Category Archives: Cable Assemblies

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

cable assembly engineer

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

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

Cable Design Engineers Lay the Groundwork

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

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

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

How Cable Assembly Engineers Bring a Design Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Documents the entirety of the cable assembly process.  

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

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

What it Takes to Become a Cable Harness Engineer

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

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

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

Benefits a Cable Design Engineer Brings to Custom Cable Manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

Talk Over Your Custom Design with a Cable Assembly Engineer

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

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

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

molded cable assembly

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

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

What is cable overmolding?

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

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

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

What are the benefits of using overmolded cable assemblies?

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

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

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

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

Customization Options for Overmolded Cable Assemblies

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

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

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

How it’s Made: Overmolded Cable Assembly Edition

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

Injection Molding Machines

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

Materials

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

Common overmold materials used in cable overmolding include:

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

Injection

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

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

Cooling

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

What’s in a Mold?

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

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

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

Start Your Overmolded Cable Assembly Project 

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

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

Analyzing the Costs to Hire a Wire Harness Engineer

meeting with wire harness engineers

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

How Much Does a Wire Harness Engineer Cost?

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

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

Benefits of Having a Wire Harness Engineer on a Custom Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Closer Look at Engineering Fees & Other Costs

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

Starting Your Custom Wire Harness Project with a Knowledgeable Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wire Harnesses Design

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

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

Wondering what a wire harness engineer actually does? 

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

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

The Marks of a Good Wire Harness Engineer

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

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

Certifications in Wiring Harness Fabrication

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

ISO 9001

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

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

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Certification

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

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

Industries Wire Harness Engineers Design Products For

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

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

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

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

A Day in the Life of a Wire Harness Engineer

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

Design Stage

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

Prototyping Stage

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

Production Stage

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

Testing Stage

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

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

Talking Over Project Specs with a Wire Harness Engineer

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

What to Look for When Comparing Wire and Cable Harness Manufacturers

Cable Manufacturer

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

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

Past Experience in Custom Wire and Cable Harness Manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capabilities of the Custom Wiring Harness Manufacturer

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

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

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

Commitment to Quality

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

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

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

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

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

What Industry Certifications Matter Most 

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

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

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

Starting Your Custom Wire or Cable Harness Project

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

The Ultimate Guide to Different Cable Colors and Their Purposes

At Meridian, we are asked all the time if the colors for different wires and cables follow any industry standard. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a worldwide trade association, does, in fact, issue guidance for standardization in electrical design, but the key point is that their standards don’t actually get into the details of specifying cable colors as they pertain to a specific purpose or function. Rather, the push for standardization in this arena has been more on the private industry side, with the telecommunications industry leading the way. Here, we’ll dive into the wide world of cable colors, what they mean, and what purposes they serve.

Cable Color Standards 101

First and foremost when it comes to cable color standards, one must realize that while there are institutions like the IEEE helping to provide some standardization, there isn’t yet a universally-accepted standard or even requirement in most industries. The color scheme used in one industry can be totally different from what’s used in another and can vary significantly depending on exactly when the system was put in place. 

Remember the iPhone and the first true smartphone didn’t make its appearance until 2007, with that came a huge push for new telecommunications infrastructure to support it. So, depending on the timeframe when the cables are installed in their given systems, their color standards will pretty much cover the full spectrum. 

Adding to the lack of standardization in cable colors is the variance from one country to another. With today’s global logistics, a company in the U.S. may be sourcing their cables from several different foreign countries that all use different color schemes. With the guidance issued by the IEEE, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and other industry requirements, such as those for the DOD, standardization is possible but may be a long time coming. However, next we’ll see how different cable colors can serve specific purposes in different applications. 

What Do Different Colored Ethernet Cables Mean?

Ethernet cables are a very common type of cable used in computer networking. They are used both in residential and commercial applications when a wired network is desired for data sharing and access to the internet. Most often an internet router uses ethernet cables in order to connect to a cable modem and will come with the kit your cable company sends you when you first sign up for services. 

However, if you’ve ever had more than one cable company or even have had one service for a number of years, you know that the ethernet cable color can vary. So, what do the different colors mean for ethernet cables? Are different colors faster than others? To find out, we’ll take a closer look at color coding specifically for ethernet cables.

  • What Color is an Ethernet Cable?

Like all cables, ethernet cables can come in several different colors. One color isn’t “better” or “faster” than another cable, but the colors can help denote the intended application. The most common colors seen with ethernet cables are grey, blue, yellow, orange, and white. If the ethernet cable is destined to be outside, it will often be black and waterproof to help it survive longer in the elements. 

