Category Archives: Meridian Cable

The Ultimate Wire Harness Connectors Guide

wire harnesses with connectors on a white background

Wiring harness connectors come in an array of sizes, shapes, and materials in order to produce the best results in a given application. Our cable engineers utilize different wiring harness types in custom wiring harnesses every day to perfect their designs in terms of continuity, integrity, and safety. 

In today’s LiveWire spotlight, we’re honing in on the wide world of wiring harness connectors and terminals to give you a better idea as to just how important these components are in the overall design. 

What is a Harness Connector?

Wire harnesses provide both protection and organization for a cable assembly. Outside forces like abrasion, extreme temperatures, moisture, dust, and more, all bombard a cable assembly and can work to degrade components over time. Wire harnesses provide protection against these forces and are specifically engineered for whatever environment the application happens to be. Wire harness connectors, as part of this system, are the bridge for providing a consistent flow of data, signal, or power.  

There are essentially two main types of wire or cable harness connectors—male and female.  Male and female wire harness connectors serve to provide the necessary junctions between the many different elements of the wire harness to produce an efficient transmission of data, signal, or power through the system. In simplistic terms, plugs are usually male connectors and jacks are female wire harness connectors. 

Connectors come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and dimensions in order to fit perfectly within the electrical system they need to support. From cutting edge medical devices to complex industrial control systems, the humble wire harness connector makes these marvels of modern technology possible. 

Different Types of Wiring Harness Connectors

When our wiring engineers set to work designing the perfect custom harnesses, the types of connectors they use are based on a variety of factors such as the types of connections present, what type of insulation is needed, and what kind of power and signal contacts there are. Different configurations within the wiring harness itself can dictate the need for one connector over another. There’s wire-to-wire configurations, board-to-board, and different combinations therein to consider. 

Our team will typically utilize standard connector designs with either a 2-pin, 3-pin, or 4-pin setup. A host of data sets are used to find the perfect connector design to meet the needs of the system, as well as fit within the client’s budget and time horizon. Effectively bringing efficient design, manufacturing, and logistics together in one cohesive package is the mark of a great custom wire harness manufacturer. 

Variables we plan for with each production run include:

  • The rating of the current.
  • The density and/or size of the circuit.
  • How much engagement force is required.
  • The gauge and length of individual wires.
  • The voltage required. 
  • Any certifications required.
  • How much each component costs.
  • Lead times to bring it all together.

Mitigating for delays and cost overruns has become a speciality with our team. After you’ve been a leader in custom cable manufacturing for decades, the intrinsic knowledge of your team and a vast tooling inventory really pays dividends in the quality of each product produced. 

A Closer Look at Wiring Harness Terminals

Terminals are what they sound like—their termination of a wire. At this important junction, you might have the end of a wiring component or you may have a connector to a different component, it all depends on the needs of the system. Terminals come in a variety of sizes and shapes, as well, and are all pertinent to their particular application. 

A few of the many different types of wire harness terminals include:

  • Rings: these terminals have a rounded end which lets it attach to screws and studs. Available in many different sizes, they can be insulated and crimped or soldered onto wires.
  • Spades – with a unique fork shape, these have an easily-attachable open end ideal for tight spaces.
  • Hooks – also with an open end, these are simple and efficient terminals with a high durability rating.
  • Quick-connect/disconnect – these are great for industrial control systems and automotive applications where the harness needs to be connected and disconnected rapidly.
  • Bullets – great for connections between male and female wire harness connectors.

Terminals play into the overall design of wire harness connections by providing the necessary junction from which a cabling harness can be terminated or progress to other components. Their design is just as crucial as any aspect of the custom wire harness in order to produce a product with the continuity, integrity, and safety required to pass our stringent in-house quality assurance testing.

How to Design Wire Harness Connectors

Seeing all the different types of applications for wire harnesses—telecommunications, medical, military, industrial, automotive, and more, it’s no small wonder that wire harnesses are an extremely customized piece of hardware within the electric system. When our designers first sit down with our clients, we work to understand the application in its entirety, as well as the budget and time constraints that require careful project management.

Location, Location, Location

One of the first steps in choosing the perfect wire harness connectors for a custom wire harness includes looking at the location and environmental factors of the intended application. Wire harnesses are usually behind-the-scenes operators, hanging out inside of the overall system to provide their critical support role. This can mean some very constrained locations where temperature, abrasion, moisture, and other variables all come into play. 

Think about military applications. Our men and women in uniform need their gear to go to the most extreme environments on planet Earth, and beyond, and still work flawlessly. This requires a cable engineer to know the environmental variables involved and assemble the perfect set of components to meet, if not exceed., the specifications of the project. 

Mitigating Against Interference

With the location in mind, comes figuring out the different types of interference that require protection. Interference comes in many different forms but all basically serve to degrade the transmission of data, power, or signal. Effective mitigation techniques such as using Mylar sheathing for electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) can help preserve the signal and maintain a clean flow. This is especially important when it comes to communications

With high-tech communications equipment, our engineers have to work to protect the system from the many types of interference that would otherwise degrade a signal or even cause complete failure altogether. 

Precision Measurements Make Better Wire Harnesses

Using the correct connectors and terminals as part of a quality wiring harness design helps to make sure that the harness is stout, protected, and routed appropriately to give the system the best conditions possible for doing its job effectively. All of the lengths of wire, gauges, terminals, connections, sheaths, shields, and insulation are carefully measured and accounted for within the wire harness design to bring about the most efficient use of materials possible. This helps projects stay both on-time and on-budget through production.

Why Quality Matters With Wiring Harness Connectors and Terminals

In order to maintain our ISO 9001:2015 certification, Meridian has to be able to demonstrate both a quality of product and a quality of process on a continual basis. This requires a certain degree of fanaticism on behalf of our product testing team in order to make sure each and every wiring harness off our assembly line is known to perform within specifications. 

We have a wide variety of testing procedures including venerable Cirrus automated testing units, but, as is the case with custom creations, there are often times when we have to create a custom test to accurately measure a custom wire harness. Our Advanced Life Testing Lab is one of the coolest places in Meridian where our quality assurance engineers put wire and cable harness connectors through extreme, real world conditions to make sure they’ll be more than ready to take on whatever is asked of them. 

The second aspect of quality, quality of process, is undertaken with a lean production mentality. Utilizing methods such as just-in-time order, Kanban production, and six sigma process improvement, we continually analyse, measure, and improve our processes to be the very best they can be. A cool aspect of the ISO 9001 certification we maintain, is that this also applies to customer service. We strive to ensure that every customer of Meridian is treated with care and respect as we work to produce the perfect product to fit within even the most exacting specifications. This level of commitment is what truly sets apart working with a custom cable and wire harness manufacturer over using a generic off-the-shelf product.

Getting Your Harness the Best Connectors and Terminals

When it comes to using the perfectly-designed wire harness connectors and terminals, a custom cable manufacturer with the specific knowledge and experience in your industry is a must. After decades of doing nothing but high-quality designs, our team has built an incredible wealth of knowledge and a vast tooling inventory which allows us to produce one-of-a-kind solutions for even the most complex systems. Contact our team today to review your project’s specifications. 

The Buyer’s Guide to OEM and Cable Harness Engineering Solutions

meeting with wire harness engineers

Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and Original Parts Distributors (OPD) depend on quality parts that are up to exact specifications. With many different cable harness engineering solutions, the team at Meridian helps OEMs source the very best components to use in their cabling systems. 

Today’s Livewire News spotlight is focused on how Meridian meets the needs of OEMs and OPDs. Read on as we cover everything you need to know about the many OEM solutions Meridian’s cable harness engineers help develop every day.

What is OEM & OPD?

As stated, OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer. OEMs are able to manufacture products to the exact specifications needed to fit within a larger system. An OEM is traditionally a company that produces parts to be used as part of another company’s final product. One of the largest OEM markets is for different automotive parts. Different companies create expertise in creating certain components that are then all assembled together by another company who then sells the product to consumers. 

As you might expect, the OEM auto parts have to be exactly right. They must be official and genuine to the vehicle maker’s specifications. In this way, OEMs are able to produce an exact match for the vehicle component at hand, which helps keep America’s automotive industry rolling.

An OPD is a company that acts as an intermediary between the OEM and the next entity in the distribution channel. This helps the producer focus on improving production, rather than having to try and distribute the product themselves. In essence, OEMs rely on OPDs to help get their products to market and OPDs rely on OEM to have something to distribute.

