmark, a manufacturer is demonstrating a superior commitment to quality, which, in essence, is the hallmarks of IATF 16949 certification.

Being recognized with our IATF 16949 certification is one reason why our team remains confident that we are providing the caliber of product that our customers have come to expect from us.

Benefits of IATF 16949 Certification in Cable Assemblies

When you see that a custom cable manufacturer has IATF 16949 certification, you know that this company is truly excelling in the quality of their product, people, and processes. This three-prong approach to overall quality improvement translates into better products and better experiences for customers. 

Gaining this IATF 16949 certification takes a lot of work, but creates a lot of benefits to the organization itself, including:

  • Increasing the efficiency of processes and improving the effectiveness of each input. 
  • Ensuring the continued satisfaction of customers, including all touch points. 
  • Overall continued improvement for the organization. 
  • Dramatically reducing or even eliminating defects in custom cable assemblies.
  • Cutting lead times, improving processes, and removing all waste from the supply chain.

All of these benefits are passed on to the clients in each and every project we undertake. Whether it’s cable assemblies to be used in industrial control systems within an automotive plant or OEM parts manufacturing, our team’s continued commitment to total quality management doesn’t just raise the bar, it sets it again and again.

Industries that Rely on IATF 16949 Certification Expertise

Companies with IATF certification are some of the top automotive manufacturers in the world including BMW Group, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Volkswagen AG. With any kind of land-based transportation, IATF really matters in the quality of the product. Automotive companies like those above and OEMs rely on custom cable manufacturers to be able to deliver the perfect assembly to integrate into their systems and IATF 16949 certification is a way to demonstrate that your capabilities are up to the task. 

At Meridian, we have decades of experience providing custom cable assemblies for some of the most demanding applications on the planet. In this time, we’ve built up incredible expertise and an impressive tool crib for delivering the perfect solution to even the most complex specifications. Obtaining our IATF 16949 certification publicly demonstrates what we were already doing internally and is a testament to the men and women who make it happen here every day. 

Why IATF Certification Matters

As we’ve seen, automotive stakeholders look for IATF-certified manufacturers to be assured that they are going to get a solution that’s safe, functions well, and is built to stand up to everything required of the assembly. Additionally, IATF certification matters because of what it means the company is doing within their organization. 

Results you’ll see that come from doing everything required to obtain certification can include:

  • Customer Satisfaction – when a client has a fantastic experience, they are more likely to continue doing business with you. Relationships are incredibly important in custom cable manufacturing because the stakes are just that high for the necessity of integrity in product and process. Whether it’s a cutting-edge medical device or the automotive cable assembly inside a family’s SUV, these systems simply have to work. IATF certification says that the manufacturer is committed to making sure their customers are absolutely taken care of every step of the project. 

One way we do this is by continuing to improve project management. Staying on time and on budget is something that an experienced custom cable manufacturer should bring to the table. 

  • Lower Operating Costs – when waste is reduced from the manufacturing process, it results in efficiencies, which in turn reduce how much input is required to garner the same result. Lower operating costs means we have more money to invest in things like recruiting the best people, keeping them current with training and development, purchasing new technology, and generally improving how we do what we do. This mentality of continued improvement is at the heart of IATF 16949 certification.
  • Better Relationshipscustom cable manufacturing is all about relationships. Relationships with suppliers, vendors, clients, and even our own people are vital to our success. With the IATF 16949 certification, we are also showing a commitment to improving these relationships. Whether that results in a better price on a UL-listed component for a cable assembly or a better deal from a vendor, these improvements trickle down into positive effects in myriad ways.
  • Increased Procurement Opportunities – specifically when designing MILSPEC cable assemblies, procurement officials are looking at certifications like the IATF 16949 to find the best option to meet their needs. Having this certification means that a cable assembly manufacturer can provide services to a wider range of applications, which in turn can increase capability.
  • Respected Globally – the top automotive manufacturers and OEMs are looking for the IATF 16949 because it sets the bar so high for quality. This certification is well-known and well-respected throughout the world. With manufacturing operations both in the U.S. and in China, Meridian is a true global custom cable manufacturer which is why an internationally-recognized quality standard is so important. 
  • Consistency in Improvement Methodology – this is really important in cable assembly manufacturing because you need to have a standard for quality management systems. Having your IATF 16949 means you have a gold standard, with the framework needed to achieve the level of quality that the automotive sector demands. Consistency means that the exceptional level of service is achieved over and over again. 

The benefits that originate from IATF 16949 certification work their way throughout the organization and serve to make it better as a whole. Increased efficiency in operations across the board means that every member of the organization is contributing towards making the company incrementally better each and every day.

Certifications

IATF 16949 certification is something we are definitely very proud of at Meridian. We’re also really proud that this is adding to other industry-recognized certifications we already have, some of which we’ve maintained for decades. 

Other certifications that really add validity to the quality of what we produce here at Meridian include ISO 9001:2015 certification and UL Certifications.

  • ISO 9001:2015 – this certification is very similar in nature to the IATF 16949 certification in that it revolves around a demonstrable commitment to improvement of quality across many different sectors. While the IATF certification we’ve achieved pertains to the automotive industry, ISO 9001 applies to a wide range of different industries. We’re incredibly proud to have maintained this distinction since 2000 because it means we’ve never really stopped in our pursuit of doing things that much better each and every time. 
  • UL Certifications – a huge benefit of being a UL approved wire and cable extruder and a UL approved manufacturing facility is that it means we can help get your product certified through UL. Our clients also know that they can count on the level of quality that stands behind every cable assembly we produce. 

Having IATF 16949, ISO 9001, and UL certification is a potent combination of capability. We know that our clients demand nothing less than perfection in design, which is what we impart every member of our team to contribute towards. Working as a cohesive unit of experienced professionals, the team at Meridian continues to produce cable assemblies that are trusted around the world. 

Getting Started with an IATF Certified Custom Cable Manufacturer

From the very first interaction with our clients, our team sets out to make it the best experience possible. Contact us now to get started. We’ll work to understand all your needs and tailor the perfect solution. 

Why is Shielding Needed in Cable Assemblies?

shielded coaxial cable

Shielded cable assemblies are the right solution required when the environment is doing everything it can to degrade power, signal, and data transfer through an electrical system. In today’s LiveWire cable deep dive, we will explore all the in’s and out’s of shielded cable assemblies, highlighting how these unique support features can absolutely make or break a custom cable assembly. 

What Exactly is a Shielded Cable Assembly?

As a shielded cable manufacturer, our cable engineers have to figure out the exact requirements needed in order to design the perfect shielding plan for the assembly. Too little shielding and the system won’t have adequate protection, too much and you likely have overruns in cost and time. 

So why is shielding so important in cable assemblies? A few key facts to remember:

  • Shielding acts as a buffer for the cables and wires within a cable assembly from disruptive external forces that are constantly bombarding the system. 
  • Cable shielding comes in many different sizes, materials, and manufacturing methods in order to produce the best fit for the project at hand. 
  • One of the most common externalities that requires mitigation in our cable shielding designs is for electromagnetic interference (EMI). 

Shielded cable assemblies are a great way to protect your system from the disruptive effects of EMI. We’ll look at why EMI can be so harmful to the functionality of your electrical system next.

EMI Makes Shielded Cable Connectors Crucial

Whenever a cable harness assembly is sending off data signals, it will need some sort of consideration from any sort of EMI being subjected to the system. EMI comes from an external source and can disrupt the flow of data. EMI can cause ripple effects where the signal is degraded or even fails altogether. EMI is produced by a wide array of processes including both natural and mechanical occurrences. 

In an electrical system with cable assemblies, the source for EMI can be as simple as nearby machines or an electrical circuit. Cable assemblies can wind up in all sorts of situations like industrial control systems in a bottling plant, connecting telecommunications systems in a data center, or providing data transfer in a state-of-the-art medical device. In each of these environments, there can be a variety of electrical “noises” that produce EMI. This EMI requires mitigation to ensure there are no ill effects made to the strength of the data transfer, which could in turn render the greater system inoperable. 

Shielded cable manufacturers know that insulation and jacketing are great for protecting cable assemblies from external forces like heat, moisture, and abrasion, but they do little good for protecting against EMI. That’s where cable shielding produces the greatest benefit.

