Category Archives: Cable Assemblies

Finding Custom Wire Harnesses & Wire Harness Assemblies for Medical Devices

Creating a custom medical wire harness assembly requires a particular level of precision in order to meet the standards of highly sensitive medical equipment. With each medical wire harness assembly that Meridian Cable creates, we pour our years of experience and engineering into creating reliable, durable and flexible cable and wire assemblies. When finding the right manufacturer for medical wire harnesses and assemblies, it is imperative that the wires and cables can be relied on in the most desperate of situations. We make every one of our medical wire harness assemblies to meet the highest standard to ensure quality and dependability. 

What is a Medical Wire Harness Assembly?

A medical wire harness assembly is a conglomerate of many smaller cables gathered into an organized collaboration with the purpose and function of connecting many different ports. While there are many different components that go into the makeup of a medical wire harness assembly, the basic components are the wires themselves, the insulation material, the coating around each cable and the connectors at each end. 

The use of medical wire harnesses is mainly to connect the ultra-sensitive medical equipment to other equipment, monitors, processors and instruments. The wires themselves transfer medical data from the patient, equipment, or instrument to the medical monitors, computers and processors. This information is then translated into medical data used to diagnose a condition, monitor a patient, or gain insight into the workings of the body. 

It is vital that these wires operate correctly as the information they transfer can literally be the difference between life and death. Medical wire harness assemblies can be found attached to nearly every piece of medical equipment in one form or another. They are a crucial component to everything from Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) machines and ultrasound wands, to a heart monitor. Keeping these vital pieces of medical equipment operating smoothly through a dependable medical wire harness assembly is what we are all about. 

Down to the Wire: The Material Components of a Wire Harness Assembly

The components of what make up each Meridian Cable medical wire harness assembly are designed and engineered to meet the highest standard for medical equipment. The cable itself is made up of three main components:

  • The metal conductor 
  • The filler/insulator
  • The outer coating

Each of these elements are vital components to the cable to ensure proper functionality and efficiency. We utilize high quality components to craft every custom medical wire harness assembly. 

The metal used at the center of each cable is typically copper because of its conductor capabilities and its malleability. To make the copper wire, the copper is stretched to be ultra-thin strands and then coiled around every other strand to create a spiral or coil of strands less than 0.05 inches in diameter. These coils are then encased by a filler and insulator. 

The filler that surrounds the copper conductor is designed to not only protect the conductor from heat, but also acts as a buffer to outside the conductor as well. This insulator ensures that the small pulses of electricity flowing through the conductors remain within the conductors. In addition to this protection, the filler give the cable shape throughout the crossbody of the cable. 

Lastly, the outer layer of the cable is designed to protect the cable from elements outside the cable itself. This coating is typically a plastic blend designed to be a waterproof barrier surrounding the whole of the cable. We use a combination of teflon and silicone to create our medical wire harness assemblies to ensure protection from moisture, heat, and breaks. In addition to this protection, using these materials allows us to create a flexible wire to endure the rigorous duress that medical equipment requires. 

Meridian Cable creates each custom medical wire assembly with the highest standard in mind. As we craft our products from quality components, we strive to ensure that each custom medical wire harness assembly meets the most stringent medical requirements.

Applications and Medical Machinery 

An application of a custom medical wire harness assembly can be found in every medical facility across the world. While there are endless possibilities for their use, medical equipment is among the most particularly important applications in which to utilize a wire harness assembly. The data that they transmit is life saving and is vital to the treatment and diagnostics of a patient by medical personnel.  

They are frequently used in the following medical machinery:

  • Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) scanners
  • Bioconnectors
  • Heart monitors
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scanners
  • X ray machines
  • Patient monitoring systems
  • Other medical imaging equipment 
  • Other medical instruments

The list of medical equipment that utilize a wire harness assembly can go on and on and the potential cannot be understated. There are so many ways in which a reliable medical wire harness assembly is crucial to the operation of a medical facility. 

Because it is vital that each wire be correctly functioning, Meridian Cable ensures that our wire harness assemblies will be built to meet the highest of standards. Our team of engineers and designers have the experience of years working to design custom medical wire harness assemblies that can be trusted with the most sensitive medical machinery.

Designing a Custom Medical Wire Harness Assembly

With so many different pieces of equipment and applications for a medical wire harness assembly, having a custom made assembly is an absolute necessity for any medical facility. While there are certainly off-the-shelf options, a custom built medical wire harness assembly ensures that every one of the needs are met with precision and correctness. The quality that we put into all of our products rises to the occasion to meet the highest medical standards and perform with integrity and dependability. 

With all the complexities that can come with a medical wire harness assembly, experience and quality matter most. We use ASO-certified components to make our custom medical wire harness assemblies to ensure both high-caliber and durable products. Meridian Cable works with our customers directly to help create a custom medical wire harness assembly that suits their specific needs for their medical facility and equipment. 

