Category Archives: Custom Cable Assemblies

How 3D Printing is Changing the World of Cable Assemblies And Wire Harnesses

You have probably heard a good deal about 3D printing and how it is taking production industries by storm. However, the technological advances in 3D printing have started to play a significant role in the production of cable assemblies and wire harnesses. Here at Meridian Cable, we have greatly benefitted by utilizing the advancing technology of a 3D printing wire harness.

The remarkable tech for 3D printing wire harness affords excellent opportunities for rapid prototyping and a more efficient overall production timeline. But how exactly is 3D printing beneficial to Meridian Cable’s production? What tech does Meridian use, and what can 3D printers make? Plug in and power up as we explore all about 3D printing wire harnesses and other components. 

Getting Plugged in: What is 3D Printing?

First things first, let us define what 3D printing is. 3D printing is a modern wonder of innovation. A 3D printer is able to construct a component, shell, form, shape, or object from a single machine. Using a computer-aided design (CAD), 3D printers build a three-dimensional object by layering pliable material. They are typically used to create objects out of plastics or other moldable materials. A single dispenser flows back and forth across the printing field to deposit and layer the building material. 

3D printing technology has exploded over the last several years, resulting in a surge of applications for the craft. Because there is so much opportunity to build and create practically anything via 3D printing, it is no wonder that production industries are catching on to its possibilities. 

What Can 3D Printers Build? 

There are numerous examples of what 3D printers can create. The truth is, the list could be pretty nearly infinite. Everything from car parts to cell phone cases can be manufactured by utilizing 3D printing technology. This versatile technology presents a whole world of possibilities. 

In relation to 3D printing wire harness components and other related elements, 3D printing can be used to efficiently create high-quality elements. Some of the items that we have used 3D printing for are:

  • Molds for building wire harness components
  • Housings for cable assembly connectors
  • Fixtures
  • Connector shells
  • Many more components

The versatility that 3D printing offers allow us to build a wide variety of components. 

Benefits of 3D Printing Wire Harness Components

With the advancement of three-dimensional printing comes incredible innovation in how we are able to engineer our components. There are several key benefits that have presented themselves to us as one of the leading cable assembly and wire harness manufacturers in the world. 

A few of the most noteworthy benefits of 3D printing wire harness components are:

  • Cost: The cost of 3D printing is often much less than using other methods. This enables manufacturers to create quality components that cost less for both the business and the customers. 
  • Flexible Customization: 3D printing wire harness housings and other components offer incredible flexibility in what we can create. Let’s be honest; we are all about customization and building exactly what you need. 3D printing provides an astonishing potential for creating customized components. The possibilities for customization are nearly limitless because of 3D printing. 
  • Lightweight components: 3D printed parts (such as housing and fixtures) often means these components are more lightweight than other manufacturing methods. By using plastic or light moldable resin, the finished product is much more lightweight and easy to manage. 
  • Simplified production: Another great benefit of 3D printing is that production is more streamlined for wire harness parts. Because 3D printed components only require one machine to build, they are a much more efficient way of crafting the more minor elements to cable assemblies and wire harnesses. This simplified manufacturing is ideal for creating unique wire harnesses and cable assembly components. 
  • Speedy prototyping: A key bonus to 3D printing is that it enables us to create prototypes for our clients more rapidly than other manufacturing methods. This expediency means that once the design phase is completed by our on-site engineers, the prototype for your wire harness or cable assembly can be completed and tested as soon as possible.

    By fast-tracking, the production of the prototypes for wire harness components, the overall production, testing, and inspection phase moves much more rapidly. 
  • Faster production times: When the prototyping phase moves more quickly, the overall production time can be much faster. As the 3D printed components will be used in the final product, the production for the entire order can be handled expediently. 
  • Ease of reproducing future orders: Once the production of your custom wire harness is complete, it can be easily replicated from the 3D printing files for your order. This means that we can recreate an order for custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses with ease. 

And those benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. As 3D printing technology progresses, it will continue to shape the way Meridian Cable crafts custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses. Though the world is far from fully embracing the possibilities that 3D printing has to offer, we are proud to be on the cutting edge. We fully intend to continue to develop the potential of how 3D printing wire harness components can change the world of production. 

