Category Archives: Cable Assemblies

Advantages of Having a Full Tooling Inventory in Cable Production and Assembly

Cable Assembly Manufacturer

When you make custom cable assemblies for a long time, you start amassing a pretty big tooling inventory to do a wide variety of jobs. In fact, Meridian has over 5,000 existing tools with the ability to create a custom tool whenever a project needs it. Connectors, overmolds, junctions, and more combine with automated, semi-automated, and even hand tools to create the perfect custom cable assemblies needed for technologies in high-demand industries. 

Center stage in today’s LiveWire News spotlight is the incredible advantage for using a manufacturer who has both a demonstrated capability, as well as a full tooling inventory, in order to provide the perfect custom cable assembly for the application at hand.

What is a Tooling Inventory?

In cable production, you have a complex series of processes that are all available for our cable engineers to utilize in order to create the perfect custom cable assembly for our clients’ needs. True, the processes will vary considerably based on what is being produced, but the tooling inventory of the manufacturer is easily the most advantageous asset to bringing about the greatest diversity in product design. 

With a tooling inventory amassed over decades, our engineers have a full and complete tooling inventory at their disposal to produce exactly what’s required by the project. 

Why Molds and Dies Are So Important in Custom Cable Assemblies

In order for our injection molding machines to have anything to inject molten plastic into, you have to first have the molds and dies set up. Overmolding is the process whereby a cable assemblies components are covered in plastic as a way to protect against wear and tear, as well as environmental factors. Overmolding also helps provide strain relief, cable breakouts, cable stops, and seals and glands. 

Having an inventory of well over 5,000 existing molds helps us be able to design a cable assembly that’s both extremely durable, as well as perfectly matched for its intended application. During overmolding, you can also use different colors mixed into the resin to help with identification and integration. Envisioning how the end-user will utilize our cable assemblies helps our designers create useful value-added considerations such as cable management. 

Machines That Make All the Difference in Cable Production

From fans and crimpers, to coiling machines and pallet jacks, the machines required to produce the highest-quality custom cable assemblies make all the difference. Combined with some of the brightest minds in the industry, our expansive machine and tooling inventory is an incredible advantage built over decades as a leader in custom cable manufacturing. 

A few of the many machines that help make even the most complex assemblies a reality include:

Molding Machines

Injection molding takes injecting molten plastic into its designated mold cavity. A plastic resin of choice is fed into a heated barrel, where it’s mixed and then injected into the mold cavity. You may not think it, but choosing the right materials for this process can make or break your custom cable assembly. Different materials we utilize with overmolding include PVC, TPE, TPV, and TPEE. High pressure molding also lends itself extremely well to both high and low production runs, making it ideal for a variety of applications. 

Opposite high pressure plastic injection molding, is low pressure injection molding. Machines like our Low Pressure Molding System (LPMS) Beta 300 provide the perfect compact horizontal injection needed within a relatively small footprint. This machine has an integrated melt tank and two precision thermal zones, making it incredibly precise with it comes to melt control.

Terminal Crimping Machines

Believe it or not, in custom cable assemblies noise level matters. That’s why incredibly advanced technologies like our Super Mute Terminal Crimping Machine are so vital to overall project success. With a built-in frequency converter, this machine can run at high speeds with low noise. The machine is also highly customizable, making it ideal for many different terminals. Like much of our equipment, this machine can run on both a manual mode and automatic mode. With varying speeds, crimping dies are able to be designed to precise requirements set by our cable engineers. 

When it comes to advanced wire terminations, the AMP Crimping Press is one of the best tools for the job. These precision instruments come with loads of features that help maintain even the strictest tolerances. Advancements include the ability to run manual, fully-automated, or a combination thereof. These machines are also being made to be quieter or safer than ever before, creating the best environment possible for our skilled technicians to create custom cable assemblies.

Solder, Curing, and Fastening Machines

Providing an automatic and manual way of soldering, our Quick 376D solder station is in a league by itself. This machine makes high frequency heating, rapid heating, and thermal recovery processes look easy. However, with incredibly precise controls and temperature calibrations, we’re able to provide the perfect conditions to meet even the most demanding specifications. As well, a powerful motor with automatic feeding allows our operators complete control over how fast feeding speed and volume need to be for the given project. 

For applications requiring a light curing of adhesives and coatings, the Dymax Bluewave UV Curing Machine provides the perfect solution in both automated and manual production. Other tools like our KAMsnaps press machines for two-part snaps is a multi-functioned powerhouse for attaching both plastic and metal snaps. Having the right tools for the job like these is truly what provides the best finished product possible.

Cutter, Stripping, and Twister Machines

You can imagine during a high-speed production run the level of exactness required from our cutters, strippers, and twisting machines. With even the smallest misstep, an entire batch can be rendered useless. That’s why machines like our Komax Mira wire strippers are so crucial to pulling off custom cable assemblies. Pneumatic wire stripper and cutter machines are able to process large amounts of cables in short order and with incredible precision. 

Our twisters like the Eraser G10S Wire Twister are able to twist the ends of pre-stripped stranded wires or to tighten up an existing twisted wire. You might also need to twist an unwrapped shield onto a coaxial cable. Twister machines help provide the perfect twists per inch required by the design specifications.

Scales & Measurement Tools

Exact measurements are required throughout a custom cable assembly’s production run which is why we rely on automated counting and weight scales. Scales may seem like low-level technology, but our highly-complex measurement devices are tuned to be able to provide precise calculations. This level of detail is required for custom cable assemblies built from a single strand of copper wire onward. 