How Cable Shielding Combats EMI

As we just discussed, the best way for a shielded cable manufacturer to protect against EMI is to utilize shielding in their design. Shielding provides a 360 degree zone of protection around the inner conductors of the cable assembly. Shielding has a number of ways that it protects against EMI, which can be tweaked based on the application. Shielded cable connectors can both reflect and deflect EMI wherever it is most advantageous to dissipate it away from the assembly. 

As you might expect, each and every application is unique. This requires cable engineers to account for a very specific quantity and type of shielding to be utilized. The intended environment, the types of cables, and costs all play into the decision making process for the most efficient design possible. 

Different Types of Shielding Used in Cable Assemblies

Shielded cable assemblies are predominantly found with two different types of shielding, either foil shielding or braided shielding. The type used is going to depend on the needs of the project as both have their strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Using Foil Shielding in Cable Assemblies

Foil shielding is a type that uses thin metal sheets like copper, aluminum, and others, that are attached to different materials such as polyester in order to provide greater resiliency. Foil shields often incorporate a taping that provides great all around coverage for the cables and wires beneath. This provides an effective barrier for the internal system from external EMI. 

  • Braided Shield in Cable Assemblies

The other type of cable shielding you will likely see is braided shielding. Braided shielding incorporates metal weaves of high gauge wires, usually copper. A braid shielding is a good way to create a path that’s low-resistance when grounding and is also able to terminate rather simply, especially when crimped or soldered with a shielded cable connector. 

The only drawback to utilizing braided shields in cable assemblies is that there is never absolute coverage of the system. This can be exactly appropriate depending on the application but do expect to see coverage running below 100 percent down to even 70 percent or more Different metals have different levels of conductivity which makes them great at the job of protecting against EMI. 

Even without total coverage, a braided shield typically performs better than a tape or foil shielding. Braided cords do also incorporate more materials into the project, which means they come at a greater cost and increase scope. Engineering the best use of each type of shielding into our products is what sets apart an experienced shielded cable manufacturer from off-the-shelf products.

Integrating Shielded Cable Assemblies in Your Next Project

Remember our examples above of the bottling plant, medical device, and data center? These locations are particularly “noisy” with respect to EMI because there are so many different electrical systems in the space. Whenever a cable assembly is destined for a location that has an increased level of EMI present, it is almost always ideal to employ multiple layers of cable shielding. Utilizing both a braided shield, as well as a foil shield can offer a particularly stout level of protection. 

When cable assemblies have dozens of different cables and wires carrying out their own functions within the electrical system, sometimes it becomes important to shield even against the EMI produced from adjacent components. Foil shielding can be useful in these instances since it takes up a limited amount of space and envelopes the given shielded connector, wire, cable, or terminal.

Why Shielding Cable Assemblies is So Important

Within a cable assembly, EMI can either be reduced or eliminated altogether depending on the needs of the project. In any application, a sufficient type and amount of shielding is utilized to bring about the best benefit. There are systems which require braided shields, other foil shields, and still other applications requiring a combination of the two. 

Cable assemblies which contain flexed cables may require a different shielding method such as wrapped shielding as opposed to foil shielding which may be prone to spot-failures under such conditions. Above all, grounding is critical with whatever application is occurring. A lot of the shielded cable connectors out there will provide for a termination at the shield. When examining these shielded cable connectors for your own project, remember that each connector needs to provide an adequate level of EMI protection, at least on par with the cable assembly itself. 

These shielded cable connectors can be produced in a variety of materials such as thermoplastics and cast zinc. Whenever the pieces all come together, the different pieces of the assembly, from shielding to termination, have to be properly engineered and calibrated to provide the most efficient overall protection and functionality. 

Certifications Matter With Shielded Cable Manufacturers

Maintaining our ISO 9001 certification requires a commitment towards complete quality of our processes, including manufacturing, logistics, and even customer service. In this way, we continuously strive for improvement. Even if each experience is only marginally better than the last, we are always improving what we produce and how we do so for our clients. The end result is a dependable custom cable assembly that’s going to fit its intended system perfectly.

In addition to maintaining our 9001 certification, we are also extremely proud to be listed as a UL-authorized manufacturing facility. This means that we can help get your products certified by UL and add the coveted mark to your product. The UL symbol on a product is one that’s recognized the world over as a measure of quality, setting your products apart. On a more basic level, utilizing UL parts and products in our own designs lets our engineers use a material with tested and measured characteristics, rather than starting from scratch.

Starting a Project Utilizing Shielded Cable Assemblies

Starting a project on the right foot takes experience, capability, and commitment. After several decades as a leading shielded cable manufacturer in both the U.S. and in China, Meridian cable has developed unique expertise around cable shielding requirements. We incorporate a blend of fully-automated, semi-automated, and hand tools in our manufacturing process and have a tool crib of well over 5,000 different tools at our disposal. 

Finishing projects on-time and on-budget is what we do best. Contact our team today to get started on your own project utilizing shielded cable assemblies.

Custom RF Cable Assemblies Guide

Macro close up of radio frequency cable with SMA connector on the Smith chart

Standard cable assemblies are used in a wide variety of applications through just about every conceivable industry including industrial control, medical, telecommunications, military and many others. The cables that make up these assemblies can be customized with the perfect RF-type connector mounted to carry out the task at hand. In today’s spotlight series, we’ll cover everything you should know about buying the right custom RF cable assembly to get the job done.

What are RF Cable Assemblies Used For?

RF stands for radio frequency and is a type that applies to a wide range of coaxial electrical connectors. One of the most common types of RF connectors is the SMA, which we’ve hit on in previous posts. The range of component types can include flexible cables, semi rigid cables, and both corrugated and hand conformable cable assemblies. The applications for RF cable assemblies cover a wide gamut of consumer wireless internet TV and audio, wireless antennas in mobile devices, the network interfaces that keeps telecommunications networks going, medical devices, wireless LANs and bluetooth, and many, many more.

In a custom RF cable assembly, all of the RF cables and connectors will be individually optimized in order to bring about the most efficient transmission within the system. RF cable assemblies are frequently used in tight spaces, where space constraints demand a custom solution. They are also great for high-vibration environments due to their inherent durability, reliability, and overall performance. 

The features of a RF cable assemble allow for some seriously diverse applications. Some of the basis for the usefulness of the RF cable assembly include: 

  • Tremendous level of customization options for coaxial cable and interfacing;
  • Both 50-ohm and 75-ohm varieties means more wireless applications covered;
  • Can be created in a non-magnetic version, specifically for sensitive medical equipment.

These are just a few of the many features that bring about great benefit for using an RF cable assembly in a custom solution. However, each of these features is a custom addition to the design, warranting individual consideration and an advanced RF cable assembly acumen to pull off successfully. We’ll look a little closer at the specific benefits of custom RF cable assemblies next.

Benefits of Using a Custom RF Cable Assembly

There’s three key benefits to using a custom RF cable assembly within an electrical system: an RF cable assembly will produce excellent and dependable electrical performance, it will present a low loss, and it can operate at a high frequency.

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Produce Excellent and Dependable Electrical Performance

The smaller design for most RF cable assembly connections means they save space, especially in vertical mating applications. The couplers themselves can be custom created to the unique application but a threaded coupler ensures even high vibrations won’t uncouple the connection. As well, with a custom RF cable assembly you can combine signal, power, and RF all in one package. These packages can be custom spec’d for non-magnetic applications or with waterproofing components. 

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Present a Low Loss

There are a great many design considerations in a custom RF cable assembly that helps to improve overall system performance. Design considerations like silver or tri metal plating alloys will help to deliver more conductivity and also protect against corrosion. With a low loss cable inside the assembly, you can effectively maintain higher signal strength. 

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Can Operate at a High Frequency

The high frequency ranges makes custom RF cable assemblies the ideal for broadband, wireless, and GPS configurations. The characteristic impedances used in RF cable assemblies of either 50 or 75 ohm aren’t coincidental. These two values can be traced back to early experiments for transferring high power levels but also achieving minimal signal loss. 50 ohms is a good middle ground for power-handling and 75 ohms is best suited minimizing the loss of high-frequency, high-speed signals such as those used in radio antennas. 

