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Utilizing Flex Cable vs Ribbon Cable in Cable Assemblies

Wire Testing Techniques for Your Cable Assembly

Flex cable and ribbon cable both go by many names but each is employed the world over to power an untold number of electronic devices and systems. The capabilities of these two types of cable have their own set of pros and cons which make each uniquely suitable for a particular project. 

Today, the Livewire News spotlight is on knowing the best times to utilize flex cable vs ribbon cable in your next custom cable assembly. We’ll cover everything you need to know about these crucial building blocks and help you pick which one is best suited to meet the needs of your project.

What is Flex Cable?

Flex cable, or flexible flat cable (FFC), is a type of cable that is flat in shape and flexible enough to be maneuvered within tight spaces. Basically, a flex cable is like an advanced, miniaturized ribbon cable. Flex cable applications are usually used in small and tight spaces, just like what you see on today’s smaller electronic devices like with a laptop, cell phone, or tablet. 

The construction of a flat cable really helps manage cables because of the uniform, flat shape. Usually a flexible plastic is used in the base where several different conductors are able to be bonded with the surface. The flat cable provides three main advantages over a round cable with space-saving design, improved resistance to electromagnetic interference (EMI)/radio frequency interference (RFI), and helping to avoid any issues related to wire coupling. With decades of experience employing flex cable in a wide variety of applications, Meridian is able to produce the perfect flex flat cable assembly to meet the needs of the project.

Designing Flex Cable

Flex cable engineers work to produce a variety of different cables, depending on requirements. We can produce flexible flat cable with anywhere from 2 to 32 pins in it, each with its own insulation customization in order to make the assembly perfect for its intended environment. This may mean a very high-temperature environment such as in an automobile engine or even a combination of high-temperature and moisture such as in marine applications. 

Variables like these require careful design considerations at every level of a flex cable design. With each step, our engineers test and retest the components for integrity, polarity, and safety to ensure they have what it takes to get the job done.

What are Ribbon Cables Used For?

Ribbon cables, aka flat ribbon cables, are the most common types of cable used in the electronics we all use everyday. These versatile cables are used in printers and PCs, robotics, circuit boards, industrial controls, TVs, and so much more. 

As with a flex cable, ribbon cables are a flat arrangement of parallel wires. This makes a ribbon cable appear a bit like a cut of ribbon used for tying presents and hence the name. The ribbon cable is a very flexible type of cable and is used in applications where a more rigid cable assembly simply wouldn’t work. The assembly lends itself well to being able to pull off many different applications at the same time, which helps keep costs lower with less time and materials needed to accomplish the same end-task. 

When you’re looking at different ribbon cable assemblies, there’s two unique attributes that help tell them apart. The first is the spacing/pitch and the second is the number of conductors are used. Each of these usually follows a set scale but the brilliant designers of Meridian are extremely well-versed in creating custom setups, as well. With conductors, we are able to run a full gamut of AWG stranded copper wire but will typically see a range from 18 to 34 AWG for ribbon cables. 

For a more in-depth view of the manufacturing process, check out the video in this post of flat ribbon cables being processed by our high-performance automatic cutting machine.

Choosing the Right Connectors and Terminations for Ribbon Cables 

A special note on ribbon cables is their ability to transmit large amounts of data, electricity, or signal simultaneously. However, this is only made possible by using the right types of connectors and terminations. 

Common connectors we use with ribbon cables include d-subminiature (d-sub), socket, dips, and card edge. Each of these connectors will have their own applications to fit perfectly with the situation. D-subs, for example, are commonly used to connect the monitors to your desktop and may be what’s helping you read this article right now. 

For ease of termination, a flat ribbon cable assembly is the way to go. That’s because it utilizes a rigid spacing plan which allows for mass termination with the use of IDC connectors. IDC stands for insulation displacement socket and helps ribbon cables be employed in a variety of situations. IDCs are employed to make termination simplified which helps save time, money, and overall efficiency.

When to Use Flex Cable Over Ribbon Cable

Just putting these two head-to-head we start to see which applications each is best suited for. Each of these designs is incredibly cutting-edge and is used to power the most advanced electronics on Planet Earth, and far beyond. Telecommunications systems, especially, rely on the space-saving design of both of these cables in order to function properly. Still, each has their own set of advantages that make them uniquely suitable for different tasks.