When even the smallest miscalculations can result in a cable assembly failing quality assurance tests for continuity, integrity, and/or safety, our scales and measurement tools are an absolutely critical component of our overall tooling inventory.

Moving Tools and Machines

Having all of the best tools and equipment in the world is useless if you don’t have a good means of moving materials and products just where they need to be throughout the production process. Just-in-Time (JIT) ordering is a way that we make our processes more efficient by getting just what’s needed, exactly when it’s needed so as to eliminate lag time. A crucial part of this operation is the fork trucks, pallet jacks, pneumatic carts, and even faithful hand dollies that move everything from A to B in a perfect synchrony throughout the production process. 

How We Bring it All Together During Production

One of the most important aspects of a production run is being able to reserve tools to be used. Having an extensive tool crib and tooling inventory requires having keen protocols in place for making sure everything is available and in place right as it’s needed. This is part of a Kanban manufacturing process that seeks to eliminate waste throughout the process. Focusing on being as efficient as possible and continually improving our processes is one aspect of maintaining our ISO 9001:2015 certification

During a production run, our project managers will reserve the right tools at the right time in order to complete the project in the most efficient means possible. This attention to detail has translated into being able to produce even the most exacting requirements for our customers. When our products are used in everything from cutting-edge medical devices to industrial control systems, our focus on quality in everything we do matters.

Starting Your Custom Cable Assembly Project Right

When you have a custom cable manufacturer with both the tools and the talent to accomplish just about any custom cable project, you’re able to have far more flexibility in finding the perfect solution to fit your unique set of circumstances. The team at Meridian prides ourselves on being a trusted resource for the highest quality custom cable assemblies available, a trait which has served us well for decades. Contact our team now to review your project specs and get started.

Reverse Engineer Your Existing Cable Assemblies

custom cable assembly manufacturer

Ever find an absolutely perfect cable assembly only to find out you can’t get it anymore because the item has been discontinued? Or perhaps you’ve seen a custom cable assembly in action elsewhere and would love to emulate something similar with your own set-up. However you’ve arrived at this situation, the good news is that there’s a solution to get you the same product perfectly matched to your desired specifications. 

Today’s LiveWire News spotlight will dive into the process of reverse engineering and how our cable engineers can use this approach to reproduce a perfect match of your existing cable assemblies.

What is Reverse Engineering?

Reverse engineering is the process of deconstructing another product piece by piece in order to reproduce that same product in exacting detail.  Reverse engineering can be applied to a wide array of industries—everything from aviation to auto parts and anywhere in between. That’s because reverse engineering is nothing new. 

As manufacturers have come to rely on large pieces of machinery in order to produce a given product, a lot of capital is required in order to get the right machines in place. As this equipment wears down, the original manufacturer may be long out of business or simply no longer producing replacement parts. The dilemma becomes do you throw out the entire piece of expensive machinery or can you reverse engineer a given component to keep the machine online. 

Cable assemblies are an integral part of an untold number of different systems. Telecommunications, military equipment, medical devices, and so many more all rely on cable assemblies in order to provide their function. When new parts are difficult, if not impossible, to source, reverse engineering provides an excellent solution. 

How Reverse Engineering Works

Reverse engineering is also referred to as “back engineering” because engineers are literally working backwards through the original manufacturing process to uncover the entire design. This may sound simple, but without the original methods used to construct each of the exacting details in something like a complex custom cable assembly, the process can be somewhat challenging. 

Understanding the Original Design

With cable assembly reverse engineering, our cable engineers take each piece of the original product apart in order to garner a better picture of the original method of design and manufacture. 

Meridian is all about quality in cable assemblies, designing and producing from the very first strand of wire onward to what can be incredibly complex systems. When we undertake a typical cable assembly design project, we start with the best components and build on each layer as required by our clients’ specifications. Reverse engineering is essentially this process in reverse. 

Keeping Legacy Systems in Operation

If a client has an older piece of electronics equipment, say being used in an industrial control system, over time functionality can be lost due to advancements in technology. Reverse engineering helps our team uncover how these systems functioned and what all is needed to make them current. This sort of bridgegap can be incredibly cost-saving over needing to go out and purchase a whole new piece of machinery. 

Sometimes, we may need to develop a new component simultaneously in order for the older systems to “talk” to newer systems. Reverse engineering can also be used to rediscover data or best practices that were used in the past but may have been lost over time. 

Recapturing Intellectual Property

In terms of proprietary information, this process can prove invaluable. Before the age of CAD drawings and cloud storage, good old paper blueprints were used. Through an untold number of different scenarios, these documents could be lost and along with them the proprietary knowledge built into the specific component. Reverse engineering can help uncover these along the way. The process itself can also help to create new designs that perfect an older, less efficient design or to make the assembly fit within an updated system.

Reverse Engineering on Existing Cable Assemblies

To reverse engineer a custom cable assembly, Meridian simply needs a sample or, in some cases, even just a picture of the part in order to see how it works. Seeing how the cable assembly was integrated within an electrical system provides a fairly good starting point for how the assembly was utilized. 

The cable assemblies reverse engineering process will definitely differ from assembly to assembly but, in general, we’re able to follow a few standard steps in the process including:

  • Start with dimensions. When you’re starting with a cable assembly that needs to be reverse engineered, it’s a good first step to start with careful measurements. You may have heard the adage in construction “measure twice, cut once”, well, this same approach can be said in a reverse engineering cable assembly project. 