Custom RF coaxial connectors and cable assemblies are the solutions required for today’s complex electronic systems. With a team of in-house engineers, designers, and producers, Meridian is able to support a diverse market; producing tough military equipment, cutting-edge medical instrumentation, OEM automotive solutions, and telecom and wireless solutions. 

Getting Technical: Amplitude and Phase

Amplitude and phase are the leading basis for setting many key performance parameters in custom RF cable assembly design and production. These include parameters our engineers know inside and out such as attenuation, return loss, and phase stability. These parameters, along with a host of additional variables, will determine the proper components to be used within the assembly. Things like the type and sizes of the conductors, using braided or unbraided wires, or utilizing pricier precious metals like silver-plating, are all considered in order to produce the very best performance, within the confines of the budget. Our team truly excels at manufacturing efficiencies so that our client’s budgets can stretch the farthest.

How to Produce Custom RF Cable Assemblies

The first step for producing a one of a kind solution that only the custom RF cable assembly can provide, is basic – listen to the client. Our design team takes the time to get to know our clients needs, the strengths and weaknesses of the application, and how to most-efficiently solve the task at hand. With custom RF cable assemblies, we’ve already discussed the major benefit of combining signal, power, and RF all in one package. Now, consider how this is accomplished. Each of those activities will require dedicated cables, connectors, terminations, jackets, sleeves, wire harnesses, and a thousand other considerations in order to perform flawlessly. 

Design Phase 

After the initial meeting, our design team goes to work with advanced computer aided design (CAD) software to produce the first digital iterations of the final product. Using these systems, our engineers can go ahead and “test” different design configurations using different data models and variables. This is just the first of many rigorous rounds of testing the product will undergo before it ever arrives with the client. 

Prototyping 

Once the design team settles on a design that meets the requirements presented by the client, it’s time to begin prototyping. While we can go directly from design to volume manufacturing, this is very rare. Instead, prototyping allows our engineers and project managers the opportunity to see how all the components come together in the design and manufacturing process. Not only will this look at the performance of the given components, but our testing engineers have the opportunity to look at multiple iterations of a product at one time to see which yields the most favorable results. As well, our facilities ascribe to some serious manufacturing efficiency models like Kanban and just-in-time ordering. With prototyping, our design team gets to see how the sourcing plan for those components will come together in real time before we ever begin volume manufacturing. This way, we can be sure we have the perfect selection of components within the cable assembly, the necessary tools and equipment reserved to complete the assembly, as well as the logistics in place to produce and deliver the product both on-time and on-budget.

Testing

After prototyping and throughout the process, testing is the name of the game. The product will undergo many different rounds of testing, including a visit to our advanced life testing lab, where it will be subjected to harsh real world conditions to make sure everything is operating optimally for the RF cable assembly’s intended environment. Only once our rigorous Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QAQC) process is complete and the final product has been verified for safety, integrity, and functionality, will we utilize our worldwide distribution network to get our products to the client for final delivery. 

Getting a Custom RF Cable Assembly Certified by UL

A certified product from Underwriters Laboratories, better known by the little “UL” symbol within a circle and proudly stamped on the bottom of many products, is recognized the world over as one that has been tested for quality. When we design the perfect custom RF cable assembly for a given situation, we primarily will only utilize UL-certified components in the design. This helps our engineers as the components they’re working with will all have known specifications, rather than having to start from scratch. With both our manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and China being recognized as UL-approved facilities, we are able to help get our client’s assemblies UL-certified and thus recognized in their own rights as quality products.

Starting a Custom RF Cable Assembly Design Project

Getting a custom RF cable assembly project off the ground can seem daunting. With so many different variables to plan for and factors to mitigate against, only an experienced team of data-driven engineers and production staff can produce the perfect solution in the timeframe required and with the budget available. Our team specializes in custom cable assemblies, in fact over 70% of our products are custom solutions. We’ll work with you to find the solution that fits perfectly, period. Contact our team to schedule a design consultation today.

How to Get Started with Your OEM Wire Harness Project

Wire Harnesses Design

An Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is able to produce the exact parts required to fit within a system per strict specifications. OEMs are most commonly recognized as the manufacturers for parts used within the automotive industry but are widely used through a myriad of different applications. Custom wire harnesses for OEM applications therefore have to be perfectly suited to meet the specific demands of the application. 

In today’s LiveWire feature, we’ll look at the wide world of OEM wire harnesses and how these vital workhorses go from concept to volume manufacturing on their way to power some of the most sophisticated automotive systems on the planet.

What is an OEM Wire Harness?

First off, a wire harness assembly is the collection of wires, cables, terminals and other components that are then insulated, sheathed, and otherwise protected to fit the needs of their environments. An OEM wire harness is one that is built to the exact specifications as the original part in order to fit within an existing system. If you think about an automotive application, you have so many different systems within the vehicle that all must remain powered, with free exchange of signal, power, and data in order for the vehicle to safely operate. 

Wire harnesses are an especially critical support element as an OEM part. OEM wire harnesses are going to provide the connection needed to relay power, data, and/or signal to all the outlying systems. The alternator, battery cables, headlights, and a hundred other systems in the vehicle all rely on wire harness assemblies to maintain the connection. Vehicles are subjected to a lot of environmental forces that all require mitigation. 

Finding efficient ways to protect against all of the variables bombarding a wire harness assembly, our engineers take many steps during the design and prototyping phases to ensure our custom OEM wire harness assemblies are performing exactly to spec.

Designing an OEM Wire Harness

An OEM wire harness’s design is absolutely critical towards its overall functionality within the larger system it is intended for. There’s both a physical space requirement component, as well as a certain threshold for the transmission of data, power, or signal that play into the overall design. There’s also the environmental factors we just mentioned that also need to be accounted for in order to produce a viable and effective product. 

  • Space Constraints With OEM Wire Harnesses: cables and wires have to traverse some pretty tight spaces in order to provide the critical junction between different components. Whether it’s for a multi-million dollar fighter jet or a piece of industrial control equipment powering a municipal waterworks, space constraints play a huge role in dictating final design. When a cable is bent, the wire harness engineer will have had to factor in this stress and provide the right materials and overall design that best meets these conditions. We’ll touch more on testing OEM wire harnesses a little later. 
  • Power, Signal, and/or Data Requirements: different cables from coax to CAT5 are utilized within electrical systems to provide the necessary functionality. With power needs, the gauge of the wire dictates how much current can safely be transmitted through the system. The size differences here within a cable require engineers to provide just the right amount and type for structural components such as insulation and filler materials. While these support elements can be easily forgotten when looking at the finished OEM wire harness, without them, the system would not remain operable for long. 
  • Mitigating Against External Factors: think about the underside of your vehicle traveling down the highway day after day. When you walk out first thing in the morning to power your vehicle, you’re pretty much counting on it to start right up and get you where you need to go. But this would be impossible if the OEM wire harness engineer for your vehicle’s electrical systems did not plan for environmental variables in their initial design. Oil and caustic agents, moisture, abrasion, heat, and others all require a keen set of deterrents that are effective both in the efficiency of design, as well as related to budget. Operating within budget keeps an OEM wire harness feasible for the final application. 

When you have considered all of these different constraints of a project, you can design a wire harness that fits within that framework The various wiring and cables all need to be easily-deployed within their application, which requires exacting specifications based on a present set of data. Our engineers work to solve even the most complex integration issues to ensure our harnesses provide a seamless “drop-in” installation. 

Bringing an OEM Wire Harness Assembly From Concept to Reality

When our wire harness engineers are producing designs for new OEM wire harnesses, they are running multiple iterations through sophisticated modeling software that let’s engineers see how a system will perform under a variety of simulations. The design that moves forward to the assembly of the wire harness is called a schematic which then gets translated into a physical assembly board, also referred to as a pin board.

A pin board is like a large diagram of an OEM wire harness which helps to map out all the different parts and pieces with their specific location to match the necessary applications set by the manufacturers specifications. Wires and cables have systems of identification, along with the proper terminals, connector housings, and other pieces to integrate the final harness assembly. 

All of these components have been placed perfectly within the system to maximize efficiency and utilization. Support structures such as cable sleeves, ties, and straps are all required to protect and strengthen the overall electrical system. The process to produce each of the various components takes a blend of fully-automated, semi-automated, and hand tools to produce the final product. 