The 3D Printers that Meridian Uses for Prototyping and Production

Over the last several decades, Meridian Cable has been at the forefront of innovation in production and cable manufacturing. The 3D printers that we use are among the most precise printers available. We take pride in the tech that we use to build cable assemblies and wire harnesses. We use three different types of 3D printers, giving us a more diverse range of components and parts that we are able to print. 

The three printers that we use are:

  • Form 1 3D Printer
    The Form 1 printer uses stereolithography to print. This process involves exposing the resin to ultraviolet lights to harden. This process works because the ultraviolet laser hits the liquid resin, which causes the resin to solidify. The printing stage raises and lowers in order to expose the liquid resin to the laser, and the process repeats until the component is completed.

    Powered by specialized software, the Form 1 3D printer is capable of building finely detailed parts and wire harness components. Featuring an auto-rotation, manual maneuverability of parts, and a printing floor view, the Form 1 printer is a truly marvelous piece of equipment. 
  • Form 2 3D Printer
    The second printer that we use here at Meridian is the Form 2 printer. This innovative printer allows us to use up to 20 different materials to build components. This function is easily performed and makes the Form 2 Printer ideal for more complex builds. Once the resin is changed, the Form 2 automatically adjusts to operating correctly while using the new material. This adaptability comes in handy when 3D printing wire harness components that require alternative materials.

Working similarly to the Form 1 printer, the Form 2 functions by using a laser to harden the liquid resin. The benefits of the Form 2 are that it is capable of printing incredibly complex parts and works intuitively with the design software to build components layer by layer. Our Form 2 printer features a large viewing screen to watch the progress of the wire harness components.

  • Fuse 1 3D Printer
    Rounding off the printers we use for 3D printing wire harness parts is the Fuse 1. The Fuse 1 is a powerful printer designed for industrial 3D printing. Designed to be the ideal combination of speed and accuracy, the Fuse 1 printer enables us to create highly complex parts in record time. This ability means that we are able to produce prototypes and final components in unbelievably fast timeframes. Our Fuse 1 is an incredible asset to our 3D printing wire harness parts.

    The Fuse 1 printer operates a little differently than the Form series in that it utilizes SLS printing. SLS printing refers to Selective Laser Sintering, which is a specific process for 3D printing. The SLS process involves coating the printing bed with a powder form and then solidifying the powder with a laser. The printing bed is recoated, and the laser coagulates the next layer of powder on top of the previous one. This process is repeated over and over until the construction is complete.

    Once the printing is complete, we remove the excess powder, and the product is ready to combine with the other components.

    The Fuse 1 Printer that Meridian uses offers unique features for a 3D printer, such as low waste and industrial-strength materials. The lower waste means that more of the resin is put to use to create the part that we are printing. This feature is both environmentally conscious and economical. 

Think Meridian Cable for Your Next Project

As a leader in using innovative technology to build cable assemblies, wire harnesses, and more, Meridian Cable is here to help with your next custom project. Contact us today to utilize our innovation in 3D printing wire harness components. 

LiveWire Behind the Scenes: Who Makes Custom Wiring Harnesses?

how custom wire harnesses are made

Custom wire harnesses are seen in so many different applications we all use every day that it can be easy to gloss over their vital utility. From global telecommunications to advanced manufacturing facilities, our connected world relies on high-quality wire harnesses to function. But who’s behind these custom solutions making the modern world possible? 

Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know to partner with a wire harness manufacturer to get the perfect solution for even the most demanding applications.

How to Spot a Custom Wire Harness Manufacturer

Behind even the most complex wire harness designs are the skilled men and women that make up the workforce of the wire harness manufacturer. When you have superior talent and you arm them with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment available, you get a powerful combination of professional capability. 

What sets custom wire harness manufacturers apart from universal manufacturers mainly revolves around capabilities across the organization including areas such as:

