Category Archives: Meridian Cable

5 Facts about Custom Cable Assemblies & Wire Harnesses

5 Facts about Custom Cable Assemblies & Wire Harnesses

Do you know the difference between custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses?

Unless you are an electrician or electrical engineer, you probably haven’t thought much about the differences and similarities between custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses. It’s not a subject that tends to come up in everyday conversation. Unless, that is, you need to run multiple wires or cables from one piece of equipment to another or to a power source. That’s when knowing the difference between wiring and cable and the strengths and weaknesses of each becomes more important.

We put together fives facts about wires and cables to help you understand the difference, and why you should choose a wire harness over a cable assembly in certain situations.

Wires & Cables Aren’t the Same Thing

This fact may seem pretty obvious, but many people use the terms “wire” and “cable” interchangeably. It’s understandable. Wires and cables are similar in that they carry electricity or signal from one place to another. However, there are a few very important differences. Wires are made up of a strand (or strands) of conductive material like copper and are suitable for a wide ranges of applications beyond carrying electricity and signal. They are also one of the components that make up a cable. Conversely, a cable is made of two or more conductors that are insulated. They tend to be better protected than wires and are suitable for applications that require more durability.

Both Are Used to Organize Wires & Cables

The basic purpose of both wire harnesses and cable assemblies is to bundle wires or cables. Bundling wires or cables allows you to keep them more organized, especially in situations where having multiple cables and/or wires takes up too much space or can cause additional wear that is easily addressed by bundling. A few common places you see bundled cables or wires are cars and computers.

Wire Harnesses Have a Thin Layer of Protection

While cable assemblies are more heavily protected with insulation and jacketing material, wires usually have a thin exterior covering made of thermoset or thermoplastic material. This covering is meant to protect the environment or a person handling the wire from the flow of electricity. The jacketing material can also be color coded to aid in keeping systems organized and make it easy to identify different types of wires.

Custom Cable Assemblies Are More Durable

With the additional materials used in custom cable assemblies, a cable manufacturer is able to design the assembly to address exposure to extreme temperatures, moisture, friction, chemicals, and more. They can also take size and flexibility requirements into consideration, so the cable is a perfect fit for your application. A cable assembly may require less maintenance and can also be easier to install since the conductors are bundled. custom cable assembly

Wires Are More Affordable…When They Are Right for the Job

You may be thinking extra protection means a custom cable assembly is always the right choice for your project, but that’s not always the case. In situations that require a small, lightweight option, a wire might be your best bet. Because wires are generally less expensive to produce, it can be a more affordable option — especially if the wire will be used indoors in a relatively sheltered environment.

Conclusion

Understanding the difference between a custom cable assembly and wire harness is an important step when considering what you need for your project. The team at Meridian Cable is able to help you make the right choice for your application, environment, and budget. Get in touch with us when you are ready to get started. We’re happy to answer all of your questions.

Custom Coil Cord Longevity

Custom Coil Cord Longevity

How many cycles can a custom coil cord handle? How long will it last?

When designing a custom coil cord, we get asked questions like this all the time. Of course it depends on the coil cord and the operating environment, but we can assure you the answer is between one and a few million.

All kidding aside, we’ve put together a short guide to let you know where in that range your coil cord might fall.

Single-Cycle Custom Coil Cords

Let’s take the low end of the range first. You would think a coil cord that could only handle one cycle would be useless, but there is actually a good case for creating a single-cycle product. Let’s say you have a piece of equipment that comes in different sizes or configurations. The same power/control system is used on each unit, but the cables needed to connect everything need to vary by length. If you don’t want to wire everything yourself you need to buy a cable assembly for each different configuration, or you can buy one coil cord that can stretch to fit all the configurations. Now this coil cord doesn’t need to retract so it can be made with entirely different materials, which helps keep costs down without sacrificing electrical performance.

High-Cycle Coil Cordscustom coil cords

The high side of the range is over a million cycles. At Meridian, we have several different machines we use to test the cycling capability of the custom coil cords we design and manufacture. We have tested several different designs to over one million cycles, with the highest being 1,087,213 cycles. Interestingly enough, when we recorded that number, the test was stopped not because the coil cord failed, but because we had to test other coil cords and couldn’t leave it on the machine any longer.

