Author Archives: Chris Olberding

5 Points to Discuss with a Custom Cable Manufacturer

5 Points to Discuss with a Custom Cable Manufacturer

Being clear about what you need at the start of your project is key to a successful relationship with your custom cable manufacturer.

Regular readers know we stress good communication with your custom cable manufacturer throughout the design and manufacturing process. More information, especially during the design phase, can help the team address potential issues before they become costly problems further down the road. However, we know it can be difficult to understand what kind of information is the most helpful. So we put together a list of some areas to discuss that will help your next custom cable project go more smoothly and result in a more successful product.

1. Previous Designs

If you are starting from scratch with a design for a brand new cable, you can probably skip this conversation. But if you’re replacing an existing cable assembly, this is the perfect opportunity to improve on the previous design. Talk to your custom cable manufacturer about the quality, cost, and performance of your existing cable. Let them know what is and is not working, and what could work better. Using your existing cable as a starting place allows you to really focus on what you need in a cable moving forward.

2. Basic Technical Requirements

This seems obvious, but coming up with a list of requirements for your custom cable manufacturer is a good way to make sure all of the absolute must-haves are met. Requirements might include voltage, number of contacts, signal speed, grounding, etc. Taking some time to understand what you need before the design phase will help save time and money when creating a custom cable assembly.

3. Environmental Concernscustom wire

Not taking the environmental conditions a cable must withstand into consideration during the design phase can be the reason the final product is unsatisfactory or fails prematurely. Concerns like moisture, heat, and cold are obvious, but they are not the only types of things you should be thinking about. For example, cables used in medical facilities often have additional requirements to ensure they are able to be sterilized for use with multiple patients. But, this is only one of many situations that you should talk through with your custom cable manufacturer.

4. Connector Types

A custom cable manufacturer can use a wide variety of connectors in your cable design, but the two main types are assembled and overmolded. In general, assembled connectors are less expensive to produce and molded connectors tend to be more durable. However, each type has it’s pros and cons, which should be discussed with your cable manufacturer’s engineering team to make sure you make the right choice for your application.

5. Safety Requirements

Most custom cables must comply with safety regulations. A reputable custom cable manufacturer should be able to discuss how their processes ensure the resulting product meets the appropriate standards. However, it’s also important to discuss any special requirements before the design stage to make sure all standards will be met.

Conclusion

Help your custom cable manufacturer design a better cable with some careful thought about what you need. Communicating as many details as you can as early as possible makes the design process run more smoothly and helps make sure your custom cable is tailored to the needs of your equipment. Good communication in the early stages of a project can also help save both time and money both in the short and long terms.

If you’re ready to share the specifications for your next project, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We’re happy to answer any questions!

Cost Effective Custom Design Cables

Cost Effective Custom Design Cables

Generally speaking most people don’t associate custom with cost effective, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Most of the time, if anything is custom it costs more than a standard counterpart. However, in many cases, knowing what to ask your cable manufacturer will help you keep costs in line. It’s no different with custom design cables or custom cable assemblies.

What are custom design cables and cable assemblies?

Let’s start with the basics and define what a custom design cable or cable assembly is by defining what it isn’t. If you can find the cable or cable assembly you need in stock, it’s not custom. Companies typically don’t stock custom items because they aren’t purchased often enough to justify the cost of carrying the inventory. So, if you’ve searched and can’t find the cable or cable assembly you need off-the-shelf, odds are you need a custom product.

In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!” Just because you need something custom doesn’t mean you need to be robbed. Most times the only difference between a standard product and custom product are a few minor, but important, details. Making those changes doesn’t always have to be expensive.

Getting Started on Custom Design Cables

When you can’t find what you need, start looking for a custom product by describing it using standard terms. For example, we make USB cables for the retail security industry that prevent thieves from cutting the cable and running off with a new cell phone. These cables aren’t that different from a standard product except for one very important feature: If someone tries to cut them, they can’t—at least not very easily. While this feature increases the price, it is NOT by factors of 2, 3, or 4. Since we extrude cable, it’s easy for us to include cut resistance in the design phase. This would only add cost for the added material, and not a penny more because we feel like it.