  • Ethernet Cable Colors Meaning

As we’ve seen, the meaning of the color of an ethernet cable can vary depending on the where, who, and why of the intended environment. For example, with the Department of Defense (DoD), the government uses different colors of ethernet cords in order to assign a given level of classification for the data being transmitted within the cable e.g. yellow for top secret, red for mid-level, and blue generally for unclassified data.

  • Color Code for Ethernet Wires

Again, while there is no direct industry standard for one color over another, there are a few consistencies worth mentioning: 

  • Gray Ethernet: Ethernet cables that are grey are often representative of a “standard” ethernet connection such as is found in residential and commercial networks. 
  • Green Ethernet: Green ethernet cables can be used to classify a crossover connection, which are used to connect different computers and/or devices directly together.
  • Yellow Ethernet: Yellow ethernet cables are generally used for what’s known as “power over internet” (POE) connections. Interestingly, this standard was developed by the IEEE in 2009 to help classify these cords which deliver a 30W current at the level of the port when used with an ethernet twisted cable pair.
  • Blue Ethernet: blue ethernet cables are usually used for terminal server connection. A terminal server makes connections to multiple systems to a LAN network possible without having to use a modem or other network interface.

The TIA is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to create and maintain industry standards, including those for color-coding used in cable manufacturing. While these are some of the closest to standards that exist today, most of the TIA’s wiring color management schema is still viewed as a recommendation rather than a requirement. Until universal adoption takes place, there will most likely be many different colors used in ethernet cable colors. 

Patch Cable Color Standards

As we’ve come to expect, patch cable color standards may be published by ANSI/TIA but within these recommendations, there has yet to be universal adoption. With patch cable color standards, the University of Wisconsin Network Services Department is leading the way through example by helping to define what colors are to be used for every cable system on their campus. 

The standard colors used with patch cord jackets by the University of Wisconsin include:

  • Grey – used for standard ethernet connections
  • Green – used for crossover ethernet connections
  • Yellow – used for POE connections
  • Orange – used for analog non-ethernet connections
  • Purple – used for digital non-ethernet connections
  • Blue – used for terminal server connections
  • Red – used for IP cameras
  • Black – used as a general color 
  • Pink – used as an additional color option
  • White – used as an additional color option

Depending on the client and the application patch cable colors can vary. The key, however, is simple – consistency. With any new system, staying with a consistent color scheme can help save time and money with implementation and maintenance, as well as prevent a lot of headaches in the future.

Cat6 Cable Color Standards

Whether it is a Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, or even Cat6a ethernet cable, the color code of the outside of the cable should not be confused with the internal twisted wires that have their own color code. The outside color scheme is far more generic, simply helping to draw attention to the purpose of the connection. While a Cat6 cable is a twisted pair network cable that’s used for ethernet networks, it is also backwards-compatible with other Categories like Cat5 and Cat5e. However, once again we see that industry standards that are used across the board are hard to come by. 

Some of the more common color standards for Cat6 cable include:

  • Blue – denotes network connectivity
  • Yellow – generally used for wired security cameras 
  • White – also used for wired security cameras
  • Grey – used as an interconnection, also known as “jumpers”
  • Black – generally used for equipment, peripherals, and/or workstations in a network
  • Red – commonly used with VoIP phone systems or other emergency communications systems.

Network Cable Color Chart

If you’ve spent anytime looking for network cable color charts online, you may have been frustrated at the lack of continuity with different schemes. As we’ve hit on, the color standards vary widely, but the ANSI/TIA did help this endeavor with their lengthy standard – Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings or ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-A. 

While the standard goes into tremendous detail for labeling and ease of identification, an actual color chart is hard to come by. Scouring the web, we were able to find a third-party site that published their version of the ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-A standards. 

Being from a third party, this chart is for informational purposes only, to help give our readers an idea of what a network cable color chart can look like:

A Final Look: Cat5e Blue vs. Grey

While the topic of many different internet forums, the difference between Cat5e blue and grey is the same as with the other cable colors we’ve looked at. The deciding factor here is only as far as the design engineer choosing a given color. This is highly subjective and depends on the many factors we’ve already discussed such as when the Cat5e cable was manufactured, where it was manufactured, and the industry it was manufactured for. 

Getting a Custom Cable Assembly Color-Coded Correctly

At Meridian, we custom create more than 70 percent of the products we produce. That means each custom cable is made to the exact specs of the client, to work as intended within whatever electrical system the assembly is destined for. One of the keys to our success here is in our ability to create a unit that is easy to integrate into the client’s existing systems. With decades of experience and some of the very best capabilities within custom cable manufacturing, we can design a color scheme that makes sense and that can be seamlessly integrated. 

Contact our team to go over your project’s specs today.

Everything You Need to Know About the SMA Connector

SMA Connector for RF Signals

The SMA connector is an incredible workhorse, offering a wide variety of applications from which it can provide the perfect solution. Because of its versatility, the SMA connector is used in every industry from telecommunications to medical. In today’s spotlight series, we’ll hone in on the venerable SMA RF connector, which provides a critical function in today’s cutting edge medical devices.