Best Ways for Sourcing OEM Cable

As an OEM or OPD you rely completely on custom cable manufacturers like Meridian to do a perfect job of creating a solution that fits within a very unique set of parameters. Luckily, designing and manufacturing custom cable solutions are what we do here at Meridian. In fact, we design over 70% of the products we manufacture. 

When looking for OEM cable sources, it’s important to consider the capabilities, past track record, and certifications of the manufacturer behind the product.

Capabilities of a Quality OEM Cable Manufacturer

To produce OEM cable, you have to start with the best components. At Meridican, we are currently certified by UL to produce a wide variety of single-conductor and multi-conductor wires. We are also a UL-approved cable and wire extruder, which simply adds another layer of quality to everything we produce. When it comes to OEM cable production, our team is able to provide:

  • Custom cable extrusion – this is a cable manufacturing process where molten plastic is conformed, generally through a die. Depending on the requirements of the client, different methods and materials can be used. 
  • Insert molding and overmolding – insert molding is a proven process where we can directly improve a product’s durability and functionality by covering components of the cable assembly with engineering plastics like PVC, PP, TPEE, and TPR. Meridian also designs many custom overmoldings for connectors, Y junctions, and many others.
  • Manufacturing capabilities – Meridian has two wholly-owned and operated manufacturing facilities – one in Tanggu, China and one in St. Augustine, Florida. These facilities complete everything from cable assembly design to UL approved extruding and manufacturing.
  • Process capabilities – Meridian remains a leader in custom cable manufacturing for our ability to provide a full cradle to the grave OEM cable system. Whether the cable needs overmolded connectors to ensure hermetic sealing, silicone overmolding for use in medical devices, or implanting a circuit board inside ultrasonically-welded housing, Meridian holds advanced process capabilities to meet the demands of the project.
  • Logistics – having facilities based in the US and in China helps our team judiciously distribute our client’s products per whatever project schedule is required. Integrating Kanban principles and JIT ordering, our streamlined logistics systems keep product deliveries on time. 
  • Testing/qualification and verification – automated Cirrus testers help make sure our OEM cable is produced to the very highest standards. Sometimes, we even need to design and manufacture a custom project’s very own functional tester for more advanced applications. Each product is always tested for continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality. 

Past Track Record of the OEM Cable Harness Engineer

Producing products that work in some of the harshest environments on Earth requires a manufacturer to be pretty good at what they do and getting to this level is no accident. Over many years, our gifted cable harness engineers have built up a wealth of intrinsic knowledge and a vast array of existing tooling for connectors, junctions, overmoldings, and housings for use in OEM cable assemblies.

Certifications That Matter in OEM Cable

Meridian is so serious about quality in everything we do, we even got certified for it. ISO 9001:2015 is one of the manufacturing industries highest levels of quality assurance certifications. The certification requires continuous commitment to not only improving the quality assurance of the product and the process, but it also requires improving the experience for the customer. QAQC engineering requires examining the process and continually eliminating inefficiencies. This helps us produce superior products and commit to making customer service a priority that remains in the spotlight.

Industries Using Meridian’s OEM Solutions

We’re proud to produce the OEM solutions required in a wide variety of industry applications. With several decades of experience at the highest level of OEM cable solutions, Meridian has built up the expertise and the equipment required to deliver in almost any situation. Meridian’s top areas of expertise fall within the areas of industrial control systems, medical, telecom, military, and automotive.

Industrial Control Systems 

Industrial Control Systems help power our nation’s critical infrastructure and other highly-automated facilities such as a bottling plant. The control systems themselves are highly-complex. Many require power and signal conductos in the same cable with custom strain reliefs and cable stops. Others need overmolded connectors to make sure the hermetic sealing is perfect. 

Whatever requirements are needed, our cable harness engineers work to our client’s exact specifications to produce a product that is both functional and uniquely suited for it’s required role in the system.

Medical Technology

Speciality considerations that only come with advanced experience in the demanding field of medical technology are the breakthroughs that save lives. We take our responsibility with medical device OEM solutions seriously and can incorporate components like bio-sensitive jacks, strain reliefs, silicone overmolding, and any number of other considerations depending on the needs of the project. We’re proud to have so many instances of turning our client’s most complex medical cable problems into perfect solutions. 


Cable assemblies and connectors help keep our society connected on a global scale. We help produce the critical infrastructure required in telecommunications to help keep connections open. Whether a client needs a cable assembly with ten different connectors or a coax cable with a polyurethane jacket, Meridian’s telecommunications design team can produce OEM assemblies ready for integration.


The military has some of the highest requirements for tough cable assemblies. The OEM solutions produced here may be used in everything from a fighter jet to a communications satellite. Specialized components such as Kevlar® or mylar sheathing can be used to add additional protection to an assembly. Meridian is proud to be able to produce MILSPEC cable assemblies for use in OEM applications.

Automotive & Other Industries

OEM cable assemblies for automotive, alternative energy, broadcasting, and a host of others are all found in Meridian’s expansive wheelhouse. Advanced process capabilities and tooling helps Meridian design and manufacture OEM cable to even the strictest of standards. 

Things to Consider When Starting an OEM Cable Project

When you first sit down with the Meridian design team, we’ll start to learn your needs and expectations for the project. A dedicated project manager will start gathering the specifications required for your project and outline a list of required steps to design, manufacture, test, and approve the OEM cable. With this plan in place, the entire team has a blueprint to follow to ensure the project is complete on-time and on-budget. 

While there are many steps between design and volume production, prototyping is arguably one of the most beneficial tasks our engineers can integrate into the process. Prototyping is where we get to design and test several different variations of a product to see how different combinations work together. Beyond simply deciding between material and design choices, our team also looks at how the logistics will play out and which design variation is best suited for meeting the project’s specifications.

Getting Started with an OEM Cable Harness Engineer

When looking for an OEM cable harness engineer, remember quality and experience matter. Off-the-shelf cable assemblies may be plentiful but you never know exactly how it fits with your existing system. With Meridian, our engineers take the time to learn your needs, budget, and timeline to produce the perfect cabling solution. Contact the Meridian Team to get a custom quote for your next OEM cable harness project.

Top Tips & Tricks for Crimping Wires in Wiring Harness Manufacturing

wire and cable manufacturers

Crimping wires as part of the wire harness manufacturing process may seem like a no-brainer step where any crimp will do. However, we’ll show how this seemingly simple process can absolutely make or break your project and the best methods used by the best manufacturers in the business to ensure a  perfect crimp, every time.

What Separates Custom Wire Harness Manufacturers’ Crimping Methods

At its most basic, crimping is simply the joining of wires to some form of fitting. The fittings help the wires connect to other components of the wiring harness assembly or to other wires themselves. The crimp is actually deforming the connector so that the components stick together. There are crimping hand tools, semi-automated tools, and fully automated crimping machines that our team uses with our custom wire harness projects.

What separates custom wire harness manufacturers is the quality of the crimp. This may not seem like an exact science when we’re deforming components to make them stay together; however, crimping needs to be exact to an incredibly precise level in order to ensure the cables’ transmission of data, power, or signal isn’t degraded. 

How to Test Crimps for Quality 

Quality testing is performed in a variety of ways and should be present throughout the manufacturing process and is something we take really seriously at Meridian. We’re really proud and humbled to continue to maintain our ISO 9001 certification. This certification is geared specifically at rating a manufacturer’s commitment to quality by grading both the quality assurance/quality control program itself and of the continued commitment towards improving this process. This level of commitment is what truly sets apart a quality crimp and a quality product.

A few of the different ways that we look to test crimp-quality include:

  • Crimp Force
  • Crimp Height and Width
  • Crimp Pull-Out Force
  • Crimp Strip Length

Running through these tests, sophisticated testing equipment is required to ensure the validity of the test data. To detect minute defects, you need a machine capable of tiny measurements. With our fully automated crimp terminal machine, there is a built-in crimp force monitor which is super sensitive in order to spot even the tiniest error in a crimp. 

Top Tips for a Perfect Crimp in Wiring Harnesses

Whether your princess involves the best hand tools for crimping all the way to a fully automated crimping machine, engineers still need to be involved throughout the process in order to ensure strict adherence to the specifications of the project. Here, we’ve highlighted several areas we pay special attention to while crimping wire harness components in order to create the perfect solution to our client’s unique needs.

