Category Archives: Cable Assemblies

Wire Harness 101 with a Wire & Cable Manufacturer

Wire Harness 101 with a Wire & Cable Manufacturer

Wire harnesses can be tricky without the help of an experienced wire and cable manufacturer.

At its most basic, a wire harness is an effective way to organize wires or cables by grouping or bundling them together in order to transmit signal or electrical power. They can be used in almost any application that requires multiple wires or cables. While many of these harnesses are complex with multiple wires and components, they don’t have to be. A wire and cable manufacturer is able to design and produce a wide variety of complex or simple wire harnesses that are truly tailored to the needs of your project.

Benefits of Wire Harnesses

Complex equipment and machinery often require a great deal of wiring to function. Running each and every one of these wires separately can be time consuming. Additionally, that many wires can be bulky if there are space constraints, and keeping multiple wires organized and running in the right direction can be challenging. Integrating the component cables and wires into a single harness allows for faster, easier installation that doesn’t take up more valuable space than necessary.

However, there’s more to it than just a neat and tidy wiring system. In some cases, it is extremely important to prevent certain wires from coming into contact. Designing a wire harness instead of running individual wires allows a wire and cable manufacturer to better protect the conductors from environmental issues like vibration, moisture, heat, cold, and abrasion. Bundled wires can also be further protected from shorts and electrical fires by using non-flexing or flame retardant jacketing materials.

Manual Assembly

Believe it or not, a wire harness is more efficiently manufactured by hand. There are steps during the pre-production stage that can be automated, but the assembly process can be complex. Depending on the needs of the project, production can include multiple steps, such as:wire harness

  • Taping Breakouts
  • Binding Components with Tape, Cable Ties, or Clamps
  • Conducting Multiple Crimps
  • Routing Wires through Sleeves

This makes manual assembly more economical, especially when working in small batches. The manual assembly process also means wire harnesses can take a little longer to produce than individual wires. It’s vital to work with an experienced wire and cable manufacturer that understands how to keep the production process on schedule.

Testing Performed by a Wire & Cable Manufacturer

No reputable wire and cable manufacturer would deliver a wire harness that has not been fully tested. However, the sheer number of cable and wire components makes this process a little more involved than testing individual wires. That’s where a pre-programmed test board comes in. By programming the test board with the required electrical characteristics for the project, we are able to plug in the finished wire harness and test the components individually or in groups as needed making for a safer, more stable final product.

Conclusion

An experienced wire and cable manufacturer is a valuable partner when you need a well-designed wire harness. Not only are they able to design a harness that meets all of the requirements of your equipment, but they are also knowledgeable enough to understand the time and budgetary challenges involved in producing a complex solution. When you’re ready to start your next project, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We look forward to talking with you.

Wire and Cable Manufacturers: The Design & Manufacturing Process

Wire and Cable Manufacturers: The Design & Manufacturing Process

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the wire harnesses that are literally all around them.

In many cases, these wire harnesses are powering or carrying information to equipment we use every day at home or at our jobs. Since they tend to be hidden away, we often don’t realize how important the design and manufacturing process is to the proper function and safety of our equipment. Luckily, reputable wire and cable manufacturers take their processes very seriously.

At its most simple, a wire harness is a group of wires or cables that have been covered by an exterior sheath. In many cases, they also have their own coverings. In general, they are used to organize a wiring system as opposed to providing protection from factors that could cause damage to the wires.

Wire Harness Design

The first step to manufacturing a wire harness is to identify the problem it is meant to address. Each piece of equipment has certain electrical and geometric requirements. For example, wire and cable manufacturers may be required to design a wire harness that fits into a limited space and meets certain electrical safety requirements. At Meridian Cable, we like to gather as much information as possible at the beginning of the process to ensure the finished harness is tailored perfectly to each piece of equipment.