What is an SMA connector?

First off, SMA stands for sub-miniature type A. Subminiature connectors are small, hence the name, and are useful in high-frequency applications. This is because SMA connectors are able to provide a steady broadband connection from the KHz range on up to 18 GHz. The inherent reliability of the SMA connector is achieved from a constant impedance of 50 ohms and also because of its low reflection. Electrical impedance is simply a measure used to find the level of opposition that gets applied to a current inside a circuit when the voltage gets applied to it. 50 ohms is considered a good middle ground in the realm of standard characteristic impedance. 

SMA connectors can achieve low reflection and good attenuation because of their shape, which helps to maintain a uniform connection contact. The SMA is coaxial, with the characteristic screw-type coupler; however, these should not be confused with standard coaxial hooking up a home’s cable or internet. To hook up an SMA to a coax requires a special adapter. 

Standard SMA Connector Specs Snapshot:

  • Utilizes a one-quarter inch and 36 thread type coupler
  • Male SMA connectors use a five-sixteenths inch hex nut. This allows the application of torque by a standard one-half inch wrench. The applied torque can be used to easily tighten or loosen the connector.
  • Female SMA connectors utilize a thread for coupling that is 4.32 millimeters long.
  • Employs a special silicon rubber O-ring. This helps to provide separation between the body and the coupler which in turn creates a barrier to outside environmental factors like dust.

Even within a specialized connector like the SMA, there are several different types. Next up, we’ll focus on a Meridian specialty, the SMA RF connector, which provides the crucial connection many different devices in the medical industry rely on to run effectively.

How SMA RF Connectors Help Medical Breakthroughs Happen

RF stands for radio frequency and applies to a range of coaxial electrical connectors. The SMA is one of the most used of the RF-type connectors. Because of the screw-type coupler, the SMA is sturdy mechanically and offers durable performance throughout the life of the system – really important considerations for life-saving medical devices. 

SMA RF connectors come in a male and female variety to provide the crucial connections high frequency medical devices need to consistently send and receive power and data. Male SMA connectors are easily recognizable because they resemble a standard coaxial connection with a center pin inside of its threaded barrel. The female connector acts more like a sleeve which helps provide a good, sturdy connection between the types. Female connectors are usually affixed to a stable device and the male is then used in a removable wire connection for the greatest flexibility within the electrical system.

The sturdiness of construction, extremely reliable performance, and how it fits perfectly into the electrical system is what makes the SMA RF connector the go-to for fields with complex requirements like the medical industry. We produce tens of thousands of SMA RF connectors for medical devices each year. Designing and producing each to exacting standards, we are able to power the devices medical staff rely on to diagnose and treat patients every day. 

Designing the Perfect SMA RF Connector

SMA RF connectors can range from a single connector, customized to provide the perfect connection in an existing system, to a custom cable assembly that provides multiple SMA connections and adapters for providing the greatest range of application. Many SMA RF connectors available today utilize a right angle design but there are also straight angle designs available, all depending on the circuit. Right angle design is a popular choice because it helps maintain the impedance we discussed earlier at a standard level. 

Meridian’s gifted engineering and design team has to calculate the dimensions and structural components of the connection to incredible preciseness. Further, our production team must be absolutely flawless in their assembly, with special attention to the soldering. Too much soldering can lead to what’s known as an impedance mismatch. Impedance mismatch can also occur when the dimensions aren’t exactly right, a mechanical failure, or even when too much air surrounds the contact within the connection. 

Imagine if any of these were to occur during a risky surgery, where hospital staff is dependent upon the many medical devices around them utilizing SMA RF connectors. 

Different Ways to Mount SMA Connectors

  • Panel Mount: this is a female mount made for tough conditions like in the military and industrial settings. With a two-hole or four-hole configuration, panel mounts are easily applied to instrumentation and wireless infrastructure.
  • Bulkhead Mount: female mount with a thread length that is usually longer than the typical 4.3 millimeters to more easily attach to a wall or panel using a nut and washer.
  • Through-Hole Mount: can be vertical or 90 degrees and comes in non-magnetic varieties that are used often in the medical field.
  • Edge Mount: vertical mount that comes in both a standard and drop in variety. 

Losing signal or power mid-procedure isn’t an option which is why our clients have come to know they can depend on Meridian for a quality product that is designed to function as intended cycle-after-cycle.

Does UL-certification matter with SMA RF Connectors?

Creating a product for a device that literally can mean life and death for a patient is a matter no custom cable manufacturer should ever take lightly. We’ve already seen where small deficiencies in the connection can lead to catastrophic failure. This is one of the many reasons we utilize UL-certified components in all of our products, including the SMA RF connector. 