  • Customization: being able to custom create the solution that fits the situation perfectly makes for more efficient and more resilient systems. Wire harnesses often have to meet strict geometric guidelines, as well as a specific threshold for the transmission of data, power, and signal. On top of the specs, there are myriad environmental variables that must be mitigated. That’s why the ability to customize conductor sizes and colors, stranding sizes, wraps, shields, jackets, and more, gets you a solution specifically engineered to satisfy the application’s requirements. 
  • Advanced Manufacturing Capabilities: customization is meaningless without the ability to manufacture each product to perfection. With full-scale design and engineering services to small batch and up to volume production, we have invested heavily in making our talent and tool crib extensive enough to handle any wire harness design project that comes through our doors. Being a UL-approved manufacturing facility with both our US and China locations means we’ve met the high thresholds of quality and capability required of the distinction. All of this translates into being able to produce the best possible custom wire harnesses for our clients.
  • Testing: having the excellent capability and executing well is still without the weight if you can’t tell for a fact that every product that rolls off your line has been 100% tested for continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality before making its way to our clients. Whether it’s life-saving medical technology or a mission-critical municipal control system, dependability matters. In addition to a variety of high-tech testing machines that can spot even the tiniest imperfections, we created our own in-house Advanced Life Testing Lab. Here, custom wire harnesses are put through a variety of harsh real-world conditions to see how the materials and design hold up. 

Custom wire harnesses hold capabilities that off-the-shelf wire harnesses simply don’t have. That’s because a wire harness engineer creates a solution to the task at hand using the right materials for the specific application.  

Industries Where Custom Wiring Harness Solutions Matter

Custom wire harnesses are seen across so many different industries because our connected world relies on these humble workhorses to work behind the scenes to power how we live, work, and play. Some of the many industries we’re proud to lend our expertise include:

Industrial Control Systems

Wire harnesses provide the crucial infrastructure within some of the most advanced industrial control systems on the planet. From a high-volume bottling facility to a city’s wastewater treatment systems, Meridian’s custom wire harnesses bring it all together in some very demanding situations. 

Medical Technology

Medical diagnostic equipment, ultrasound wands, medical imaging equipment, patient monitoring equipment—the list goes on with the many different systems in hospitals and other care facilities that rely on custom wire harnesses to function. Reusability and sterilization matter greatly with such advanced technology, while precision and reliability are simply expected. At its core, we create custom solutions in the medical field that allows for better patient care.

Military Wire Harnesses

The Department of Defense (DoD) helps create military specifications (MILSPEC) to make sure that each component in, for example, a state-of-the-art weapons guidance system, can be depended on in some of the toughest situations imaginable. We can incorporate a wide variety of different protections like overmolds and Kevlar sheathing to make sure that the custom wire harness for the military we engineer is as tough as the men and women in uniform that are depending on it.

Additional Industries 

From automotive to consumer electronics, Meridian is proud to create custom wire harnesses that deliver the perfect blend of components and expertise to get the job done. Automotive OEMs depend on custom wire harness manufacturers to produce exact specs, which is something an off-the-shelf harness typically can’t provide.

Custom Solutions Produce a Better Return on Investment

The main aspect of why it matters who makes a wiring harness lies in the simple fact that a custom wire harness has been made for a specific purpose. There’s a clear-cut set of specifications and project parameters that require sophisticated engineering to deliver a solution that works on time and on budget. Aligning the product with the client’s specifications means our project managers are able to deliver just what’s required to accomplish the task at hand in the most efficient way possible. 

A huge capability advantage Meridian holds lies in our ability to prototype. We may look at several different iterations of the same product all at once to see how everything from material sourcing to checking out tools from the tool crib come together under real-world conditions. In a world where logistics is so crucial to keeping industries running smoothly, having two Meridian facilities in different corners of the globe means we’re able to provide consistently high levels of quality delivered just when it’s needed. We also input sound operational management strategies like Kanban and Just-in-Time ordering in order to eliminate waste throughout the process. 

After decades of instilling quality at every single touchpoint in a wire harness journey from conception to volume manufacturing, we are able to deliver the high level of quality our clients have come to depend on us for. All of this effort translates into a better return on the investment made with a higher quality product and specifically for the industry and the application. Our wire harnesses are made to be seamlessly integrated within the existing system with whatever criteria are required to ensure long-term viability and also ease of future maintenance. 

Certifications to Look for with Wire Harness Manufacturers

Wire harness assemblies truly are integral to our way of life. That’s why the quality of the custom wire harness manufacturer matters so greatly when it comes to the quality of the solution they are able to deliver. 