Ribbon cables are used in everything from military applications to life-saving medical equipment. With the IDC terminations we discussed earlier, ribbon cables are incredibly versatile and especially suited for wire-to-board applications. They are known for being a very high-quality cable, with superior flexibility and a space-saving design. They are also inherently good at reducing RFI and EMI, have a long life span, and can be built to withstand extreme temperatures. However, even with all of these, the termination of ribbon cable can be less efficient than that of a FFC. As well, there can be greater friction present throughout cycles. These considerations are what help our team decide when it would be better to use a FFC rather than a ribbon cable.

FFCs have a few additional design considerations that make them more suitable for specific tasks. Because of their design, FFCs are not able to shift within the jacket which helps them maintain a good level of operational efficiency. FFCs also allow you to be able to use conductors of the same type and length as in inflexible flat cables, just the conductors are safely isolated from one another. Added bonus is that an FFC is typically even more flexible than a ribbon cable. With a better performance rating for heat dissipation, lighter weight, smaller volume, and improved signal, the FFC is able to provide better performance than ribbon cable in a number of categories. 

Comparing Rigid vs Flexible PCBs

Knowing how our products fit into a larger assembly is a tremendous advantage to using a custom cable manufacturer over an off-the-shelf cable. Commonly used in conjunction with flex and ribbon cable applications is printed circuit boards or PCBs. These components are another crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to sending whatever combination of data, signal, or power is needed. 

The two main types of PCBs you’ll see are rigid and flexible, with many different variations of each available. One of the biggest differentiators between the two is flex PCB price. Rigid flex is made into a lot smaller sizes which, in turn, eliminates the need for additional components and connectors. This leads to an overall simpler design that’s easier and more suitable. This cost advantage carries over to the end product such as with the price of handheld devices. 

A rigid circuit board typically utilizes cheaper materials but will be a tad more expensive since they’ll need to incorporate various connectors and cable assemblies in order for the circuit boards to be connected. Rigid flex PCBs are stronger and more durable than their rigid counterparts which provides a good long-term solution. Because of their simplicity, there’s less components that can fail over time. 

The physical properties of rigid-flex PCBs such as being both lightweight and extra durable, means they’re perfect for solutions like today’s high-tech devices. Detail-oriented industries like avionics rely on rigid flex PCBs because of long term savings, reliability, and ability to provide better signal quality.

Starting a Project Using Flex or Ribbon Cable Components

With many years of designing, testing, and manufacturing our own custom cable assemblies, the team at Meridian has built up an incredible level of tools and experience to pull off the perfect solution for our clients. With flat or ribbon cable, as with the many different cables we produce, we don’t play favorites. We simply design and test our systems to find out the most efficient way to solve even the most complex issues our clients are facing. 

To start going over your project’s specs with a knowledgeable team member, please get in contact however is most convenient. Call 1-877-806-8667 or simply fill out our online contact form

What is a Cable Assembly Engineer and What Do They Do Exactly

cable assembly engineer

An engineer for custom cable assemblies wears many hats. Cable harness engineers are the brilliant minds behind some of the most complex cable systems in the world. And yet, each and every custom cable project starts with a single strand of wire. To become a cable design engineer takes many years of schooling, testing, and on-the-job experience in order to be able to design and manufacture products that are reliable and safe. 

Today’s Livewire News spotlight looks at all the ways these men and women add value to the cable assembly supply chain. We’ll even provide a “day-in-the-life” look at what types of problems cable harness engineers solve everyday.

Cable Design Engineers Lay the Groundwork

First and foremost, a cable harness engineer needs to be able to develop and maintain the details behind their cable assembly designs. This requires a keen understanding as to how the final product will be utilized in its environment. Understanding what is required of the cable assembly helps the engineer produce a custom cable assembly that meets all of the requirements of the project. 

CAD, or computer-aided design, software is used to map out all the tiny intricacies of a cable wiring system before even the first copper wire comes into play. The high-level software that a cable design engineer utilizes allows them to run many different permutations of a particular set-up with sophisticated modeling programs built-in. This helps to predict how the system will perform under a given set of circumstances before we even extrude the first wire.