Assembly Process of Wire and Cable Harness Manufacturers

Once our engineers have a design in hand, we gather the components and begin cutting the wires to the appropriate lengths using a special wire-cutting machine. The next step is to strip the wires and fit them with terminals and connector housings. Then we set up a workbench or assembly board to the design specifications. An assembly board is a full-sized diagram of the harness that shows all components as well as their locations. Only then can we get to work assembling the wires into a harness…by hand.electrical-wires

Since there are many processes involved in assembling a wire harness, it is often more efficient for wire and cable manufacturers to complete it manually, especially for small batches. However, depending on the specifications and complexity of the design, wire and cable harness manufacturers may be able to automate some of the steps in pre-production.

Safety First

Because safety is one of the most crucial considerations for any wire harness, assembly isn’t the end of the process for a reputable wire and cable harness manufacturer. It is important to put the harness through multiple safety checks. Not only are Meridian’s manufacturing facilities UL-certified, but we are also committed to designing only the highest quality products for each and every client.

Conclusion

No matter how simple or complex a wire harness, it must be safe and function as expected. By working with an experienced wire and cable manufacturer, you can ensure your finished wire harness is both safe to install and use, and meets all of your electrical and geometrical requirements. The team at Meridian Cable works hard to make sure all of our clients get a custom harness that fits their needs. Contact us when you’re ready to talk about your next wire harness project.

Ask a Cable Assemblies Manufacturer: Prototyping 101

Ask a Cable Assemblies Manufacturer: Prototyping 101

There are many reasons to create a prototype for your custom cable assembly, but one of most compelling is that it helps you ensure your finished assembly will function as expected.

Prototyping makes it possible to extrude a cable with the appropriate voltage, required wire gauge, and optimal heat rating without any guesswork. Even further, creating a prototype can help you simplify the production process because your cable assemblies manufacturer can work all the kinks out and address any issues before they produce the full run of the final product.

When working with clients, we have run into a few general questions about prototyping that we wanted to take a moment to address.

Is working with a cable assemblies manufactuer on a prototype expensive?

While there is certainly a cost associated with producing a prototype, doing so can help you save money overall. Creating a prototype also helps save time when it comes to choosing the right materials. If you don’t create a prototype, you may be in the position of experimenting with different types of products and wiring systems to determine what will be the best solution for your application. The cost of these experiments can add up.

An experienced custom cable assemblies manufacturer is able to produce a full-scale, fully functional (in most cases) prototype that allows them to determine whether the assembly is feasible and practical from a technical and financial standpoint. If design flaws are discovered, it’s much easier and cheaper to address them at this stage.

Will a prototype be an exact representation of the finished cable assembly?cable cross section

Yes and no. While it is possible to produce a prototype that looks and functions exactly as the finished product, it’s not always necessary. Each prototype is produced to have the level of functionality that is necessary for each project. This allows the manufacturer to isolate the specific design or manufacturing issues for each application. Your project may or may not require a fully functional prototype, but it is certainly possible to create one if necessary.

Are there any drawbacks to prototyping?

Producing a prototype gives a cable assemblies manufacturer the opportunity to test an assembly design in real-world conditions. While you may be focused on a few potential issues, it’s important to remember to test the prototype’s functionality in every way so design flaws can be addressed immediately.

It’s also a good idea to address any issues with ownership of intellectual property in the prototyping phase. In general, it’s much easier to clear up any issues with intellectual property before you have produced the final cable assembly.

Conclusion

Prototyping is a critical stage of the process when working with a cable assemblies manufacturer. Not only will producing a prototype allow engineers to refine their design, but they will also be able to get a handle on any manufacturing issues and test the cable assembly’s overall functionality. This can help you save money and time, and achieve more success over the long term. If you are ready to discuss producing a prototype of your next custom cable, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We look forward to hearing from you.