Three globally-recognized certifications to look for as your compare manufacturers include:

  • IATF 16949: the absolute gold standard for automotive quality management systems is only met when you hit all of the stringent requirements set forth by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). This sought-after certification is one of the most widely used and recognized international standards specific to the automotive industry and brings together all aspects of the global automotive supply chain. We’re proud to have earned and maintain our IATF 16949 certification, especially as we produce custom wire harnesses to spec for automotive OEMs.
  • ISO 9001:2015: another globally-recognized certification you should definitely see with a custom wire harness manufacturer is the ISO 9001:2015. We’re proud to have met the rigorous standards for this certification as it pertains to quality at every single level in the organization. From customer experience to product quality, the standard also calls for continuous improvement. Never staying stagnant, our team looks to do that much better with each and every project we undertake. With decades under our belt, we can still learn, grow, and do better as we seek to represent the honor of holding this advanced certification for manufacturers. 
  • UL-Approved Manufacturers: as a UL-approved manufacturing facility and in using UL-certified wires and cables in so many of the solutions we provide, we are able to showcase quality in a tangible way every day. We are also able to help our clients get their products certified through any number of different certifying agencies. In a competitive marketplace, standing out with such a high mark of quality is crucial to our success. 

When you first compare wire harness manufacturers, one of the main differentiating factors can be certifications like these which show demonstrable experience and a continued commitment to quality. 

Talk to the Custom Wire Harness Experts

When answering the question of who makes custom wiring harnesses, you really need to answer who makes custom wire harnesses well. The team at Meridian is made up of brilliant designers, engineers, project managers, and production staff that bring together a diverse group of talents under one roof. With advanced capabilities and technology at our fingertips, we can deliver exactly what’s required and what can be depended on. Contact our team to review your custom wire harness specs and get started today. 

Wire Harness Components
Wire Harness Components

Diving into the wide world of wire harnesses can be daunting. There are simply so many variations for a wire harness that the options are truly mind boggling. But, in walks the concept of universal wiring harnesses and, poof, mind blow. So, is there such a thing as a universal wiring harness? 

Even in a space as customized as wiring harnesses, there are, indeed, universal wiring harnesses out there. We’ll look at what these curious amalgamations are, what industries use universal harnesses the most often, and where customization still plays a crucial role in the overall design.

What Are Universal Wiring Harnesses?

A universal wiring harness is one that can be used in several different applications that follow the same general set up. Some of the most prevalent universal wiring harnesses are for cars, trucks, and towing. However, because makes and models all can have their own little intricacies, some form of adaptation may be required to make a universal wiring harness fit its intended destination. 

Control modules, connection points, grommets, and other hardware are generally designed to handle multiple functions and accommodate different geometries. Therefore, you’ll see universal wiring harnesses with some typical features to make this feat easier. Lead lengths are usually pretty generous and instructions fairly straightforward. As we mentioned, though, there are almost always application-specific peculiarities that will exist and need to be customized. At this point, the question must be asked—If a universal wiring harness has to be customized, is it really universal? We’ll look to answer this head-scratcher next. 

Who Makes Universal Wiring Harnesses?

There are many, many manufacturers out there for universal wiring harnesses. A quick internet search is going to return page after page of online retailers. Most of these are going to be automotive wiring harnesses manufacturers. Now, not all universal harnesses are equal, and you need to know where you’re getting the item from. 

One of the certifications we maintain is the IATF 16949. This is one of the highest of the highs when it comes to automotive parts quality certifications and is held by only top manufacturers that can truly produce harnesses to spec. While it can seem tempting to go with that on-sale wiring harness online, it may actually cost you more in money, time, and labor if the unit fails prematurely. 

Bottom line, even with universal wiring harnesses, you need to do a little comparison shopping to make sure it’s a reputable manufacturer that has demonstrable expertise in the sector you need your harness for. 

Industries that Use Universal Wiring Harnesses

One of the most prevalent industries that you’ll find universal wiring harnesses is within the automotive sector. Automotive wiring harnesses are for specific applications where a “plug and play” solution can fit the bill. For example, you’ll see plenty of options for universal audio wiring harnesses for cars on Amazon for specific makes, models, and years. If you’ve ever done a search for a car part, you know that you need to find the right equipment based on the manufacturer’s specs. 

There are both OEM options and after-market options that may or may not be up to OEM specs. OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer and is an entity that can produce the exact specs that a manufacturer stipulates. These are usually subjected to higher quality assurance and quality control measures than the off-the-shelf wiring harnesses out there. 

Today’s cars have so many advanced components like audio systems, electrical systems, and convenience features. These all require complex wiring harnesses for helping manage the transfer of data, signal, and power throughout the system which is where “universal” can be a bit of a misnomer. You’ll more than likely still need various adapters to fit your unique set-up. 