1. Making Sure the Wire’s Insulation is All the Way Inside the Crimp Tab

On a crimp, the tab is what holds a wire tight and makes sure that the wire itself is fully covered. With a stripped wire, there absolutely has to be enough wire for the crimp tab to be completely covering the wire. The tab helps create a firm grip on the wire and also can grab a bit on the wire’s insulation to really secure the connection. With unstripped wires, we use crimp tabs that can make direct contact with the wire. This really is the preferred route since it saves time and is equally effective while maintaining the integrity of the wire.

The engineering that goes into this step is with the end-use of the user in mind. Our engineers design and test our product to withstand the type of variables the system is likely to face. Typically our tests run to the extreme side with things like water spray, salt exposure, extreme temps, and bending/stretching. We do this to make sure we know for a fact that a product works exactly as it’s supposed to when it rolls off the final assembly line and before it ever ships to our clients.

2. Ensuring the Wire Itself is Free of Defects Before Crimping

When you start comparing your crimp options, you really should start with the wire itself. We use UL-certified wires with known specifications so that our engineers can perfectly map out how the final product will perform under a given set of circumstances. Using a quality, proven product from the start is what helps ensure a wiring harness can be counted on to perform as intended. You can have the finest crimp in the world, but if the wires themselves are flawed, the final product will be less than stellar. 

3. How to Check Connectors to Make Sure the Wire is Fully Retained

Any sort of loose connection is going to be the biggest degrader for the wiring to transmit its supply of power, data, or signal. As a wire is having it’s terminals connected, there are several checks along the way that can help ensure a quality wire retention. 

4. Looking Closely at Crimp Indentations 

Wiring harnesses provide the wire management infrastructure needed in today’s sophisticated electronics. Crimp indentations help with the wire management plan, as well as the overall presentation. Proper alignment is also integral for ensuring a crimping tab is making good contact and actively gripping the wire. With several different kinds of crimping profiles out there, the proper indentation, done to the precise angles required, is what ensures the integrity of the connection.

5. Watch for Tears, Pulls, or Other Defects in the Insulation

Another way we pay incredibly close attention to quality is through the use of a micrograph. This sensitive equipment takes a cross section of a crimped terminal and analyzes it literally under a powerful microscope. When we polish and/or use methods like electrolyte staining, our quality assurance team is able to spot even the smallest of defects in the insulation and other integral components. This level of quality is what helps our clients know they can depend on the product they receive. With many of our wiring harnesses being used in medical, military, industrial control, and telecommunications, we know our products are simply too vital to ever allow a premature failure.

6. Ensure Crimp Tabs Don’t Damage the Wire Insulation

While we’ve shown that using insulation inside the crimp tab can benefit the integrity of the connection, as with our last tip, the engineers need to make sure that there is no further damage done to the wire insulation. It can be very easy to inadvertently damage the delicate components within a wiring harness, which is why it’s so crucial to have continuous checks throughout the process. 

When a crimping tool is being used, especially with hand-tools, there needs to be an exact exertion of force to properly grip the wire but not to damage the insulation. The same principle applies during all phases of the manufacturing process. If there’s defects in the insulation, there’s a good chance for damage and/or degradation of the harness prematurely.

7. Inspecting the Final Product

Any form of wire separation, damage to wires, damage to insulation, or abnormalities present within the many different terminals, connectors, wires, or any other component is simply not tolerated from a quality custom wire harness manufacturer.

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing quality because it’s that crucial for success in everything we do here at Meridian. As we’ve stated, when your products are being used to help our men and women in uniform, our doctors on the frontline of the medical field, or the vital communications equipment we all rely on to stay connected, you tend to take ensuring quality seriously. One of the biggest advantages we bring to our clients was the advent and ongoing use of our Advanced Life Testing Lab. This state of the art testing facility allows our engineers to subject a product to the harshest conditions imaginable to measure just how far these products will go for our clients/ When we’ve reached the best combination of different components to reach a desired outcome, we move forward in the manufacturing process. 

Quality control continues even through the final production run as each and every product we produce is tested before it ships so that when our clients receive the product they can have peace of mind knowing the integrity, safety, and functionality has been tested and retested.

Getting the Best Crimp for Your Custom Wiring Harness

Crimping wires might seem straightforward but lower tier manufacturers simply aren’t able to offer the level of sophistication in equipment or expertise to ensure that the crimp is performing flawlessly. At Meridian, we pride ourselves on being custom wire harness manufacturers. By designing over 70% of the assemblies and harnesses we produce, we’ve built up an incredible knowledge and capability base. In fact we have over 5,000 existing tools, connections, and components that allow our design team to be able to produce the perfect solution, on-time and on-budget. 

When you’re ready for a whole new experience working with a custom harness manufacturer, please call on our team of cable and wire harness professionals.

An Up Close and Personal Look at a Fully Automated Cable Crimp Terminal Machine

At Meridian, we get to play with a lot of cool toys in our day-to-day. In fact, we have over 5,000 existing tools and components to build the perfect custom ribbon cable assemblies for the task at hand. One seriously powerful machine at our disposal is a fully-automated cable crimp terminal machine. This beast helps our engineers produce the perfect crimp for volume applications – saving time and money. Today’s series will dive into this crimp terminal machine and show you how this unique capability helps set Meridian’s ribbon cable assemblies apart from the competition.

How to Crimp Different Sized Flat Ribbon Cable 

When it comes to speeding up the process of crimping, nothing beats a fully automated cable crimp terminal machine. With incredible accuracy and precision built-in right in, an automated crimp provides a level of exactness at a speed that is simply not possible by manual methods. Let’s take a closer look at just what it takes to pull off such accuracy and precision, assembly after assembly. 

Getting Wires Ready to be Crimped 

Large and small gauge wire alike will all have to follow quite a few steps in the manufacturing process before it ever makes its way on the automated crimp machine. Even with a fully automated unit, our engineers have to be incredibly exact with the instructions they are providing to the unit via sophisticated design software. 

One of the most basic functions in the manufacturing process is feeding wire. When you have a really small wire gauge, putting even a fractional amount of excess stress will cause the wire’s integrity to be compromised. Even this basic function requires sophisticated equipment. The wires can be fed using several manner of devices such as a pneumatic or servomotor mechanism. There are even tools that use air to help propel wires through a guide tube so that they can be processed jam-free.

There are a thousand and one other considerations our engineers have to plan for in the design process to ensure a smooth build. Small wires tend to have really good memory, that is, it tends to want to go back to a previously-held shape, such as when it has come off a spool and wants to curl up when it is released. Other challenges our team overcomes with the grace borne of experience is in the cutting and stripping stage. Even if you have the best equipment in the industry, if the technicians powering the systems aren’t precise in the configuration of the blades, the process will not yield the kind of precision we require at Meridian. You also must have an absolute minimum wire overhang in this step in order to achieve consistent quality. Even for something as simple-sounding as cutting wire, the process can be incredibly complex and precise.

Let’s consider why this is. If you apply too much force, you can compress the wire and come out with an ovular shaped cut, instead of a circle. The circle shape is critical for attaching contacts and also terminations. This is also the case with stripping, where even the minutest excess will cause the conductor to be scraped or nicked, leading to a termination that’s not as strong or resistant to corrosive substances.

All of these tools require active maintenance and calibration to ensure they perform at the level of exactness required in this industry. As our flat and ribbon cable assemblies find themselves in everything from MILSPEC communications equipment to cutting-edge medical devices, we find it vital to seek perfection in every assembly we produce.

Setting Up the Cable Crimping Machine 

When wires are really small, they require more consideration to process. As the wires move forward in the process, you must have an applicator that is very precise. These help to provide a consistent position for the terminals. Any kind of damage or deformity to the terminals will compromise the connection. The kind of precision applicators we use help to put a complete conductor inside the terminal and then will align the crimper, terminal, and anvil. 

The automated crimping machine uses an applicator ram to push the crimper down and onto the barrel of the terminal. The force applied will actually deform the wire and barrel, but by applying just the right amount, our engineers create an airtight connection. Within the crimping machine, there are many different processes that can include crimping, an application of a sealant, and wire-end twisting and wire tinning. The software controlling the machine helps to keep the timing of these processes in perfect harmony. 