Designed For Dependability 

The necessity of reliable wiring for medical equipment cannot be understated. With the use of technology within the medical sector advancing rapidly and being used so widely, properly functioning medical wire harness assemblies are a crucial component to correct patient monitoring, diagnostics, and treatment. With so much at stake, it is imperative that each wire function correctly and consistently. 

It is frightening to imagine the ramifications of a malfunctioning wire when connected to a heart monitor, MRI machine, defibrillator, or ultrasound wand. A faulty wire could cause a malfunction in any number of medical machinery with drastic results. Unfortunately, there is a lot that could go wrong with medical equipment and so it is essential that the wiring be dependable and made with precision. 

When we craft a custom medical wire harness assembly, we know what is at stake. With the weight of correctly operating medical equipment in mind, we put our cable and wire assemblies through stringent tests and rigorous quality control to ensure that each one meets the highest standard. Our years of experience and expertise has made us a leader in cable manufacturing and we strive to uphold reliable quality you can depend on. 

Working With Our Design Team

With every medical wire harness assembly having unique requirements, we work with you to create a custom designed wire harness to meet your specific needs. Our team will help walk you through every step of the process to make sure that you get exactly what your medical equipment and facility requires. Because each medical wire harness can present its own challenges and requires so much detail, we strive to communicate directly with you in order to provide the best experience possible.

The custom medical wire harness assemblies that we create to meet you specific needs are backed by our tears of experience crafting unique and precise cable assemblies. Custom work is our speciality and we have the expertise to craft a medical wire harness assembly to your satisfaction

We quality test and check each custom product that we create through thorough examination to ensure both the functionality and quality of our work. With every wire harness and cable assembly we make, we utilize quality materials, attention to every detail, and decades of experience to present a trustworthy and dependable product.

Let Meridian Cable Design a Custom Medical Wire Harness Assembly For You 

There is so much that goes into the design and crafting of a medical wire harness assembly that it can be easily overwhelming. Our years of experience has proven that Meridian Cable creates the quality and brings the expertise needed to design reliable medical wire harness assemblies for your medical facility. Contact us today to get started on designing, engineering, and creating a custom medical wire harness assembly for your doctor’s office, hospital, medical practice, or medical facility. 

Why is Shielding Needed in Cable Assemblies?

shielded coaxial cable

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

What Exactly is a Shielded Cable Assembly?

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

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

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

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

EMI Makes Shielded Cable Connectors Crucial

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

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

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

How Cable Shielding Combats EMI

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

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

Different Types of Shielding Used in Cable Assemblies

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

  • Using Foil Shielding in Cable Assemblies

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

  • Braided Shield in Cable Assemblies

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

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

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

Integrating Shielded Cable Assemblies in Your Next Project

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

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

Why Shielding Cable Assemblies is So Important

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

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

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

Certifications Matter With Shielded Cable Manufacturers

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

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

Starting a Project Utilizing Shielded Cable Assemblies

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

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

Custom RF Cable Assemblies Guide

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

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

What are RF Cable Assemblies Used For?

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Using a Custom RF Cable Assembly

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

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Produce Excellent and Dependable Electrical Performance

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

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Present a Low Loss

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

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Can Operate at a High Frequency

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

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

Getting Technical: Amplitude and Phase

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

How to Produce Custom RF Cable Assemblies

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

Design Phase 

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

Prototyping 

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

Testing

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

Getting a Custom RF Cable Assembly Certified by UL

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

Starting a Custom RF Cable Assembly Design Project

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

How to Get Started with Your OEM Wire Harness Project

Wire Harnesses Design

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

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

What is an OEM Wire Harness?

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

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

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

Designing an OEM Wire Harness

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

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

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

Bringing an OEM Wire Harness Assembly From Concept to Reality

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

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

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

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

Testing is Everything with OEM Wire Harnesses

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

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

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

Bringing it All Together

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

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

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

Getting Started with Your OEM Wire Harness Project

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

The Automation of Complex Wire Harness Designs

Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies

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

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

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

What are Complex Wire Harnesses?

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

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

Why Do Complex Wire Harnesses Require Human Engineering?

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

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

Design

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

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

Logistics

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

Specific Standards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Improve product and process quality.

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

  1. Reduce harness manufacturing turnaround time and cost.

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

What Aspects of Wire Harness Assembly Can be Automated?

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

What Aspects of Wire Harness Assembly Should Not be Automated?

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

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

Additional manufacturing processes should not be automated, including:

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

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

What are Some of the Design Features of Wire Harnesses?

