Ribbon Cable –The Ultimate Guide You Need to Know

Are you tired of making the wrong choice of ribbon cable? Do you know the difference between a ribbon cable and a flexible flat cable? More so, it comes in various sizes and is necessary for different applications. Often, these cables appear quite confusing to individuals who find it difficult to spot the differences between both cables.

Not to worry, it is not as difficult as it seems. The information you crave is available at your disposal. Read on!

Chapter One:Understanding a Ribbon Cable

ribbon cable1

What is a ribbon cable?

Another name for ribbon cable is multi-wire planar cable or hippie cables. It is a cable type with lots of conducting wire that runs parallel to each other on the same flat plane.

The ribbon cable is flat and rectangular. The flexibility of the ribbon cable makes it easy to hold many connectors at the same time, as well as also transmitting a large amount of data through signals. Furthermore, ribbon cables help to manage conductors effectively, even where space is limited.

A typical instance that proves the usefulness of ribbon cable is its function in computer hardware. The ribbon cable plays an important role in connecting the disk drive to the disk drive controller.

These cable types are specialised cables that are important in connecting IDE surfaces for IDE connectors.

Ribbon cable colour coding

The essence of ribbon cable colour coding is to prevent the occurrence of reverse connections. One rule for ribbon cable colour coding is that the edge of the cable, which bears a red stripe, connects to pin 1 of the connector. The cable colour coding makes it easy to identify the different sets of connectors.

More importantly, it helps make the installation easier because it is easy to identify the different conductors important to the connection.

An image of rainbow ribbon computer cable

Ribbon cable size

A pertinent question that engulfs individuals minds is the exact size of the ribbon cable that suits their needs. There are two ways of identifying ribbon cable sizes. The two factors considered are:

• The pitch or spacing of conductors

• The number of conductors or ways.

For the pitch or spacing of the conductors is a spacing of 0.05 inch (1.27 mm) is the most common form of ribbon cable spacing. This spacing type allows for a two-row connector with a pin spacing of 0.1 inches (2.54mm). Most personal computers favour this exact spacing ribbon cable size. It is a common type of ribbon cable size in floppy disk drive cables and custom parallel ATA cables.

Other types of ribbon cable connectors’ size are 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 24, 25, 26, 34, 37, 40, 50, 60, 64 and 80.

Ribbon cables are unarguably handy and play significant functions in printers and computers.

An image of flat and ribbon cable on blurred background

Chapter Two:Application of Ribbon Cable

Ribbon cables are almost indispensable in manufacturing industries. They play a significant role in the consumer electronics manufacturing industry.

Additionally, ribbon cables are essential in building many electrical products. A good number of electrical products make use of ribbon cables. It is because of the miniature nature of ribbon cables, making them easy to use for designing electrical products.

Quite a several manufacturers rely on Flat flexible cable(FFC) to build laptops and mobile phones.

More so, ribbon cables are important for military-based equipment constructions. They are also important in industrial environments.

These cables are necessary for the automotive industry. In constructing automobiles, manufacturers make use of ribbon cables.

Industries like aviation industries and space exploration find the ribbon cables very essential in carrying out their activities.

Chapter Three:Ribbon Cable Connectors

ribbon cable2

There are quite a handful of ribbon cable connectors that are available with IDC termination. They are:

BT 224 connector

Another name for BT 224 connector is the IDC connector. Many standards, such as BS 9525- F0023, DIN 41651, and MIL-C- 83505, define this connector type.


• BT 224 connectors mate with either a purpose made plug or two-row gird of header pins with 0.1 inches 2.44mm spacing.

• They are compatible with ATA cables.

D- Subminiature connector

These connectors are not as common as the crimp and solder bucket types.

• D- Subminiature connectors are suitable for serial ports and printer ports. It means that these connectors work perfectly for both printers and serial ports.

An image of an array of the signal board of D-Subminiature connectors crate

DIN 41612 connector

It is a connector type that is very common among different suppliers that operate together. Although, the standard is now in an internationally standard form of IEC 60603-2 and EN 60603-2


  • The DIN 41612 connector suits Euro card bus, NU bus, Futurebus, VMEbus, Multibus 11 and Tram motherboards.
  • All of the applications of DIN 41612 use a male Eurocard bus in a female DIN 41612 on a backplane.

PCB transition headers

PCB represents the Printed circuit board. It is a connector type with two rolls of pins with the same spacing as BT 224 connectors. For efficiency, these pins connect directly to the PCB.

This connector possesses high low contact resistance and long life. It also offers a cost-effective means of connecting PCB to other applications.