5 Facts about Custom Cable Assemblies & Wire Harnesses

5 Facts about Custom Cable Assemblies & Wire Harnesses

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

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

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

Wires & Cables Aren’t the Same Thing

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

Both Are Used to Organize Wires & Cables

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

Wire Harnesses Have a Thin Layer of Protection

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

Custom Cable Assemblies Are More Durable

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Benefits to Working with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer on Prototypes

Benefits to Working with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer on Prototypes

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

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

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

Real Cables in the Real World

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

Faster Turnarounds from an Experienced Cable Assembly Manufacturer

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

High-Quality Prototypes Can Offer Significant Cost Savings

custom cable assembly

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

Conclusion

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

Safety Considerations for Custom Cable Assemblies

Safety Considerations for Custom Cable Assemblies

Safety should always be the top priority when creating custom cable assemblies.

Sourcing custom cable assemblies from a reputable manufacturer is the best way to ensure your equipment or product is free of safety issues. While there are situations when an off-the-shelf cable assembly makes sense for your budget and the cable’s application, it is essential to carefully consider how using an assembly that is not customized will affect the overall success of the project.

Any time you are dealing with electricity, safety is key. Faulty cable assemblies made from improper materials can cause equipment damage, which can lead to expensive repairs. In addition, you will experience lowered productivity while the damaged equipment is being repaired. That may be the best-case scenario. Low quality cable assemblies can cause bigger problems, like environmental harm and safety issues from toxic smoke or electrical fires.

Ask Questions

The best way to prevent these issues is to make sure you are using a custom cable assembly designed by a safety-focused cable manufacturer. But how can you know a manufacturer is focused on safety? One of the best ways is to be sure to ask about certifications as well as testing procedures when you are discussing your project. An honest conversation about how the manufacturer ensures a safe product can save you more than just headaches. It could prevent lawsuits or even serious injuries.

Safe Materials for Your Custom Cable Assemblies

When going through the design process, be sure to discuss materials that will be used in your custom cable assembly. Choosing the right gauge and material for the conductor is key for functionality and safety. However, making good decisions when it comes to insulation and jacketing can also be the difference between a safe custom cable assembly and one of questionable quality. While there are many components that could affect the safety of custom cable assemblies, talking about conductors, insulation, jacketing, connectors, and strain relief is a great start.

Conductors

Copper is the most commonly used conductor, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right material to use for your project. Because it is prone to corrosion, it is necessary to consider whether plating or copper alloys might be more appropriate choices. Another consideration is whether your equipment would be better served with a solid or stranded conductor.

Insulation & Jacketing

Clear industry standards exist for the appropriate insulation and jacketing to use in specific applications, so be clear about the conditions your finished cable will be operating under. Does the cable need to perform in extreme temperatures? Under heavy pressure? In wet environments? The answers to all of these questions will help your cable manufacturer choose the right materials.

Connectors & Strain Reliefcustom-cable-assemblies-connector

The terminal points of a cable can be common failure points due to the additional stresses in those areas. While the technical needs of the equipment often drives the choice of connector, additional strain relief can prevent termination failure.  If additional strain relief is needed, the cable assembly designer can add a transition point that alleviates some of the added stress.

Conclusion

Using custom cable assemblies is often the best way to build safe products or maintain safe equipment. When you are talking to a custom cable manufacturer, don’t be afraid to bring up safety. Engineers should be ready and able to discuss how they are ensuring a safe product.

If you are ready to talk about a new project, please get in touch with the team at Meridian Cable. We would love to hear from you.

Assembled vs. Molded Cable Assembly: What You Need to Know

Assembled vs. Molded Cable Assembly: What You Need to Know

There are two main options when it comes to shells for terminal connectors on your custom cable: assembled and molded.

Choosing between a molded cable assembly and one that must be assembled in the field requires careful consideration to ensure you are making the right decision for your application. When designing a custom cable assembly, there are many options for conductors, insulating materials, jacketing, and so on. All of these choices can affect the performance and durability of the finished cable. However, even the most durable cable is most likely to fail at the terminal point. The process of cutting and fitting the cable with a connector can expose it to damage. Once the terminal is in place, it is frequently the section of cable that is subject to the most twisting, bending, and other stresses. Because of this, the selection of a connector is key to determining the overall success of the cable.