How to Compare Options

As you start looking at different wiring harness options, it’s important to set a framework to level the playing field. We’ll show you a systematic approach to getting the best value from wiring harness manufacturers today:

  • Diversity of Options: one of the first things that you should see from a high quality wire harness manufacturer is going to be the diversity of options that they offer. As many applications require so many different individualized components to fit the needs of the project, you want to make sure the manufacturer can demonstrate expertise across multiple product lines. At Meridian, we are proud to make some of the finest quality cable assemblies, wire harnesses, coil cords, molded components, SMA cable assemblies, and other products that our world’s most advanced electronic equipment relies on. 
  • Customization: the ability to customize cable assemblies and wire harnesses is a big plus for a manufacturer. But customizing takes expertise and tooling capability. Meridian holds both with the ability to deliver the perfect solution that efficiently solves even the most complex tasks at hand. Even though there are universal wiring harnesses, at least conceptually, remember that each harness will typically undergo some form of customization to help it fit within the intended application.
  • Industry Experience: it’s hard to put a price on experience as it lends itself to so much value for the client. Your harness manufacturer of choice needs to show many years of experience in different industry sectors. From logistics to corporate governance, lessons learned from experience are invaluable for consistently achieving high levels of quality, efficiency, and reliability with each and every cable or wire harness produced. Meridian is proud to have decades of experience with some of the best and brightest cable engineers in the field today.
  • Capability: capability is what a manufacturer does, but a better way to look at it is what they do well. This means full-scale cable design and engineering services, in conjunction with, production, and global logistics. 
  1. First up, you need to have cutting edge design software and brilliant minds to engineer a perfect solution. At Meridian, we offer full-scale design and engineering services from dedicated experts.
  2. Then you need to be able to prototype and test different iterations to find the best fit. Prototyping is a crucial capability that includes testing everything from different insulation and jacket materials to seeing how sourcing logistics comes together with operations management techniques like just-in-time ordering.
  3. After that, you need to be able to rely on your extensive tool crib and deep intrinsic knowledge to manage a cost-effective and time-sensitive production schedule. This ensures on-time and on-budget solutions, every time. 
  4. Lastly, you need to see significant investments made in post-production testing. At Meridian, we created an entire Advanced Life Testing Lab where we put our units through an incredible battery of pertinent tests under stringent real-world conditions. This lets our engineers see how each component reacts to environmental factors and other outside forces to guarantee functionality, integrity, and safety with each and every harness that we produce. 
  • Certification: Last up on the comparison journey is going to be what certifications wiring harness manufacturers hold. Since a lot of universal wiring harnesses are made for the automotive electronic systems, certifications within this arena are fairly important. As we mentioned, we’re proud our quality of product and processes helped us earn the coveted IATF 16949 certification. Others out there that can really set a manufacturer apart include ISO 9001:2015 and UL certification. Both require extremely high levels of quality at every touchpoint in the organization and are internationally recognized.

When you’ve run through the above checklist, you’ll come out the other side with a truly top-notch wiring harness manufacturer who can handle everything from small-batch prototyping to volume manufacturing, from initial design through delivery—anywhere in the world. 

Where Custom Wiring Harnesses Come In

Custom wiring harnesses are needed in just about every application. Even in OEM settings, there can be variations between models that require adaptability on-the-fly. Customization is a skill that’s learned from experience. With decades as a leader in wiring harness and cable assembly manufacturing, our team has built this capability into our DNA. 

Custom wire harnesses can incorporate so many different unique aspects including specific conductor sizes and colors, stranding sizes, materials, and utilizing UL-certified wires and cables. Our engineers work with our clients to take wire harnesses from concept all the way through volume manufacturing with a project timeline that lets us meet all milestones. 

Starting a Wiring Harness Project

meeting with wire harness engineers

At the end of the day, there are many different off-the-shelf wire harnesses and cable assemblies out there. The difference is these can be lower quality and still require significant time and effort to make them fit a system. Our team takes a different approach by delivering a solution that’s perfectly made to efficiently solve the task at hand, and given the intended environment. From custom strain reliefs to overmolding, our capabilities, advanced technology, and team of experts all come together to deliver a solution that works. 

If you’re ready to start talking wire harness specs, contact our team however is most convenient. You can call 1-877-806-8667, fill out the online contact form, or email or sales team using the links provided on our contacts page.