More Complex Custom Design Cables

If the cable you need is a bit more complex, you can describe it as a combination of standards to get your needs across. We recently created a coil cord for an off-the-road vehicle company.  The cable was custom, but it was clearly described as a combination of RS-232, USB, and 12Vdc power. All three are very standard but generally not found in one cable, not to mention in the form of a coil cord. However, when defined by the standard items, it was quite easy to understand what the client needed. custom design cables

Don’t worry if you don’t know the “standards,” like RS232, USB, OBDII, SAE1850, ISO914 L, CAN Bus, UL8750, and so on. You don’t need to be a standards expert; a good custom cable manufacturer will know that stuff and can guide you. Just describe the items you want to connect, or better yet, describe the kinds of cables you want to combine. Then you can ask what standards the manufacturer will design and build the cable to, so you can decide if you really need that standard. Often the only difference between a cable that meets a “standard” and one just like it that doesn’t is nothing but a testing house approving the cable. If you don’t need this seal of approval, don’t pay for it. If you do need it, then it’s a good idea to spend the extra money. Either way, make sure you know so you can make an informed decision.

How much cable do you need?

Last, don’t be fooled into thinking a custom design cable automatically means producing tens of thousands of feet at a time. A good custom cable company should be able to extrude runs of custom cable of no more than a few thousand feet if necessary. Cable extrusion is a fast process, often running at speeds of 3-5 feet per second. It’s not easy to do small runs, but it is not impossible. Many companies just don’t want to do small runs because they aren’t set up for them.  Find a company that is and your costs will be much lower.

Conclusion

Custom cable design doesn’t automatically mean you have to break the bank to pay for the solution you need. Get in touch with the team at Meridian Cable when you are ready to see how we can help you stay in budget on your next custom cable project.

 

 

5 Facts about Custom Cable Assemblies & Wire Harnesses

5 Facts about Custom Cable Assemblies & Wire Harnesses

Do you know the difference between custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses?

Unless you are an electrician or electrical engineer, you probably haven’t thought much about the differences and similarities between custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses. It’s not a subject that tends to come up in everyday conversation. Unless, that is, you need to run multiple wires or cables from one piece of equipment to another or to a power source. That’s when knowing the difference between wiring and cable and the strengths and weaknesses of each becomes more important.

We put together fives facts about wires and cables to help you understand the difference, and why you should choose a wire harness over a cable assembly in certain situations.

Wires & Cables Aren’t the Same Thing

This fact may seem pretty obvious, but many people use the terms “wire” and “cable” interchangeably. It’s understandable. Wires and cables are similar in that they carry electricity or signal from one place to another. However, there are a few very important differences. Wires are made up of a strand (or strands) of conductive material like copper and are suitable for a wide ranges of applications beyond carrying electricity and signal. They are also one of the components that make up a cable. Conversely, a cable is made of two or more conductors that are insulated. They tend to be better protected than wires and are suitable for applications that require more durability.

Both Are Used to Organize Wires & Cables

The basic purpose of both wire harnesses and cable assemblies is to bundle wires or cables. Bundling wires or cables allows you to keep them more organized, especially in situations where having multiple cables and/or wires takes up too much space or can cause additional wear that is easily addressed by bundling. A few common places you see bundled cables or wires are cars and computers.

Wire Harnesses Have a Thin Layer of Protection

While cable assemblies are more heavily protected with insulation and jacketing material, wires usually have a thin exterior covering made of thermoset or thermoplastic material. This covering is meant to protect the environment or a person handling the wire from the flow of electricity. The jacketing material can also be color coded to aid in keeping systems organized and make it easy to identify different types of wires.

Custom Cable Assemblies Are More Durable

With the additional materials used in custom cable assemblies, a cable manufacturer is able to design the assembly to address exposure to extreme temperatures, moisture, friction, chemicals, and more. They can also take size and flexibility requirements into consideration, so the cable is a perfect fit for your application. A cable assembly may require less maintenance and can also be easier to install since the conductors are bundled. custom cable assembly

Wires Are More Affordable…When They Are Right for the Job

You may be thinking extra protection means a custom cable assembly is always the right choice for your project, but that’s not always the case. In situations that require a small, lightweight option, a wire might be your best bet. Because wires are generally less expensive to produce, it can be a more affordable option — especially if the wire will be used indoors in a relatively sheltered environment.

