Category Archives: Custom Cable Assemblies

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?