UL-certified components have been tested and verified for their structural integrity, durability, and overall functionality. This allows our design team to utilize components that have known and very specific operating ranges. In this way, we can piece together the perfect amalgamation for even the most complex custom cable assembly

Meridian is proud to utilize UL-certified components and to maintain status as a UL-approved manufacturing facility, having met the stringent quality assurance and quality control (QAQC) requirements of Underwriters Laboratories (UL). We also are proud to have had and continue to maintain our certification as ISO 9001:2015. This difficult to achieve certification requires demonstrable and exceedingly high QA/QC programs that focus not just on quality of the product, but of the entire process – which includes cradle to grave design, sourcing, prototyping, mass assembly, testing, but also emphasizes customer service/satisfaction. 

Making an SMA RF Connector That Performs Flawlessly in its Application

Impedance matching is a crucial step with custom SMA connectors. The design and test teams of Meridian rely on decades of experience in custom cable manufacturing to select the perfect SMA connector to do the job, in the environment, and in conjunction with the other elements of the system – especially terminations. These different components all must work in perfect harmony for the electrical system to perform as it should. 

To produce a one-of-a-kind solution that works perfectly in its intended environment, we are fanatical in our approach to quality. As discussed, quality starts with the very first client contact, through every step of the design and manufacturing process, and then beyond with an industry-leading product warranty. We test each and every product that rolls off our assembly line so that our clients know the product they receive will perform under their exact specifications. 

How do you test SMA RF connectors?

It is indeed rare to go from design straight to volume production without many periods of testing and prototyping in between. Prototyping allows our design team to test several different configurations of the same SMA RF connectors in harsh real world conditions. Often these are even tougher than the actual circumstances the system will face every day. We call this our “advanced life testing lab” which subjects the components to all manner of freezing temps, scorching heat, salt, and other environmental factors that need to be mitigated against during the design phase. 

Aiming for as close to perfection as humanly possible, we also employ highly accurate, automated Cirrus testers. However, there are times such as when the product is entirely unique, that we must design a correspondingly unique and entirely-custom testing unit to ensure the component’s functionality, structural integrity, and above all, safety. 

How to Get a Custom SMA RF Connector Project Started

When you need the perfect solution for a medical device requiring a SMA RF connector, our team is readily available to complete the project on-time and on-budget. Our design managers work with you to understand all of the complexities surrounding your project, set production milestones, lock out the appropriate tools from our massive tool crib, and manage the entire process to ensure the product is made to your absolute satisfaction. Contact us today to go over your specs and outline your options with our dedicated sales team.

The Ultimate Guide to Wire Harness Manufacturing Terminals

In today’s spotlight series, we’ll look at an easily overlooked but absolutely vital component of the wire harness manufacturing process – the humble terminal. We’ll explore how terminals provide the perfect match for conquering the connection needs of the project and are just an important consideration for our wire harness design team as any other piece in the system.

What is a terminal in wire harness manufacturing?

Simply put, wire terminals terminate conductors. Coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, wire terminals are specific for the connection that is required for the application. Within the greater wire harness manufacturing process, wire terminals play a critical role in establishing the necessary connection. Wire terminals have to be designed within the constraints of the project, which requires extensive expertise in custom wire harness manufacturing in order to meet the time and budgetary constraints established. 

Different Types of Wire Terminals for the Task at Hand

Getting up to date with your terminal terminology is crucial for understanding how selecting the best components for the task at hand helps the entire system run cohesively, cycle after cycle. There are many different types of terminals, including an array of specialty terminals made just for a very specific task. The most common wire harness manufacturing terminals include:

