Cable assembly types: How these cables differ from each other

With four key factors affecting cable assembly performance—mechanical, electrical, environmental, and application-specific—manufacturers must ensure that cable assemblies can withstand harsh conditions and operate reliably over the system’s life.

Cable assemblies with durable, compact, and flexible designs help that, whether used in systems operating on land, subsurface, sea, or space.

However, as applications vary, so do the design and cable assembly types. Today, we’ll take a closer look at some of them.

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What is a Cable Assembly?

A cable assembly is designed to consolidate the functionality of multiple cables into a single, more manageable unit, making it simpler to set up, move, and repair.

Many wires and cables are color-coded or labeled for quick identification.

The wires in certain cable assemblies are exposed, whereas those in others are completely covered.

A cable assembly typically has a single component connecting each end and plugging into an outlet.

While the final assembly may be concealed, it is usually constructed so that the individual components can be seen for at least a few inches before joining the part plugging into the power source.

Cable assemblies simplify designing, buying, testing, and installing cables.

They cut costs and streamline supply networks.

Optional electronic components and features like bend reliefs and sealing caps can make them active while providing flexibility and lightweight benefits.

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Common Application of Cable Assemblies in Specific Industry

Transmission of either information or electricity is the usual function of an assembly.

Usually, you can see them in the following industries.

Automotive Cable Harnesses

Most manufacturers provide a variety of automotive sectors program requirements, such as automation grade cables, assessment submissions, and a lengthy development cycle.

It is common practice for manufacturers of custom wire harnesses to demand either an SAE-approved or special dust and waterproof caps and connectors.

Hence, you will use silicone seals, gaskets, and bespoke over-molds and grommets in automotive cables.

Medical Wire Assemblies

Multiple types of cables carry electricity and high-definition video between medical devices.

Sterilization, bio-compatibility, and ISO 13485 certifications are all prerequisites for many medical cables.

Many wire-sleeve and over-mold methods exist because of their resistance to ethylene oxide, autoclave sterilization, and isopropyl alcohol.

MilSpec Cables

Mil-spec standard 38999 is a comprehensive standard for electrical harnesses for military applications.

Moreover, manufacturers offer expert designs for these cables, which often have mil-hardened parts.

You need intricate connector systems and specialized materials for the wire jackets to put together several of these cables.

Connector systems that adhere to Mil-spec 38999 typically call for specialized tools.

For example, insert/extract tooling, back shell torque wrenches, HIPOT test equipment, crimpers, and multimeters to achieve the program’s goals.

Military-grade cable assemblies are typically used for aerospace, tactical, and marine applications. 

Wire processing for connecting machine

Caption: Wire processing for connecting machine

7 Types of Cable Assemblies You May Need

The various cable assembly types may be grouped by application, the number of wires (core), desired shape, and material, including complex military, multi-conductor, round coaxial/RF, wire and cable harnesses, flat ribbon, custom electro-mechanical, and more.

Data & Video Cables- D-Sub, USB, HMDI, DisplayPort

Multiple variations within each family are just some of the industry standard cable formats manufacturers support.

This applies to the male and female varieties, the full-sized and miniaturized forms, the “A,” “B,” and “C” varieties of the USB connector, RJ45, RJ11, and other Ethernet cable and phone jack types.

Power Cables

Power cables can employ various cable technologies for general usage and normally run at voltages lower than 30VDC or 120VAC.

You might use PVC coatings, tinned copper wires, thermoplastic over-molds, and connectors in manufacturing these cables.

For several common connector types, such as DC power barrels and AC power plugs like NEMA 5-15P and 5-15/20, in-house tooling is available.

Low Voltage Hook-Up Wire Harnesses

A wide range of wire harness constructions meet UL and industry standards and need 300VDC or less.

Companies can offer solutions for single-wire and multi-wire cross-sections with 1 to 100 conductors.

You can find these wire harnesses inside consumer devices, mechanical systems, medical equipment, and most of our daily tech.

RF/EMI Cable Assemblies

The world is already very noisy, and each of your cables undoubtedly contributes to that.

If there is interference in the radio spectrum, we call it RFI or radio frequency interference.

There are EMI or electromagnetic interferences as well.

However, if the disturbance persists, the circuit’s performance may suffer or stop working altogether.

Any data path may suffer consequences, from a rise in failure rate to complete data loss.

Depending on the context, you may wish to use these signals.

Hence, you should consult with the cable assembly person to determine the optimal course of action.

Molded Cable Assemblies

You have likely encountered molded cable assemblies outside of your professional life.

In most cases, manufacturers might prefabricate the HDMI cables in a mold.

A molded cable assembly might be the best option if your application demands increased durability and a cleaner look.

You can also use plastic or metal to create shells; both types, protected and uncovered, have their uses.

Assembled Coaxial Round

Coaxial cables are special electrical wires in which the inner conductor is encased in an insulating tube, and the outer conductor is encased in a shielding tube.

A jacket is typically around the outside of a coaxial wire to provide insulation.

The word “coaxial” refers to the core conductor and the external shield lying along the same geometric axis.

Coax cables have several uses in vehicles, airplanes, medical devices, and radios.

Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies

Ribbon cables that are flat and sleek are awesome.

The cables are neatly arranged in a flat ribbon rather than packed together within a sheath.

Ribbon cables, which you have probably seen in old computers, are flat cable assemblies that are just as functional as round cables.

However, they can be more useful in some situations due to their smaller footprint.

Ribbon cables make viewing and classifying each wire easy and can have color-coding to indicate their function.

Moreover, their primary use is bulk termination at IDC connectors with a sharp forked row of contacts.

In some cases, ribbon cable assemblies are superior to round cable assemblies when the cable’s width is a critical design factor.

Bare wire stranded

Caption: Bare wire stranded

Cable Assembly Design Considerations

You need to follow some key considerations before designing the system.

  • Identify the requirements and application area so that you design the protection accordingly.
  • Determine the correct length and size of the conductor
  • Also, determine the proper conductor and insulation material for your wires
  • See that the cables are flexible enough to endure the abrasions
  • Decide the stranding pattern of the cable so that it offers good flexibility
  • Moreover, determine the correct shielding and plating types of the conductors so that they work in humid environments
  • In the end, use the correct connector types and termination methods.
Power connector

Caption: Power connector


Cable assemblies play a significant role in the manufacture of any system.

Also, there are many types for each industry type.

Thus, designing these harnesses requires extra care and consideration to work perfectly.

Here at Cloom, we offer wiring harness and cable assembly solutions, so you don’t have to worry about perfection.

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