While automation and semi-automation are utilized when it’s most efficient to do so, much of the work of an OEM wire harness assembly is still completed by hand because there are so many intricate processes. 

Testing is Everything with OEM Wire Harnesses

Even during the design and prototyping phases, testing is a constant part of the process. Testing during the design phase, helps to save time and money during prototyping, which in turn, saves time and money for the overall project timeline. Meeting each major project milestone on the project schedule takes careful planning from the start.

When looking to test electrical functionality with an OEM wire harness, a test board is a good place to start. A test board is one that comes programmed specifically to test the unique characteristics of that particular product. A wire harness is dropped into a test board much like it would need to plug and play with its final destination. The test board is just one of the many resources available within Meridian’s in-house Advanced Life Testing Lab. 

The Lab is arguably one of the funnest places at our facility as engineers put wire harnesses through a variety of extreme tests based on real life scenarios. Freezing and burning, bending and stretching, and even automated testing from our venerable Cirris testing units are in store for any OEM wire harness that wants to make it past quality assurance testing. Often, prototypes are used for testing before volume or even small-batch production to ensure the final iteration is the most efficient design possible. 

Bringing it All Together

Having the best design and manufacturing process in the world for OEM wire harnesses is meaningless if you can’t bring it all together to get to your customers what they need, when they need it. Having fully-owned manufacturing facilities in both the US and in China, allows our team to utilize a global logistics network to source materials, assemble designs, and deliver the product on-time and on-budget. This level of commitment is earned through many years of tweaking your processes in order to find the best mix for your unique offering. 

Meridian is proud to maintain our ISO 9001 certification which is only accomplished through a continued commitment to improving processes across the board. Formal quality assurance quality control (QAQC) procedures are put in place, as well as techniques like Kanban manufacturing and Just-in-time ordering to ensure efficiency of process. 

A crucial aspect of ISO 9001 quality management certification holders is that they also must commit to improving their service to the customer as well. We’ve learned over the years that honestly looking at each and every interaction with our clients and systematically reviewing how we could have done things better has allowed us to continue to deliver exceptional results for our clients.

Getting Started with Your OEM Wire Harness Project

At Meridian, we simply take the time to ensure that everything is done right. After decades of providing the OEM wire harnesses for some of the most sophisticated electrical systems on the planet, we have amassed both the tools and the talent to produce exactly what’s required. Contact our team now to start reviewing your project specs. 

The Automation of Complex Wire Harness Designs

Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies

Automation now accounts for vast amounts of modern manufacturing. Many if not most of the products we purchase have been assembled with the help of an automated process. But, are there certain functions and designs for which human experience and expertise are still required? Of course. Doctors still care for patients, though aided by computers. Roads require engineering and expertise even though engineers use computer aided drafting and design software. 

Complex wire harnesses require the same engineering and expertise expected of good health and good infrastructure. In today’s LiveWire special edition, we’ll explore why complex wire harnesses should not be fully automated with the following topics:

  • What are complex wire harnesses?
  • Why do complex wire harnesses require human engineering?
  • Why do some companies fully automate wire harness design and processing?
  • What aspects of wire harness assembly can be automated?
  • What aspects of wire harness assembly should not be automated?
  • What are some of the design features of wire harnesses?

What are Complex Wire Harnesses?

Complex wire harness designs require precision engineering and assembly, something automation cannot deliver. A wire harness includes an outer layer (protective sheath often of thermoplastic) and an inner layer (wires or cables). Other exterior sheathing materials include PVC, Teflon®, and Silicone. Wire harnesses often contain a variety of cables. Together, the wire harness offers a low-cost electrical solution. 

Remember though, low-cost does not mean simple. Some projects require very complex designs, incorporating conductors, connectors, terminations, sheathing, overmolds, grommets, and strain relief. These design elements require more than automation. They require expertise and engineering, like what is provided by Meridian Cable.

Why Do Complex Wire Harnesses Require Human Engineering?

First, each project requires unique attention and design. Our design team has the tested expertise to custom design wire harnesses in such a way that pitfalls are avoided. This doesn’t mean that automation is completely avoided. 

For example, in the prototyping phase, wire harness designs are subjected first to a series of automated tests from machines like Meridian’s Cerrus units (considered industry gold standard for automated testing). But, design iterations require more than automation. This is why our team ensures that our wire harnesses are custom-designed and manufactured without complete automation. No product ever leaves Meridian’s production line without being rigorously tested to ensure safe and proper function.

Design

Wire harness applications also deserve careful engineering. Automobiles and airplanes require substantial wires to successfully function. Wire harnesses join the many wires into a single harness, making installation easier and durability more attainable. These harnesses need to be designed and engineered first to ensure the assembled product will function optimally. 

During the initial design phase, our engineers have numerous conversations with our clients to ensure we understand the specific wire harness application. Is this design going into a toy airplane or a real airplane? The application makes a remarkable difference in design.

Logistics

Another reason automation cannot fully account for complex wire designs is that logistics have to be considered for production and distribution. An automated system may not be able to alter designs to better utilize available materials, but an experienced cable design company like Meridian can adjust to the unexpected, minimizing distribution delays.

Specific Standards

Finally, wire harness design and manufacturing should not be fully automated because custom wire harnesses are required to meet the variety of projects and standards needed across various industries. For instance, the standards for a medical application may differ widely from a military (MILSPEC) or telecommunications application. Industrial controls include bottling plants and municipal utility systems, and these both have unique wiring specifications. Our wire harness engineers must custom design a wire harness to meet the needs of an automotive manufacturer versus an alternative energy facility.

Most modern wire harness manufacturers will utilize some automation, but engineering and expertise are required, with rigorous testing standards, to ensure the highest quality of wire harnesses is produced. Meridian Cable has a full complement of equipment to process wire harnesses, from basic hand tools to semi-automatic machines.

Why Do Some Companies Fully Automate Wire Harness Design and Processing?

One research paper from Siemens Digital revealed 10 different reasons for fully-automated complex wire harness design. They propose that fully automated wire harness design offers the following benefits:

  1. Automated harness engineering and validation.
  2. Subassemblies to streamline production design.
  3. Controlled, automated change management.
  4. Digital continuity design through production.
  5. Full-scale formboard layout and fixtures.
  6. Effective formboard utilization.
  7. Factory modeling and bill-of-process generation.
  8. Time and cost calculations to increase assembly process efficiency.
  9. Balance tasks across a hardness production line.
  10. Ready-to-use work instructions for every stage of assembly.

Basically, these benefits proposed by Siemens can be summarized into three claims about fully automating wire harness design.

  1.  They claim fully automated design is faster and cheaper.

This may be true initially, but cutting down on design cost only helps on the front end. Over the wire harnesses life cycle, design flaws may prove costly. Engineering and careful product testing ensures the life-time costs will be more economic than a cheaply designed product.

  1. Improve product and process quality.

This seems doubtful at best. As the old saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Fully automated wire harness processing may be more cost effective, but it hardly guarantees better quality. Engineering and expertise deliver better quality products over full automation.

  1. Reduce harness manufacturing turnaround time and cost.

This may be true at the beginning. Fully automated manufacturing can produce wire harnesses quicker and for less money, but at what long-term cost? Another old saying merits citing: you get what you pay for. Rather than sacrifice quality to save a little time and money on the front end, the wise approach is to select a wire harness designer and manufacturer that balances a cost-effective approach with engineering and expertise.

What Aspects of Wire Harness Assembly Can be Automated?

Some aspects of wire harness assembly can be automated without sacrificing quality and durability. For instance, specialized machines cut and strip the ends of wires and then can crimp the terminals on the wire ends. Some soldering can also be successfully automated without degrading the wire harness’ quality. It should be noted that the more aspects of wire harness design that are automated, the more the need for rigorous quality testing.

What Aspects of Wire Harness Assembly Should Not be Automated?

The initial engineering process may be aided by computer drafting software, but should not be fully automated. This ensures the design matches the project. Meridian has become a field expert in custom solutions. More than 70 percent of the products we produce, we design. 

In addition to the initial design phase, the final testing phase should also not be fully automated. This complex stage of design iterations requires experience and expertise to ensure the highest quality wire harnesses. 