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

Conductor Sizes

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

Conductor Colors

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

Stranding Sizes

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

Conductor Insulation Materials

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

UL® Certified Cables and Wires

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

Start Your Wire Harness Design Today

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

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

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

Wire Harness Assembly
Wire Harness

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

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

What is a Wire Harness Assembly?

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

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

The Benefits of Using a Wire Harness Assembly

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

Wire Harness Assemblies Save Valuable Space

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

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

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

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

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

Wire Harness Assemblies Protect Cables and Wires 

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

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

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

The Many Applications of Wire Harness Assemblies

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

Agricultural Industries

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

Automotive Sector

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

Communications Systems

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

Healthcare Technology

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

Industrial & Manufacturing

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

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

The Difference Between Wire Harness Assemblies and Cable Assemblies

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

Wire Harness Assembly

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

Cable Assembly

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

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

Designing a Wire Harness Assembly

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

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

Getting the Perfect Wire Harness for Your Application

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

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

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

Different kinds of cables are on wooden pallet.

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

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

Wire Gauges Explained

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

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

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

How to Measure Wire Gauge

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

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

The Formula for Wire Gauge Sizes

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

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

Wire Gauge Diameter

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

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

Wire Resistance & Wire Length

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

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

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

Wire Gauge Chart

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

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

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

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

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

Common Applications of Standard Wire Gauges

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the Perfect Wire Guage

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

Getting the Best Design with the Correct Wire Gauge

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

The Benefits of Low Pressure Molding in Wire Assembly

low pressure molding machine

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

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

What is Low-Pressure Molding?

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

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

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

A Closer Look at the Low-Pressure Molding Process

low pressure molding button

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Using Low Pressure Molding in Wire Assemblies

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

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

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

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

Inside the Design Studio for Low Pressure Molding Applications

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

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

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

Areas Where Low Pressure Molding Can Be Advantageous

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cable Engineer’s Ultimate Heat Shrinking Tubing and Sleeves Guide

Colors of Heat-shrink tube in the factory

Heat shrinking tubing, aka heat shrink sleeves, are a simple, yet effective, means for providing a range of benefits that increase the useful lifespan of a given cable assembly. Made with various materials to fit the environment, heat shrinking tubing is a fantastic way to “beef up” assemblies.

In today’s LiveWire spotlight, we’re highlighting what makes these humble components so vital to a well-protected cable assembly and how adding them into your design can greatly increase the stoutness of the overall design.

Heat Shrink Tubing 101

In cable assembly manufacturer parlance, heat shrink tubing is a tube that can be made from any number of different materials which wraps over a wire, connector, joint, or terminal to provide more protection. The addition of heat shrinking tubing is meant to provide an additional shield against environmental variables and other physical forces. Moisture-resistance, abrasion-resistance, and increased insulation are all ancillary benefits of heat shrinking cable assemblies. 

Heat shrinking sleeves work like this—the chosen material of a particular size, type, and thickness is inserted over a given component and then heat is applied to literally shrink the tube onto firm contact with the components beneath. The process of heat-shrinking creates an excellent seal and a tough outer shell for whatever element needs the added protection heat shrinking tubing provides. 

Benefits of Using Heat Shrink Tubing and Sleeves in Cable Assemblies

A heat shrink tubing addition into your cable assembly design can be an absolute life-saver with the added protection provided. But these handy tools also bring about many other benefits to your overall cable assembly which produce value far and above the initial cost of utilizing them in your next cable assembly.

Heat Shrink Tubing Provides Additional Protection from Outside Forces

Hands down, the best usefulness for adding heat shrinking tubing to a cable assembly is to help protect the sensitive components from all the environmental variables that can degrade the transmission of data, power, or signal. 

The heat shrinking tubing acts as an additional barrier to abrasions while also mitigating against liquids, humidity, and temperature swings. Depending on the material used in the heat shrink sleeves, the tubing can help the assembly’s components withstand extremely harsh environments, making it ideal for applications like aerospace and the military.

Heat Shrinking Tubing Provides Additional Insulation for Wires

Insulation plays a crucial role for protecting the conductors within the cables themselves. As above, different environmental factors like moisture, dust, temperature swings, acids and oils, and a host of other factors all need to be safeguarded against. 

Our cable engineers take into account the application of the cable assembly to provide our clients with a design that is perfectly suited. Heat shrinking tubing provides an additional layer of insulation that helps maintain the integrity of the data, power, and/or signal that needs to be transmitted.

Heat Shrinking Provides Additional Strain Relief

An important element in any custom cable assembly is strain relief. One of the most important applications we’ve helped provide this for is within the medical field, where complex devices required extremely specific strain relief computations in order to provide a working unit. By utilizing additional means for strain relief such as with heat shrinking, our engineers are able to produce a clever solution to even the most complex issues facing our clients. 