An easily overlooked area of responsibility for a cable design engineer lies with the very first stages of a project where their expertise is needed to articulate a technical write-up for a proposal or statement of work. The engineer also helps to develop the project metrics, timeline, and overall budget. Using techniques that help minimize interruptions and cut down waste, the cable design engineer is able to facilitate a smooth production run, saving both time and money.

How Cable Assembly Engineers Bring a Design Together

Cable assembly engineers take the groundwork for a cable harness system and start to build out models for a particular production run. Most of the time, the early stages for development will require a prototyping stage. This helps the engineers be able to spot any small issues and measure how the plans come together in real time. 

The cable assembly engineer helps to deliver a very detailed set of instructions to the production team for them to follow in bringing everything together. The cable design engineers will hand off a set of plans and details which help save both time and money during production runs with details like drafting specification sheets that provide close-ups for the design of the different components of the cable assembly. They’ll also be a full listing of all the cables, wires, connections, and terminations, including providing details for the wiring colors.

Other areas that an cable design engineer lends their skills include:

  • Analyzes results of cable assembly testing and reviews the design parameters.

An absolutely critical part of each and every custom cable assembly design project is testing. At Meridian, we’re a little fanatical in how many times we test each product for continuity, integrity, and safety – but for good reason. We proudly produce MILSPEC cable assemblies for our nation’s military, assemblies used to power the systems that run cities, assemblies for telecommunications satellites, cutting-edge medical equipment, and so many other vital areas. 

We take the responsibility of providing a viable solution very seriously which is why we test almost incessantly. We even created our own custom testing lab so that we could test cable assemblies under real-world (and beyond) conditions to make sure they have what it takes to be relied upon. 

  • Comes up with solutions for any discrepancies spotted during any stage of manufacturing.

The cable design engineer has a unique insider’s perspective into the manufacturing process. With keen insight into the inner workings of a given cable assembly, our engineers can pinpoint any areas that deserve a second look. They help our manufacturing team spot any types of deviations from the plans which may require tweaking in order to produce a cable system that performs under the specifications it’s being designed for.

  • Documents the entirety of the cable assembly process.  

Having a documented process helps our cable engineers keep their projects on-time and on-budget with a plan for every step. Providing details for all of the specifications and procedures for how the process was done creates an opportunity to both replicate a solid process and/or add improvements. 

By working through these stages methodically, the team at Meridian is able to produce cost-effective cabling solutions that simply work. We understand the vitality of having custom cable assemblies that seamlessly and flawlessly perform as they are intended through every cycle they’re needed.

What it Takes to Become a Cable Harness Engineer

The education and experience of a cable design engineer is usually acquired through many years of schooling and by working under another licensed engineer. If you’re interested in becoming a cable engineer, you should focus on areas related to STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You should also enjoy solving puzzles because that’s what you do everyday! 

A bachelor’s degree in an engineering-related field will set you on a solid foundation. From there, most cabled design engineers spend some time working under the guidance of a licensed professional engineer (PE). Some engineering disciplines allow you to pursue certification as an engineer-in-training (EIT or just EI) after you pass a rigorous examination. 

After working as an EI for the set number of years required by your state engineering board, you can then sit for a PE examination. Once passed and with all the other requirements met, the individual will be a fully-licensed professional, able to sign and seal a set of cable engineering documents. This level of professional requires a lot of schooling, experience, and mastery of the profession in order to ensure that these individuals have what it takes to be able to sign off on a design as safe.

Benefits a Cable Design Engineer Brings to Custom Cable Manufacturing

By understanding a little more about what a cable assembly engineer does, you can start to get a better picture of all the benefits of using cable engineers on custom builds. The cable design engineer helps to plan the entire project, specify the tools, equipment, and materials needed to complete the design, and oversees the process to minimize interruptions. 