Additional manufacturing processes should not be automated, including:

  • Incorporating wires of different lengths into a single wire harness.
  • Performing multiple crimps on a single wire.
  • Binding together a variety of components with a variety of bonding materials such as clamps, ties, and tape.
  • Carrying wires through sleeves or exterior sheathing.
  • Properly bonding branch out points with tape.

Using the right tool for the right job matters. Meridian Cable has over 5,000 existing tools available in our tool crib, and we know how and when to use these tools. The wide variety of project applications requires the right tool for the right job in manufacturing complex wire harnesses. Our team brings both the tools and the expertise needed to get the job done right.

What are Some of the Design Features of Wire Harnesses?

Design features for wire harnesses include conductor sizes, conductor colors, stranding sizes, conductor insulation materials, and UL® wire and cable standard sizes.

Conductor Sizes

You’ll see a wide range of available conductor sizes in order to meet the needs of the project. From 12 awg to 34 awg, there’s many different options for our engineers to utilize.

Conductor Colors

Colors are fully customizable per the project’s needs and requirements and can greatly aid in wire management.

Stranding Sizes

From 0.002” to 0.01”, our wire harness engineers can find the perfect stranding size to match the application.

Conductor Insulation Materials

The choices abound for insulation as well, allowing our design team to put together the best materials for the needs of the project. Common insulating materials include Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon®).

UL® Certified Cables and Wires

Utilizing UL® certified cables and wires helps our designers start with a safe, tested, and reliable product from the start.

Start Your Wire Harness Design Today

With this variety of design features, it is little wonder that Meridian Cable is committed to hands-on engineering and manufacturing. We incorporate the best in semi-automated applications for manufacturing but remain personally invested in our products. 

Contacting Meridian means selecting a custom cable assembly or wire harness assembly team to deliver cost-effective and high quality wiring. Let us help you strike the balance between cutting edge automation, and dependable quality and experience.

Back to The Basics: A Beginner’s Guide to Wire Harness Assemblies

Wire Harness Assembly
Wire Harness

What do you think of when you hear the term “Wire Harness Assembly”? Like many, you may be inclined to picture a mechanism for organizing loose strands of cables or wires. While this description is partially correct, wire harness assemblies serve a much more useful purpose. Today’s blog post will dive into the world of wire harness assemblies. 

Here, we’ll answer some of the most common questions related to wire harness assemblies. To do this, we will start from the beginning with its definition.

What is a Wire Harness Assembly?

At its most rudimentary level, a wire harness assembly is a collection of cables or wires that work together to relay electrical power or information and command signals. These cables and wires are often enveloped in a basic thermoplastic or thermoset casing to safeguard against external forces that would otherwise affect the structural integrity of exposed cables and wires. 

By binding cables and wires into a single instrument, wire harness assemblies act as an organizational mechanism to diminish the amount of space that would have been otherwise taken up by singularly installed cables and wires.

The Benefits of Using a Wire Harness Assembly

Wire harness assemblies are important instruments in the operation of electrical systems around the world. They are often incorporated because they increase the efficiency of these systems. In this section, we discuss two of the major reasons why wire harness assemblies are popular: organization and protection.

Wire Harness Assemblies Save Valuable Space

Have you ever gone into the attic during the Christmas season to get your lights and found that the strands were hopelessly entangled? If you are one of the people who have experienced this event, then you can sympathize with how frustrating it can be to disentangle these from one another. 

In applying the previous example to a collection of loose cables or wires, you will quickly understand the need for an organization mechanism. A disorganized system of interlocking and intersecting cables and wires can be equally, if not more, aggravating to work with than a loose collection of Christmas lights. This is especially true should the need arise to replace or rearrange dozens of cables and wires. 

One of the major benefits of adopting a wire harness assembly is that it organizes your cable and wire arrangement. By clustering cables and wires beneath a single external casing, a wire harness organizes your cable/wire set up by decreasing the spatial dimensions needed to house the arrangement. 

To illustrate this point further, consider the car that takes you to work or the airplane that flies you to your favorite vacation destination. Both the car and the airplane require thousands of feet of wiring to operate effectively and efficiently. So, instead of attaching an abundance of cables and wires separately, the wire harness assemblies group cables and wires into an individual apparatus that is then easily installed. 

In short, if you are an individual that values organization and order, a wire harness assembly will change your life. 

Wire Harness Assemblies Protect Cables and Wires 

A wire harness assembly not only acts as an organizational tool but also protects the functionality and durability of your cables and wires. Interconnecting and intersecting cable and wire setups may result in suboptimal performance and damage to cables/wires over time. Organizing cables and wires using a wire harness assembly can minimize decreased functionality and potential damages resulting from external forces. More specifically, the outer thermoplastic or thermoset casing of the harness acts as a basic buffer against the negative impacts associated with moisture, lacerations, and accidental vibrations. 

Additionally, wire harness assemblies can protect against electrical damage. The insulating sheath that covers the bound cables and wires assists in preventing electricity from shocking those working with them. Additionally, the possibility of an electrical short is diminished since the sheath that makes up the wire harness assembly grouping cables and wires are firmly bound. 

Because wire harness assemblies provide organization and increase protection for the cables and wire, they are an important element in global electrical systems. The next section will illustrate how wire harness assemblies are utilized across various industries.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

The Many Applications of Wire Harness Assemblies

Wire harness assemblies have many different applications. The list of applications extends across multiple industries and sectors including, but not limited to, the agriculture, automotive, communication, manufacturing, and medical sectors. 

Agricultural Industries

Much of the equipment and vehicles used in today’s agricultural sector utilize wire harness assemblies. The organizational and protective features of wire harness assemblies ensure that heavy machinery, such as tractors and cultivators, operate throughout the year. 

Automotive Sector

Wire harness assemblies are installed in cars to help disperse electricity and electric signals throughout the vehicle. The electric power and signals that pass through the wire harness are instrumental in starting the ignition, turning on the lights, cooling and heating the car, listening to the radio, and rolling down the windows.

Communications Systems

Global communication systems rely on wire harness assemblies to connect the world. From modems to routers and broadband networks to satellite receivers, wire harness assemblies are pertinent in powering the infrastructure that makes instantaneous communication possible. 

Healthcare Technology

Modern medical care would arguably not be possible without the integration of wire harness assemblies into the devices used in doctor’s offices and hospitals to treat modern ailments. Medical instruments are often subject to frequent operation and must rely on the durability and versatility of wire harness assemblies to assist in maintaining functionality. 

Industrial & Manufacturing

Wire harness assemblies are frequently used in the industrial control and manufacturing processes. As assembly line and production systems require intricate cable and wire systems to fuel automation, it is the wire harness assemblies that organize these elaborate connections of cables and wires to streamline the production process to ensure the optimization of the much larger manufacturing components. 

All things considered, wire harnesses assemblies are a common feature found in electrical systems spanning the globe. Without them, modern technology would arguably not nearly be as efficient. 

The Difference Between Wire Harness Assemblies and Cable Assemblies

One common assumption made about wire harness assemblies is that they are interchangeable with cable assemblies. Wire harness assemblies are often confused with cable assemblies because they both have similar features; however, they are not the same. 

Wire Harness Assembly

As a short review, a wire harness assembly is a collection of bound cables and wires sheathed in a basic thermoplastic or thermoset material designed. The wire harness assembly sheath is simply designed to bring organization to the installation of cables and to provide basic protection from externalities. This basic construction defines wire harness assemblies as best suited for indoor use where externalities are minimal. 

Cable Assembly

Similar to wire harness assemblies, cable assemblies consist of bound cables and wires. However, the material in which they are wrapped tends to be more durable. Cable assembly casings are usually made from materials, such as vinyl or thermoplastic rubber, that allow the unit to operate in the most intense environments where externalities abound. In comparison to wire harness assemblies, cable assemblies are often best suited for outdoor use or within environments operating under various amounts of stress, such as heat, moisture, and friction. 

If you are interested in delving into the more intricate details of the differences between wire harness assemblies and cable assemblies, read our article entitled “Cable Assembly VS. Wire Harness”.

Designing a Wire Harness Assembly

Wire harness assemblies are often designed to meet the needs of a purchasing agent. Depending upon the customer’s specifications and energy requirements, the number of cables and wires in a wire harness assembly can vary. In its most elementary form, a wire harness assembly may contain only a few cables or wires with only the most necessary terminals installed. 