Assembled Cable

As you may have guessed from the name, assembled cables consist of multiple pieces that are put together manually in the field. Connectors can have plastic or metal shells, and in some applications are the only solution. However, when you are choosing between assembled and molded cable assemblies, there are a few important considerations:

  • Installation – Since cables and connectors are assembled in the field, the experience and knowledge of the technicians performing the installation is very important. Whether using in-house or outsourced personnel, you must ensure that they are properly installing and testing your cable assemblies to prevent failure due to improper installation.
  • Cost – Comparing costs for assembled and overmolded cable assemblies can be tricky. On one hand, assembled cables are less expensive to produce, but you must also factor in labor costs for installations which can add to the overall expense.
  • Repairs – Because these types of cable assemblies are made with multiple components, they can be disassembled for applications when it makes more sense to repair an existing cable assembly than replace it with a new one.

Molded Cable Assembly

Overmolded cable assemblies feature shells that have been created by heating a plastic or rubber material and injecting it into a mold. Because the products are custom-molded, even aesthetic elements like color can be chosen for a sleeker appearance or to help differentiate cables. Here are a few of the benefits of overmolded products:molded cable assembly

  • Customization – With the range of materials available when designing a molded cable assembly, you are able to produce a cable that is tailored to the specific environmental concerns of your equipment.
  • Fewer Installation Errors – Since no additional assembly is required, a molded cable assembly can be installed quickly with a simple process that minimizes the opportunity for human error.
  • Strength & Flexibility – Cables are subject to additional stresses where they exit the connectors. Overmolded components can be designed to offer additional flex and strain relief to create a cable that is more durable and less susceptible to premature failure.

Choosing between an assembled or overmolded cable assembly is an important decision that requires some careful consideration. Meridian Cable is able to produce cables with overmolded components in house, using a wide variety of materials to ensure your finished cable meets the needs of your equipment. If you’re ready to design an overmolded cable assembly, get in touch. We’d love to hear about your project!

Hiring a Cable Assembly Manufacturer: What to Think about First

Hiring a Cable Assembly Manufacturer: What to Think about First

So, you need a custom cable, but don’t know what to look for in a cable assembly manufacturer.

One cable assembly manufacturer is not necessarily the same as another. Each has specific capabilities and experience that make them the right choice for designing and manufacturing different types of cable. But how do you even begin the search if you don’t know what questions to ask or information to provide?

Over the years, Meridian’s engineers have come up with a method to quickly determine what kind of cable assembly a customer needs that could be helpful when you are given the task of finding a wire and cable manufacturer.

Determining the General Type of Cable

The Meridian team starts with the simple assumption that all cable assemblies carry power or signal from one end to the other. The first step we take is to find out which the assembly needs to carry, or both. Since we extrude our own cable, we can handle any of these scenarios, but there are some power or signal cables we can’t make. Determining that from the beginning is critical for us and should be for you as well.

Power

Power, for the most part, is easy to determine. The more power a cable needs to deliver, the more conductive material it requires. For example, it’s easy to pass 1 amp of current through a 24 awg conductor that is 1 foot long. However, bad things can happen very quickly if you try passing 20 amps through a 24 awg conductor. We don’t make high power cables at Meridian. If the power transmission requirements are above about 40 amps, we are upfront with the customer about our capabilities. Since we’ve been around long enough to know which companies do extrude high power cables, we will happily share that information.

It should be noted that, with power, often all you need to know is the voltage and current. In many cases, customers don’t have this information, but they do know what is on either end of the needed assembly. Most times, we can make a rough determination of the voltage and current by knowing what devices the assembly is connecting. From there, the design can be narrowed significantly enough to get the process moving.

Signal

Signals, for the most part, are complicated. Sure it’s all data, but new ways of transferring data are created all the time. For example, think of your TV 10, 20, or 30 years ago. (Some of us here at Meridian are old enough to remember TVs 30 years ago.) The number and types of connectors on the backs of TVs have changed radically over the years, but all those connectors pass signals. 30 years ago, it was not uncommon for two wires to come from an antenna on top of the TV or up on the roof. All the antennae cable passed was the image that appeared on the screen — without any data about time, channel, audio, etc. Now, the typical input is an HDMI cable that carries a ton of data — some slow, some fast, but all signals.