Three ways it pays to have a cable design engineer calling the shots on a custom cable assembly project include:

  1. Project Scheduling: Our cable assembly engineers are invaluable members of the team. With detailed processes in place, the engineer is able to spell out project success from the start. The project schedule, indeed, is one of the most crucial parts of the planning process, as it will be in use at every step of the project. Our engineers help to judiciously set project schedules that allow us to meet whatever timetables are set by the client. 
  1. Source Materials and Deliver Products On-Time: A major contributing factor towards ensuring on-time delivery lies in Meridian’s UL-approval as a manufacturing facility at both our US and China locations. Our clients and cable design engineers alike rely on a steady logistical operation, which having two wholly-owned manufacturing facilities on opposite ends of the globe readily facilitates. 
  1. Ensuring Quality: Another advantage to using a cable engineer lies in the QA QC process. QA QC stands for quality assurance and quality control. These two aspects to a solid operations management strategy are what helps a manufacturer ensure product consistency at a known level of quality. 

For Meridian, investing in the tools and personnel needed to keep our QA QC program at one of the highest levels in the industry is what has contributed to our ability to maintain ISO 9001:2015 certification for many years. This rigorous certification requires, among many other things, a past and continued commitment to quality of product, quality of process, and quality of customer experience. 

This multi-faceted approach to consistently delivering quality means that the products Meridian produces can be absolutely relied upon to perform as they were intended.

Talk Over Your Custom Design with a Cable Assembly Engineer

Having an engineer for custom cable assemblies on your team is a good start for ensuring overall project success. With most cable assembly applications “just okay” solutions aren’t okay. Our clients know they can depend on our products to work exactly as they are specified to in even the harshest environments planet Earth (and beyond) has to offer. 

Call on our experienced custom cable manufacturing team to produce the one-of-a-kind solution your system needs to function reliably. From the first client interaction, through design and manufacturing, and even after delivery, our team works to ensure your custom cable assembly is the exact fit needed to complement the existing system. Start your cable assembly project now.

The Buyer’s Guide to OEM and Cable Harness Engineering Solutions

meeting with wire harness engineers

Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and Original Parts Distributors (OPD) depend on quality parts that are up to exact specifications. With many different cable harness engineering solutions, the team at Meridian helps OEMs source the very best components to use in their cabling systems. 

Today’s Livewire News spotlight is focused on how Meridian meets the needs of OEMs and OPDs. Read on as we cover everything you need to know about the many OEM solutions Meridian’s cable harness engineers help develop every day.

What is OEM & OPD?

As stated, OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer. OEMs are able to manufacture products to the exact specifications needed to fit within a larger system. An OEM is traditionally a company that produces parts to be used as part of another company’s final product. One of the largest OEM markets is for different automotive parts. Different companies create expertise in creating certain components that are then all assembled together by another company who then sells the product to consumers. 

As you might expect, the OEM auto parts have to be exactly right. They must be official and genuine to the vehicle maker’s specifications. In this way, OEMs are able to produce an exact match for the vehicle component at hand, which helps keep America’s automotive industry rolling.

An OPD is a company that acts as an intermediary between the OEM and the next entity in the distribution channel. This helps the producer focus on improving production, rather than having to try and distribute the product themselves. In essence, OEMs rely on OPDs to help get their products to market and OPDs rely on OEM to have something to distribute.

Best Ways for Sourcing OEM Cable

As an OEM or OPD you rely completely on custom cable manufacturers like Meridian to do a perfect job of creating a solution that fits within a very unique set of parameters. Luckily, designing and manufacturing custom cable solutions are what we do here at Meridian. In fact, we design over 70% of the products we manufacture. 

When looking for OEM cable sources, it’s important to consider the capabilities, past track record, and certifications of the manufacturer behind the product.

Capabilities of a Quality OEM Cable Manufacturer

To produce OEM cable, you have to start with the best components. At Meridican, we are currently certified by UL to produce a wide variety of single-conductor and multi-conductor wires. We are also a UL-approved cable and wire extruder, which simply adds another layer of quality to everything we produce. When it comes to OEM cable production, our team is able to provide:

