Category Archives: Wire Harness

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

Different kinds of cables are on wooden pallet.

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

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

Wire Gauges Explained

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

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

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

How to Measure Wire Gauge

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

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

The Formula for Wire Gauge Sizes

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

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

Wire Gauge Diameter

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

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

Wire Resistance & Wire Length

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

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

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

Wire Gauge Chart

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

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

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

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

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

Common Applications of Standard Wire Gauges

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the Perfect Wire Guage

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

Getting the Best Design with the Correct Wire Gauge

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

The Benefits of Low Pressure Molding in Wire Assembly

low pressure molding machine

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

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

What is Low-Pressure Molding?

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

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

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

A Closer Look at the Low-Pressure Molding Process

low pressure molding button

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Using Low Pressure Molding in Wire Assemblies

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

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

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

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

Inside the Design Studio for Low Pressure Molding Applications

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

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

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

Areas Where Low Pressure Molding Can Be Advantageous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cable Assembly Manufacturer

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

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

What is a Tooling Inventory?

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

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

Why Molds and Dies Are So Important in Custom Cable Assemblies

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

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

Machines That Make All the Difference in Cable Production

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

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

Molding Machines

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

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

Terminal Crimping Machines

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

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

Solder, Curing, and Fastening Machines

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

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

Cutter, Stripping, and Twister Machines

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

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

Scales & Measurement Tools

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

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

Moving Tools and Machines

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

How We Bring it All Together During Production

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

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

Starting Your Custom Cable Assembly Project Right

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

The Cable Engineer’s Ultimate Guide to Wire Harness Assemblies

Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies
Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies

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

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

What is a Wire Harness Assembly?

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

Components Making up a Custom Wire Harness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Wire Colors Mean

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

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

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

Getting Wire Harness Assemblies Started

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

The Insider’s Look at the Cable Assembly Manufacturing Process

Cable Assembly Manufacturer

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

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

Laying the Framework: Cable Assembly Design 101

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

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

Why Use Prototyping in Cable Assembly Production?

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

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

A Closer Look at Short Run Manufacturing 

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

Soldering During a Manual Termination

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

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

Moving Into Cable Assembly Manufacturing

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

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

Starting Off Right with Custom Cable Extrusion

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

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

What is Insert Molding and Overmolding in Cable Assemblies?

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

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

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

High-Tech Ultrasonic Plastic Welding

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

Test, Test, Repeat

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

  • Analyzing Cable Assemblies for Signal Integrity

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

  • Utilizing Automated Testing Machines

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

  • Testing for the Environment with Our Advanced Life Testing Lab

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

Getting it There: Maintaining Efficient Logistics

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

Starting a New Custom Cable Project

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

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

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.

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.