Designing the Right Custom Coil Cord

What makes a custom coil cord last a long time? Design, fabrication, and environment. The higher the cycle count requirement, the more the design must differ— especially when it comes to materials. For low-cycle coil cords, the stranding diameter can be larger and the plastics can have a lower elasticity, which generally means a lower cost product. For high-cycle coil cords, the stranding needs to be very small and the plastics highly elastic. Also, the fabrication becomes very important. Not only is the custom coil cord extending and retracting, but all the components are twisting and untwisting. When cable is extruded, everything from the individual strands to the conductor bundle is twisted. How all this twisting is done has a big impact on how the coil cord performs.

Conclusion

Put simply, the team at Meridian Cable can design a custom coil cord that is capable of cycling as many times as you need it to. By clearly defining the needs of your equipment and environment and performing appropriate testing, we can make sure the finished product is designed to be durable. Contact us when you are ready to discuss your next custom coil cord project.

 

Testing in the Coil Cord Design Process

Testing in the Coil Cord Design Process

The coil cord design process is not complete until proper testing has been performed.

The purpose of designing a coil cord instead of using a non-coiled cord is the added flexibility and durability it offers. In many cases, these types of cords are used in harsh environments with the expectation that they can be stretched and retracted over and over again without failing prematurely. The best way to make sure your completed cable performs as expected is by making thorough testing a part of the coil cord design process.

Advanced Life Testing in Coil Cord Design 

Just as with other types of custom cables, engineers can select the right components of a coil cord to match the equipment and environment where the completed product will function. The final decisions for conductor, insulation and jacketing materials, and types of connectors should all be based on a careful review of information that weighs environmental conditions, technical specifications, and cost to produce. However, there are a few additional considerations when designing a coil cord. 

The curly part of a coil cord is what sets it apart from other types of custom cables. It’s what allows the cable to retract to a resting length that is more compact than it’s fully extended length. This characteristic means additional care must be taken to make sure the cable performs for as long as expected. There are a few tests that can help the design team understand if they’ve hit the mark. 

Cycles to Failure Test

Cycles to failure is the number of times a cable can be stretched and retracted before stress causes it to fail. To get an idea of when failure can occur with a newly created cable, we use a cycles to failure test. To test, a coil cord is connected to a test machine. The machine is then programmed with the cord’s extension length, cycle speed, and the length of time to spend retracted and fully extended, which are determined using the expected usage of the final product. We would then set the machine to cycle until the cord fails.

Retraction Compliance Testcoil cord design

In this type of test, we are trying to determine the retraction compliance of a coil cord design. Retraction compliance is a percentage of the cycled retracted length to the initial retracted length. During the test, the resting cable is measured. Then it is cycled, allowed to rest, and then cycled again before being measured again. If the design is poor or the cable was very heavily cycled, the percentage can be in the 50% range. Well-designed assemblies can measure at 95% or more.

Cable Flexing to Failure Test

When we need to make sure a raw cable can stand up to fatigue, we use a cable flexing to failure test. After the cord is connected, the flexing machine is set to test the flex radius, rotation angle, and cycle speed. Once the settings are selected, the machine cycles the cable until the circuit is broken.

Conclusion

Testing your coil cord design in a lab during the production process results in fewer unexpected failures in the field. That means you get a safer product that will ultimately save you money. Get in touch with the team at Meridian Cable when you are ready to discuss your next custom coil cord project.

 

How to Work with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer When You Have a Tight Budget

How to Work with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer When You Have a Tight Budget

A cable assembly manufacturer has many options available that can help you stay in budget and get a custom cable that is right for your situation.

Having an unlimited budget to work with when designing a custom cord might seem like the best way to get the perfect end product, but that type of situation is rare. In most cases, budget is a concern. The good news is your cable assembly manufacturer should be able to help you balance the cable’s functionality with cost.

Good Communication Saves Money

This may seem like common sense, but make sure you are sharing as much information with your cable assembly manufacturer as possible in the planning and design stages of your project. Having clear specifications about how and in what environment the finished product will function gives the design team a thorough understanding at the outset. This can translate to a cable assembly that meets the needs of the equipment and environment with fewer revisions or surprises late in the project.

Talk Materials with Your Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Armed with complete technical specifications and a good understanding of the environment where a finished cable assembly will function, the design team is able to select the optimum materials to create a solution that operates as expected. At its most basic, a cable is made up of a conductor, connectors, jacketing, and insulation. Each can offer an opportunity for cost savings with some careful thought.