Taking careful measurements and analysis, our engineers pour over all of the components of the assembly like connectors, terminations, wire lengths, types, and a thousand and one others in order to determine the signal, data, or power capacity present within the existing system. Utilizing technology like sensitive 3D scanners makes this process faster and more exact than ever before.

  • Utilize CAD drawings. With a mountain of data at our disposal, Meridian’s cable engineers can then use sophisticated CAD software to develop even more detailed renderings of the cable assembly. CAD helps to create a 3D representation of the product where further analysis can take place. We’re also able to put the assembly through modeling software to better determine how the system was utilized.
  • Identify components. Understanding the layout of the cable assembly takes understanding how each component interacts with one another and with the electrical system as a whole. Our engineers take special care to document all of these components as they were used in the assembly in order to facilitate rebuilding the new one.
  • Disassemble the assembly. Taking care to minimize damage to each of the components, our team works to remove the various components of the assembly layer-by-layer. Starting usually with the outer shield or sheath, we’ll carefully strip back the componetns like a geologist examines substrate in the Earth. Each aspect needs to be kept extremely organized and kept in a logical order to better understand how the cable assembly functioned. As well, these components will be measured and analyzed to provide better data for the re-engineered assembly. 
  • Rebuild the new custom cable assembly. With all of the data made available while reverse engineering cable assemblies in hand, our engineers can then set to work producing the new cable assembly. As with every assembly we produce, the final assembly is tested for continuity, integrity, functionality, and safety to see if the new cable assembly will provide the necessary functionality for which it is intended.

While the process can be tedious, reverse engineering custom cable assemblies needs to be incredibly exact in order to preserve functionality. The cable engineers of Meridian rely on our massive tooling inventory in order to replicate a perfectly functioning copy of the cable assembly required. 

Why is Reverse Engineering Cable Assemblies So Useful?

Reverse engineering can be incredibly useful for recreating the exact match needed to fit perfectly into an existing electrical system. However, the process itself provides ancillary benefits that contribute significant value to the overall effort.

  1. OEM Parts Replacement 

When you have a key component like a cable assembly fail that is part of a larger system, it becomes critical to be able to replace that part to keep the system in operation. But an OEM may no longer make the part or is simply out-of-business. Reverse engineering helps bypass having a huge capital expenditure to replace an entire system by recreating an exact match of the OEM part.

  1. Repair and Replacement Knowledge

When a manufacturer is no longer producing a given cable assembly, the knowledge of how the product was utilized, correct repair procedures, and the necessary replacement parts may all be lost. Reverse engineering helps to recreate this intrinsic knowledge which helps if a similar issue were to ever occur in the future.

  1. Analyzing Points of Failure (POF)

Reverse engineering also helps our engineers have time to pour over the entirety of the cable assemblies design. Along the way, they may be able to pick up on why the components failed in the first place and ensure systems are in place to prevent this from reoccurring. 

  1. Improving Components

Echoing POF analysis, our cable engineers may find certain aspects of the cable assemblies design are lacking or not quite as good as they could be. Reverse engineering affords the opportunity to improve upon any noted deficiencies.

Reverse engineering is a very useful tool in a custom cable manufacturers tool belt and a service we’re proud to offer our clients.

Need to Reverse Engineer Your Existing Cable Assemblies?

With the cable assembly in hand that needs to be replicated or even with just a picture, the gifted men and women of Meridian can reverse engineer your existing cable assemblies for even the most complex applications. Contact our team now to get your new custom cable project started.

Common CAN bus Problems: A Troubleshooting Guide

CAN bus systems are essentially high-speed freeways for digital information exchange within a tightly-packed and complex electrical system such as within an automobile. These tight spaces can’t fit a computer so Controller Area Networks (CAN) help bridge the gap to allow microcontrollers and other devices to “talk” to one another. But what happens when there’s an issue with a CAN bus system? Can you work on a CAN bus cable? How do you diagnose CAN bus problems?

To answer these questions and more, today’s LiveWire spotlight deep-dives into the complex world of CAN bus systems. We’ll cover common CAN bus problems and walk through troubleshooting and diagnostics with these intricate systems.

CAN Bus Wire & Cable Systems 101

CAN bus systems are vital components of the communication system within a vehicle, medical device, industrial control system, or other highly-complex yet space-constrained application. Within a vehicle, this allows form the different control modules to all talk to one another at the same time. Vital safety systems like the anti-lock brakes communicating with the engine’s own module, parts of the transmission, and more are then all displaying real-time information to the driver via the instrument cluster. This type of sophisticated communication requires cables and wires to be specifically engineered for the rigorous demands they’ll undergo. 

When CAN bus systems are working correctly, they’ll send and receive the data they are transmitting within a set of frames. Even with a closed system like a vehicle, the data is sent via a code that helps control modules prioritize the data that’s being sent. Within the code that’s coming from a control module, the code being sent has certain values that can designate the priority of a given message. This helps control the flow of data that’s going through the CAN bus system so that really important data, such as something related to a safety system, can be sent and received ahead of data that’s operationally generic. 

Within the code is also all of the data that needs to be transmitted in that instance from one control module to another. Think of your vehicle driving through snow or water and your vehicle automatically rotating tires at different speeds to compensate. This action may seem mundane when you drive everyday, but the intensely-complex actions to get there were all thanks to the CAN bus system crunching the data frames to communicate the proper action to take in the given situation. 