Positioning can make or break the crimping process so focusing on an absolutely perfect position for the wire conductor inside the terminal is a vital step. Even the slightest variance of being too long or two short will create it’s own list of problems and the conductivity can be severely compromised. If all the strands on a conductor don’t make it inside the barrel, you can also have issues with current degradation. Individual strands are far weaker by themselves and will be subject to outside variables.

Testing and Retesting Custom Ribbon Cable Assemblies 

All of this precision may sound easy when we’re using sophisticated automated machines but some of the small wire gauges we deal with can be really, really tiny, even down to around the thickness of a human hair. With small wires, trying to keep the terminal and anvil aligned can be downright difficult, because they are so diminutive. However, this is vital as asymmetry will compromise everything we’re trying to accomplish for our client. 

Some of the most precise ways to eliminate terminal feeding and/or alignment errors is by using a highly-tuned camera and software that auto-checks the alignment. Testing also involves not just the product, but also testing the equipment that produces it regularly. Our in-house engineers test our crimpers to make sure they are not worn.  Worn crimp dies might not be able to produce a uniform deformation to the terminal during the crimp. An imbalance can produce an asymmetrical crimp, which creates a weak point in the assembly

Keeping Automated Cable Crimp Terminal Machines in Alignment

Asymmetry can also occur when certain components aren’t precisely where they need to be. If a terminal isn’t oriented correctly or if an incorrect terminal accidentally makes it into the crimp area, you can get any number of crimping errors like too tight, too loose, or even errant conductor strands. Any of these errors can cause a ribbon cable assembly to simply not provide the level of conductivity required. Failure like this can simply be annoying when it comes to a connection or can be life-threatening if present in a medical device. No matter the circumstance, quality is absolutely key in custom ribbon cable assemblies.

One of the most likely culprits of asymmetry in the system is what’s known as “flash”. This is an excess of material on the sides of the terminal and on the anvil. When there’s too much flash, you can have an error with inserting the wires properly into the terminal, sealing properly, or causing a full break which would have a negative effect on performance. Our engineers test and retest each and every cable assembly before, during, and after manufacture to ensure a strict adherence to quality control standards.

Quality Assurance and Quality Control with Flat and Ribbon Cable

As a UL-approved manufacturing facility, we have to hold ourselves to a high standard in order to meet the rigorous requirements of continued quality assurance and quality control. As we’ve mentioned, this requires a lot of testing and retesting throughout the process in order to accomplish. 

Some of the many different tests our engineers perform with crimping include:

  • Crimp Force
  • Crimp Height and Width
  • Crimp Pull-Out Force
  • Crimp Strip Length
  • Measurement of Insulation Window
  • Bend cycle testing

When you’re running a test like crimp force monitoring, you need highly sophisticated testing equipment in order to detect any defects in what can be very small wires. Our fully automated cable crimp terminal machine has built-in crimp force monitoring that is highly sensitive and can detect when there is even the slightest error in a bad crimp. Another useful tool is the micrograph which is a photo of a cross section of the crimped terminal that’s then analyzed by microscope. Super precise optics and tricks like polishing and electrolyte staining help our engineers detect any defects, even when incredibly minute.

How to Begin a Custom Ribbon Cable Assembly Order

With the tools and equipment available to our brilliant design staff, Meridian is able to pull off some truly remarkable custom ribbon builds. We provide a seamless and fully integrated process, from initial concept design, through prototyping, and onto volume production. We can even help get your product certified, whenever that’s needed. When you’re ready to go over your project’s flat ribbon cable specifications, please use our handy contact form. You can also call 1-877-806-8667 or email us at

The Cable Guru’s Guide to Flat and Ribbon Cable Assemblies

colorful ribbon cables

If you’ve ever popped open your PC, you’ve no doubt seen a host of flat or ribbon cable assemblies connecting your computer’s various components. This uniquely-suited cable assembly provides a host of possible applications, especially where space constraints are a factor. 

In today’s spotlight series, we’re covering everything you need to know about this humble workhorse and detailing ways that flat and ribbon cable assemblies can significantly save your project time and money.

Flat Cable Assemblies vs. Ribbon Cable Assemblies

Flat cable assemblies, ribbon cable assemblies, even planar cable assemblies are all different ways of referring to the same unique type of cable assembly. Because the wires are laid flat and arranged parallel to one another, the finished product is wide and flat and resembles a length of ribbon – hence, ribbon cable. This shape makes it extremely flexible and able to fit in spaces where other cable assemblies would not be feasible. 

Because of the connector’s engineering, a flat ribbon cable assembly can accomplish many connections simultaneously, which helps save time and money in the overall assembly design and production. While ribbon cable assemblies can go by several different names, they are all referring to the same versatile product.

Meridian’s high-performance automatic cutting machine at work! This machine processes a plethora of wires and cables. 

Understanding the Specifications for Common Ribbon Cable Assemblies

You can tell ribbon cable assemblies apart with two key measures – the spacing, also known as “pitch”, and how many conductors are used in the assembly. Spacing will almost always follow a set scale, but our team is well-versed in creating custom spacing solutions for a specific task at hand. The number of conductors used also follows a standardized scale, with options for customization available here as well. For the conductors themselves, we can use a variety of American Wire Gauge (AWG) sizes of stranded copper wire but ribbon cable assemblies typically run from 18 AWG to 34 AWG.  

Main Advantages of Ribbon Cable Assemblies 

Flat ribbon cable assemblies terminate into an industry-standard insulation displacement contact (IDC) socket. This means that flat ribbon cable is one of the most versatile cable assemblies on the market today. They are well suited for wire-to-board applications that are commonly found in telecommunications, networking, medical devices, industrial control systems, military applications, gaming, and a whole host of others.

Different Types of Ribbon Cable Connectors

With a wide variety of different cable connectors available for flat ribbon cable assemblies, Meridian can produce the perfect connector to fit within the application. Because the connectors allow for multiple connections simultaneously, our design engineers focus on providing the perfect components to match the existing system being implemented.

A few of the most common types of ribbon cable connectors include:

  • D-Subminiature (d-sub): a common type of ribbon cable connector so-named because of the “D” shape of their metal shield. You’ll recognize these connectors as the type usually used to connect components like monitors to your desktop computer. D-subs come in a wide variety of types all their own including M-single, F-single, M-M, and F-F. Different elements like strain relief and inserts can help customize the perfect d-sub connector for your project’s unique application.
  • Socket: too many of these versatile socket-type ribbon connectors exist to list but a few of the different variety include socket to cable, socket to cable T-P, and socket to socket.
  • Dips: dip connectors help provide a sharp 90-degree turn for the termination. They can be dip to single and dip to dip with a great many variations within those two broad categories.
  • Card Edge: resembling a credit card slot on a payment device, the card edge connector is available in varieties like the card edge to single without flange and card edge to single with drilled flange. 

Our design engineers know each of these connectors inside and out and combine decades of experience in cable assembly production to pull off some incredible feats for our clients. No matter the environment, complex specifications, or logistical challenges, our team can produce the perfect ribbon cable assembly connections needed for your custom project. 

How we Create Custom Ribbon Cable Assemblies

At our core, Meridian is, and always will be, a custom cable assembly design firm. We employ teams of in-house engineers and designers with many years of experience producing custom cable assemblies for every conceivable industry. Rare indeed is the ribbon cable assembly that goes from design to volume production without thousands of steps in between that continuously test and tweak until the perfect solution is achieved. 

Some of the many steps our dedicated project managers help keep on-track include:

  • Ribbon Cable Assembly Design Phase

When our design engineers first sit down with our clients looking for ribbon cable assemblies, they take the time to get to know the specifications needed, as good, if not better, than the client themselves. In this way, we design the perfect solution to meet the needs of the project, rather than trying to make the project fit with an off-the-shelf solution. 

With state-of-the-art CAD design software, our team sets to work to build the perfect amalgamation of wires, connectors, terminations, and other components in a digital space before the first physical pieces ever come together. Once these designs are exact, our design team will move to prototype to start testing how everything comes together in the real world.

  • Prototyping Steps for Flat Ribbon Cable Projects

The prototyping phase allows our engineers the opportunity to test a few different combinations for the materials and/or processes used in a particular flat ribbon cable assembly. We test each unit for integrity, stability, safety, and functionality and see how that specific unit’s components work together. One crucial piece of prototyping is testing different sourcing logistics. Knowing the most efficient means of producing the best variation of a particular assembly is how we’re able to consistently provide dependable products to our clients.