Conductorscable assembly manufacturer conductors

Obviously, the conductor material should be selected based on the type of signal and how long the cable is expected to be in use. However, with so many options when it comes to size, material, and plating, a cable assembly manufacturer can make recommendations that address cost concerns without compromising on functionality. For example: In many cases, a smaller conductor is less expensive. Choosing the smallest conductor that will transmit the signal or power allows you to get the functionality you need without the unnecessary expense of a larger conductor. Though, in some cases, a smaller conductor is actually more expensive to produce, so it’s doubly important to discuss options with your cable’s design team.

Connectors

All cable assemblies connect to some sort of equipment or power/signal source. Because the section of cable that leads to the connector is a common point of failure due to stresses, it’s important to select the right type of connector for the job. While an overmolded cable offers more durability in many cases, it may make more sense to use a connector that can be repaired by a technician. Understanding the needs of your finished product allows you and your cable assembly manufacturer to make the right decision before producing a cable that doesn’t fit your needs.

Jacketing & Insulation

The environment where a cable assembly will be used often dictates what type of jacketing material or insulation is used in the finished product. Different materials are more suitable for cables that are exposed to extreme heat or cold, moisture, or stresses. More expensive materials for jacketing aren’t automatically better for every environment. In many cases, choosing a more costly material that is unsuited for the environment can be a waste of money and compromise the function or service like of the cable.

Conclusion

Good planning, open communication, and thoughtful selection of materials is the great way to save costs when creating a custom cable with a cable assembly manufacturer. If you are ready to talk about your next custom cable project, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We’d love to discuss your options.

Benefits to Working with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer on Prototypes

Benefits to Working with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer on Prototypes

Creating a prototype is often the key to creating a successful custom cable solution.

You probably already know that creating a custom cable with a reputable cable assembly manufacturer is a great way to make sure the finished cable is tailored to the needs of your equipment or product. If you were using an off-the-shelf cable, testing it out on your equipment might be as simple as purchasing one and plugging it in. However, if the cable is custom, it’s a little more complicated.

With all the options available when creating a custom cable, working with a cable assembly manufacturer on prototypes can be incredibly useful. Not only can it help eliminate assumptions when selecting materials, but it can also help you streamline the production of larger quantities.

Real Cables in the Real World

Because a prototype is a full-scale version of the design that is, in many cases, fully functional, producing a prototype will allow you to see and feel how it will function in the real world. This ability to manipulate a physical product can help you make determinations about the functionality that go beyond technical capabilities. For example, being able to test the extension and retraction of a coil cord prototype can reveal design flaws that might otherwise go unnoticed until much later in a project when they are harder to correct.

Faster Turnarounds from an Experienced Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Choosing a cable assembly manufacturer with in-house capabilities means you are often able to have a cable prototype to work with quickly. While the availability of the appropriate materials is always a consideration when estimating the time a prototyping project will take, a manufacturer with extensive experience can often provide you with a more rapid turnaround.

High-Quality Prototypes Can Offer Significant Cost Savings

custom cable assembly

It doesn’t make sense to extrude large quantities of a new cable design design without testing. A prototype allows you to produce multiple iterations of a cable to ensure it is ideal for the equipment and environment where it will function. Thorough testing of a new cable design at the prototyping stage can go a long way toward eliminating headaches further down the road. This may include issues in the product itself or the production process.

Conclusion

Producing a prototype is often a critical step in designing a custom cable assembly, because it allows you and the design team to address issues before they balloon into expensive or even dangerous problems. Working with a custom cable assembly manufacturer experienced in producing high-quality prototypes in a timely fashion gives you the opportunity to create a finished product that is virtually guaranteed to fit the specifications of your equipment. If you’re ready to talk about your next project, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We look forward to hearing from you.

3 Advantages of a Molded Cable Assembly

3 Advantages of a Molded Cable Assembly

A molded cable assembly offers many advantages over non-molded cables.

A molded cable assembly can often be the best choice for a wide variety of applications. Using an injection molding process allows custom cable manufacturers to create overmolded assemblies that offer customers better functionality than was previously available.

A More Aesthetic Molded Cable Assembly

An attractive appearance isn’t the thing our customers are concerned with when creating a cable assembly. But just as with jacketing material, there are a few benefits to producing a cable that matches the appearance of the associated equipment. Colors that coordinate with the equipment can make replacement cables easy to identify in storage. Custom molding also allows branding, like logos and company names, to be incorporated into the mold. Because the cable is molded specifically for your equipment, you can even choose to create a unique shape that offers enhanced functionality or visual appeal.