When the data is transmitted from one control module, the receiving module should always run a validity test on the incoming data to make sure it’s valid. This process is called a checksum and acts as a sort of checks and balances for the module sending the data. When the receiving module validates the data, it responds with acknowledgement of the validity to the transmitter and the system continues to operate as it was intended. When a checksum is not returned valid, a host of issues can develop which we’ll cover in the troubleshooting section below.

Different Types of CAN Bus Subsystems

There’s three types of CAN bus subsystems that help make it possible for different data transmission requirements. When performing within their specifications, these systems facilitate different types of communication between control modules simultaneously and without interference. 

The three types of CAN bus subsystems include:

  1. High-Speed CAN bus subsystems: used for speeds all the way up to 125 KB per second. The construction of the CAN bus high-speed wires creates an effect of opposing voltages. These properties are useful to help cancel out RMF.
  1. Medium-Speed CAN bus subsystems: will handle anywhere from 10 KB to 125 KB per second. These systems are usually made with a single wire that can be shielded to combat interference.
  2. Low-Speed CAN bus subsystems: for handling speeds that are generally 10 KB per second and lower via a single wire set-up. For these systems, wire engineers typically create a centralized control module that then controls other modules in the network.

When there’s an issue within the CAN bus system, a myriad of different concerns can occur. With a vehicle, for example, this may mean the vehicle ceases to run at all. Figuring out what you’re dealing with in a CAN bus system failure can be difficult but we’ll cover some common things to look for that may give you a hint at the issue. 

Spotting Issues Within a CAN Bus System

CAN bus systems have a lot of data flowing through their subsystems at any given moment. If the CAN bus wiring components aren’t performing up to spec, there can be major issues at play within the system. Many of the issues related to wiring can include poor-quality wiring, terminations done incorrectly, or using several different frequencies within a single CAN bus. 

Here’s a few different things you can look for as you diagnose a CAN bus system:

  • Make sure to have the perfect termination resistance. You can use a multimeter to measure this resistance present between the CAN low and high systems. An unpowered system typically runs at 60 Ohms and has two separate termination resistors. 
  • Any form of termination resistors must be located at the endline of the CAN bus system. These termination resistors will perform their best when they are located with precision. 
  • In general terms, the CAN bus system network resembles that of a tree. Believe it or not, the dimensions of the “tree” matter and even a slight variation can wreak havoc on the data integrity. This also goes for the lengths of several different CAN bus wires.
  • The majority of CAN bus wires should be twisted pairs. Twisted pair cables will take two different insulated wires and twist them together so as to run parallel to one another. This is used to combat the interference we discussed above.
  • When using a shielded cable on a CAN bus system, it’s important than only one side be grounded. Otherwise a situation called a grounded ground loop can occur and cause interference. 
  • To that, all the different network devices need to share the same ground so that ground loops don’t occur.

These are just some of the many different avenues you can take when trying to diagnose your CAN bus wire issues as the system is complex and subject to a lot of variables. For example, when the electric system has experienced a surge, it can wipe memory and cause malfunctions in the control modules. 

If you have issues that are above your head, contact our team. Our engineers can help diagnose your CAN bus system and suggest the best fix for your unique situation. 

Fixing Common CAN Bus Problems 

Running through the above can help you find the area of emphasis needed to repair CAN bus system issues. Fixing three of the more common problems that can befall a CAN bus system include:

  • Check over the CAN bus wiring

Ensure everything is solidly connected. All the wire junctions should have a strong solder and splices that are secure. You never want to see a junction that has a simple twist or wire nuts keeping it secure. You also don’t want to see things like terminal blocks, as they can end up distorting the bus wires’ signals. 

  • Pay attention to any stripped sections.

Stripping wires on a CAN bus system can easily lead to damaging sensitive components like the insulation. Without the insulation there to perform its job, interference can occur. Look over the system for any signs of junctions or sections that have been stripped and inspect the quality of the work. 

  • Test the termination, voltage, ground, and resistance levels.

The specifications for each of these can vary depending on the manufacturer so always test according to specifications. Within each of these fundamental tests you should find your CAN bus system performing in line. The smallest variations can add up to major sources of interference.

Seems simple but these complex systems rely just as much on quality components from the very first strand of wire onto the final wire harness that organizes the system in its intended environment. Meridian’s engineers sweat the details like these so that our customers don’t have to.

Using an Oscilloscope to Pinpoint CAN Bus Issues

When analysing waveforms with the use of an oscilloscope, you can actually spot the spikes where an error is occurring. An oscilloscope is an electric test that simply displays the system’s signal voltages. This is usually for more than one signal and presented as a function of time. The waveform has properties every wire engineer knows and loves like amplitude, frequency, and interval time. 

Using tools like an oscilloscope can help you spot differences between the mirror images of frequency and amplitude. Certain issues like a termination resistor failure or simply a communication malfunction present between control modules creates characteristic waveforms that a trained eye can easily spot.  

Start a CAN Bus Cable & Wire Order

Contact our team now to discuss the needs of your project and get the process started.

How to Properly Test Your Coil Cord Design

custom cable assemblies

Coil cords, curly cords, coiled cords – all of these monikers refer to the same versatile product of wound cable, perfect for space-saving and decluttering a given application. Coil cords are also exceedingly durable, as well as obviously flexible, able to withstand thousands of extensions and retractions. But getting from initial concept to finished product takes many design steps in between. Arguably the most crucial of which are the different tests each coiled cord undergoes in order to ensure functionality, safety, and performance in line with the parameters supplied by our client. 