  • Custom cable extrusion – this is a cable manufacturing process where molten plastic is conformed, generally through a die. Depending on the requirements of the client, different methods and materials can be used. 
  • Insert molding and overmolding – insert molding is a proven process where we can directly improve a product’s durability and functionality by covering components of the cable assembly with engineering plastics like PVC, PP, TPEE, and TPR. Meridian also designs many custom overmoldings for connectors, Y junctions, and many others.
  • Manufacturing capabilities – Meridian has two wholly-owned and operated manufacturing facilities – one in Tanggu, China and one in St. Augustine, Florida. These facilities complete everything from cable assembly design to UL approved extruding and manufacturing.
  • Process capabilities – Meridian remains a leader in custom cable manufacturing for our ability to provide a full cradle to the grave OEM cable system. Whether the cable needs overmolded connectors to ensure hermetic sealing, silicone overmolding for use in medical devices, or implanting a circuit board inside ultrasonically-welded housing, Meridian holds advanced process capabilities to meet the demands of the project.
  • Logistics – having facilities based in the US and in China helps our team judiciously distribute our client’s products per whatever project schedule is required. Integrating Kanban principles and JIT ordering, our streamlined logistics systems keep product deliveries on time. 
  • Testing/qualification and verification – automated Cirrus testers help make sure our OEM cable is produced to the very highest standards. Sometimes, we even need to design and manufacture a custom project’s very own functional tester for more advanced applications. Each product is always tested for continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality. 

Past Track Record of the OEM Cable Harness Engineer

Producing products that work in some of the harshest environments on Earth requires a manufacturer to be pretty good at what they do and getting to this level is no accident. Over many years, our gifted cable harness engineers have built up a wealth of intrinsic knowledge and a vast array of existing tooling for connectors, junctions, overmoldings, and housings for use in OEM cable assemblies.

Certifications That Matter in OEM Cable

Meridian is so serious about quality in everything we do, we even got certified for it. ISO 9001:2015 is one of the manufacturing industries highest levels of quality assurance certifications. The certification requires continuous commitment to not only improving the quality assurance of the product and the process, but it also requires improving the experience for the customer. QAQC engineering requires examining the process and continually eliminating inefficiencies. This helps us produce superior products and commit to making customer service a priority that remains in the spotlight.

Industries Using Meridian’s OEM Solutions

We’re proud to produce the OEM solutions required in a wide variety of industry applications. With several decades of experience at the highest level of OEM cable solutions, Meridian has built up the expertise and the equipment required to deliver in almost any situation. Meridian’s top areas of expertise fall within the areas of industrial control systems, medical, telecom, military, and automotive.

Industrial Control Systems 

Industrial Control Systems help power our nation’s critical infrastructure and other highly-automated facilities such as a bottling plant. The control systems themselves are highly-complex. Many require power and signal conductos in the same cable with custom strain reliefs and cable stops. Others need overmolded connectors to make sure the hermetic sealing is perfect. 

Whatever requirements are needed, our cable harness engineers work to our client’s exact specifications to produce a product that is both functional and uniquely suited for it’s required role in the system.

Medical Technology

Speciality considerations that only come with advanced experience in the demanding field of medical technology are the breakthroughs that save lives. We take our responsibility with medical device OEM solutions seriously and can incorporate components like bio-sensitive jacks, strain reliefs, silicone overmolding, and any number of other considerations depending on the needs of the project. We’re proud to have so many instances of turning our client’s most complex medical cable problems into perfect solutions. 

Telecommunications 

Cable assemblies and connectors help keep our society connected on a global scale. We help produce the critical infrastructure required in telecommunications to help keep connections open. Whether a client needs a cable assembly with ten different connectors or a coax cable with a polyurethane jacket, Meridian’s telecommunications design team can produce OEM assemblies ready for integration.

Military

The military has some of the highest requirements for tough cable assemblies. The OEM solutions produced here may be used in everything from a fighter jet to a communications satellite. Specialized components such as Kevlar® or mylar sheathing can be used to add additional protection to an assembly. Meridian is proud to be able to produce MILSPEC cable assemblies for use in OEM applications.

Automotive & Other Industries

OEM cable assemblies for automotive, alternative energy, broadcasting, and a host of others are all found in Meridian’s expansive wheelhouse. Advanced process capabilities and tooling helps Meridian design and manufacture OEM cable to even the strictest of standards. 

Things to Consider When Starting an OEM Cable Project

When you first sit down with the Meridian design team, we’ll start to learn your needs and expectations for the project. A dedicated project manager will start gathering the specifications required for your project and outline a list of required steps to design, manufacture, test, and approve the OEM cable. With this plan in place, the entire team has a blueprint to follow to ensure the project is complete on-time and on-budget. 