Customization Options 

A molded cable assembly is a custom product by its very nature, because your cable assembly manufacturer is creating a mold to your specifications. Depending on your budget and the requirements of your equipment, you can choose from a nearly limitless variety of options, including color, jacketing material, and conductor type. Add to this the ability to create a molded connector that creates a perfect, stable fit for your equipment, and you have a product that will provide you with the best possible results.

Enhanced Durabilitymolded cable assemblies

An overmolded cable can be designed to create seals that are impervious to a wide range of fluids, including water and oil. This allows the finished cable to function in harsher environments with a much lower incidence of premature failure. Additional protection comes from selecting materials that offer resistance to vibration and other types of wear and tear. Working with your cable manufacturer’s engineering team to accurately identify the environmental conditions where the wire will function can result in a molded cable assembly that performs to your expectations.

Conclusion

Choosing to design and produce a molded cable assembly allows you to take advantage of materials and technologies that may not be available with a non-molded solution. Working with a custom cable assembly manufacturer experienced in producing high quality overmolded cables gives you the opportunity to create a finished product that can save money while giving you the exact cable you need for your application. If you’re ready to talk about your next project, contact the team at Meridian Cable. We look forward to hearing from you.

Discussing Jacketing Material with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Discussing Jacketing Material with a Cable Assembly Manufacturer

Do you really need to think about jacketing material when working with a cable assembly manufacturer to design a custom cable?

A cable assembly manufacturer can not only design a cable assembly, they can help you determine what type of jacketing material is appropriate for your application. While it might be tempting to overlook the jacketing on your cables, you could be missing out on some added value and functionality, including:

  • Enhanced Overall Flexibility
  • Better Flexibility in Low Temperatures
  • Quick Identification
  • Elastic Memory
  • Chemical Resistance
  • Resistance to Extreme Heat or Flame

As long as you think carefully about how and where the cable assembly will be used, you can address many of the environmental challenges that can affect the durability and safety of the finished cable by selecting the proper jacketing material.

Durable Cables in Challenging Environments

A cable’s outer jacketing is often the first line of defense against elements like heat, cold, moisture, UV rays, chemicals, and other substances that could affect the wire’s functionality. As with any custom wire, it’s important to consider all of the requirements for your environment and application. For example, jacketing made from PVC is a low-cost option that can handle the stresses of moderate daily use and withstand temperatures ranging up to 105 degrees Celsius. However, it would not be a good choice for a cable that must function in extreme heat or that is subject to heavy wear and tear – PU is a better choice for that type of environment.

Cables with Enhanced Safety Featuresred cable assembly

A custom cable assembly manufacturer can help you choose a jacketing material that is specifically designed to meet the needs of your equipment. This goes beyond the function and durability of the cable to the question of how safe it is. The jacketing of a cable assembly protects the conductor from stresses that would cause failure. However, you can also choose materials that are resistant to fluids and chemicals that could cause shorts or corrosion which could cause the wire to fail prematurely. In addition, jacketing material can be designed to be resistant to flame, which can help prevent the spread of fire.

Cable Aesthetics

How a cable looks might not be the top priority when discussing jacketing materials with a cable assembly manufacturer, but a cable’s appearance should not be overlooked. Altering the appearance of cable jacketing materials is more than just designing a cable that looks nice. Choosing matte or shiny finishes and specific colors can also be practical, because these features allow the finished cable to be quickly and easily identified. Cable jacketing can be produced in colors that match the appropriate equipment or signal whether it carries electricity or data. In addition, the cable’s texture can make it easier to grip which could be a desired feature in some environments.

Conclusion

When designing a cable assembly, selecting the right jacketing material for your application and environment can often be just as important as choosing the right conductor. A reputable cable assembly manufacturer can offer many options to ensure your finished cable meets your requirements for durability and functionality. Clearly communicating your environmental concerns along with technical requirements will result in a custom cable that offers you the performance and durability you expect. If you have any questions about jacketing materials, please feel free to contact the team at Meridian Cable.

Coil Cord Design: What Questions to Expect

Coil Cord Design: What Questions to Expect

Thinking through what you need before the coil cord design process starts can help you get the ideal cable for your equipment.

Custom coil cord design services allow you to get a final product that is a better match for your needs than an off-the shelf wire. But if you haven’t done some serious thinking about what you really need, you might not get the results you were looking for. Here are a few questions you can ask your team to get a coil cord that is truly customized to the requirements of your equipment.