Today’s Livewire News spotlight has its sights on the best ways to test coiled cord designs in order to produce the one-of-a-kind coil cables that live up to Meridian’s standards.

Starting Out with Simulated Design Testing

When our clients first meet with Meridian’s design staff, we start with covering the needs of the project, where the product will be employed, a timetable, and budget. With these factors, our team can begin to map out the process, tools, and equipment needed to complete the curly cord within the given set of parameters. 

Utilizing advanced computer-aided design (CAD) software systems, our engineers can begin building out a curly cord from the very first strand of wire. Designing in this virtual space allows our team the chance to see how different iterations come together and then how these work within given simulations. 

These simulations give us an opportunity to tweak certain aspects of the design in order to better meet the design requirements of the project. Perhaps a client needs a coil cord that cannot be cut where we may need to employ advanced materials in the jacketing or insulation such as Kevlar® or Teflon®. Starting with UL-listed components lets our engineers have an established point of origin i.e. a product with known specifications. Rather than trying to produce a given component from scratch, utilizing UL components means we already know the limitations and performance levels that can be expected. This provides a much better simulation and makes moving into prototyping all the easier. 

Prototyping Within the Coiled Cord Testing Process

Once our team has a design in mind, the most effective strategy for overall product quality is to proceed through a prototyping phase. Prototyping allows us the chance to see how the components come together and function in the real world. It’s not uncommon for our engineers to test two or three different versions of the same product to see which combination works best for our clients’ needs. During one complex curly cord design project for a medical technology application, our team produced 14 different prototypes to find the perfect set of materials, sourcing, and logistics plans in order to meet the unique specifications of the project. 

Logistics and sourcing are important variables for consideration during the prototyping stage. True, while materials play a huge role in how the product will function, almost every project undertaken has a definitive schedule that needs to be met. Seeing how the different versions come together from start to finish gives our project managers the best view possible of how a given production run will go. 

Once prototyping is complete and we’ve moved onto volume production, the units are still destined for a load of different tests before they’re ever ready to be delivered to the client.

Testing Curly Cords with Automated Units

Utilizing automated testing machines like the venerable Cirris® testing units allows for testing coil cord assemblies and harnesses en masse and to exacting levels of detail. Cirris units are able to test for continuity, which simply means that the flow of data, signal, or power through the coiled cable is not impeded in any way. 

Another testing parameter the Cirris units can undertake is called insulation breakdown testing. This testing regimen involves putting an excess of voltage through a coiled cable to see where insulation breaks down and can actually begin to conduct electricity. Knowing this threshold allows for incorporating insulating materials that can withstand the pressures of the application and the environment. 

Using several different versions of testing protocols with our Cirris units is one of the many ways our engineers can ascertain the level of quality in each and every product we manufacture.  

Meridian’s Very Own Advanced Life Testing Lab

One of the most exciting places to find yourself within Meridian’s manufacturing facilities is our Advanced Life Testing Lab. Within this dedicated space, men and women subject coiled cords to fire and ice, caustic chemicals, water, and more. All of these environmental factors are variables that require careful design in order to effectively mitigate against them. Producing a coiled cable for an automotive application, such as those seen on the backs of a semi-tractor trailer’s cab, requires a cable to withstand rain, snow, UV damage, and even chemicals like oil. 

Our Advanced Life Testing Lab was created with the single purpose of testing to see how cable assemblies and wire harnesses will hold up under extreme environmental factors so that they can be counted on to perform exactly as they are intended wherever they are implemented. Seeing how different components like the insulation, jacket, or connectors perform allows a studied performance review and an opportunity to tweak the design as needed.  

Different Tests to Perform with Coil Cables

With coiled cords expected to extend and retract many times throughout their useful life, these special cables are put through a battery of physical tests that see how long they can hold up. Measurements of failure thresholds and levels of compliance to specifications affords yet another opportunity for ensuring quality throughout the process. This attention to detail in quality is needed to adhere to the strict standards of ISO 9001:2015 certification, which we’re proud to maintain.

Some of the many curly cord tests that our team can perform to see where a given design rates include:

Cycles to Failure

The number of cycles that a product can achieve before fatigue and/or failure occurs. Generally this test is used with a new curly cord to decide where the threshold is. Starting out, the coiled cord is hooked up to a testing machine where length, speed, and the time spent retracted and extended are input. These all depend on the cord’s intended environment. 

Once these variables are plugged into the testing machine, the unit being tested goes until it gives out. In some cases, a coiled cord may need to last 500,000 extension and retraction cycles. If this product doesn’t meet this during a cycles to failure test, our designers will continue to work at solving the limited factors.

Retraction Compliance

After a curly cord is extended, it is expected to go back to its original length. When you have a curly cord that isn’t performing well, you can see a degradation of as much as 50% of the initial retracted length. A coiled cable that has been designed well and is performing at its best should be at 95% or more. Measuring the retraction length at rest and cycling the cord through many different times allows our engineers the opportunity to measure just how well the cord’s retraction is holding up. These specialized cables need to be known that they can be counted on to keep performing their function for however long their useful life is dictated.