It’s vitally important to communicate what types of signals your cables need to carry at the beginning of your search for a cable assembly manufacturer. For example, Meridian is capable of manufacturing a wide variety of cables that carry signals. However, we are not able to make coax cables that carry signals in the high gigahertz range. Having candid initial conversations with clear requirements can save you a lot of time. The good news is you don’t need to know the exact technical parameters or specifications that will be transmitted for cable. Often, knowing the gadgets to be connected to the cable assembly and any standards the signals must conform to helps the Meridian team determine whether we can make the cable or not. If we can’t, we’ll be happy to let you know companies that can.

Questions to Consider before Talking to a Cable Assembly Manufacturer

If you are tasked with finding a cable assembly vendor, here is a simple checklist of questions to think through before you start reaching out:electric cable assembly manufacturer

  1. Can samples be made with off-the-shelf cable? If yes, then you can go to a lot of different vendors. If not then you need a vendor who can extrude cable, like Meridian.
  2. Does the cable need to carry signal, power or both? If only signal or power that makes it a lot easier to find a vendor. If it needs to carry both then a custom cable extruder like Meridian might be needed.
  3. If power is needed; how much? This can be expressed in technical terms (voltage/current) or by knowing what items need the power. For example, a cell phone, data input tablet, fork truck or nuclear power plant.
  4. If signal is needed; what kind? Many signals have technical names/specification numbers. If those are known the problem is solved and if not knowing the devices passing/receiving the signal will go a long way in determining what is needed.
  5. Lastly, how many assemblies are needed? This can be as low as one up to millions. It can be several for prototype, then more for Beta/First Articles/PPAP, and then on to production quantities. All vendors have a volume sweet spot. Knowing the quantity can often help save valuable time ruling vendors both in and out.

Hopefully this very simple guideline helped. (Apologies to any engineers who read this and found some of it is not technically pure. We’re happy to talk more technically…maybe a little too happy.) Obviously, there are many items to consider when designing and producing a custom cable assembly. This basic approach will help make the process of finding the right cable assembly manufacturer a little easier.

At Meridian, we have experienced designing and extruding a wide range of custom cables. If you’re ready to talk about what we can do for you, please get in touch.

Custom Cable Assemblies with Standard Cables

Custom Cable Assemblies with Standard Cables

When designing custom cable assemblies for your product, it’s not always necessary to start from scratch.

Custom cable assemblies are designed and extruded for products or equipment when an existing cable does not meet the needs of the application. While stock cable can be inexpensive and easy to source, it doesn’t make sense if it simply doesn’t do the job required or is not as durable as it needs to be to withstand environmental conditions. In many cases, custom cables are a great way to make sure all your needs and specifications are met.

Cost is always a consideration whether you are dealing with custom or stock cable. Many perceive that “custom” means a higher price tag, but this doesn’t have to be the case. There are circumstances when a custom cable can even save money. For example:

  • Low Durability – A stock cable that doesn’t quite offer the durability for your application is going to need to be replaced more often. A custom cable more suited to the requirements and environment would need to be replaced less frequently.
  • Many Cables for One Piece of Equipment – One custom cable that meets all your needs is easier to install, maintain, and replace than multiple stock cables.
  • More Cable than You Need – Using stock cables means you sometimes have to pay for a more expensive option than you actually need. A custom cable eliminates that need because it is designed to meet the specifications of your equipment.
  • Creating a Cable from the Ground Up – There are circumstances when incorporating an off-the-shelf cable into a custom cable assembly saves time and money.

Making Smart Design Choices with Stock Cable

Commissioning a custom cable doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch by designing a completely new cable. If a stock cable is nearly perfect for your application, it’s possible to make some changes with a design based on the existing cable. These changes could include adding a tougher jacketing material or reproducing the cable with more flexibility or a different gauge that is not currently available.   

custom cable assemblies with black jacketing

Depending on the specifications of your product or equipment, you may need a custom cable assembly that combines multiple cables into one to save space. By combining these cables, the engineer can take advantage of different gauges and cable types – which may include stock cables – to create a streamlined solution that is tailored to your needs and specifications.