Conclusion

Understanding the difference between a custom cable assembly and wire harness is an important step when considering what you need for your project. The team at Meridian Cable is able to help you make the right choice for your application, environment, and budget. Get in touch with us when you are ready to get started. We’re happy to answer all of your questions.

Custom Coil Cord Longevity

Custom Coil Cord Longevity

How many cycles can a custom coil cord handle? How long will it last?

When designing a custom coil cord, we get asked questions like this all the time. Of course it depends on the coil cord and the operating environment, but we can assure you the answer is between one and a few million.

All kidding aside, we’ve put together a short guide to let you know where in that range your coil cord might fall.

Single-Cycle Custom Coil Cords

Let’s take the low end of the range first. You would think a coil cord that could only handle one cycle would be useless, but there is actually a good case for creating a single-cycle product. Let’s say you have a piece of equipment that comes in different sizes or configurations. The same power/control system is used on each unit, but the cables needed to connect everything need to vary by length. If you don’t want to wire everything yourself you need to buy a cable assembly for each different configuration, or you can buy one coil cord that can stretch to fit all the configurations. Now this coil cord doesn’t need to retract so it can be made with entirely different materials, which helps keep costs down without sacrificing electrical performance.

High-Cycle Coil Cordscustom coil cords

The high side of the range is over a million cycles. At Meridian, we have several different machines we use to test the cycling capability of the custom coil cords we design and manufacture. We have tested several different designs to over one million cycles, with the highest being 1,087,213 cycles. Interestingly enough, when we recorded that number, the test was stopped not because the coil cord failed, but because we had to test other coil cords and couldn’t leave it on the machine any longer.

Designing the Right Custom Coil Cord

What makes a custom coil cord last a long time? Design, fabrication, and environment. The higher the cycle count requirement, the more the design must differ— especially when it comes to materials. For low-cycle coil cords, the stranding diameter can be larger and the plastics can have a lower elasticity, which generally means a lower cost product. For high-cycle coil cords, the stranding needs to be very small and the plastics highly elastic. Also, the fabrication becomes very important. Not only is the custom coil cord extending and retracting, but all the components are twisting and untwisting. When cable is extruded, everything from the individual strands to the conductor bundle is twisted. How all this twisting is done has a big impact on how the coil cord performs.

Conclusion

Put simply, the team at Meridian Cable can design a custom coil cord that is capable of cycling as many times as you need it to. By clearly defining the needs of your equipment and environment and performing appropriate testing, we can make sure the finished product is designed to be durable. Contact us when you are ready to discuss your next custom coil cord project.

 

Testing in the Coil Cord Design Process

Testing in the Coil Cord Design Process

The coil cord design process is not complete until proper testing has been performed.

The purpose of designing a coil cord instead of using a non-coiled cord is the added flexibility and durability it offers. In many cases, these types of cords are used in harsh environments with the expectation that they can be stretched and retracted over and over again without failing prematurely. The best way to make sure your completed cable performs as expected is by making thorough testing a part of the coil cord design process.

Advanced Life Testing in Coil Cord Design 

Just as with other types of custom cables, engineers can select the right components of a coil cord to match the equipment and environment where the completed product will function. The final decisions for conductor, insulation and jacketing materials, and types of connectors should all be based on a careful review of information that weighs environmental conditions, technical specifications, and cost to produce. However, there are a few additional considerations when designing a coil cord. 

The curly part of a coil cord is what sets it apart from other types of custom cables. It’s what allows the cable to retract to a resting length that is more compact than it’s fully extended length. This characteristic means additional care must be taken to make sure the cable performs for as long as expected. There are a few tests that can help the design team understand if they’ve hit the mark. 

Cycles to Failure Test

Cycles to failure is the number of times a cable can be stretched and retracted before stress causes it to fail. To get an idea of when failure can occur with a newly created cable, we use a cycles to failure test. To test, a coil cord is connected to a test machine. The machine is then programmed with the cord’s extension length, cycle speed, and the length of time to spend retracted and fully extended, which are determined using the expected usage of the final product. We would then set the machine to cycle until the cord fails.