Cable Flexing to Failure

Curly cords undergoing this test will see just how far the cable can be strained before continuity is broken. A cable flex testing machine will test the unit based on provided variables affecting radius, rotation angle, and cycle speed. Once a cable begins exhibiting signs of mechanical fatigue and/or failure, our engineers then have a threshold to work from.

There are also several different types of fatigue that our engineers watch for during testing. 

  • Mechanical fatigue testing provides an excellent view of the value to which the stress/strain can be before a curly cord either fails completely or begins to show signs of failure. 
  • Creep fatigue measures how many cycles can be performed under high temperature testing.
  • Thermo-mechanical is a combination of temperature extremes and straining within the coiled cable.
  • Corrosion sets in with caustic chemicals and particularly harsh environments.
  • Fretting can occur where friction is produced from sliding.

Knowing how components react towards a myriad of different variables and performing tests like these aid our engineers in producing the perfect custom curly cord to perform within the client’s unique set of circumstances. 

Starting Your Own Coiled Cable Design Project

Testing in coiled cords takes an engineer and design team knowing their product literally inside and out. Meridian’s engineers are gifted men and women with years of designing cables from the very first strand of wire onto some of the most sophisticated cable assemblies in the world. 

When you’re ready to start your own custom curly cord design project, trust our experienced team to ensure your product lives up to parameters needed to get the job done right. Contact us now to get started.

The Cable Engineer’s Ultimate Guide to Wire Harness Assemblies

Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies
Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies

When you’ve been a top cable engineer in custom harness assemblies for several decades, you begin to build up a vast knowledge bank of innovative manufacturing steps, process controls, and even tooling capabilities; all of which contribute to a better product and better customer experience. 

In today’s Livewire spotlight, we’ll capture everything we’ve learned for creating the perfect custom wire harness to integrate within even the most complex electrical systems.

What is a Wire Harness Assembly?

A wire harness assembly is the collection of various wires (single electrical conductors), cables (group of insulated wires), connectors, terminations, sleeves, and other infrastructure needed to provide a safe and efficient means for organizing wires within a larger electrical system. If that sounds like a mouthful, it’s because wire harnesses or complex mechanisms with direct impacts on the success of an electrical system. Whether that system is a life-saving surgical device or a vital piece of communications equipment for our military, wire harnesses play a crucial role in keeping these systems up and running.

Components Making up a Custom Wire Harness

Going back to the basics of a custom wire harness, These components all have to be of the highest-quality in order to meet the threshold standards set forth by the client. 

  1. Wires – a wire can be as simple as a single strand of a conductor like aluminum or copper. There are many variations of wires used in wire harness manufacturing, depending on the needs of the projects such as braided or stranded wires. 

Different gauges of wire can also be employed in the same custom wire harness to provide multiple and simultaneous functions. This level of sophistication is what makes complex and space-constrained designs possible. Common gauges based on the American Wire Gauge (AWG) system are 10, 12, and 14 but at Meridian we can extrude cables as small as 34 gauge.

As a cool side note, if you have a bunch of bare wires that get twisted together without any insulation, it’s still technically a single conductor and therefore a single “wire” rather than jumping up into the cable category.

  1. Insulation – wire insulation is the unsung hero of wire harnesses since they play a crucial role in protecting the wires within. Moisture, temperature swings, caustic materials, and other environmental factors all require a cable engineer’s attention when designing a wire harness to fit the system it’s intended for.

Insulation materials that are commonly utilized in wire harness assemblies include:

  • Polyvinylchloride (PVC) – this economical but strong material is intended for wires on the lower to medium-end of the voltage range. PVC insulation is very common as it’s great for protecting wires from heat, moisture, and abrasion.
  • Polyurethane (PU) – available as either thermosetting or thermoplastic, polyurethanes are a common insulation to protect wires from abrasion and moisture, while improving overall durability.
  • Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) – in many cases TPEs are now replacing rubbers in the injection-moldable category. TPEs are very flexible and can be stretched without easily breaking, making them appropriate in a wide variety of situations. A TPE is a great way to increase the strength and resilience of a rigid thermoplastic, making them frequently used in overmolding. 
  • Thermoplastic polyester elastomer (TPEE) – these are considered your high-performance insulators. With the benefits of thermoset rubber but the ease of manufacturing of engineering plastics, TPEEs provide a high degree of strength and tear resistance as well as flexural strength. TPEEs are also able to help protect against caustic chemicals and temperature swings. For these reasons, they are commonly used in automotive wire harness applications.
  • Thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV) – these special types of TPEs are vulcanized at high temperatures which helps make for a good compression set as well as strong resistance to heat. TPVs give the benefit of ease of processing like plastic but with the performance of rubber. This makes TPVs a cost effective means for enhancing performance.
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, commonly known as “Teflon®”) – this strong compound originally discovered by Dupont in the 1930’s is known for its tough, waxy-like makeup. PTFEs are a nonflammable form of synthetic resin used for being highly versatile and high performing against heat, moisture, and other variables.
  • Silicone – when you insulate a cable with silicone, you get an excellent thermal range, providing greater heat resistance. Silicone is definitely the preferred insulation type for extreme temperature swings. Silicone is also extremely maneuverable and flexible, making it ideal for tight spaces. Being easy to disinfect, silicone is also preferred for wire harnesses used by medical device manufacturers.

A cool aspect to common insulation types is the ability to vary the hardness or softness of each material depending on the needs of the project. This allows for the perfect degree of customization to be employed for the benefit and added efficiency to the overall system.