  • Getting Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies into Volume Production

Once we’re sure which iteration provides the best combination of form and function, we’ll move ahead with volume producing the assemblies per the project specs. Over time, we’ve built our existing tool crib into a virtual library of more than 5,000 tools, connectors, and other components available for use during production. Honing our process using Kanban manufacturing techniques and just-in-time ordering, we are always aiming to make our processes more efficient. 

  • Simulating Real-World Conditions in the Advanced Life Testing Lab

Cable assemblies are destined for any number of harsh environments and our design team has to take into account any environmental factors that can hinder the cables’ performance. 

In our Advanced Life Testing Lab (arguably one of the most fun places in our production facility), our quality assurance engineers subject the flat ribbon cable assemblies to variables like extreme temps, saltwater, abrasion, flexing, and more, all to ensure that the components we’re using can meet the demands of the project. 

When our ribbon cables are helping to power things like life-saving medical equipment, anything less than a perfect solution won’t make it past our stringent quality standards.

All of these phases require many steps in between in order to go from concept to finished assembly, ready to be implemented by the customer into their existing system. While there are many processes that must occur at proper intervals to keep a project on-time and on-budget, our dedicated project managers handle the entire project with professionalism and the confidence that comes from decades of experience as a custom cable assembly manufacturer.

How Using Ribbon Cable Assemblies Can Save Your Project Money

Flat ribbon cable assemblies are so easy to terminate because of a fixed and controlled spacing plan. This allows for ribbon cables to be able to be mass terminated using the IDC connectors we covered earlier. Typical IDC connectors will use a type of forked-contact that is able to go through insulation in order to make contact with a conductor. While there are times when one end of a cable will utilize an IDC connector and the other may be soldered or crimped, most often, both ends of a ribbon cable assembly will have IDC connectors installed. 

Because the IDCs help simplifies the termination, integration of a flat ribbon cable assembly is extremely easy to accomplish, saving the project time and money over implementing a less-desirable solution. 

Why Choose Meridian? 

At Meridian, we design well over 70% of the assemblies that we produce. With a process honed from years of providing the best quality in custom cable assembly manufacturing available, we are able to provide a turn-key solution to clients around the globe. 

Our wholly-owned manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and China means our team has control over every aspect of the design, production, and delivery of your custom flat ribbon cable assembly and can ensure the product functions dependably, cycle-after-cycle. 

Start Your Flat and Ribbon Cable Assembly Project Now

Contact our team of dedicated professionals today for an entirely different custom cable design experience. We can work within your budget to produce the perfect solution for your unique application. Get a quote through our handy contact form, call us at 1-877-806-8667, or email

Wire Harness Projects: The Technical Skills Needed to Complete the Assembly

Wire Harnesses and Wire Assemblies

From the get go, a wire harness project can be fairly complex. Once the client has laid out their needs to our in-house engineers and designers, work begins to create the perfect solution for the unique situation. From simple hand tools through fully automated manufacturing equipment, our team employs the best techniques available in wire harness manufacturing today. 

In today’s spotlight series, we’ll focus on the skills employed by our manufacturing experts and the tools they use throughout the process. 

In a Land of Automation, Hand Tool Skills Still Reign Supreme

Wire harness manufacturing has never been more automated, with new technological advancements making the process so connected, so complex that you might think that the humble hand tool is simply a bygone contraption. However, even for today’s wire harness manufacturers, skills in various hand tools are necessary in order to produce even the most complex wire harnesses in use today.

Electronics infrastructure has absolutely exploded in the last decade and with it so has the need for more automated solutions. In fact, our team of expert craftsmen and women employ a bevy of sophisticated automated manufacturing and testing apparati throughout the production process. But the truth is, there are limitations to fully-automated systems that make them far more costly or time consuming than using a hand tool for a particular task. 

For example, with a custom wire harness, there may not even be a tool designed yet for testing the unit to ensure its functionality, safety, and integrity. That’s when our designers in our Advanced Life Testing Lab go to work to create a custom testing unit to test the new product.

Cutting-Edge Wire Harness Tools and Products We Use Everyday

For wire harness manufacturers, the process is only as good as the tools used to produce the product and the tools are only as good as the skilled hands employing them in that process. Over decades in the industry of custom cable and wire harness manufacturing, we have built up a massive tool crib – an industry term for the tools available to complete a project – to well over 5,000 existing tools for connectors, junctions, overmolds, and housings. 

These tools are used to create the cable assemblies and wire harnesses that are used heavily in the industrial manufacturing sectors, with military hardware and equipment, telecommunications, medical, and truly just about every conceivable industry out there. Our expertise with these tools allows our production team to design more than 70 percent of the assemblies and wiring harnesses Meridian produces. 

While 5,000 tools would be a lot to list here, we’ve compiled some of the essential, and easily overlooked, tools and components for producing the perfect cable and wire harness for the client’s unique requirement. 

  • Cable tying tools – even with a fairly “simple” hand tool like a cable tie, we use a wide selection of industry-approved styles and sizes, capable of using different materials and incorporating ergonomics to aid our manufacturers in keeping consistent tension around the cables. Hand cable tying tools can either be manual or pneumatic. We can also employ fully automatic cable tying systems when high-volume manufacturing is needed.
  • Cable tie mounting components – these components help to physically secure the cable ties into the rest of the assembly. With fairly broad selection here, we’re able to engineer wire harnesses with a high degree of installation flexibility.
  • Fixtures for wire harnesses – another “humble” tool that can get overlooked is the uniform spacing between wire bundles, attributing for distance and height from a wire harness board. This helps create a smooth cable tie application and can be incorporated either with hand tools or an automated tooling machine.
  • Printers and other media software – another easy to overlook tool in our tool crib are the custom printers and their associated software programs that allow our designers to incorporate the labels necessary to comply with set industry standards for identification and/or quality.
  • Ferrules – a ferrule is a small metal or plastic ring (depending on the requirements of the application) that is crimped over a stranded wire to secure, seal, and/or reinforce the connection to a terminal. A ferrule crimping tool is a vital necessity to accomplishing this task but crimping takes far more skill than you might realize. Too much or too little pressure can have negative results for the quality of the seal.
  • Built-in abrasion resistance products – our wire harness engineers have to design the perfect combination of components in order to ensure the functionality, safety, and integrity of every product we produce. Abrasion resistance products include elements like spiral wraps, heat shrinking, and grommet edging which help to protect the cables and wires, especially in tough environments.
  • Terminal tools – another custom crimping tool is used to help provide the perfect crimp for terminals. Without these, the system would not be able to function as it should. We can also use a fully automated termination system to speed up the process of crimping and indexing the connectors. This helps to maintain consistent, quality terminations. In some instances, automated termination can be up to 600 percent faster than manual termination.
  • Connector compression tools – there are a seemingly endless amount of compression connectors and terminals our gifted engineers incorporate into the system. Hand tools and automated compression machines help to ensure a uniform connection.

While these tools and products are undeniable necessities in our existing tool crib, we have many, many more vital tools and products at our disposal in order to produce a truly one-of-a-kind product for our clients. 

Advantages of Using Automated, Semi-Automated, and Hand Tooling All in One Process

You might think that fully automated systems are the way to go and why would anyone waste time anymore with a hand tool. However, there are many applications where an automated solution simply won’t provide the efficiency we need to stick to the design schedule. Often with custom wire harnesses, we’ll have to design the tools and testing equipment needed to ensure the system works as it is intended. 

Advantages to being able to employ the full spectrum of hand tools, semi-automated tooling, and fully automated tooling into our production process include:

  • Maximizing Uptime: uptime isn’t a term that’s thrown around alot, instead you often hear its opposite – downtime. With that in mind, uptime is a great measure of the reliability of your system as it shows just how long our tools and machines were up, running, and/or available to be used in the process. By using a full spectrum of different levels of automation in our tooling, we can maintain a much more consistent uptime percentage, which helps keep the production process running smoothly.
  • Reducing Cost: by focusing on keeping uptime percentages high, we can increase productivity which translates to lower costs.
  • Staying on Budget: reducing costs helps our project managers maintain a tighter adherence to the project budget.
  • Reducing Cycle Time: automation will almost always help to reduce the cycle time by increasing production speed. 
  • Sticking to the Project Timeline: by reducing cycle times, our project managers are able to better keep to the major project steps, which need to occur at specific timing intervals because different processes have different lead times. 
  • Creating Ease of Integration: as our design and manufacturing teams flex their muscle and produce custom wire harnesses that get the job done, the project would be meaningless if that component failed to integrate into the client’s electrical systems. That’s why we employ such a wide variety of tools and equipment to produce not only a functioning and safe wire harness or cable assembly, but also one that integrates easily into the client’s systems.
  • Increasing Flexibility of Design Process: lastly, the diversity of tools and the requisite knowledge in using them properly means our design team has an unmatched level of flexibility for choosing the perfect amalgamation of tools and materials to get the project done on-time and on-budget. 