While there are many steps between design and volume production, prototyping is arguably one of the most beneficial tasks our engineers can integrate into the process. Prototyping is where we get to design and test several different variations of a product to see how different combinations work together. Beyond simply deciding between material and design choices, our team also looks at how the logistics will play out and which design variation is best suited for meeting the project’s specifications.

Getting Started with an OEM Cable Harness Engineer

When looking for an OEM cable harness engineer, remember quality and experience matter. Off-the-shelf cable assemblies may be plentiful but you never know exactly how it fits with your existing system. With Meridian, our engineers take the time to learn your needs, budget, and timeline to produce the perfect cabling solution. Contact the Meridian Team to get a custom quote for your next OEM cable harness project.

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

molded cable assembly

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

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

What is cable overmolding?

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

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

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

What are the benefits of using overmolded cable assemblies?

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

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

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

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

Customization Options for Overmolded Cable Assemblies

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

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

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

How it’s Made: Overmolded Cable Assembly Edition

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

Injection Molding Machines

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

Materials

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

Common overmold materials used in cable overmolding include:

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

Injection

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

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

Cooling

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

What’s in a Mold?

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

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

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

Start Your Overmolded Cable Assembly Project 

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

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

Analyzing the Costs to Hire a Wire Harness Engineer

meeting with wire harness engineers

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

How Much Does a Wire Harness Engineer Cost?

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

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

Benefits of Having a Wire Harness Engineer on a Custom Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Closer Look at Engineering Fees & Other Costs

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

Starting Your Custom Wire Harness Project with a Knowledgeable Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wire Harnesses Design

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

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

Wondering what a wire harness engineer actually does? 

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

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

The Marks of a Good Wire Harness Engineer

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

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

Certifications in Wiring Harness Fabrication

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

ISO 9001

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

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

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Certification

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

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

Industries Wire Harness Engineers Design Products For

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

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

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

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

A Day in the Life of a Wire Harness Engineer

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

Design Stage

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

Prototyping Stage

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

Production Stage

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

Testing Stage

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

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

Talking Over Project Specs with a Wire Harness Engineer

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

Top Tips & Tricks for Crimping Wires in Wiring Harness Manufacturing

wire and cable manufacturers

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

What Separates Custom Wire Harness Manufacturers’ Crimping Methods

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

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

How to Test Crimps for Quality 

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

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

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

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

Top Tips for a Perfect Crimp in Wiring Harnesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Looking Closely at Crimp Indentations 

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Inspecting the Final Product

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

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

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

Getting the Best Crimp for Your Custom Wiring Harness

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

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

What to Look for When Comparing Wire and Cable Harness Manufacturers

Cable Manufacturer

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

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

Past Experience in Custom Wire and Cable Harness Manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capabilities of the Custom Wiring Harness Manufacturer

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

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

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

Commitment to Quality

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

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

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

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

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

What Industry Certifications Matter Most 

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

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

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

Starting Your Custom Wire or Cable Harness Project

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

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

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

How to Crimp Different Sized Flat Ribbon Cable 

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

Getting Wires Ready to be Crimped 

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

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

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

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

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

Setting Up the Cable Crimping Machine 

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

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

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

Testing and Retesting Custom Ribbon Cable Assemblies 

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

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

Keeping Automated Cable Crimp Terminal Machines in Alignment

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

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

Quality Assurance and Quality Control with Flat and Ribbon Cable

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

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

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

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

How to Begin a Custom Ribbon Cable Assembly Order

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

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

colorful ribbon cables

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

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

Flat Cable Assemblies vs. Ribbon Cable Assemblies

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

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

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

Understanding the Specifications for Common Ribbon Cable Assemblies

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

Main Advantages of Ribbon Cable Assemblies 

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

Different Types of Ribbon Cable Connectors

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

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

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

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

How we Create Custom Ribbon Cable Assemblies

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

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

  • Ribbon Cable Assembly Design Phase

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

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

  • Prototyping Steps for Flat Ribbon Cable Projects

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

  • Getting Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies into Volume Production

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Using Ribbon Cable Assemblies Can Save Your Project Money

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

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

Why Choose Meridian? 

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

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

Start Your Flat and Ribbon Cable Assembly Project Now

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