  • Push-on Terminals: these terminals are made for connecting quickly and can be configured as a male or female connection. They also have a wide variety of available options to cater to the individual application. These include considerations such as heat shrink, vinyl, nylon insulated, non-insulated, high temperature, and completely customized. We’ll dive a little deeper into the unique advantages gained from each of these options later in this post.
  • Butt Connectors and Splices: providing a wire to wire connection, these terminals are used to connect or splice two, or more, wires together. This could be to lengthen, change, or repair a certain wire. Butt connectors come with available options such as nylon or vinyl insulated, non-insulated, heat shrink, and high temperature.  These can be used in the field for repair work should a wire need splicing or repairing.
  • Ring Terminals: ring terminals are crimped or soldered and are used to connect a wire to a stud or a post.  When attached to large gauge wires they are sometimes referred to as Lug Terminals. Ring terminals are commonly used for power or ground connections. Ring terminals are usually made of a copper alloy, making them easier to solder or crimp to provide a secure, protective connection. Ring terminals come in a variety of types depending on the application such as non-insulated, vinyl, nylon, heat shrink, and high temperature.  
  • Spade Terminals: these terminals are used to connect a wire with a stud or screw to make an electrical connection. The spade terminal is common in automotive applications. Spade terminals come in a wide variety of sizes and options as well. Some of these options include non-insulated, vinyl, nylon, and heat shrink. 
  • Fork Terminals: used to connect wires to components that use a clamping hold down. Because of its shape, the fork terminal is easy to install and uninstall. Fork terminals can come non-insulated, with vinyl or nylon insulation, and with heat shrink. 
  • Bullet Terminal Connectors: bullet connectors are used a lot in automotive environments because they are pretty easy to connect and disconnect. One very commonplace they are used is in the plugs connector a trailer to a vehicle.  Another useful aspect is that they can come fully insulated to prevent moisture intrusion. Bullet terminals can be vinyl or nylon insulated or heat shrunk to meet the requirements of their intended system.
  • Bare Copper Eyelets: these unique terminals are generally used in the automotive industry as a connection for battery cables to electrical equipment. These connectors have to be able to safely conduct high voltages hence they are made of pure copper, which is an excellent conductor. 
  • Terminal Blocks and Terminal Strips: these support elements help to organize the mass of wires to different electrical circuits. This is what allows multiple wires to all be connected within the same circuit. 
  • Flagged Terminals: simple terminals that provide a secure connection in tight spaces or when another terminal such as a quick connection is not ideal. These are often called Quick Connect or Quick Disconnect terminals. Flagged terminals are easy to connect and disconnect and can be either insulated or non-insulated. They are often used to connect a wire to a circuit board that has a mating spade terminal.
  • Hook Terminals: the open-ended connector is simple, but extremely durable and effective and can be used in a variety of applications. Resembling the shape of a small hook, it can easily attach to a stud or screw. 
  • Quick Disconnect Terminals: as the name implies, this terminal is produced to easily be connected and disconnected. These are often called Flagged/Flag terminals.  The terminal can either be insulated or non-insulated, depending on the environment. Our team has integrated this type of terminal in the projects of many different clients, but primarily they are used in the automotive or industrial sectors. 
  • Specialty Terminals: at Meridian, we have decades of experience in providing custom solutions to clients. With that expertise, we can design the perfect custom terminal to meet the requirements of the project. Custom adapters and connectors like “X” and “Y” connectors help solve the complex connection aspects of the project.
  • Most terminals are crimped on the wire.  The tooling required to properly crimp a terminal is critical.  At Meridian, we have the correct tooling to crimp terminals from most major suppliers, including, but not limited to Molex®, Amp®, Amphenol®, JST®, Souriau®, Deutsch® and Panduit® to name just a few.

As you can see, the possibilities for different connections and terminals doesn’t stop at type. After our engineers figure out the perfect type of terminal to provide the desired result, then they must piece together many different available options that serve to protect and preserve the connection. We’ll cover the options for wire harness manufacturing terminals in greater detail next. 

Choosing the Best Design Options for Wire Harness Terminals

You have many different choices when it comes to your terminal’s design. Depending on the environment, there are a variety of considerations to make:

  • Heat Shrink – made for high performance, heat shrinking provides a watertight seal to the terminal connection so is best used when water, salt, or steam exposure are probable environmental risks. Resistant to abrasion and the effects of aging, heat shrink also helps with pullout strength and strain relief.
  • Vinyl Insulated – when insulation is required, vinyl affords the most economical route to go. The insulation helps to protect against short circuits.
  • Nylon Insulated – nylon insulation is more durable and can withstand higher temperatures making it ideal when the environment is hot and tough, such as might be seen by our military.
  • Non Insulated – this type of terminal is typically the most economical of the design choices. It is often used when the project does not present any special characteristics or additional protections.
  • High Temperature – typically an element like nickel plated steel is used in the terminals construction to help it withstand temperatures in the realm of 900 – 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. These can be found in common consumer applications like ovens, cars, and light fixtures.
  • Overmold – this is done when either a special shape is required, a group of terminals need to be in one package or if a certain shape is desired for cosmetic reasons.

How Terminations Get Insulated

Nylon insulation and vinyl insulation are both great options for providing protection for the terminations in your custom wire harness. Vinyl insulation is the more economical of the two but still affords great protection. That’s because vinyl insulation employs a PVC sleeve that’s tapered permanently to the barrel to protect against vibration and also provides mechanical stress relief. If you need to kick it up a notch, nylon insulation is made extremely rugged to provide maximum performance protection against high vibration and stress.

Wire Gauge Sizes for Wire Terminals 

When exploring your options for different wiring terminals, it is important to remember that there is a correct size for every wire gauge and it will always have a crimping die to match. Insulated terminals come in common sizes that correspond to a color system. Most times, wires larger than 10 gauge will be required to have a terminal that’s not insulated. Your Meridian design team will skillfully employ the perfect gauges with the appropriate terminal to efficiently solve your project’s requirements.