Retraction Compliance Testcoil cord design

In this type of test, we are trying to determine the retraction compliance of a coil cord design. Retraction compliance is a percentage of the cycled retracted length to the initial retracted length. During the test, the resting cable is measured. Then it is cycled, allowed to rest, and then cycled again before being measured again. If the design is poor or the cable was very heavily cycled, the percentage can be in the 50% range. Well-designed assemblies can measure at 95% or more.

Cable Flexing to Failure Test

When we need to make sure a raw cable can stand up to fatigue, we use a cable flexing to failure test. After the cord is connected, the flexing machine is set to test the flex radius, rotation angle, and cycle speed. Once the settings are selected, the machine cycles the cable until the circuit is broken.

Conclusion

Testing your coil cord design in a lab during the production process results in fewer unexpected failures in the field. That means you get a safer product that will ultimately save you money. Get in touch with the team at Meridian Cable when you are ready to discuss your next custom coil cord project.

 

How to Work with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer When You Have a Tight Budget

How to Work with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer When You Have a Tight Budget

A cable assembly manufacturer has many options available that can help you stay in budget and get a custom cable that is right for your situation.

Having an unlimited budget to work with when designing a custom cord might seem like the best way to get the perfect end product, but that type of situation is rare. In most cases, budget is a concern. The good news is your cable assembly manufacturer should be able to help you balance the cable’s functionality with cost.

Good Communication Saves Money

This may seem like common sense, but make sure you are sharing as much information with your cable assembly manufacturer as possible in the planning and design stages of your project. Having clear specifications about how and in what environment the finished product will function gives the design team a thorough understanding at the outset. This can translate to a cable assembly that meets the needs of the equipment and environment with fewer revisions or surprises late in the project.

Talk Materials with Your Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Armed with complete technical specifications and a good understanding of the environment where a finished cable assembly will function, the design team is able to select the optimum materials to create a solution that operates as expected. At its most basic, a cable is made up of a conductor, connectors, jacketing, and insulation. Each can offer an opportunity for cost savings with some careful thought.

Conductorscable assembly manufacturer conductors

Obviously, the conductor material should be selected based on the type of signal and how long the cable is expected to be in use. However, with so many options when it comes to size, material, and plating, a cable assembly manufacturer can make recommendations that address cost concerns without compromising on functionality. For example: In many cases, a smaller conductor is less expensive. Choosing the smallest conductor that will transmit the signal or power allows you to get the functionality you need without the unnecessary expense of a larger conductor. Though, in some cases, a smaller conductor is actually more expensive to produce, so it’s doubly important to discuss options with your cable’s design team.

Connectors

All cable assemblies connect to some sort of equipment or power/signal source. Because the section of cable that leads to the connector is a common point of failure due to stresses, it’s important to select the right type of connector for the job. While an overmolded cable offers more durability in many cases, it may make more sense to use a connector that can be repaired by a technician. Understanding the needs of your finished product allows you and your cable assembly manufacturer to make the right decision before producing a cable that doesn’t fit your needs.

Jacketing & Insulation

The environment where a cable assembly will be used often dictates what type of jacketing material or insulation is used in the finished product. Different materials are more suitable for cables that are exposed to extreme heat or cold, moisture, or stresses. More expensive materials for jacketing aren’t automatically better for every environment. In many cases, choosing a more costly material that is unsuited for the environment can be a waste of money and compromise the function or service like of the cable.

Conclusion

Good planning, open communication, and thoughtful selection of materials is the great way to save costs when creating a custom cable with a cable assembly manufacturer. If you are ready to talk about your next custom cable project, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We’d love to discuss your options.

Benefits to Working with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer on Prototypes

Benefits to Working with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer on Prototypes

Creating a prototype is often the key to creating a successful custom cable solution.

You probably already know that creating a custom cable with a reputable cable assembly manufacturer is a great way to make sure the finished cable is tailored to the needs of your equipment or product. If you were using an off-the-shelf cable, testing it out on your equipment might be as simple as purchasing one and plugging it in. However, if the cable is custom, it’s a little more complicated.

With all the options available when creating a custom cable, working with a cable assembly manufacturer on prototypes can be incredibly useful. Not only can it help eliminate assumptions when selecting materials, but it can also help you streamline the production of larger quantities.