The advantages for a custom wiring harness manufacturer having expertise and availability with hand tools, semi-automated, and fully automated tooling systems are many. While hand tooling may seem antiquated, our sophisticated operators are employing some of the most advanced tools on the planet to keep our various electrical infrastructures connected.

First Steps for Starting Your Custom Wiring Harness Project 

When looking over your options for wire harnesses manufacturers out there, be sure to examine both their capability and their track record. We are both proud and humbled to have been able to produce in so many different applications. Everything from the wire harnesses used in cutting edge medical equipment saving lives, to the electrical equipment keeping our troops connected, the industrial control systems powering our nation’s largest manufacturing and municipal processes, and so many more applications over our many decades in this business. 

When you’re ready to begin your custom wire harness design project, please contact our team of gifted engineers. We’ll help you create the perfect set-up for your project and have the demonstrable experience to keep the project on-time and on-budget. Contact us now to get your project started.

Quality Control: How to Test a Custom Cable Assembly

Leading Custom Cable Manufacturer | Meridian Cable

Custom cable assemblies can be fairly complex; with branches of connectors, terminations, and specialty components made just for the task at hand. The same sophisticated system that can help power industrial control systems, advanced medical instruments, and even a fighter jet, is only as good as each and every component that goes into the system. With Meridian, this requires some next-level testing techniques. 

Here, we’ll highlight all the steps of a cable assembly inspection checklist and the many ways our design team ensures our products are tested and retested for continuity, integrity, polarity and functionality before they’re ever shipped.

What Testing Looks Like for Custom Cable Manufacturers

When a custom cable assembly is being developed, it will have to undergo many different rounds of testing. This could be electrical in nature, or in relation to the mechanical appurtenances, environmental variables, or any number of different testing techniques for the purpose of validating the integrity of the design. 

With a successful test, our design engineers know that the critical components meet their intended ranges. It is not until all the different qualifications-based testing is complete, that volume manufacturing will be undertaken. Many products will require more testing both within the manufacturing process, and once complete, to make absolutely certain the cable assembly components are performing in range. 

The design team are true masters of knowing the perfect tests to perform to ensure the product works as it should. Tests can take time and need to be factored into a rock-solid project schedule to ensure the custom cable assembly project remains on-time and on-budget from start to finish. Any design-build custom cable assembly manufacturer worth their weight should have a stringent cable and harness inspection checklist in place.

How to Test a Custom Cable Assembly for Continuity

Cable assemblies essentially connect one device to another in an electrical system. Therefore, an electrical continuity test to ensure this function is both basic and crucial. A test for electrical continuity makes certain that the wires and connectors have been assembled correctly because there is an electrical current flowing. Measuring for the electrical resistance and for a free-flowing electrical connection helps our design engineers spot any points where a conductor and/or wire may be damaged or otherwise impeding the flow. 

For this test, we get to use some pretty cool equipment like a multimeter device. This little electrical testing machine applies voltage to the portion of the cable assembly being tested to get an accurate measure of the resistance being faced. Even cooler, often we’ll be able to set up this test in an automated system so that we can test multiple branches of the custom cable assembly at one time. For a custom product, this can create some high-level tweaks to design a testing procedure that accurately measures all of the benchmarks the assembly needs to hit in order to roll off the assembly line with our engineers’ mark of approval.

Another electrical test our in-house engineers employ is called a high potential (HIPOT) or high voltage test. HIPOT testing involves making certain that the insulating jacket in the cable contains no defects in its design or some other form of degradation. By using a very high voltage between two conductors in the assembly, a large amount of stress is placed on the insulating materials and connectors. If the connectors can all withstand the effects of having high voltage shot through them for a specific time frame, it is a good indicator the unit will perform well under normal conditions.

Testing Custom Cable Assemblies for Integrity


Structural integrity is absolutely crucial for any cable assembly, as it’s going to have to perform its duties under real-world conditions, not just in our manufacturing facilities. There are a wide number of different tests that can be used to help design staff know the relative strength of the cable assembly and its ability to resist things like fatigue and abrasion. 

Two mechanical integrity tests that are standard for custom cable assembly manufacturers include a pull test and a flex test.

  • Pull Test – this helps our design team see the points of failure for the wires, connectors, and other components in the system. With a measured approach, we can know the exact weight load that the system’s architecture can withstand. This is especially useful when a client has a specific load in mind e.g. the cable assembly must be able to stand up to no less than 50 pounds of tension without its integrity being compromised. There are several variations on the pull test that can be run to achieve the desired computation. For example a pull and break, as it sounds, tests the components to failure where, conversely, a pull and hold tests the components being held at a constant rate for a specific period of time. The pull test can involve sophisticated automated testing units or can be as simple as a cable assembly with a weight attached.
  • Flex Test – thinking of a cable assembly being employed in its intended environment, the components are going to be twisted and bent in all manner of different ways as it is fitted within the structure of the overall product such as inside an automobile. The cable assembly doesn’t just naturally have the ability to flex for a lifetime without breaking, it’s a very specific engineering consideration of the design process. Hence, the necessity of performing a flex test with just about every custom cable assembly that’s ever produced. Special flexural strength machines can be used to evaluate the assembly’s durability while being flexed and bent to ensure the components – the jackets, sleeves, and other materials – are the right combination for the assembly’s intended environment.

Whatever test is used, our design engineers employ the right steps of a mechanical integrity test in order to ensure the unit is absolutely solid before it ever reaches the client and can withstand exactly what’s being asked of it cycle after cycle. 

How to Perform a Harness Inspection Checklist for Polarity

Polarity configuration is important to be able to test before a cable assembly is ready to be employed. Typical polarities in cable assembly manufacturing run “a”, “b”, and “c”, each with their own specifications. With the evolution of new components, so comes the evolution of new testing techniques. Some of the sophisticated testing units we use can perform simultaneous checks at once such as a polarity check and a continuity check. This helps save time and keeps the project on schedule.

How we Test a Cable Assembly for Functionality

How the unit will perform in the field is arguably one of the most important tests we can do to ensure the unit meets the standards it needs to. To do this, we designed our very own advanced life testing lab where our design engineers get to throw all manner of different environmental factors at an assembly and measure how it responds to certain variables. The custom cable assembly may be subject to incredibly harsh conditions, especially when employed by our men and women in the military, so the components need to be able to withstand these. 

Some of the tests our design team will look at during this phase can include:

  • Extreme temperatures
  • Airtight/Watertight 
  • Salt water corrosion
  • Chemical resistance

For many components, these tests aren’t nice “options” to add onto your order, they are absolutely critical for the success of the system. Whether the application is medical, military, telecommunications, or some other critical function, we know our clients rely on the custom cable assembly our team produces which is why we subject the components to so many different environmental factors. This helps the design team spot any weaknesses that need to be tweaked and mitigated against. 

How we Test a Cable Assembly for all the above

Many times a cable assembly must be tested for continuity, polarity, integrity, hi-pot and for any embedded components such as resistors, capacitors or diodes.  While it is possible to test each parameter as described above, that could be a lengthy process, not cost effective and possibly miss something.

When an assembly requires these multiple levels of testing it is best to use an automated, computerized tester.  Here at Meridian we use Cirrus testers.  Our engineers create a “golden sample” that is tested by hand using various methods.  Once the “golden sample” is confirmed it is used to program the computerized tester.  Once programmed the tester can be used to test all the remaining assemblies, and do so much quicker.

Getting a Product Certified Through UL

With decades of experience as a custom cable assembly manufacturer of distinction and holding status as a UL-approved production facility, our team is quite gifted at helping get a client’s product certified through UL. We’ll help develop a sample that’s ready to be tested and UL’s design team will then put the components through their paces with a battery of testing to make sure it meets OSHA, ANSI, and other standards. Once a product meets all of the criteria, UL will issue a certificate that lets a UL-logo be placed on the products that are manufactured. That UL logo is recognized worldwide as a product that’s known to have been tested for safety and functionality. Not stopping there, our team can assist with the periodic audits UL performs, in place to ensure the continued adherence to UL standards.