  1. Cables – there are many different standard cable types used in the industry. Cables will typically consist of a neutral wire ground wire, ad live or “hot” wire. Each of these then get twisting or bonding employed to bind together. Wires in a cable typically come insulated in a PVC or other insulator. Color coding the wires’ insulation aids in identification. 

Having standards (more on this below) helps cable engineers design a system based on the known specifications of a particular cable. This saves a lot of time and money versus producing a cable from scratch. 

As a UL-approved manufacturing facility, we’re able to produce a wide variety of UL-certified cable types such as TPT, SPT-2, TST, SVO, SJE, SJOOQ, and many more. Adjusting various factors like wire gauges, insulation, fillers, and sheathing materials, our designers are able to produce a cable that’s perfectly suited for its intended environment. 

With a custom wire harness and cable assembly manufacturer, the components are designed for the system rather than trying to be conformed to the system. The approach we utilize is more like an experienced football coach calling a well-orchestrated play that’s been practiced, employed, and proven successful many times over.

  1. Connectors – connectors come in all shapes and sizes and are typically utilized with a specific type of cable. For example, with ribbon cable connectors you might find d-sub connectors, socket-type connectors, dip connectors, and card edge connectors all inside a large and complex custom wire harness project.
  1. Terminations – to terminate a cable into the connection point of a piece of equipment, panel, wall outlet, or other device means having the perfect termination to do the job safely. Terminations also come in an absolutely endless amount of different types depending on the industry. Insulated and non-insulated, ring terminals, spade, and hook terminals are all common.

Telecommunications systems typically utilize UTP cables for LAN networking. UTP cable terminations like a copper insulation displacement (IDC) terminations are ideal for this specific application. No matter what the needs of the project, any cable engineer worth their weight will be well-versed in a wide variety of termination methods to most efficiently accomplish the task at hand.

  1. Sleeves – sleeves add built in resistance to UV, abrasion, cable management, and other benefits. Some of the different types of sleeves used in wire harnesses include:
  • Velcro sleeves are easy to secure and very common. 
  • Polypropylene spiral wraps come in many different diameters. Adding strength and resilience with UV resistance, as well. Great to utilize for color management.
  • Braided sleeves are great for aesthetics and can be heat shrunk to a specific cable and connector pair.
  • Polyethylene spiral wrap is very economical and offers a good basic level of cables from heat and everyday wear and tear. 

Using UL-listed components from the start helps build superior products that respond more in line with specifications. That’s because UL-listed products have been rigorously tested to ensure quality and consistency. This helps our engineers start with components of a known specificity, instead of having to design and test from scratch.

Utilizing quality components is just the beginning of any wire harness manufacturing project, which is why we’re proud to be certified by UL to produce a wide variety of standard wire and harness types.

What Wire Colors Mean

The wires that make up a wire harness are identified for safety and continuity in design. This can also be a desire for aesthetics. Standard colors and functionality include:

  • Black wires: typically designate a hot or positive current.
  • White wires: will typically be for negative currents.
  • Green wires: typically used for ground wires, especially in residential wiring applications.
  • Red wires: can be used as a secondary line for hot and or positive currents.
  • Blue wires: good for designating a point of connection. 

The ideal part of cable and wire colors is the vast degree of customization that can be employed. However it is easiest to make the wire harness assembly integrate with the existing system in a safe and efficient manner is what our team will employ.

Getting Wire Harness Assemblies Started

When it comes to custom wire harnesses, the manufacturer you choose to work with makes all the difference. Our team is proud to be a UL-approved manufacturing facility with an incredible range of capabilities for your next wire harness design project. Contact us now to get started.

The Insider’s Look at the Cable Assembly Manufacturing Process

Cable Assembly Manufacturer

There are decidedly many steps that comprise getting a cable assembly from concept into production. At Meridian, we design over 70% of the products we manufacture which gives our team an edge when we’re solving the types of complex problems our clients bring our way every day. 

Today’s spotlight is pointed squarely at the process of cable assembly manufacturing. We’ll cover how our brilliant cable and wire engineers bring our clients’ designs to life and what it takes to go from a digital blueprint all the way to volume manufacturing.

Laying the Framework: Cable Assembly Design 101

Whenever we start to get the cable assembly specifications from the client, our team can immediately set to work designing the perfect solution. The design phase is a crucial first step in the process and allows our team the ability to test multiple iterations of a product in a virtual environment. Utilizing sophisticated design software, our cable assembly engineers create the blueprint for the final design. 

Systems will be tested to make sure the assembly can withstand the rigors of its intended environment – all within complex simulations that greatly reduce the man hours needed to produce a given result. Even during the design phase, our engineers will be hard at work testing the design before ever moving forward in the process. It is indeed very rare for a product to move from the design phase to volume manufacturing without first going through a prototyping phase.

Why Use Prototyping in Cable Assembly Production?

Prototyping is taking the digital design our engineers have developed and physically bringing all the pieces together to see how they’ll perform in the real world. As with the design phase, when prototyping we can test several different versions simultaneously to see which product performs most efficiently. Aside from performance and integrity of product, prototyping also gives our team a chance to see how the supply chain will respond to the needs of the project. 

We strive to be a lean manufacturer, adhering to Kanban principles of waste elimination in the manufacturing process, as well as just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing which helps reduce time in production runs. Both of these principles are front and center during prototyping where our team can test how one set of products comes together versus sourcing a different way. Focusing on reducing waste at every step of the manufacturing process is one way we help ensure our projects are delivered on-time and on-budget.