On the other hand, for electrical systems that require a variety of operations and functions, a wire harness assembly may contain an incredible assortment of cables and wires that, without a harness, would resemble a never-ending labyrinth. In the end, the complexity of the design will ultimately be impacted by the function it is being designed to do. Meridian Cable specializes in designing simple to complex wire harness assemblies for a variety of purposes. 

Getting the Perfect Wire Harness for Your Application

If you are in the market for a custom wire harness, Meridian is here to help. Our team is committed to creating the highest quality, customizable wire harness assemblies for our customers. We have the capabilities to engineer wire harness assemblies for all types of applications. We guarantee that we will customize the perfect wire harness assembly to satisfy your necessary specifications. Alternatively, if you do not have a specific design in mind, we also maintain a large selection of pre-made products that are sure to meet your needs. 

Check out our products page to view our full range of products and customization options available to you and contact our team to start reviewing your project’s specifications.

The Ultimate Wire Harness Connectors Guide

wire harnesses with connectors on a white background

Wiring harness connectors come in an array of sizes, shapes, and materials in order to produce the best results in a given application. Our cable engineers utilize different wiring harness types in custom wiring harnesses every day to perfect their designs in terms of continuity, integrity, and safety. 

In today’s LiveWire spotlight, we’re honing in on the wide world of wiring harness connectors and terminals to give you a better idea as to just how important these components are in the overall design. 

What is a Harness Connector?

Wire harnesses provide both protection and organization for a cable assembly. Outside forces like abrasion, extreme temperatures, moisture, dust, and more, all bombard a cable assembly and can work to degrade components over time. Wire harnesses provide protection against these forces and are specifically engineered for whatever environment the application happens to be. Wire harness connectors, as part of this system, are the bridge for providing a consistent flow of data, signal, or power.  

There are essentially two main types of wire or cable harness connectors—male and female.  Male and female wire harness connectors serve to provide the necessary junctions between the many different elements of the wire harness to produce an efficient transmission of data, signal, or power through the system. In simplistic terms, plugs are usually male connectors and jacks are female wire harness connectors. 

Connectors come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and dimensions in order to fit perfectly within the electrical system they need to support. From cutting edge medical devices to complex industrial control systems, the humble wire harness connector makes these marvels of modern technology possible. 

Different Types of Wiring Harness Connectors

When our wiring engineers set to work designing the perfect custom harnesses, the types of connectors they use are based on a variety of factors such as the types of connections present, what type of insulation is needed, and what kind of power and signal contacts there are. Different configurations within the wiring harness itself can dictate the need for one connector over another. There’s wire-to-wire configurations, board-to-board, and different combinations therein to consider. 

Our team will typically utilize standard connector designs with either a 2-pin, 3-pin, or 4-pin setup. A host of data sets are used to find the perfect connector design to meet the needs of the system, as well as fit within the client’s budget and time horizon. Effectively bringing efficient design, manufacturing, and logistics together in one cohesive package is the mark of a great custom wire harness manufacturer. 

Variables we plan for with each production run include:

  • The rating of the current.
  • The density and/or size of the circuit.
  • How much engagement force is required.
  • The gauge and length of individual wires.
  • The voltage required. 
  • Any certifications required.
  • How much each component costs.
  • Lead times to bring it all together.

Mitigating for delays and cost overruns has become a speciality with our team. After you’ve been a leader in custom cable manufacturing for decades, the intrinsic knowledge of your team and a vast tooling inventory really pays dividends in the quality of each product produced. 

A Closer Look at Wiring Harness Terminals

Terminals are what they sound like—their termination of a wire. At this important junction, you might have the end of a wiring component or you may have a connector to a different component, it all depends on the needs of the system. Terminals come in a variety of sizes and shapes, as well, and are all pertinent to their particular application. 

A few of the many different types of wire harness terminals include:

  • Rings: these terminals have a rounded end which lets it attach to screws and studs. Available in many different sizes, they can be insulated and crimped or soldered onto wires.
  • Spades – with a unique fork shape, these have an easily-attachable open end ideal for tight spaces.
  • Hooks – also with an open end, these are simple and efficient terminals with a high durability rating.
  • Quick-connect/disconnect – these are great for industrial control systems and automotive applications where the harness needs to be connected and disconnected rapidly.
  • Bullets – great for connections between male and female wire harness connectors.

Terminals play into the overall design of wire harness connections by providing the necessary junction from which a cabling harness can be terminated or progress to other components. Their design is just as crucial as any aspect of the custom wire harness in order to produce a product with the continuity, integrity, and safety required to pass our stringent in-house quality assurance testing.

How to Design Wire Harness Connectors

Seeing all the different types of applications for wire harnesses—telecommunications, medical, military, industrial, automotive, and more, it’s no small wonder that wire harnesses are an extremely customized piece of hardware within the electric system. When our designers first sit down with our clients, we work to understand the application in its entirety, as well as the budget and time constraints that require careful project management.

Location, Location, Location

One of the first steps in choosing the perfect wire harness connectors for a custom wire harness includes looking at the location and environmental factors of the intended application. Wire harnesses are usually behind-the-scenes operators, hanging out inside of the overall system to provide their critical support role. This can mean some very constrained locations where temperature, abrasion, moisture, and other variables all come into play. 

Think about military applications. Our men and women in uniform need their gear to go to the most extreme environments on planet Earth, and beyond, and still work flawlessly. This requires a cable engineer to know the environmental variables involved and assemble the perfect set of components to meet, if not exceed., the specifications of the project. 

Mitigating Against Interference

With the location in mind, comes figuring out the different types of interference that require protection. Interference comes in many different forms but all basically serve to degrade the transmission of data, power, or signal. Effective mitigation techniques such as using Mylar sheathing for electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) can help preserve the signal and maintain a clean flow. This is especially important when it comes to communications

With high-tech communications equipment, our engineers have to work to protect the system from the many types of interference that would otherwise degrade a signal or even cause complete failure altogether. 

Precision Measurements Make Better Wire Harnesses

Using the correct connectors and terminals as part of a quality wiring harness design helps to make sure that the harness is stout, protected, and routed appropriately to give the system the best conditions possible for doing its job effectively. All of the lengths of wire, gauges, terminals, connections, sheaths, shields, and insulation are carefully measured and accounted for within the wire harness design to bring about the most efficient use of materials possible. This helps projects stay both on-time and on-budget through production.

Why Quality Matters With Wiring Harness Connectors and Terminals

In order to maintain our ISO 9001:2015 certification, Meridian has to be able to demonstrate both a quality of product and a quality of process on a continual basis. This requires a certain degree of fanaticism on behalf of our product testing team in order to make sure each and every wiring harness off our assembly line is known to perform within specifications. 

We have a wide variety of testing procedures including venerable Cirrus automated testing units, but, as is the case with custom creations, there are often times when we have to create a custom test to accurately measure a custom wire harness. Our Advanced Life Testing Lab is one of the coolest places in Meridian where our quality assurance engineers put wire and cable harness connectors through extreme, real world conditions to make sure they’ll be more than ready to take on whatever is asked of them. 

The second aspect of quality, quality of process, is undertaken with a lean production mentality. Utilizing methods such as just-in-time order, Kanban production, and six sigma process improvement, we continually analyse, measure, and improve our processes to be the very best they can be. A cool aspect of the ISO 9001 certification we maintain, is that this also applies to customer service. We strive to ensure that every customer of Meridian is treated with care and respect as we work to produce the perfect product to fit within even the most exacting specifications. This level of commitment is what truly sets apart working with a custom cable and wire harness manufacturer over using a generic off-the-shelf product.

Getting Your Harness the Best Connectors and Terminals

When it comes to using the perfectly-designed wire harness connectors and terminals, a custom cable manufacturer with the specific knowledge and experience in your industry is a must. After decades of doing nothing but high-quality designs, our team has built an incredible wealth of knowledge and a vast tooling inventory which allows us to produce one-of-a-kind solutions for even the most complex systems. Contact our team today to review your project’s specifications. 

The Ultimate Guide to Wire Gauge Sizes | Learn What Gauges Are Used For Custom Wire Harness Applications

Different kinds of cables are on wooden pallet.