Real Cables in the Real World

Because a prototype is a full-scale version of the design that is, in many cases, fully functional, producing a prototype will allow you to see and feel how it will function in the real world. This ability to manipulate a physical product can help you make determinations about the functionality that go beyond technical capabilities. For example, being able to test the extension and retraction of a coil cord prototype can reveal design flaws that might otherwise go unnoticed until much later in a project when they are harder to correct.

Faster Turnarounds from an Experienced Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Choosing a cable assembly manufacturer with in-house capabilities means you are often able to have a cable prototype to work with quickly. While the availability of the appropriate materials is always a consideration when estimating the time a prototyping project will take, a manufacturer with extensive experience can often provide you with a more rapid turnaround.

High-Quality Prototypes Can Offer Significant Cost Savings

custom cable assembly

It doesn’t make sense to extrude large quantities of a new cable design design without testing. A prototype allows you to produce multiple iterations of a cable to ensure it is ideal for the equipment and environment where it will function. Thorough testing of a new cable design at the prototyping stage can go a long way toward eliminating headaches further down the road. This may include issues in the product itself or the production process.

Conclusion

Producing a prototype is often a critical step in designing a custom cable assembly, because it allows you and the design team to address issues before they balloon into expensive or even dangerous problems. Working with a custom cable assembly manufacturer experienced in producing high-quality prototypes in a timely fashion gives you the opportunity to create a finished product that is virtually guaranteed to fit the specifications of your equipment. If you’re ready to talk about your next project, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We look forward to hearing from you.

3 Advantages of a Molded Cable Assembly

3 Advantages of a Molded Cable Assembly

A molded cable assembly offers many advantages over non-molded cables.

A molded cable assembly can often be the best choice for a wide variety of applications. Using an injection molding process allows custom cable manufacturers to create overmolded assemblies that offer customers better functionality than was previously available.

A More Aesthetic Molded Cable Assembly

An attractive appearance isn’t the thing our customers are concerned with when creating a cable assembly. But just as with jacketing material, there are a few benefits to producing a cable that matches the appearance of the associated equipment. Colors that coordinate with the equipment can make replacement cables easy to identify in storage. Custom molding also allows branding, like logos and company names, to be incorporated into the mold. Because the cable is molded specifically for your equipment, you can even choose to create a unique shape that offers enhanced functionality or visual appeal.

Customization Options 

A molded cable assembly is a custom product by its very nature, because your cable assembly manufacturer is creating a mold to your specifications. Depending on your budget and the requirements of your equipment, you can choose from a nearly limitless variety of options, including color, jacketing material, and conductor type. Add to this the ability to create a molded connector that creates a perfect, stable fit for your equipment, and you have a product that will provide you with the best possible results.

Enhanced Durabilitymolded cable assemblies

An overmolded cable can be designed to create seals that are impervious to a wide range of fluids, including water and oil. This allows the finished cable to function in harsher environments with a much lower incidence of premature failure. Additional protection comes from selecting materials that offer resistance to vibration and other types of wear and tear. Working with your cable manufacturer’s engineering team to accurately identify the environmental conditions where the wire will function can result in a molded cable assembly that performs to your expectations.

Conclusion

Choosing to design and produce a molded cable assembly allows you to take advantage of materials and technologies that may not be available with a non-molded solution. Working with a custom cable assembly manufacturer experienced in producing high quality overmolded cables gives you the opportunity to create a finished product that can save money while giving you the exact cable you need for your application. If you’re ready to talk about your next project, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We look forward to hearing from you.

Discussing Jacketing Material with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Discussing Jacketing Material with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Do you really need to think about jacketing material when working with a cable assembly manufacturer to design a custom cable?

A cable assembly manufacturer can not only design a cable assembly, they can help you determine what type of jacketing material is appropriate for your application. While it might be tempting to overlook the jacketing on your cables, you could be missing out on some added value and functionality, including:

  • Enhanced Overall Flexibility
  • Better Flexibility in Low Temperatures
  • Quick Identification
  • Elastic Memory
  • Chemical Resistance
  • Resistance to Extreme Heat or Flame

As long as you think carefully about how and where the cable assembly will be used, you can address many of the environmental challenges that can affect the durability and safety of the finished cable by selecting the proper jacketing material.