Why is Shielding Needed in Cable Assemblies?

shielded coaxial cable

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

What Exactly is a Shielded Cable Assembly?

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

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

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

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

EMI Makes Shielded Cable Connectors Crucial

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

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

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

How Cable Shielding Combats EMI

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

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

Different Types of Shielding Used in Cable Assemblies

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

  • Using Foil Shielding in Cable Assemblies

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

  • Braided Shield in Cable Assemblies

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

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

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

Integrating Shielded Cable Assemblies in Your Next Project

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

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

Why Shielding Cable Assemblies is So Important

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

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

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

Certifications Matter With Shielded Cable Manufacturers

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

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

Starting a Project Utilizing Shielded Cable Assemblies

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

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

Custom RF Cable Assemblies Guide

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

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

What are RF Cable Assemblies Used For?

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Using a Custom RF Cable Assembly

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

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Produce Excellent and Dependable Electrical Performance

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

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Present a Low Loss

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

  1. RF Cable Assemblies Can Operate at a High Frequency

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

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

Getting Technical: Amplitude and Phase

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

How to Produce Custom RF Cable Assemblies

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

Design Phase 

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

Prototyping 

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

Testing

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

Getting a Custom RF Cable Assembly Certified by UL

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

Starting a Custom RF Cable Assembly Design Project

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

The Automation of Complex Wire Harness Designs

Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies

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

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

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

What are Complex Wire Harnesses?

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

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

Why Do Complex Wire Harnesses Require Human Engineering?

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

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

Design

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

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

Logistics

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

Specific Standards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Improve product and process quality.

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

  1. Reduce harness manufacturing turnaround time and cost.

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

What Aspects of Wire Harness Assembly Can be Automated?

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

What Aspects of Wire Harness Assembly Should Not be Automated?

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

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

Additional manufacturing processes should not be automated, including:

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

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

What are Some of the Design Features of Wire Harnesses?

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

Conductor Sizes

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

Conductor Colors

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

Stranding Sizes

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

Conductor Insulation Materials

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

UL® Certified Cables and Wires

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

Start Your Wire Harness Design Today

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

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

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

Colors of Heat-shrink tube in the factory

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

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

Heat Shrink Tubing 101

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

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

Benefits of Using Heat Shrink Tubing and Sleeves in Cable Assemblies

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

Heat Shrink Tubing Provides Additional Protection from Outside Forces

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

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

Heat Shrinking Tubing Provides Additional Insulation for Wires

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

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

Heat Shrinking Provides Additional Strain Relief

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

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

Heat Shrink Sleeves Aid in Cable Cord Management

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

What Is Heat Shrinking Tubing Made Out Of?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Determining the Inner Diameter of Heat Shrinking Tubing: 

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

Considering the Heat Shrinking Tubing’s Shrinkage Ratio:

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

Choosing the Right Length & Thickness Heat Shrinking Tubing:

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

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

How to Ensure Quality with Heat Shrinking Tubing

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

Adding Heat Shrinking On Your Custom Cable Assembly 

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

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

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

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

Conductor Size Matters

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

Colors of the Rainbow

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

Leave No Strand Behind

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

Why Insulate a Cable Assembly?

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

Fillers Can be a Good Thing

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

Cable Armor: Wraps and Shields

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

Last Line of Defense: The Cable Jacket

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

Bringing it all Together

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

Meridian Knows Custom Cable Assemblies

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

Top 10 Benefits to Creating a Custom Cable Assembly

custom cable assembly manufacturer

Standard cable out of the box is usually mass-produced for a very simple purpose. When the application varies in even the minutest details, these standard cables will often fall short. Even for a simple application like hooking up a home theater system, the different connections from speaker, to power source, to audio source can vary significantly with the myriad of different brands on the market and usually require a custom coax cable assembly. A failure here can lead to a frustrating cinematic experience. Imagine if that failure were to occur during a critical mission with the military or during a large-scale production run in an industrial setting. Failure during these events could prove incredibly costly. And so, custom cable assemblies, crafted exactly for the task at hand, produce a return on the investment time and again. We’ll highlight below our top 10 benefits to creating a custom cable assembly with Meridian.