Strain occurs because the cables need to stretch and bend, often within confined environments. The tension can lead to premature wear, which can ultimately result in a failure of the system. Heat shrinking helps to reduce this stress by providing a mechanism for mechanical support.

Heat Shrink Sleeves Aid in Cable Cord Management

When you have a set of cables that are poorly managed, integration and maintenance can be a nightmare. Heat shrink sleeves help to bundle coordinated groups of cables together within a single, confined space. This provides a much cleaner finished product, as well as helps to serve as an effective wire management strategy.

What Is Heat Shrinking Tubing Made Out Of?

The material chosen for a heat shrinking tube in a cable assembly design is dependent on the needs of the project. Each material brings its own pros and cons, which our cable engineers carefully consider and weigh against the needs of the project.

Common materials used in heat shrinking tubing include the following and more:

  • Polyolefin: this is one of the most prevalent materials used in heat shrinking tubing because it is extremely flexible, durable, shrinks quickly, and has built-in fire and UV resistance. Polyolefin heat shrinking also provides great protection and insulation properties.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): another great option for heat shrinking tubing is PVC. That’s because PVC is very affordable yet still offers a solid level of protection. PVC is a very common material to use for its heat, moisture, and abrasion-resistant qualities.
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE): commonly referred to as “Teflon®”, PTFE is a very strong and nonflammable synthetic resin compound. Known for its versatility, PTFE offers a high-performance material choice for mitigating against temperature swings, moisture, abrasion, and other variables. 
  • Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP): great for use with injection molding and extrusion, this variant of Teflon® is also a bit easier to work with. FEP also carries low-friction and reactivity properties, making it ideal for sensitive electrical components. 
  • Polyvinylidene Difluoride (PVDF): PVDF is a special form of plastic that’s able to be injected and molded with ease. This product has great heat-resistance and chemical resistance making it well suited for tough environments such as with the military and telecommunications industries.
  • Silicon: silicone rubber provides one of the best protections against temperature swings with an excellent thermal range. Silicone resists heat well and is also maneuverable and flexible, making it an ideal choice when spaces are tight. Silicone is also very easy to disinfect, which is why it’s often used in the medical field.

Believe it or not, there are even more types of materials that can be used for heat shrinking tubing. It really all depends on the application and the needs of the project. Once we’ve established the specifications, our cable engineers work to design a product that’s perfectly suited for the application. We’ll then test and retest the prototype within real-world conditions to make sure everything functions absolutely on-par with expectations.

Making the Perfect-Sized Heat Shrinking Tubing for Your Cable Assembly

The three most important measurements to watch for when choosing the right heat shrinking tube for a cable assembly include the inside diameter of the tube, the tube’s ratio for shrinking, and the overall length of the tube.

Determining the Inner Diameter of Heat Shrinking Tubing: 

When you’re looking at the diameter of the tube, we’re talking about the inside lining. To adequately cover the components that need protecting, you’ll need to consider the total area of the components. This is performed by giving enough allowance for the heat shrinking process, while also ensuring a tight seal.

Considering the Heat Shrinking Tubing’s Shrinkage Ratio:

There are many different common ratios out there for given materials used in heat shrinking tubing. Having UL-certified components from the get-go allows our cable engineers to work with products with known specifications and which have been tested for quality. With a heat shrinking ratio that says, for example, 2 to 1, you’re looking at a tube that’s going to shrink down to 50% of its starting size. Different-sized components such as a connector versus a stranded wire, are going to have different needs for adequate coverage. 

Choosing the Right Length & Thickness Heat Shrinking Tubing:

You also need to remember that the length of the tubing, as well as the thickness will be moving variables as the heat shrinking takes place. The length of the tubing can be reduced by almost 10% with some materials, meaning you should always have a greater length than what’s getting protected. Conversely, with heat shrinking tube thickness, you’re actually increasing the thickness of the tubing as it gets smaller. 

These variables require careful consideration during the design phase, and will be tested for durability, continuity, and functionality during the testing and/or prototyping phases.

How to Ensure Quality with Heat Shrinking Tubing

The best way to ensure quality with heat shrinking tubing is to go with a reputable manufacturer who has credentials from UL and ISO. We’re honored to hold certifications as a UL-approved manufacturing facility, as well as to maintain our ISO 9001:2015 certification for our persistent obsession with quality in every facet of the manufacturing process. When quality meets experience and capability, the result is a far superior product for our client and the end user.

Adding Heat Shrinking On Your Custom Cable Assembly 

At Meridian, decades as leaders in custom cable assembly has helped us build a large collection of custom tools and equipment in order to produce the one-of-a-kind products our clients know they can depend on. 

Ready to add heat shrinking tubing to your design specs? Contact our team now and we’ll help to review all the considerations for your unique design. 

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.