In what environment will you be using the cords?

One of the first questions an engineer will ask during the coil cord design process is what environmental conditions the wire will need to withstand. Obviously, a cord used in a military or industrial environment has different requirements than one that would be used in a retail setting. Other questions could include: Will the cord be used inside or outside? Does it need to be able to withstand extreme heat or cold? Will the cord come into contact with moisture or oil? These are all conditions that can and should be taken into consideration when designing coil cords.

How long should the coil cords last?

A coil cord that lasts forever might seem like an ideal product, but if higher durability compromises function and/or makes it prohibitively expensive to produce it may not be worth it. In addition to durable jacketing material, there are other elements that can affect longevity. For example, choosing stranded wiring as a conductor can create a cord with a higher resistance to metal fatigue than a solid conductor. However, tinsel might be a better choice if you need flexibility but the finished wire can’t handle a high current capacity.

How dynamic are the coil cords during normal function?coil cord design

A coil cord can be designed with materials like steel, Kevlar, Spectra, or Teflon to make them virtually indestructible. That sounds great, but is that durability worth the added expense to produce for a cord that doesn’t require it? By clearly communicating your cord’s normal, everyday function, a coil cord design team can recommend materials that are the right balance of cost and physical properties for your equipment. A key question will be how many extension and retraction cycles the coil cord will experience in its life.

Conclusion

Custom coil cord design from a reputable cable manufacturer like Meridian Cable is a great way to get a cord that is perfectly tailored to your application. While there are many different elements to take into consideration when creating a custom coil cord, thinking through the questions above is a great way to prepare for initial discussions with the design team. When you are ready to discuss your project, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Custom Coil Cord 101

Custom Coil Cord 101

A custom coil cord is the ideal solution for a wide range of applications where space or flexibility are concerns.

A custom coil cord, also known as a curly cord or retractable cable, is probably most familiar as a part of a home or business telephone…and for good reason. With a non-mobile phone, it is important for the cord to accommodate the user’s movements while in use. But when not in use, it’s more convenient when the cord takes up less space. These same features are beneficial for use with many other types of equipment, from medical devices to surveillance systems.

What is a custom coil cord?

The basic shape is essentially the same with all coil cords. They have straight sections at each end with a curled section in between. The ability to stretch and retract is determined by the diameter of the curled section and the material used to create the cable. Because they are able to stretch and retract, they are more resilient and take up less space than conventional cables. 

Stock coiled cord is available, but if you are interested in designing a cable that is a perfect fit for your equipment, a custom solution might be the answer. With a custom coil cord, you are able to select the conductor, jacketing, and additional materials as you would with any other custom cable. However, you are also able to dictate other elements that determine how the finished product will perform.

Customizing a Coil Cord

The coiled section is the most common physical feature that is customized. Cable can be wound into coils from ¼ of an inch to 5 inches, depending on the desired length of the extended cord. But this isn’t the only feature that we pay attention to when designing a custom coil cord. black custom coil cord

The straight sections at each end of the cord are called tangents. Tangents are either perpendicular or axial, and should be taken into consideration when looking at functionality versus budget. For example, an axial tangent takes a little longer to manufacture, but it exits the coiled section of the cord along the centerline of the coil, which allows it to stretch along the same line as the rest of the cable.

Cycled vs. Stationary Coiled Cable

Not every custom coiled cable has to withstand the same stressors. The two main types of coiled cable are cycled and stationary. Stationary coiled cables are used to connected a device that is in a fixed location with one that moves. A cycled cable is used in applications where it must be extended and retracted continually without failing – think bar code scanners that are often used hundreds of thousands of times.

Conclusion

Custom coil cords are a great solution when you need a cable that saves space while being flexible and durable. While many of the benefits of designing a custom coil cable are the same as when you create a non-coiled cable, there are a few additional features to take into consideration. If you are looking for a partner with the knowledge and experience to help you navigate designing a custom coil cord, contact Meridian Cable. We’d love to talk with you about your project.

Safety Considerations for Custom Cable Assemblies

Safety Considerations for Custom Cable Assemblies

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

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

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

Ask Questions

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

Safe Materials for Your Custom Cable Assemblies

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

Conductors

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

Insulation & Jacketing

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

Connectors & Strain Reliefcustom-cable-assemblies-connector

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

Conclusion

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

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