Cable Assemblies Guide
Cable assemblies—also known as wire harness assemblies—are an essential component to many complex electrical systems that we use on a daily basis. An electric cable assembly is designed to house and organize a variety of electrical wires, ensuring that OEM assembler and other workers in their industry can keep track of where electricity is flowing—and that cables and wires are not crossed.
Cable assemblies are also designed to make the production of larger components simpler. The precise design of a cable assembly is dependent on the geometric and electrical requirements of the equipment in which it will be installed. Many industries commonly utilize cable assemblies as integral components of their end products. These industries include:
- Construction and industrial equipment
- Appliance manufacturing
Cable Assembly Uses
Cable assemblies have a number of important uses. In a cable assembly, the entire bundle of wiring may be encased in a sheath composed of durable material, such as shrink-wrapped thermoplastic, rubber, or vinyl. Cable assemblies serve three important functions:
- Cable assemblies protect technicians and contractors from the potential hazards of an electrical current. They also provide protection for external materials that could be harmed by electricity or materials that could conduct electricity, thereby causing harm to bystanders.
- Wire harnesses allow electricians to easily navigate electrical systems. They keep the wiring in a highly organized configuration, which helps technicians to avoid a time-consuming analysis of how the systemic components fit together.
- Cable assemblies also serve as a protection for the wires and cables housed within their sheaths. They guard the wiring against wear and tear, harsh environmental conditions, and other incidental damage.
Cable Assembly Applications
Cable assemblies are found in a wide range of applications. Some of these include:
- Flat panel displays. Since the 1990s, flat panel display screens have become overwhelmingly popular for a range of consumer, commercial, and industrial purposes. Cable assemblies are an essential part of each flat panel display, whether it’s a television set sold in a retail store, or a display screen in an airplane’s cockpit.
- In-flight entertainment systems. The TV screens built into the headrests of each passenger seat of commercial airliners depend on cable assemblies to ensure that they function properly.
- Navigation systems. Vehicles ranging from police cruisers and fire engines to taxis and private automobiles count on cable assemblies to support the functionality of vehicular navigation systems.
- Flight simulators. Cables assemblies that meet the performance standards and tight spacing requirements of advanced flight simulators allow military, commercial, and private pilots to experience the highest possible level of flight training.
- Military and commercial ruggedized computers. Cable assemblies are vital components in ruggedized (or shock-resistant) electronic applications.
Other applications that utilize cable assemblies include, but are not limited to:
- Clean energy
- LED lighted clothing, outfits, and accessories
- Drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
- Automobile wiring
- New house construction
- Computers and electronics
Benefits of Cable Assemblies
Cable assemblies allow end-use applications to perform to higher standards. There are several benefits that cable assemblies can provide to manufacturers and customers alike.
Cable assemblies are vital to the safe consolidation of potentially dangerous electrical wiring. They allow electricians to keep the wiring well-organized and simultaneously protect the wiring from outside elements.
Wire harnesses keep cables from becoming tangled or bent and also protect them from exposure to harmful environmental factors. This improves the ultimate life of the cables.
Cable assemblies help manufacturers to optimize space inside of electronics to provide additional room for other parts and components. Even if additional space isn’t required, wire harnesses still decrease clutter caused by individual loose cables.
Customized cable assemblies often support specific functionality in products. A cable assembly producer that offers highly customized solutions can provide a higher level of availability for precise design specifications, as opposed to off the shelf products.
The Cable Assembly Manufacturing Process
The cable assembly manufacturing process can be divided into four distinct phases:
Phase 1: Design
Engineers tasked with designing cable assemblies must take into account common electrical issues that end products may experience on a daily basis. A customized design for each electronic component optimizes the product’s functionality and increases its lifespan.
Phase 2: Prototyping
Wire harness prototyping allows the engineering team to test out their design before entering into the mass production phase. This helps to avoid expensive mid-run design changes and product/material waste.
Phase 3: Production and Assembly
As each assembly must be customized according to its end application, the production and assembly process can vary depending on the type, size, and intended purpose of the harness. There are three basic steps in the production and assembly phase:
- Wire cutting and terminating. A wire cutting machine ensures that the wires are the correct length for the product and the terminations are made correctly with the proper strength.
- Connections. Wire ends are stripped to the core to attach terminals which allows the wire to connect to housings, or modules that will allow a perfect connection to the equipment it is driving.
- Assembly. Using either a workbench or an assembly board, the wires are bunched together into an appropriate harness.
Phase 4: Testing
The wiring within the cable assembly is subjected to electrical safety testing to ensure it is functional and operates reliably and is laid out correctly for the equipment it is going to.
Cable Assembly Testing Procedures
Cable assemblies are often subjected to harsh environmental conditions in their real-world settings. Fire poses one of the largest risks for electrical applications, so there are several testing procedures designed to ensure that cables and wires are adequately protected from fire-related incidents. The following flammability tests may be performed on wires within cable assemblies to ensure they are ready for safe operation:
- UL 1061
- UL Vertical Tray
- UL 1666
- CSA FT1
- CSA FT2
- CSA FT4
PMCI’s Cable Assembly Capabilities
At Precision Manufacturing Company, Inc. (PCMI) we offer a wide range of cable assembly capabilities. We provide cable assembly solutions for a variety of applications, including:
- Washing machines
- Medical Equipment
- Household appliances
- Electronics and computers
- Industrial equipment
Some of our services include:
- Contract manufacturing
- Wire harness building
- High-speed wire processing
- Panel and control box assembly
- Coax stripping/cutting
- Automated crimping/stripping
- Semi-rigid coax
- Wire terminating
- Wire connecting
- Sonic welding
- Through hole soldiering and conformal coating
- J-Standard (J-001) soldering
Cable assemblies act as vital components for a wide range of electronic applications. They keep cables and wires organized, protect them from damage, and serve as a safeguard for electricians, contractors, and others who work near electrical systems. They are highly customizable, and offer several benefits for manufacturers and consumers alike.