Talking with an Expert Wire & Cable Manufacturer

Off-the-shelf cables can be a great choice if there’s an existing model that matches the specifications for your product or equipment that is able to hold up to the environment where it will be used. But if a stock cable doesn’t meet your needs or is only “close enough,” talking to a wire and cable manufacturer might be the logical next step. During your initial discussion, make sure you clearly communicate how the finished cable needs to perform. If you are currently using an existing cable, share any frustrations or limitations you are experiencing. This will allow the engineering team to gain a full understanding of whether incorporating an off-the-shelf cable into your custom cable design makes sense.

An experienced manufacturer of custom cable assemblies, like Meridian Cable, can make recommendations that address any issues you are having with stock cables. They are also able to help you make the best choices when considering incorporating existing cables into your custom solution.

Expertise Matters When Designing A Custom Cable Assembly

Expertise Matters When Designing A Custom Cable Assembly

Balance longevity, performance, and price with a custom cable assembly designed with the help of experienced engineers.

Each custom cable assembly project comes with a unique set of requirements that calls for specific types of components for the best performance in a given situation. For example, a cable with the appropriate gauge for conducting electricity that is jacketed with a material that can’t withstand the environment will fail much sooner than it should even though it might meet requirements for price and performance.

With the many options available for conductors, insulations, fillers, and jacketing, a thorough working knowledge of which components offer the appropriate results for a given set of requirements is key to manufacturing a custom cable assembly that meets your needs at an appropriate price point. That kind of knowledge comes from a strong background that includes engineering and manufacturing custom cable assembly solutions for a variety of applications in a wide range of industries.

When reviewing recommendations from a custom cable manufacturer, it is essential to pay attention to a few key areas:

Conductor Gauge & Stranding Sizes

The gauge of a conductor impacts cost as well as how well electricity or signal flows through the wiring. An experienced engineer carefully considers how the cable will be used, as well as the voltage or signal type, and even the required length to determine the best gauge. While a larger gauge can reduce resistance and energy costs, a large gauge has a few drawbacks. The first of these is that larger gauges tend to be more expensive to produce. If your product does not require a larger gauge, you could end up paying more than necessary to produce your custom cable with no real additional benefits.

While solid conductors can be inexpensive, stranded conductors offer additional flexibility to the finished cable. By working with stranding sizes that range from 0.002” to 0.023” in a variety of materials, an engineer is able to recommend options that offer the conductivity and flexibility that meet the requirements of your project.

Insulation & Fillers

When we talk about insulation in a custom cable assembly, we are referring to a non-conductive material that is used to prevent energy leakage. Insulation also helps protect the wire from heat and moisture. Insulations can be made from plastics, fluoropolymers, and rubbers. Understanding the characteristics of each of these insulating materials is vital to producing a finished product that functions in a safe and efficient fashion. For example, some plastic insulations are inexpensive and have very good mechanical properties for many applications, but can emit a toxic halogens, making them inappropriate for use in some custom cable assemblies.

Fillers – like cotton, nylon, kevlar, PVC, and fleece – are used to ensure optimum performance in a custom cable. They have a variety of uses in custom cable assembly design, including reducing heat and friction as well as helping the cable maintain its shape.

Wraps, Shields, & Jacket Materials

Finally, choosing the appropriate wraps, shields, and jacket materials protects the conductors from interference, friction, and environmental conditions. The application, environment, and installation process can all be factors in what materials should be used to create your custom cable. There are a variety of plastics, rubbers, and fluoropolymers with differing resistance to heat, cold, moisture, and abrasion. With so many materials available, the knowledge and experience of your custom cable manufacturer can mean the difference between a well-performing cable at a reasonable price and an unnecessarily expensive or poorly performing product.