Why a UL Rating Matters for Wire Harness Manufacturing Terminals

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification is something you’ll hear us discuss often because it is such a vital piece of the manufacturing puzzle. Using UL-certified components and being a UL-approved manufacturing facility means the client benefits by knowing the things going into their product, as well as the manufacturer behind the product, have met high levels of quality assurance thresholds. Quality is determined based on testing components to know their exact specifications and tolerances and then to provide this as a standard across the industry. 

When a facility doesn’t use UL-certified components in their design they are taking a gamble with something that hasn’t been tested and retested for functionality, durability, and integrity. As a UL-approved manufacturer, our manufacturing processes have been scrutinized and have been found to be of the professional caliber required to maintain this high honor. This all translates to better products for our clients. 

With clients in industrial controls, telecommunications, military, medical, and other critical sectors, each and every product off our line is designed, tested, and retested under the most stringent of conditions so that we know it will keep on performing as intended cycle-after-cycle.

Picking the Best Terminals to Get the Job Done

Our team prides itself on solving our client’s most complex wire harness problems with a small team of elite professionals each working together to bring your project’s tough specifications to life, both on-time and on-budget. When it comes to designing the perfect product, our team excels at perfecting the minutiae, while effectively managing the ‘big picture’. Contact our team now to go over your options for a custom wire harness that perfectly meets the project’s needs.

Cable Harness Assembly from Prototype through Production

Wire Harness Components

With over 5,000 existing tools at our disposal, chances are good we’ve got everything we need to produce even highly complex and completely customized solutions. However, there are many instances where we’ve had to design a totally new tool or testing mechanism when a solution is a never-before-seen amalgamation. We leverage decades in the industry to produce products for our clients that we know will stand up to whatever application they will be utilized in and also can be delivered within a viable framework, given the time and budget constraints of the project. 

Aerospace, automotive, lighting, and alternative energy are just some of the many different industries we stand ready to serve with our custom solutions to even the most complex problems our clients present us with. While solving problems is something our design engineers are really good at, the solutions are only viable if all the pieces of design and production can meet both the budget and timeline set forth for the project. With strict adherence to kanban manufacturing techniques, just-in-time ordering, and efficient, worldwide logistical support, we are able to deliver full-functional and repeatedly-tested cable assemblies and wire harnesses to clients anywhere in the world.  

Cable Harness Assembly Design and Manufacturing

Our design and manufacturing process follows a set protocol towards maximizing a project’s budget, meeting project milestones and ensuring the absolute functionality of the final product. Here’s a quick snapshot of a few key elements of the process:

  • Needs Assessment: we will examine all of the specifications for your project and seek to understand all of the elements at play for how and where the system will be employed. This is where initial design elements are started to be placed together which will later be developed into working prototypes. 
  • Extruding: our in-house extruding machine can extrude conductors as small as 34 gauge and all the way up to 12 gauge. These conductors make up the building blocks of both cable assemblies and wire harnesses. They can be stranded or braided, filled with insulation, wraps, shields, and other components depending on the project needs. Connectors, overmolds, terminations, and housings help bring the cables and wires together within an electronic system.
  • Prototyping runs: we will usually produce several iterations to not only test a unique combination of components for accomplishing a given task, but will also look at how those components are sourced to see if a given assembly is viable. 

Why Certifications Matter

One of Meridian’s greatest strengths lies in our Quality Assurance program. Each and every product that rolls off our assembly line will be tested through multiple iterations to ensure continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality. Prototyping allows our design staff to gauge different configurations and sourcing in order to find the most efficient means of solving the problem at hand. 

Maintaining an ISO 9001:2015 is no easy task and certification to which we are extremely proud to have held for nearly 20 years. ISO 9001:2015 requires a company to demonstrate they have advanced quality assurance processes in place and also mechanisms for continual improvement in both product and production, but customer service as well. Additionally, we are an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certified production facility and predominantly use UL-certified components. UL certification means our products have been independently-verified for structural integrity, functionality, and safety. This allows our design staff to utilize a component with a known specification, that’s been stringently tested, rather than creating a whole new component from scratch.

If your cable or wire harness supplier isn’t ISO certified and doesn’t utilize UL-certified components, they have not made a solid commitment to quality assurance and you will be taking a huge risk with the products they produce.

Cable Harness Assemblies for Industrial Controls

Industrial control systems, or industrial process controls, require a complex array of signals, data, and power to be sent at just the right time in the production process in order to provide the intended function. These systems provide almost complete automation for the operations and performance monitoring functions within many critical infrastructure systems like water, power, and civil transportation systems, as well as in manufacturing settings like a bottling plant. 