Wire gauges help determine the effectiveness, as well as the costs of the overall design. That’s why our designers take such care when designing custom wiring harnesses to incorporate the perfect gauges to meet the needs of the project. 

In today’s LiveWire spotlight, we’ll showcase a complete wire gauge guide focused on topics like wire gauge sizes, how to measure wire gauge, and how to choose the right wire gauge in custom cabling applications.

Wire Gauges Explained

First up, what does gauge mean in wire harness design? Wires are produced in a wide variety of widths in order to meet the needs of the project. The diameter of a wire is expressed in a unit known as a gauge, as set by the American Wire Gauge (AWG). The AWG sets corresponding numbers to different diameters of wire gauge. 

Contrary to what you might think, the lower AWG numbers actually correspond to wires with higher diameters and the larger numbers in the AWG wire gauge size chart correspond to smaller diameters of wire. The AWG sets gauges in order to have a unifying system of measure with wires and conductors. It’s important to note that the AWG applies to round, solid, and non-ferrous wires. Non-ferrous metals, like aluminum and copper, make excellent conductors.

Wire diameter is critical in custom wire harness design as it helps to determine how much of an electrical load and the level of resistance, expressed in ohms (Ω). This standardization helps our wire engineers start with materials with known electrical properties to provide the most effective designs possible. In the custom cable manufacturing industry, exactness matters which is why even the smallest degree of error needs to be corrected in a design before ever moving forward with production.  

How to Measure Wire Gauge

To answer questions like, “how thick is 4 gauge wire?”, you need to understand how the AWG wire gauge system works. As we discussed, the larger gauge numbers expressed in an AWG size chart correspond to lower wire diameters and smaller gauge numbers mean larger diameters. 

Before the AWG, different manufacturers had their own unique sizes and systems, making any form of standardization difficult. However, the AWG isn’t the only gauge measurement around with most of the world relying on a metric-based system for gauge measure. For the purpose of this wire gauge guide, we’ll stick with the AWG.

The Formula for Wire Gauge Sizes

Looking at an AWG wire gauge chart, you’ll see 0000 on up to 36 and beyond. A 36 AWG wire is going to be .005 inches while a 0000 AWG is .46 inches. The ratio between these matters is exactly 1 to 92. With 40 different gauge sizes between 0000 and 36, there’s a consistent geometric step with each successive AWG number. 

This is important because it helps to qualify a constant multiple from which the entire system is based. For example, with every 6 gauge of decrease, you’ll get a doubling of the wire’s diameter. Conversely, a 3 gauge decrease doubles the wire’s cross-sectional area. 

Wire Gauge Diameter

The actual formula for figuring out the diameter of wire gauge is a little complicated but one our engineers use in our designs every day to find the perfect wire to match the application. Diameters are calculated with this formula – D(AWG) = 0.005·92((36-AWG)/39) inch. 

For those that want to dig more into the technical side of electronic formulas like this, we recommend a mainstay in the industry known as the “Handbook of Electronics Tables and Formulas” by Howard Sams. 

Wire Resistance & Wire Length

AWG helps to provide consistency to resistance and wire length as well since different gauges will have known levels. The larger a wire’s circumference is, the less resistance the signal or current will have. A very small gauge wire might not be able to handle a given electrical load, which could prove dangerous and even cause a fire. Wire gauges have to be exact in order to create the ideal resistance level in a given custom wire and cable harness. 

Another important consideration is the length of the wire. With longer wires, the signal or current has to simply travel further before reaching a termination. Longer distances lead to more resistance which can degrade the signal. A larger gauge wire can help to make sure that the signal or current is able to travel these long distances without becoming too degraded. In our AWG size chart, you’ll see this expressed as a measure of ohms per 1,000 feet.

You might simply think you should always just use a larger gauge wire and be done but this blanket approach can prove inefficient, especially from a materials-cost perspective. As a custom cable manufacturer, we examine all of the nuances of a design in order to produce the best utilization of our client’s budget, given the parameters of the intended application. This level of sophistication is what truly sets apart working with a custom manufacturer over relying on off-the-shelf cable assemblies.

Wire Gauge Chart

The standardization for diameters and cross-sectional areas presented as AWG sizes is continued to be maintained by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The ASTM is actually an international organization that helps to develop consensus across industries for a wide range of technical applications. 

When it comes to the source for an AWG wire gauge chart, the ASTM is the best place to start. For the most up-to-date wire gauge chart see ASTM B258 – 18 Standard Specification for Standard Nominal Diameters and Cross-Sectional Areas of AWG Sizes of Solid Round Wires Used as Electrical Conductors. This publication specifies diameters, areas, equations, and rules for calculating AWG sizes. Length of the wire, resistance (Ω), and rated strengths are all required for standardization, as well. As you can imagine, global standardization is difficult and requires developing a complete methodology for the process.

The following wire gauge chart was adapted from an American Wire Gauge reference article published by Boston University:

AWG gaugeDiameter InchesDiameter mmOhms per 1000 ftOhms per kmMax amps for chassis wiringMax amps for power transmission
OOOO0.460011.68400.04900.160720380302
OOO0.409610.403840.06180.202704328239
OO0.36489.265920.07790.255512283190
00.32498.252460.09830.322424245150
10.28937.348220.12390.406392211119
20.25766.543040.15630.51266418194
30.22945.826760.19700.64616015875
40.20435.189220.24850.81508013560
50.18194.620260.31331.02762411847
60.16204.114800.39511.29592810137
70.14433.665220.49821.6340968930
80.12853.263900.62822.0604967324
90.11442.905760.79212.5980886419
100.10192.588260.99893.2763925515
110.09072.303781.26004.1328004712
120.08082.052321.58805.208640419.3
130.07201.828802.00306.569840357.4
140.06411.628142.52508.282000325.9
150.05711.450343.184010.44352284.7
160.05081.290324.016013.17248223.7
170.04531.150625.064016.60992192.9
180.04031.023626.385020.94280162.3
190.03590.911868.051026.40728141.8
200.03200.8128010.15033.29200111.5
210.02850.7239012.80041.9840091.2
220.02540.6451616.14052.9392070.92
230.02260.5740420.3666.780804.70.729
240.02010.5105425.6784.197603.50.577
250.01790.4546632.37106.17362.70.457
260.01590.4038640.81133.85682.20.361
270.01420.3606851.47168.82161.70.288
280.01260.3200464.9212.87201.40.226
290.01130.2870281.83268.40241.20.182
300.01000.254103.2338.49600.860.142
310.00890.22606130.1426.72800.7000.1130
320.00800.2032164.1538.24800.5300.0910
330.007100.18034206.9678.63200.4300.0720
340.006300.16002260.9855.75200.3300.0560
350.005600.14224329.01079.1200.2700.0440
360.005000.12700414.813600.2100.0350

You’ll see in the above chart that amps are listed with each gauge. This is the capacity level that each wire gauge is able to safely handle. Looking at lower gauges and remembering these correspond to thicker wires, you’ll notice that they have higher maximum amp ratings.  

Common Applications of Standard Wire Gauges

Wire gauges will each have their own electrical properties which makes them each perfect for their own unique applications. Higher gauges are great for lighter-duty electrical work, while lower gauges are reserved for more heavy-duty projects. 

The most common gauges of wire out there are 10, 12, and 14 as these are used in building and construction applications. As we’ve seen, when projects require a wire to go a longer distance, the gauge of wire needs to be bumped up in order to compensate and allow electricity and/or signal to pass through it. 

A few of the more common applications with AWG sizes include:

  • 14 Gauge Wire: this is very common in residential wiring applications such as with light fixtures, devices, and household outlets. 
  • 12 Gauge Wire: this is also common for residential wiring to be used for outlets, small appliances, and even smaller air conditioning units.
  • 10 Gauge Wire: 10 gauge is starting to get into larger household appliances such as window air conditioning units, water heaters, and your clothes dryer. 
  • 8 Gauge Wire: this is for larger household appliances such as electric ranges, ovens, and your home’s air conditioning system.
  • 6 Gauge Wire: this is going to be for the largest household appliances and air conditioning units.

