Category Archives: Custom Cable Assemblies

Safety Considerations for Custom Cable Assemblies

Safety Considerations for Custom Cable Assemblies

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

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

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

Ask Questions

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

Safe Materials for Your Custom Cable Assemblies

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

Conductors

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

Insulation & Jacketing

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

Connectors & Strain Reliefcustom-cable-assemblies-connector

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assembled Cable

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

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

Molded Cable Assembly

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

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

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

Hiring a Cable Assembly Manufacturer: What to Think about First

Hiring a Cable Assembly Manufacturer: What to Think about First

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

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

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

Determining the General Type of Cable

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

Power

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

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

Signal

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

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

Questions to Consider before Talking to a Cable Assembly Manufacturer

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

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

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

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

Custom Cable Assemblies Basics

Custom Cable Assemblies Basics

Understanding the basics of custom cable assemblies can help you find the perfect solution for your product or equipment.

Custom cable assemblies are all around us, bringing sound, information, and even light into our homes and businesses. When they are working, we don’t spend much time thinking about them. Even when they fail, unless you are an electrical engineer, you may not fully understand how or why they differ from traditional cables. This isn’t a big deal for the layperson, but if you are responsible for replacing a cable assembly for a piece of equipment, a little information about the basics can smooth the process when working with a wire and cable manufacturer.

Wires, Cables, & Cable Assemblies

Wires, cables, and cable assemblies have similar basic purposes, but they aren’t quite the same. When talking to a wire and cable manufacturer, using the right terminology can prevent any miscommunications during the consultation and design process.

Wire – A wire is made up of a single conductor that can be solid or stranded and is insulated with a non-conductive material. While wires with solid cores tend to be inexpensive and produce the best connections, they can be difficult to work with in some situations due to their inflexibility. A stranded core is more flexible, but is more costly to produce and does not have the same carrying capability as a solid core wire of the same gauge.

Cable – A cable is two or more wires that have been bonded or braided together. Unlike wires, cables tend to be insulated, which means they are more protected than standard wires. This extra protection often makes them more heavy duty than a standard wire.

Cable Assembly –  A cable assembly is a group of wires or cables that are bound together and covered by a durable exterior product. They are often made from materials like shrink-wrapped thermoplastic, thermoplastic rubber, or vinyl and come in many shapes and sizes.

Customizing Cable Assemblies

When binding wires and cables together, you have a few choices to make. Because custom cable assemblies are tailored to specific needs, they can be designed to withstand environmental factors, like moisture, heat, friction, and other hazards. They can even come in different shapes or sizes depending on the space where they will be used.  When working with a wire and cable manufacturer, they will work with you to determine a wide range of factors for your cable assembly, such as:custom cable assemblies

  • Conductor Gauge & Material
  • Stranding Sizes
  • Insulation Types
  • Jacketing Materials
  • Wraps & Shields

An experienced cable manufacturer like Meridian Cable is able to offer you a vast range of customization options for custom cable assemblies. Since all of our products are made to order, we are able to design and extrude a cable assembly that is customized to the needs of your equipment and environment. Get in touch to learn more or find out how we can help you design and produce custom cable assemblies that are safe, effective, and durable.

Custom Cable Assemblies with Standard Cables

Custom Cable Assemblies with Standard Cables

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

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

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

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

Making Smart Design Choices with Stock Cable

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

custom cable assemblies with black jacketing

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

Talking with an Expert Wire & Cable Manufacturer

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

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

Expertise Matters When Designing A Custom Cable Assembly

Expertise Matters When Designing A Custom Cable Assembly

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

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

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

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

Conductor Gauge & Stranding Sizes

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

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

Insulation & Fillers

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

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

Wraps, Shields, & Jacket Materials

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

Markings on Custom Cables

Understanding the colors and markings on your custom cabling.

The basics of custom design cables’ markings and symbols, and what the Markings on Custom Cables mean for your product.

Custom design cables may have a series of markings on them that are intended to denote their function and proper usage. As a cable customer, you want to ensure that your cabling complies with industry standards and norms to avoid confusion while making installation and maintenance as simple as possible for the end user. Here are some of the common Markings on Custom Cables along with indicators that often appear on quality customized cable.

The Lettering and Markings on Custom Cables

Markings on Custom Cables
Markings on Custom Cables

When designing cable, the manufacturer will often print lettering on the product’s jacketing during production. The purpose of this lettering is to let users know about the product’s specifications before installing it. Below are some of the letters that are commonly used in custom cable design and what they mean.

  • H – This indicates that the wire is safe to use in temperatures that will not exceed 75°C.
  • HH–  This combination means that the cables or wiring were designed to withstand temperatures that will not exceed 90°C.
  • T – The letter “T” indicates that the custom cables have thermoplastic jacketing. This type of jacketing is made of a durable material that has the ability to insulate and protect your wiring – even in rugged or industrial uses.
  • X– The “X” typically indicates that the wire’s jacketing is made of a thermoset material. Thermosets have a higher heat tolerance than thermoplastics, which typically makes them more suitable for higher temperature applications.
  • W – “W” typically indicates that the product is safe for use in conditions that may be damp or involve contact with water.
  • N – This wire has a nylon coating, the benefit of nylon is that it can protect your product from abrasions and from several corrosive materials such as oil and gas.

