Five Things to Know About Cable Assembly Design

In addition to specifying components for a cable assembly, you need the design and production process to promote overall system integrity and be cost-effective.

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connector-300x300You probably know the primary benefit of a cable assembly – the ease of connecting and disconnecting systems or equipment either for mobility or expeditious repair and replacement. But do you know what to consider when designing one? In addition to specifying components, you need the design and production process to promote overall system integrity and be cost-effective. Consider the following factors to create a successful assembly design.

Cabling

The first decision is choosing the cable. Review your application’s requirements for usage and environment, which may be extreme or even hazardous. Environment sets the tone, among other variables, for cable and/or jacket type – you’ll need different features for an assembly in a military vehicle application than for one in a television studio. Also, consider the number of conductors needed as well as the wire gauges necessary to support system functionality.

Connector Selection

Once you’ve selected cabling, it’s time to choose the right connector. When specifying, pick the connector series that works best for your application. Again, take environment and proper usage into consideration. You can simplify this choice by working with a vendor that also assembles connectors and has a wide range of options from the leading manufacturers. A connector distributor with in-house cable design and assembly capabilities is a great choice because it will provide a custom end-to-end solution derived from years of hands-on experience.

Shielding

Electromagnetic interference (stray electromagnetic waves entering an otherwise insulated system) can disrupt connections. It can even be caused by noise emitted from other nearby cables or electronics. Lives may depend on uninterrupted signals, so interference is a major challenge for military applications. Communication integrity must be maintained even when equipment is handled roughly in the field, and shielding provides that necessary protection. Foil shielding offers solid EMI protection but tears easily, making it unsuitable for harsh environments or frequent movement. Another option is braiding, which is far more durable but also more porous, allowing signal in and out. The best choice is a combination, which offers the strongest seal and maximum durability.

Overmold vs. Cable Clamp vs. Heat Shrink Wrap

Next, your connector and cable junction need to be secured and protected. These features provide strain relief between the connectors and the wires/cables. A cable clamp is the most basic option; a better choice is heat shrink. The heat shrink is applied over the connection area and is shrunk for a tight fit. It offers moderate strain relief protection and helps resist moisture. The best option, however, is overmolding. Overmold is a lightweight, heavy-duty, visually appealing molded cover that provides optimal strain relief. Select a vendor that performs overmolding in-house for the quickest turnaround and highest quality.

Design for Manufacturability

Keep deliverability in mind. Lead times vary based on product availability, design complexity, and application requirements. The fastest delivery comes from vendors with ready access to components, expertise in custom designs, and the capability to assemble to specification. But speed isn’t the only consideration – choose a vendor who is certified and reliable. Expertise in the elements above will deliver a cable assembly design that readily ramps to production and scales with the growth of your application.

Your application is unique, and cable assembly isn’t one-size-fits-all. Choose a vendor partner who will help you navigate these very impactful decisions – one with experienced design engineers on-staff, a broad range of connector technologies from top manufacturers, custom in-house production capabilities, and quick turnaround. The right partner will design a custom assembly that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

This article was contributed by PEI-Genesis.

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