Top 10 Benefits of Custom Cable Assemblies

1. Ability to Prototype

Prototyping is the process of creating a “test” assembly from which our design staff can run a particular set of cables, connectors, and ancillary components through a multitude of tests in real-life situations to ensure the assembly meets the design requirements. Multiple iterations produced at the same time allow for different prototypes to be tested simultaneously. Seeing the product perform in the real world gives our design staff and clients insight into different attributes that may need to be tweaked. One desired function may not work when different components are put together creating the need for a redesign of an original idea. Also, a prototype will help the manufacturer understand where, when, and how source materials will come together. If these components aren’t feasible, or economically viable, to source given the current configuration, designers can go back to the drawing board way before mass production ever takes place. Prototyping can prove incredibly cost-effective for production in the long-run of product development.

2. Product Testing

Meridian’s custom cable assemblies, whether prototyped or not, will undergo rigorous testing to ensure uniform functionality and quality. At Meridian, we even maintain our own testing laboratory that does nothing but test each product as it comes off the assembly line. Sometimes this requires inventing a whole new way of testing if the cable assembly is a completely customized project. Testing helps to ensure the client receives a product they know they can depend on, in whatever application they are planning on using it in. From military to medical, these assemblies are simply too vital to fail prematurely. Another important element of testing is being able to test the product in the elements; that is, putting the product in the environment it will be used in. Harsh conditions like salt water exposure or being subject to extreme temperatures will increase the need for effective insulators, fillers, wraps, and jacket materials. Testing allows custom cable assembly manufacturers to see how a particular amalgamation of components will stand up to the environment where it will be utilized. 

3. Reduce Overall Costs

Rather than trying to configure an off-the-shelf cable assembly to meet your specific needs, custom cable manufacturing allows you to create the perfect set-up. As we’ve discussed, prototyping and testing help ensure the final product has the form and function required of the cable assembly system, while still being economically viable. Our design staff and in-house engineers love solving our client’s complex problems. They’ll take into account how the cable is being used, the voltage or signal required, and even variables such as length to produce the perfect cable and cable assembly components. Knowing the costs, production times, and functionality of a custom assembly saves an incredible amount of time, which in turn, provides the best utilization of capital for our clients.

4. Perfect Fit

Oftentimes, our clients bring us very specific design criteria for use in their electrical systems. As discussed, these systems are used in an incredible array of industries. With such diversity, finding a premade cable assembly to fit your exact project requirements will be difficult, if not impossible. For example, our molded cable assemblies have a mold that’s created exactly to the project’s specifications. This creates a perfect, stable fit for the assembly to the equipment and provides the protection to stand up to the elements that may be subjecting the assembly and connections. Another example is the ability to color-code cables and wires. Color-coding greatly reduces the chances that an element is incorrectly installed, making sure the custom assembly remains the perfect fit from production through implementation. 

5. Faster Turnaround Time

Utilizing a custom cable assembly means all of the project source materials are known ahead of time. This reduces the chances for sourcing hiccups that can occur from trying to source materials on-the-fly. Also, running the cable assembly through prototyping and extensive QA/QC testing helps ensure the product is the perfect fit for the function to which it is intended. All of which helps decrease the chances that a product isn’t delivered on-time, as planned. Pre-production, our engineers and design staff put together a complete production plan that even takes into account the specific tools needed to complete a job. Tools are reserved from our custom tool cribs in order to make sure they are available at the precise moment they’re needed in the production process, which also eliminates time waste. Meridian is a firm proponent of Kanban production, which seeks to eliminate these types of waste throughout the production process in order to stick to the predetermined project schedule. 

6. QA/QC

Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) lies at the very heart of everything a custom cable manufacturer does. In order to obtain and maintain our ISO 9001:2015 certification, we have to demonstrate a consistent commitment to the improvement of our processes. Demonstrating the integrity of our products, each and every production run, and our commitment to total client satisfaction, allows for production runs to go smoothly, issues to be addressed quickly, and the overall product quality to remain consistently high.

7. Experience in Similar Applications

A cable assembly manufacturer worth their weight will have produced thousands of different cable and wiring assemblies for a variety of different industries and applications. Meridian’s clients benefit from nearly three decades of intrinsic knowledge in custom cable assembly. We produce products that work right from the get-go, with each and every product manufactured off our lines. All of this experience equates to faster turnaround times, better products, and the ability to utilize our client’s budget in the most judicious means possible.