Meridian’s custom-built wiring harness and cable assemblies provide the necessary infrastructure for these process controllers to perform at their best. Particular considerations for industrial control systems include incorporating components that ensure the fidelity of the process. For example, engineering in radio frequency interference (RFI) avoidance measures, which can include specialized shielding, helps to avoid costly delays within an industrial control system when a wrong signal is sent/received and causes some crucial function to not be performed. Even small delays in an industrial setting can be incredibly costly. Hermetically-sealed connectors, strain reliefs, and cable stops are all utilized to ensure the system operates as intended cycle after cycle.

Cable Harness Assemblies for the Military

Cable harnessing companies operating in support of providing our military with crucial electronic systems components knows their products will more than likely be deployed in some pretty extreme environments. Not only must they contend with extreme temperature swings, sand, dirt, dust, and mud, but also exposure to water, salt, and corrosive materials must be accounted for in the cable assemblies and wiring harnesses being used for military purposes. Our men and women in uniform count on our products to assist them in everything from navigation to communication, and increasingly are being utilized to empower unmanned systems such as UAVs. Special considerations in design can include incorporating Kevlar into the sheathing material to prevent cutting and aluminized mylar to prevent interference.

In support of their mission, our design team comes together to produce a solution that works within the usually tough parameters set forth by our clients in military contracting. We are adept at meeting project and budgetary milestones to deliver the perfect solution to the complex problem at hand.

Cable Harness Assemblies for Other Industries

Aerospace, automotive, lighting, and alternative energy are just some of the many different industries we stand ready to serve with our custom solutions to even the most complex problems our clients present us with. While solving problems is something our design engineers are really good at, the solutions are only viable if all the pieces of design and production can meet both the budget and timeline set forth for the project. With strict adherence to kanban manufacturing techniques, just-in-time ordering, and efficient, worldwide logistical support, we are able to deliver full-functional and repeatedly-tested cable assemblies and wire harnesses to clients anywhere in the world.  

Ready to Go Over Your Project Specs?

Our team stands ready to review your project’s unique specifications and will deliver a solution perfectly suited to match your needs. Contact us now to start the design process

Custom Cable Manufacturers: Creating Endless Possibilities With Your Custom Cable Design

Based on the combinations of each level of design of a custom cable assembly, there seems to be an endless number of possibilities for creating a unique, never-seen-before amalgamation of cables, wires, and support materials. These innocuous materials come together by fanatical design to pull-off some of the most demanding jobs on the planet. From supporting our military men and women on tough missions, providing for the possibility of cutting-edge medical equipment to be employed by a skilled surgeon in a complicated surgery, or enabling the manufacture of millions of other products in an industrial setting, it all starts with humble cables and wires. We’ll explore how the different design layers come together to create a masterpiece of modern engineering that is the custom cable assembly.

Conductor Size Matters

Extruding conductors sounds like the name of a cool sci-fi flick but it’s actually the foundation of any cable assembly. Conductors are simply materials that are good at conducting; think copper, aluminum, or nickel. Extrusion is a series of processes where parts of cable assemblies’ cross sections are made. The conductor material of choice is fed into a large vertical hopper that in turn feeds the extruder machine. The extruder looks like a large screw with a barrel that’s heated so it can mix, melt, and pump the material into a die. Meridian’s brilliant design staff can extrude conductors as small as 34 gauge – about six one-thousandths of an inch, or as large as 12 gauge. Even cooler, oftentimes different gauge conductors are put together to accomplish different tasks within an electrical system. This type of cable is referred to as the mixed-gauge cable. Custom cable manufacturers mix and match gauges to meet the exact requirements, as well as, confines of the project.

Colors of the Rainbow

Color may seem a purely aesthetic choice but far from trying to keep up with the latest season’s fashion, colors help designers and installers keep track of the many different conductors within the cable assembly. At Meridian, we often make cable assemblies with well over 50 different conductors. Just to keep track, we have to use a color system. Colors and custom markings help ensure the right conductor goes exactly where it’s designed to within the cable assembly. The best cable manufacturers reverse engineer cable assemblies from their given applications so that installers can efficiently utilize the assembly in their unique circumstances. Color coding is one way to ensure the product works as intended from design through implementation. 

Leave No Strand Behind

Stranding is the process by which individual conductor strands are joined together. Using a really cool stranding machine, we take strands of wire and rotate them around a common axis to create a super strong and flexible cross-section. When using UL-certified wires, we know the industry specifications of each individual wire and produce a custom cable that performs under the given set of circumstances we plan for. The strands themselves can be an incredible array of different materials and sizes, depending on the level of connectivity an electrical system requires. Cable manufacturing companies typically leave no strand behind unless a single, large strand is the best conductor for the given objective.