A Closer Look at Short Run Manufacturing 

At Meridian, we get all kinds of orders from all kinds of industries. From military applications, to medical technology, telecommunications, and more, our cable assemblies help provide the data, signal, and/or power needed to run today’s advanced technologies. When a client needs a relatively small batch, such as with a sample production, we’re able to accommodate with a short run manufacturing process. Short run production also typically involves having at least one factor in the manufacturing process that’s fixed.

Soldering During a Manual Termination

Manual termination is often used during the short run manufacturing process in order to meet the requirements of our clients both in terms of how many products are being created and how quickly they need to receive them. Decreasing lead times is something our project managers are incredibly skilled at and manual termination using soldering is just one tool in their tool belt to do just that. 

With advanced technology and an incredibly skilled workforce, we are able to meet even the most precise soldering specifications to within .015. 

Moving Into Cable Assembly Manufacturing

Through every stage of cable assembly manufacturing, we strive to engineer in as much value as possible. Value is achieved when you have an extremely high quality product that our clients know they can depend on. 

There are many “off-the-shelf” cable assemblies out there, but these don’t always provide the exact solution our clients need nor are they usually engineered to the same level of quality as what is received with a UL-approved manufacturing facility like Meridian. We’re proud to be UL approved and can also work with our clients to get their products certified through most industry certification agencies.

Starting Off Right with Custom Cable Extrusion

When it comes to building high-quality cable assemblies, extrusion is a crucial piece of the manufacturing process. Extrusion is the process of manufacturing a cable assembly’s cross sections. These cross sections must be absolutely uniform in order for the system to perform at its best. Meridian’s extruder machines look something like a giant screw with a large hopper. The “screw” has a heated barrel where the material of choice from the hopper is combined and melted down so it can then be forced into a reusable metal die. With sophisticated equipment and very capable cable assembly engineers, we’re able to extrude conductors from 34 gauge all the way up to 12 gauge. 

A conductor is the basic building block of any assembly and gets stranded based on the needs of the project. After, we can insulate, fill, wrap, and shield depending on the environment the cable assembly will be used in. 

What is Insert Molding and Overmolding in Cable Assemblies?

Insert molding is a process we’ve completed many times which leads to a significant improvement in the strength and resiliency of a cable assembly. Insert molding involves applying an engineered plastic such as PVC or TPEE to cover the component and provide better protection. 

Overmolding connections can provide many different industry-specific advancements. For example, with medical devices, a silicone overmolding can be used to provide increased chemical resistance and tensile strength. Overmolding improves the overall quality of the assembly and also increases the limits for what is possible in medical device technology

Custom colors in overmolding help us be able to match our overmolded components to just about any color our client desires. For aesthetics, we can match a specific color of equipment or can help provide a color-coded overmold that makes the assembly easier to integrate. Custom designs like the name of a product or a corporate logo can also be placed on overmolds through our extensive tooling inventory.

High-Tech Ultrasonic Plastic Welding

Ultrasonic may conjure up images of your toothbrush but it’s just the word to describe the use of high-frequency vibration. In cable assembly manufacturing, ultrasonic welding is used to precisely seal components together in an extremely fast manner. Ultrasonic plastic welding produces a clean, strong connection point that makes the assembly all the more durable.

Test, Test, Repeat

One of the most important aspects to the entire cable assembly manufacturing process is the testing that is layered in from the very beginning. Our quality assurance team makes sure mistakes are prevented and the quality of process and product are both consistently high.

  • Analyzing Cable Assemblies for Signal Integrity

For each and every assembly that rolls off the production line, many rounds of testing will have already taken place. Even so, we test each product before shipping to ensure the integrity and functionality of the assembly. Signal integrity analysis helps our engineers look for things like opens or shorts, the correct pin-out, and also tests the integrity of the shielding. 

  • Utilizing Automated Testing Machines

Meridian utilizes highly-sophisticated, automated Cirrus testing units to ensure each product meets the high standards needed to complete its function. These testing units are able to spot even the smallest defects in the majority of cable assemblies produced. However, there are situations where a completely custom cable assembly requires a custom testing unit. In these cases, our expansive tooling inventory comes in handy. 

  • Testing for the Environment with Our Advanced Life Testing Lab

Testing cable assemblies would be useless if they are never subjected to the types of real world conditions they’ll be facing in their given systems. That’s why we created our very own Advanced Life Testing Lab. Here, our quality assurance engineers set to work putting cable assemblies through their paces, while being hit with all manner of environmental variables like extreme temperatures and moisture. 

Getting it There: Maintaining Efficient Logistics

Leveraging two, wholly-owned manufacturing facilities in the US and in China, Meridian is able to efficiently manage a global supply chain. This means our assemblies get where they need to go, exactly when they need to get there. Completing cable assemblies on-time and on-budget requires key planning from design all the way through delivery.

Starting a New Custom Cable Project

Moving forward with a custom cable manufacturer requires a lot of trust. Customers trust that the cable manufacturer has the tools and capabilities to produce a solution that fits and that can be depended on. Our team becomes a trusted partner in the success of each and every project we undertake. From the first design consultation through volume manufacturing, the Meridian team ensures we meet or exceed all project milestones. 

To get your custom assembly project started, contact us now through our online form. You can also reach us by calling 1-877-806-8667 or email us at sales@meridiancableassemblies.com.

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.

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.