Start Your Custom Cable Assembly Project Now

Our design engineers are gifted professionals, well-versed in designing the perfect testing parameters to ensure your product meets everything you’ll need it to do, safely and securely for the lifespan of the system. We take great pride in developing a comprehensive testing program that ensures each and every product off our assembly line has been tested until it has been made certain that it will perform as intended. 

Ready for a whole new experience with your custom cable design project? Contact our team now to get started. 

The Ultimate Guide to Wire Harness Manufacturing Terminals

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

What is a terminal in wire harness manufacturing?

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

Different Types of Wire Terminals for the Task at Hand

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

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

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

Choosing the Best Design Options for Wire Harness Terminals

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

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

How Terminations Get Insulated

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

Wire Gauge Sizes for Wire Terminals 

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

Why a UL Rating Matters for Wire Harness Manufacturing Terminals

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

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

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

Picking the Best Terminals to Get the Job Done

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

What Makes Custom Cable Assemblies So Complex?

Custom cable assemblies are manufactured to be exact, specific to their purpose in a virtually limitless amount of different configurations. While our designers and engineers are some of the best in the industry, completing a one-of-a-kind custom cable assembly takes thousands of minute details in order to perform flawlessly under real world conditions. Getting from concept to final product can be a challenge, but our team has proven time and again, no matter how complex or demanding the project may be, we have the experience, tools, and capacity to pull it off flawlessly.

Here we’ll explore what makes custom cable assemblies so complex and how a custom cable manufacturer can be a value-added partner in your project’s success.

Complexities of Custom Cable Assemblies

Providing full product lifecycle services, our team has to be intimately aware of a thousand different considerations simultaneously in order to produce the best product possible. What makes cable design so complex as there is rarely ever two situations that are entirely the same. Even when the data, singal, or power transmission requirements are similar, the environmental variables that our custom cable assemblies will encounter during their lifespans is hard to replicate exactly so require a custom solution. 

Several key areas help us control the vast amount of different processes needed in order to go from the client’s need we are presented with to a fully-functioning cable assembly performing its function in the field. 

  • Design: bringing together state-of-the-art design software that lets us model an entire system in a virtual environment as well as truly gifted designers and engineers gives us incredible capacity as tough problem solvers. Our design team loves a challenge. Need a molded component rugged enough for sub-zero temperatures? We’ve done it. Need a bio-connector with built-in strain reliefs for specialized medical equipment? We’ve done that too. 

The design phase allows our elite team of proven cable design professionals the opportunity to compute vast amounts of data and different permutations in order to put together whatever is needed from the batch. This may be qualification samples, prototype iterations, or even full scale volume manufacturing. However, it is indeed rare to go straight from design to volume manufacturing without several rounds of prototyping in between. 

  • Sourcing: Meridian cable is a UL-approved production facility and we use UL-certified components in all of our products. We have the capacity to source components in a manner consistent with just-in-time ordering in order to be as efficient in our manufacturing process as possible. During prototype runs, we are able to compare different sourcing combinations in order to see which iteration will produce the most efficient production run. This level of detail is a huge advantage to using a custom cable assembly manufacturer in your project as your budget is able to be more effectively allocated. 
  • Prototyping: prototyping allows our design team to produce several different versions of the same product in order to test every aspect of manufacturing. We want the production run to be smooth and prototyping allows us to compare how each phase comes together. This includes looking at how different designs come together with different sourcing plans and which tools are right for the job. Prototyping also allows for a significant amount of product testing early on in the product’s development. This can help us avoid unnecessary delays further down the line.  
  • Testing: we follow incredibly rigid quality assurance and quality control procedures that we have honed after decades as leaders in the custom cable assembly manufacturing industry. Our almost fanatical attention to detail means each and every product that rolls off our assembly line has undergone multiple rounds of intense testing to ensure continuity, integrity, polarity, and functionality. We use stout Cirrus automated testers for the majority of production runs but have on many occasions produced a custom testing set-up when the product is something entirely new. Our testing procedures follow strict ISO 9001:2015 certification standards. 
  • Volume Manufacturing: Before going into full volume manufacturing mode, our design team uses project management tools like the critical path method to begin mapping out the activities needed to complete the project in the most efficient means possible. Volume manufacturing may sound like a brute force attack but in reality it takes many steps all in it’s own in order to run efficiently. Following Kanban manufacturing principles helps us remove waste from our production runs. 

Other lean operations tactics like the just-in-time ordering mindset we covered earlier all help our volume manufacturing occur in as systematic and ordered fashion. We have well over 5,000 existing tools, overmolds, connectors, and other components we have built into our process after many years experience specific to this industry. This broad knowledge and capability helps us to be able to scale our runs incredibly judiciously which simply helps us produce better products, faster – saving our client’s time and money.

Benefits of Custom Cable Assemblies

Fans of Livewire will know we have covered the benefits of using a custom cable assembly in our spotlight series often. Versus off the shelf options, the custom cable assembly is hands down the best solution specific to the unique issue your project faces. 

Here’s our top 4 reasons you should always work with a custom cable assembly and wire harness manufacturer:

  • Prototype, Prototype, Prototype

We just highlighted how prototyping is an incredibly cost effective way to ensure the production run is smooth and efficient. Prototyping helps our design team look at several different configurations simultaneously in order to source the very best components not just physically but also with the manufacturing process. Checking out the right tools from our massive tool crib, sourcing the best materials, comparing activity process times, determining the correct testing procedures to ensure product safety, integrity, and functionality – all of these processes and their associated sub processes can be tweaked to the nth degree during prototyping in order to ensure a great product that is viable to produce. 

  • Built-in Budget Defense

When you utilize a custom cable assembly manufacturer, you present our team with a problem and the budget we have to work with. Knowing the project parameters is the first step in the design process. Our team acts as a true fiduciary with our client’s budget. That means we treat it as if it were our own and try to get really creative in our intelligent problem solving. Any way that we can make the run more efficient means our client can allocate their budget all the more efficiently. 

Off the shelf options means you are taking a chance with the product. When the application is vital, any kind of delay or malfunction costs vital time and money. Off the shelf options also don’t give you much in the way of unique configuration. Most circumstances will have at least a few attributes that are all their own. With an off the shelf option you may be left trying to make last minute corrections in order to make the component fit the situation.

  • Schedule, Followed

During the design phase, our team lays out a road map for successful completion of the project with all of the necessary activities in order to get there. There are many different methods for computing project efficiency, but one industry standby and one we mentioned above is called critical path method (CPM). With CPM, all of the network activities are listed with their associated time requirements. Using a simple algorithm, you can plan your project out in order to fall under a specific time period. Completing projects on time and on budget is a skill we are proud to employ.

  • Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC)

As we have highlighted, a custom cable manufacturer is only as good as its QA/QC process. Our QA/QC engineers are fantical in their approach to quality and in the continuous improvement of the process. This is one of the requirements in order to obtain and maintain ISO 9001:2015 certification. We are extremely proud to receive this designation which is an international recognition of the quality of the process, the quality of the customer experience, and the quality of the commitment towards continuous improvement. We have developed strict testing guidelines that ensures each and every product coming off our assembly line is known to be performing as it should before it ever leaves our production facilities. Our products are used in so many different vital functions – from industrial control systems, to military applications, hospitals, to global communications. Thus, our products simply must work as they are intended, cycle after cycle.

Ready to See the Benefits of a Custom Cable Assembly in Your Complex Project?

We have seen just how beneficial a trusted custom cable manufacturer can be when the situation calls for a complex solution. While the process carries a multitude of different activities in order to produce, the final product with a custom cable assembly is one that was designed and produced specific to the problem at hand. 

Get in contact now to go over your specs with a knowledgeable member of the Meridian design team. You can also call us at 1-877-806-8667 or email:

The 5 Types of Cable Assemblies You Need to Know

molded cable assembly

Hitting the open market in search of the cable assembly you need for your unique project can be difficult. You have a custom system meant for a very specific purpose and you are looking for a cable assembly that will perform flawlessly within those parameters. Ensuring our clients have the best solutions for their complex issues is something our engineers and design team loves to do. As you ponder your project’s needs, read on for a closer look at five of the more common cable assemblies available with examples for environments where these assemblies can be best employed.