8. Better Materials

By going with a custom cable assembly and cable harness manufacturer, you get the benefit of qualified engineers sourcing the best materials for the actual application you intend the product for. At Meridian, we use UL-certified cables and wires so that we get both a uniform functionality, as well as, uniform quality to our products. This allows the final product to have a known range of specifications and likely failure points, allowing for clients to better plan for asset decay. Bottom line, better materials means better products.

9. Ability to Scale Production

Most projects usually go from concept, through design, to prototyping, testing, and finally roll off in small lots. However, we have the capability and experience to produce incredibly high volumes of cable assemblies, coil cords, molded components, and wire harnesses in our production facilities. Having two, wholly-owned production facilities located around the globe allows us to quickly ramp up production to get our products quickly to clients anywhere they may be.

10.  Control Over the Process

At Meridian, we control the entirety of the day-to-day operations in both of our production facilities. That means complete oversight over the complete production process. We have a fairly fanatical dedication to making quality products. The applications where our cable assemblies find themselves is simply too vital for us to produce anything less than great products, with known specifications, so that operators know they can count on the product wherever it’s being employed. You simply won’t get this level of control over product quality from an off-the-shelf cable assembly.

Why Meridian?

Custom cable assemblies are a vital component to most any electrical system you can think of. We know you have a wide range of choices when it comes to cable assembly companies and cable harness manufacturers. At Meridian, we’ve developed a manufacturing process that utilizes the very best techniques in supply chain management and manufacturing, such as Kanban and just-in-time ordering. After nearly three decades as a cable and wiring assembly manufacturer, we’ve gotten pretty good at the process. This means putting client needs first to deliver a truly superior product, in a cost-effective manner. We value the trust placed in us by our clients so continue to seek ways to improve our processes. When you’re ready to go over your project requirements with a knowledgeable support specialist, call 1-866-866-0544 or email us at sales@meridiancableassemblies.com. You can also utilize our convenient online contact form.

Talking Jacketing Material with Your Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Talking Jacketing Material with Your Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Choosing the right jacketing material is key to creating a tougher custom cable assembly.

Jacketing material is one of the many features of a custom cable that you should talk about with your cable assembly manufacturer. As the first line of defense against a variety of conditions — including heat, moisture, and chemicals — your choice of jacketing material can make the difference between a durable custom cable and one that fails long before it should. Ensure your finished cable is exactly what you need by covering three main points with your cable assembly manufacturer.

Physical Requirements to Discuss with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer

What is your cable connecting? Do the parts need to move around or are they generally stationary? Does the cable need to stretch? Does it need to resist tears and abrasions? These are just a few of the questions that may come up when discussing a cable’s physical requirements with your cable assembly manufacturer. Once they have the answers, they can weigh the positive and negative characteristics of different jacketing materials to select one that is most appropriate for your cable’s specifications. For example, a polyurethane jacketing has good elastic memory which makes it a solid choice for coil cords and cables that require more flexibility. However, it’s not a good choice if the cable needs to be processed easily.

Environmental Conditions

Beyond the basic physical requirements, a cable also needs to be able to function under a certain set of environmental conditions. These environmental requirements can include resistance to heat, flame, chemicals, and water or even stability over a range of temperatures. There are enough jacketing options available that really fine tuning your cable to the specific conditions of your installation environment is possible in most cases. We can even add a jacketing made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that can be made resistant to UV rays or almost as flexibile as a thermoplastic polyestomer.

Cable Appearance

While the look of a cable may not change its electrical or mechanical performance, the appearance is often more than simple cosmetics. Even something as simple as jacketing in a specific color can enhance the safety of the finished product because it helps better differentiate the finished product from other cables. A jacketing can also be designed to match the equipment manufacturer’s overall design aesthetic, which can help users keep the right cable with the right equipment.cable assembly manufacturer jacketing

Finishes can be matte or glossy, depending on your needs. In some cases, a matte finish can make the cable easier to grip, which can be useful for installation and handling in certain conditions. For medical equipment, there are also requirements for cables that may come into contact with skin that include cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization that may dictate the properties of the jacketing.

Conclusion

Jacketing material is one of the many features a cable assembly manufacturer is able to customize to meet your specific needs. With all the options available, it’s important to have an in-depth discussion with an experienced design team to make sure they have all the information they need to select the right materials for your cable. Contact Meridian Cable when you’re ready to get started on a custom cable. Our team looks forward to answering your questions.