The Color of Your Custom Cable

Many of these combinations will depend on the geographic location of the final product and the standards there. To avoid confusion, it is important to ask your manufacturer to research this before making a final decision.

It is also important to note that the different color combinations used in wiring projects vary based on a number of additional factors including the type of project, the number of conductors associated with it, and the aesthetic of the final project. Because of these factors, you will likely need to rely on your wire manufacturer and designer to determine the most appropriate color combinations for your product’s cable or wire.

At Meridian, we have the capability to design custom cable in a variety of colors and color combinations to match the aesthetic of your product, speed up installation, and promote safe maintenance. We also have the ability to manufacture these products, producing prototypes along the way to ensure your product’s efficiency and functionality.

Decoding The Markings on Your Custom Design Cables

Filler Materials Used in Custom Cables

When manufacturing custom cable, there is an array of options and specific choices that must be made. One of these choices is the Filler Materials for Custom Cables and understanding the filler that will be ideal for your product.

Developing custom cable capable of handling your industry’s specific needs, increasing efficiency and maximizing budgets.
Between the wires housed in your cable assembly, there is typically a filler material helping to keep these wires in place and ensure that the cable stays round in cross-section.

Filler Materials for Custom Cables
Filler Materials for Custom Cables

This filler can vary greatly in material ranging from foam substances to plastics to aramid fibers, and all of these materials have differing properties that they can impart on your custom assemblies. Fillers have several functions within a cord including helping the cord to retain its shape and reducing friction and heat which can degrade your wiring over time. There are several available Filler Materials for Custom Cables that can be utilized within your cabling to reduce these adverse reactions and increase the lifespan of your product.

 

Filler Materials for Custom Cables: Filler Tapes

Your manufacturer may choose to utilize tape to hold various wires together to make the manufacturing process simpler. This can prevent tangled wiring by keeping all of the cable’s necessary wires together before incorporating it into a cable assembly. Tape is also an effective filler material for expelling any air pockets that may have been trapped between the various wires housed within the cabling. Many cable manufacturers also use tape to bundle the wiring together to form the desired shape. This is beneficial as some applications may require a thin, flat cord while others may benefit from a cable with a perfectly rounded circumference. Tapes can also be used to create separate groups of wires within the same cable. This is can help processing the cable and making attaching components easier.

Tape is a beneficial filler material in part due to the added benefits that tapes made of various materials can add to your product. Such materials include:

  • Polyimide tape: This type of tape can be used in high temperature applications and would be a helpful addition to assembly cabling that will be required to handle high-temperatures.
  • Water-swelling tape: This is a filler that will swell to offer an additional line of protection to the conductors held inside of the jacketing in case it is damaged, leaving the tape as the only barrier to protect the conductor. While a material like this may cost more initially, it has the potential to save your wiring system from shorts and water damage.
  • PTFE tape: This type of tape is also well suited for high heat and high friction uses. It is very durable and can withstand industrial applications. If your wire will be used in a rugged environment, ask your manufacturer if this type of tape would be an effective option for your cable’s wiring.

Filler Materials for Custom Cables: Additional Materials

  • Polyethylene: This type of thermoplastic can be molded fairly easily and because it’s relatively light, it is useful for longer cables.
  • Foam Fillers: Foam fillers can be made out of a variety of materials and are effective for filling in small spaces between wires and retaining the cable’s shape.
  • Cotton: This is a low-cost solution which could be a benefit when creating long strands of wiring that will not require extreme durability. Cotton can be an effective filler for cords that need to be flexible as the cotton is not as restrictive as plastic fillers. Additives, such as flame retardant additives, can be used to customize this solution to tailor the wiring to your product and its needs.
  • Steel: This filler can be used when strength is needed. It can be “tied off” at either end of an assembly thereby transferring any force the cable encounters away from the conductors and onto a housing or structure inside the assembly.

Filler Materials for Custom Cables: Wiring that does not Utilize Fillers

Cabling that doesn’t need to have additional strength added to it can sometimes do without an additional filler. Cables with just a few internal wires may be able to forgo fillers and the extra protection that they offer if the wires are static in use and will not be exposed to bending, cycling or extreme conditions like water, chemicals, signal interference, or heat. Another factor to consider is the arrangement and geometry of your wiring system. Concentric and compacted strands likely don’t need to have fillers added to help them to retain their shape, but wiring with rope strand or sector conductor arrangements will not form a circular wire without the addition of fillers.

Custom cable assemblies and custom cables often require fillers to ensure that they are able to work as effectively as possible and are protected from the elements and other stressors that they may encounter. Not all cables require fillers though, and they can alter the price of the final cable product. As a cable customer, it’s important that you understand what type of filler, if any, will be necessary to properly handle the needs of your cable and the wiring housed within it.

What Are The Types of Filler Materials for Custom Cables?