Coaxial Cable Assemblies

Assembled coaxial round, coaxial, or just “coax” cable is not new on the scene and for good reason. These little workhorses perform exceedingly well year in and year out. You probably do not have to look far around you to spot one in use – often a round black or white cable with a signature metal connector with a pin in the middle called an “F-type” connector, you hook up to your TV. Coaxial cable assemblies utilize a bundle of coax cables with any number of different terminations, connections, etc. added all to achieve the given objective in the most efficient means possible. This is where custom cable assembly manufacturers hold a significant lead over off-the-shelf or generic cable assemblies. 

Our engineers utilize the best combination of components to produce a product that works perfectly. Not, “good enough” or “just okay”. Imagine the chagrin that would ensue when a coaxial cable assembly fails prematurely and the gathering at your house misses out on the Super Bowl! Okay, so maybe watching the Super Bowl is not as critical as a piece of lifesaving medical equipment or communications instruments for our military but the exact same process from design through manufacturing is employed so our clients know they can count on our products to perform as they are intended for years to come. This is why we’ve enjoyed decades as leaders in the custom cable assembly.

What is a coaxial cable assembly used for?

At its core, coaxial is a transmitter. It helps connect radio transmitters/receivers to antennas, aids in computer ethernet connection, digital audio applications, and disseminating television signals. The coaxial cable transmits electrical signals by way of an inner conductor, usually copper, which is then insulated with a dielectric material, then wrapped in some form of shielding such as woven copper, and then wrapped up in a signature plastic jacket. Coaxial is still in use because it limits signal loss and degradation – making it very efficient at transmitting a signal.

Different Types of Coaxial Cable Assemblies

  • Hard line: used for broadcasting and radio communications. Constructed of a round copper or precious metal tubing. Hardline cables need to be able to withstand the elements so usually have special connections. Often hardline cables are thick and used to go between a ground transmitter and an antenna.
  • Radiating: also referred to as “leaky” cable, radiating cable is similar to hardline with the exception of small slots cut directly into the shield. Each slot gets a specific tune of radio frequency band/wavelength for specific transmitters and receivers. This often includes areas where antennas would not work – places like elevators, ships, or an underground subway tunnel. 
  • RG-6: often referred to as a “plain/house” cable, RG-6, as you might have guessed, is used in and around housing. Different types of RG-6 carry out different functions around your house. Think about the buried cable running from your internet provider’s signal box to your home. This cable needs special considerations like being pumped with a special gel that makes it waterproof. Others like a messenger line for RG-6 has steel wire added so that the cable can withstand the tension from running down a utility pole. 
  • Triaxial: coaxial cable with another (third) layer of shielding. This other shield acts as a ground and protects the inside shield from outside EMI.
  • Twin axial: allows for multiple conductors with its twisted pair of coaxials all within the same shield. Twin axial also helps create excellent signal transference.  
  • Semi rigid: coaxial cable with minimum flexure due to the solid outer sheath usually made of copper. A cool application is within a spectrum analyzer, which measures the magnitude and frequency of known and unknown signals.
  • Rigid line: these coaxials do not bend and are used for high power transmission applications. 

Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies

As their name implies, flat ribbon cable assemblies are flat – a neat row of wires that are neatly organized in a ribbon-like shape. Thinking of opening your computer, you will probably remember seeing an assortment of flat ribbon cable assemblies providing the transmission of power, signal, or data. 

Flat ribbon cable assemblies’ characteristic shape helps them fit in confined spaces, especially where width is an important design factor. They can also help with identification when different cables can be color-coded and easily spotted in line. Flat ribbon cable assemblies allow for mass termination with special connectors.

Cable Assemblies for Combating RFI/EMI

Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) & Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) are both different types of interference that exist all around us in our electronic dominated world. These interferences can really have a negative effect on a cable assembly’s ability to effectively transmit its power, data, or signal. Interference can easily degrade a signal to the point of not being sent/received. Imagine how devastating RFI or EMI could be in a military setting when troops on the ground are coordinating between units in the heat of battle. Thus, the necessity for cable assemblies with built-in defense mechanisms for combating RFI and EMI. 

The cable assembly’s shielding plays a huge role in protecting the electronic cables from RFI and EMI. Special materials like aluminized mylar and even fleece and cotton can all be utilized depending on the environmental factors that need to be mitigated against to provide the best operating environment for the assembly. Our design team tackles tough challenges like creating RF/EMI cable assemblies each and every day, contact us now to chat with a friendly expert over your project specs today.

Molded Cable Assemblies

Overmolds or molded cables are complete cable assemblies that have had their wires and connectors combined into one, seamless component. In order to accomplish this, the cable assembly has to be put in a mold where a molten plastic is then injected within the mold’s cavity space. When it has cooled and been made solid, it will have completely encapsulated the junction of the connector and the wire. 

Benefits of a Molded Cable Assembly:

  • Increased flexural strength at the point where the cable exits – the exact spot where the majority of the cable and connector movement will take place.
  • It creates a good resistance towards common factors like abrasion, shock, or impacts.
  • Aids in security when the components are safely encapsulated under a hard resin.
  • Increase the amount of available strain relief with increased pull strength.
  • It can make a component anywhere from waterproof to water-resistant, depending on the needs of the project.
  • Really helps with installation when a simple piece of an assembly comes with visual indication to assist with connecting.

Being able to design the tools needed to produce custom overmolds for a project is critical. With three decades in the industry, we’ve amassed more than 5,000 tools for creating overmolds and other components. Chances are good we already have the perfect overmold tooled, but if not we can create a one of a kind solution for a custom cable assembly.

Cable Assemblies for the Military

Military applications are known to be incredibly harsh. Harsh terrain, tough environmental factors, RFI/EMI, and some of the highest usage rates will likely greet a cable assembly destined for use in military settings. Our men and women in combat rely on cable assemblies like the ones we are proud to produce to do everything from fly a close run bomber mission in a supersonic fighter jet to allowing troops the ability to communicate with one another and their commanders, which are often worlds apart. 

We have built a specialized experience in creating cable assemblies made for strict military standards. Often cable assemblies for the military need to engineered with high flexural strength to withstand hundreds of thousands of cycles. With quick runs for long periods of time, flexural capability becomes key to keeping the electronic system functioning optimally. Our design team has an array of tooling available just for military applications such as customized strain reliefs and overmolded connectors made for the harshest of conditions.

Advantages of Custom Cable Assembly Manufacturers

There are many off the shelf options available for cable assemblies but while these may seem like a cheaper solution, we’ll show you how these can cost far more than a custom solution. The benefits of custom cable assembly manufacturing are many, including:

  1. Ability to Prototype: by creating several iterations of a given design, our team is able to look at how different combinations perform under the real-world conditions of its intended environment. Prototyping helps us analyze cost and project time to decipher the perfect path to meet the project’s budget and timeline.
  2. Testing: prototypes and even those that are not are all tested and retested to ensure functionality and safety. We even created our own testing laboratory to put our units through the most realistic testing possible. We maintain several automated Cirrus testers but have also created completely custom testing setups when the product they are testing is a brand new creation.
  3. Reduce Costs: with our approach, we will map out the best components, the best sourcing plans, reserve the right tools in our project plan, and create a roadmap that leads to an on time and on budget project. With an off the shelf cable assembly, you are taking a gamble as to how it will stand up within your system. We know just how costly delays are, so engineer our products to work as intended cycle after cycle.
  4. Fits Your System Perfectly: rather than a generic unit, a custom cable assembly is just that, custom. The custom cable assembly we provide will be perfectly suited to solve the issue at hand, in the most efficient means possible.
  5. Certified for Quality: any custom cable assembly manufacturer of merit needs to be certified by the ISO for quality control and quality assurance and needs to use UL certified components. Maintaining our ISO 9001:2015 and being UL approved ensures clients know that the products that they are using in their critical applications have come from a reputable company, producing the highest quality products. Off the shelf cable assemblies will be hard to determine exactly where the various components came together.

How Meridian Does Custom Cable Assemblies Differently 

We are glad that you are exploring Meridian Cable for your custom cable assembly needs. Our products include wire harnesses, coil cords, molded components, and all of the various connections and machinations needed to create the perfect connection within an electronic system. After three decades, we are proud to be known for our enthusiastic attention to quality. We ensure each and every product works, every single time because these products are simply too vital to fail. Contact our design team now to review your project’s specs and get the process started.