Durable Cables in Challenging Environments

A cable’s outer jacketing is often the first line of defense against elements like heat, cold, moisture, UV rays, chemicals, and other substances that could affect the wire’s functionality. As with any custom wire, it’s important to consider all of the requirements for your environment and application. For example, jacketing made from PVC is a low-cost option that can handle the stresses of moderate daily use and withstand temperatures ranging up to 105 degrees Celsius. However, it would not be a good choice for a cable that must function in extreme heat or that is subject to heavy wear and tear – PU is a better choice for that type of environment.

Cables with Enhanced Safety Featuresred cable assembly

A custom cable assembly manufacturer can help you choose a jacketing material that is specifically designed to meet the needs of your equipment. This goes beyond the function and durability of the cable to the question of how safe it is. The jacketing of a cable assembly protects the conductor from stresses that would cause failure. However, you can also choose materials that are resistant to fluids and chemicals that could cause shorts or corrosion which could cause the wire to fail prematurely. In addition, jacketing material can be designed to be resistant to flame, which can help prevent the spread of fire.

Cable Aesthetics

How a cable looks might not be the top priority when discussing jacketing materials with a cable assembly manufacturer, but a cable’s appearance should not be overlooked. Altering the appearance of cable jacketing materials is more than just designing a cable that looks nice. Choosing matte or shiny finishes and specific colors can also be practical, because these features allow the finished cable to be quickly and easily identified. Cable jacketing can be produced in colors that match the appropriate equipment or signal whether it carries electricity or data. In addition, the cable’s texture can make it easier to grip which could be a desired feature in some environments.

Conclusion

When designing a cable assembly, selecting the right jacketing material for your application and environment can often be just as important as choosing the right conductor. A reputable cable assembly manufacturer can offer many options to ensure your finished cable meets your requirements for durability and functionality. Clearly communicating your environmental concerns along with technical requirements will result in a custom cable that offers you the performance and durability you expect. If you have any questions about jacketing materials, please feel free to contact the team at Meridian Cable.

Coil Cord Design: What Questions to Expect

Coil Cord Design: What Questions to Expect

Thinking through what you need before the coil cord design process starts can help you get the ideal cable for your equipment.

Custom coil cord design services allow you to get a final product that is a better match for your needs than an off-the shelf wire. But if you haven’t done some serious thinking about what you really need, you might not get the results you were looking for. Here are a few questions you can ask your team to get a coil cord that is truly customized to the requirements of your equipment.

In what environment will you be using the cords?

One of the first questions an engineer will ask during the coil cord design process is what environmental conditions the wire will need to withstand. Obviously, a cord used in a military or industrial environment has different requirements than one that would be used in a retail setting. Other questions could include: Will the cord be used inside or outside? Does it need to be able to withstand extreme heat or cold? Will the cord come into contact with moisture or oil? These are all conditions that can and should be taken into consideration when designing coil cords.

How long should the coil cords last?

A coil cord that lasts forever might seem like an ideal product, but if higher durability compromises function and/or makes it prohibitively expensive to produce it may not be worth it. In addition to durable jacketing material, there are other elements that can affect longevity. For example, choosing stranded wiring as a conductor can create a cord with a higher resistance to metal fatigue than a solid conductor. However, tinsel might be a better choice if you need flexibility but the finished wire can’t handle a high current capacity.

How dynamic are the coil cords during normal function?coil cord design

A coil cord can be designed with materials like steel, Kevlar, Spectra, or Teflon to make them virtually indestructible. That sounds great, but is that durability worth the added expense to produce for a cord that doesn’t require it? By clearly communicating your cord’s normal, everyday function, a coil cord design team can recommend materials that are the right balance of cost and physical properties for your equipment. A key question will be how many extension and retraction cycles the coil cord will experience in its life.

Conclusion

Custom coil cord design from a reputable cable manufacturer like Meridian Cable is a great way to get a cord that is perfectly tailored to your application. While there are many different elements to take into consideration when creating a custom coil cord, thinking through the questions above is a great way to prepare for initial discussions with the design team. When you are ready to discuss your project, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.