Why Insulate a Cable Assembly?

Insulation provides the first line of defense for a cable. Insulators are non-conductive materials that act as separations for the conductors within the cable and also from the environment that could downgrade the effectiveness of the cable if exposed to the elements. Electrical and signal transmission cables will both use insulation to protect conductors from things like extreme temperature variants, friction, current/signal degradation, and moisture. Insulators themselves come in many different types of materials that then each have their own set of design specifications, like hardness and softness, that can be tweaked on a given project. Meridian offers a wide array of insulation materials to meet both budget and performance requirements of each project. Each insulator we employ in a custom assembly will have the specific properties needed to perform under the circumstances. Mechanical properties like operating temperature ranges, resistance to abrasion, and flexibility, electrical properties like dielectric loss (ability to dissipate electromagnetic energy), and physical properties like thermal expansion and resistance to moisture all need to be considered in the cable assembly’s design. Meridian’s design engineers are intimately familiar with each of our insulating materials’ inherent properties so they can hand-pick the perfect combination that meets the project’s unique requirements.

Fillers Can be a Good Thing

Like insulation, fillers are used to prevent abrasion between cables which can degrade their construction over time. Basic cotton and fleece are great low-cost options for fillers that provide protection for the cables, help maintain the cable’s shape, and strengthen the cable through thousands of flexings. For applications requiring more beefy specifications, Kevlar is a great insulator for its inherent strength and durability – not to mention its sweet ability to stop bullets in other applications. Custom wire and cable manufacturers utilize even simple materials like fillers to create the perfect set-up for the intended application of a cable assembly. Far from being just a “filler” within the assembly, cable assembly fillers play a critical role in both form and function.

Cable Armor: Wraps and Shields

Adding to the layers of protection and durability, cable wraps and shields are used to create a cushioned, pliable barrier between the conductors and the final outer jacket. This helps prevent friction, increases strength, and adds to the overall durability of the cable assembly. Also, many electronic cables need special shielding to prevent interferences like electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio-frequency interference (RFI). This happens when an external source, both man-made and natural, directly affects the electrical circuit, which can degrade the current or cause it to cease altogether. Engineering in an avoidance system to EMI and RFI, our design team is able to create a cable system that can operate unimpeded through many useful cycles. EMI can be an intentional act such as the case with radar-jamming in military applications. Specialized shielding like aluminized mylar helps to block EMI, which allows our soldiers to openly communicate with each other on the battlefield.

Last Line of Defense: The Cable Jacket

The cable jacket acts as a final insulator and a protective barrier from the elements. The jacket can be made in myriad materials ranging from hard to soft to give our clients the protection of their custom cable assembly project needs. Simple materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ranging to Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon), recognized for its use in non-stick, high-end cooking, can be utilized to create the perfect jacket to insulate all of the components from the elements in which they’ll be deployed. Nature throws a lot at cable assemblies like heat, oxidation, and moisture that would rapidly deteriorate the conductors and insulation materials without a robust jacket encasing the assembly.

Bringing it all Together

Each step in the production process requires an incredible level of detail to tweak the material to the exact specifications of the project. Our design engineers love being brought an unsolvable problem and putting together a solution that works for both budget and performance. These materials by themselves are just a bunch of seemingly commonplace components, but together, they can be formed into the cable assembly system to power a fighter jet or an electrical system for a Grand Prix race car. We combine the right materials for the right application to produce a one-of-a-kind solution that works. Simply put, we are passionate about exceeding our clients’ expectations and our passion is continuously showcased in our products.

Meridian Knows Custom Cable Assemblies

We know you have many choices in the cable manufacturing industry. Custom wire and cable manufacturers around the world boast of superior products and services. So why Meridian? First and foremost, we have almost three decades of experience in international manufacturing in order to bring our customers around the globe the perfect product, by the most judicious means possible. Our design staff has created cable assemblies for some of the most demanding applications the Earth has to offer. From military to medical, we take the trust placed in our products seriously so produce the very best we possibly can. We also have garnered incredible knowledge in pre-project planning so create an incredibly lean manufacturing process – saving our client’s time and money and producing an ROI time and again. Lastly, we place a huge emphasis on quality. We only use UL-certified cables and wires and even created our own testing lab to ensure each and every product that rolls off our assembly lines perform under the exact specifications to which it was designed. Our products are simply too vital to electrical and signal components to fail prematurely. Our continuing and unwavering commitment to quality is what’s earned us ISO 9001:2015 certification. 
When you’re ready to meet with an engineering team that loves solving even your most complex cable assembly design problems, give our knowledgeable sales and marketing team a call. They’ll help start the process of getting you the perfect custom cable assembly that meets your exact specifications.