Even within a consideration like wire gauges, we see that there is a tremendous level of exactness required from a cable harness design team in order to find the best application. Selecting the best gauge wire for the application takes a lot of careful measurements and considerations during the design phase. Our cable engineers work to find the most efficient means to produce a given assembly within the specifications provided by the client.

Choosing the Perfect Wire Guage

The two most important questions you need to know in your project are wire gauge and wire length. This is determined by looking at what carrying capacity and the level of current, expressed in amps. As we’ve discussed wire gauge is listed based on how the maximum amount of amps that can run through it. Last up is the distance as this is crucial for gauges. You’ll be able to effectively counteract the drop in voltage by increasing the wire gauge, which can handle more amps. 

Getting the Best Design with the Correct Wire Gauge

Working with our client’s unique specifications, the Meridian team is able to consistently exceed our client’s expectations when it comes to delivering the perfect solution for even the most complex issues. Contact our team today to start reviewing your project and to see where utilizing a custom cable manufacturer can benefit your project.

The Benefits of Low Pressure Molding in Wire Assembly

low pressure molding machine

One of the best methods custom cable manufacturers have for effectively protecting the many components composing cable assemblies is a process known as low-pressure molding. With investments in state-of-the-art machines like our Low Pressure Molding Machine, the LPMS Beta 300, Meridian is able to produce incredibly strong, custom assemblies that are perfectly suited for their intended applications. 

In today’s LiveWire deep dive, we’ll explore the many benefits of low pressure molding in cable and wire assemblies and how you can best utilize this method in your next production run.

What is Low-Pressure Molding?

If you’re sitting at your computer and reading this, right now your PC is using cable assemblies, connectors, terminals, and more to make that action possible. Across from you may be a printer, your cell phone sitting next to you, and outside is your car which may have got you to work this morning. All of these machines require complex cable assembly and wire harness engineering in order to function. 

Yet, each contains parts that can easily fail if they aren’t engineered with additional layers of protection. Abrasion, bending, water, heat, cold—all of these variables require a keen design that mitigates against the forces of nature constantly bombarding your electronics’ sensitive components. Enter low-pressure molding.

Low-pressure molding, also referred to as “hot-melt molding”, is a method of manufacturing that takes the best of two processes in injection molding and casting. Low-pressure molding is ideal for use in sealing custom cable assemblies, while also serving to provide strain relief. By completely surrounding the components, low-pressure molding provides a reliable protection against external forces.

A Closer Look at the Low-Pressure Molding Process

low pressure molding button

Whenever you use injection molding, you’re typically using a type of thermoplastic (basically a material that gets soft when heated and hard when cooled) that gets heated up and injected into a mold at-pressure. This process is great for volume manufacturing and often doesn’t actually create a permanent bond with the underlying material. 

Conversely, low pressure molding does create a permanent bond with the components it’s covering. Let’s look at the process:

  1. Using a hot-melt such as polyamide adhesive, we heat these granular pieces to somewhere between 350 degrees and 460 degrees Fahrenheit. The polyamide adhesive doesn’t really melt per-se, but rather just gets soft. When it’s at the right softness and viscosity, it’s ready for injection molding. These pellets are softened within an integrated melt tank directly on our LPMS Beta 300.
  1. Whatever wire assembly component is getting sealed gets placed into custom molds to be covered by the adhesives. Inside the Beta 300, gears are used to make a pressurized force through which the softened material goes through a heated hose and finally into the injection heads themselves. The Beta 300 utilizes a horizontal-injection system with a single-injection gun for maximum efficiency. Once the material is injected, the component becomes completely encased with a physical bonding of materials.
  1. The actual pressure used in the injection molding for these types of adhesives is far lower than your typical injection molding process. Hitting on the high side of 500 psi is much lower than the 15,000 psi for the upper reaches of injection molding. This gentler approach is ideal for extra-sensitive components such as with medical device technology. As well, the Beta 300 has two thermal zones which means our skilled operators have more control than ever before for precision melting temperatures.
  1. The materials will then cool down quickly, typically in under a minute. The component is then 100% ready to remove and use as desired.

And there you have it, the low pressure molding process in a nutshell. With the capabilities our LPMS Beta 300 provides, we’re able to create the perfect set up for even the most customized wire assemblies our clients need developed. This capability and our expertise is what’s helped set our services apart in custom cable manufacturing.

Benefits of Using Low Pressure Molding in Wire Assemblies

When utilizing a hot-melt polyamide adhesive, you’re starting with a compound that’s solid at room temperature. These are safely developed using renewable resources. Because any scrap material is reusable, these are also incredibly sustainable. 

These types of adhesive are also very safe, without toxic gasses being released into the atmosphere during a manufacturing run. Being both non-toxic, as well as able to be recycled, makes these materials a great choice for green initiatives, such as LEED electrical designs in sustainable buildings. Polyamides also offer greater levels of protection and can be used as an insulating material. 

Because they form an actual bond with the underlying components, the seal is highly resistant to water, dust, chemicals, and other environmental factors. This makes them ideal for extreme hot and cold environments, or where abrasion resistance is required. They even work well when they need to be printed on. 

Finally, while the initial material may cost a bit more than injection molding, there are many cost-savings measures along the manufacturing process that make this a very economical method. For example, molds used in injection molding have to be super heavy duty steel which are quite expensive. With low pressure molding, we can typically utilize lower-priced aluminum molds, or even 3D printed materials which is great for prototyping different iterations. The aluminum also removes heat faster after the process is complete which lowers the overall cycle time. Because heat distortion is also mitigated, you have less loss which means more efficient production runs.

Inside the Design Studio for Low Pressure Molding Applications

You might think that the molds, connectors, terminations, and other tools we use every day are easily-available. But the fact is, most of these are custom designs that we tweak to each individual product. In fact, after decades as leaders in custom cable manufacturing, we have amassed a tooling inventory of well over 5,000 different components at our disposal for a given project. 

Molds are one such tool in our arsenal that require careful design consideration, testing, and even prototyping to make sure we have everything right. We work with some of the best mold manufacturers in the world in order to create the products that help our men and women in the military, power high-tech telecommunications equipment, and a hundred and one other applications. We also have the ability to 3D print mold inserts for low-volume production runs or when the final design needs to be tweaked by successive iterations of tooling.

The low pressure molding sets are made so that the components can be removed efficiently after manufacture, without damaging any of the sensitive components. This requires very advanced engineering that allows the perfect amount of air and heat out, while still being able to be processed quickly. Components are centered within each mold and injected to be set. 

Areas Where Low Pressure Molding Can Be Advantageous

Whenever a fast cycle time is required, and we are seeking to improve the reliability of the data, signal, or power being transmitted within the system, low pressure molding is a fantastic addition to the overall design. That’s not to say, however, that all problems are solved with low pressure molding, but within specific applications our engineers utilize this process to bring about the most advantageous results for our client’s projects.

When looking at connectors, the low pressure molding materials can act as a great overmold for the connector, as well as the cable assembly. This provides advanced protection against water intrusion and other environmental factors. As well, the strain relief provided is another huge benefit. Overall, even the aesthetics of the design are improved with a streamlined component. Low pressure molding is even more reliable than heat shrinking tubing since a physical bond is made.

Other sensitive applications are able to employ low pressure molding to create a very effective overmold, without harming the underlying components. We often use this method when circuit boards or fragile electronic components need to be overmolded. This can also save money by not having to use all of the support elements such as housings and junction boxes, since the overmold performs this function. 

In wire harnesses, low pressure molding can be utilized with various components such as bushings. These low-pressure molded bushings will both hold the cable assemblies in place but also provide necessary strain relief. Low pressure molding bushings are able to provide a better grip on the components that need to stay in place and can be put together relatively quickly to make even the most complicated wire harnesses a better-managed system. That’s because these types of bushings are actually manufactured in place rather than having to be put on to an existing harness. The connections become waterproof powerhouses, ready to provide protection for the cables beneath.

Ready to See How Low Pressure Molding Can Benefit Your Project?

At Meridian, we specialize in the design and production of some of the most customized cable assemblies available today. To do this requires our team to have the best tools and talent available. With the capability of machines like the LPMS Beta 300 making low pressure molding a resource available when needed, our designers can create the best product possible to meet the needs of the project. Contact our team now to go over your project’s specs and to see if low pressure molding might be a useful addition to your overall design.