  • It connects the wire to board
  • Is also effective for separable header/sockets
  • It is suitable for dual-in-line application

Micro Ribbon connector

There are a host of names for the ribbon connectors. These names are a telco, 25 pair, miniature delta ribbon, mini D ribbon, MDR, Amphenol or even miniature ribbon connector. Microribbon connector possesses a shape similar to D- Subminiature connector with two parallel rows of contact. Its contacts are not pins. Rather, they are small bands of metal in the form of ribbons.

The female connectors of the micro ribbon connector possess a bail lock that connects it to the male counterpart for a secure connection.

ribbon cable3


  • The micro ribbon connectors are a suitable fit for telecommunication equipment.
  • It is also important for computers with a lot of contacts.

DIL Headers

What are DIL headers?

The DIL headers possess pins with the same spacing as standard DIL ICs. They connect two Printed circuit Boards. Also, they work well with appropriate DIL sockets to form a plug and even socket pair.


  • These connectors work well within replacing an IC in connection to an external device.
  • It is also suitable as a PCB transition header on stripboards.

Chapter Four:FFC (Flexible Flat Cable)

What are flexible flat cables?

Flexible flat cables are a type of ribbon cable that is flat and flexible. These are direct connections without any additional components. It is a thin flat cable commonly found in high-density electronics applications. Its material is very flexible.

Flexible flat cables are a smaller form of ribbon cables. These cables possess a special sort of makeup. Its makeup is a flat and flexible plastic film base and multiple conductors on a surface.

ribbon cable4


  • Flexible flat cables are important for easy cable management in high flex environments.
  • It is a suitable cable for printers, scanners, copiers, fax machines, DVD stereos, LCD appliances and other electrical products.
  • Is common in modern equipment
  • It assists the printer connection between the head and the motherboard.
  • The FFC plays a considerable role in signal transmission and plate board connections.

Benefits of Flexible Flat Cable

  • The wires of a flexible flat cable are not wound like a round cable. It makes it easy to protect the individual wires.
  • They are lighter and more flexible.
  • The do not occupy too many spaces like round cables
  • It offers a more sophisticated EMI/ RFI suspension. As such, it eliminates wire coupling issues.
  • The ends of flexible flat cables are thick.
An image of flat flexible cable

Ribbon cable VS FFC

Both cable types are important in diverse ways. While one assist in a particular field, the other remains relevant in a field that suits it. However, the flat cables were in existence long before the ribbon cables came into existence.

Ribbon cables are, however, efficient in various areas like computing, aerospace, military and robotics. These cables possess good superior quality, flexibility, packaging efficiency and reduce the presence of electronic noise. Despite these numerous advantages, the ribbon cables handle termination techniques rather poorly.

More so, there are also worrisome cases of frictional heat in the cable during its repetitive motion cycles — also, conductors inside the cable move relative to one another.

Whereas the flexible flat cables don’t move within the jacket to retain their electrical properties and qualities. Another interesting feature of the flexible flat cable is that the cable’s conductors have similar physical and electrical lengths.
Inflexible flat cables, the conductors are isolated to keep them stable. These cables are more flexible than ribbon cables.

FFC performs better than ribbon cables in terms of heat, weight, volume efficiencies and signal considerations.

Therefore, it is necessary to understand the capabilities of both the ribbon cable and flexible flat cables to ensure proper usage. In all, flexible flat cables possess better features than ribbon cables.

Ribbon cable

An image of a technician holding the flexible flat cable in a workshop

Chapter Five:How to Choose Ribbon Cable

Asides from recognising ribbon cables, the confusion lies in choosing them. In choosing ribbon cables, there are quite a several factors to put into consideration. These cables are:


Pitch is spacing. It refers to the spacing of conductors within the ribbon cable. The pitch depends on the cable requirements and specifications. Some examples of pitches include 0.5mm, 1mm, 1.25mm, 2mm.

Ribbon cable pitch VS connector pitch

The ribbon cable pitch of the connector and that of a ribbon cable is never the same. The ribbon cable is always half of the connector pitch. By this implication, when there is a two-row connector pitch, the ribbon cable pitch is usually half of the connector’s pitch.

Another way of determining the pitch of the ribbon cable is by measuring the outside edge of the cable and then divide the figure by the total number of connectors.

Extreme temperatures

Ribbon cables tolerate all sorts of temperatures, be it harsh or friendly. But, if ribbon cables are to operate perfectly in unfavourable temperatures, a silicon jacket is the best bet.


In choosing ribbon cables, flexibility is a necessary factor. Since ribbon cables are flexible, there is still a need to purchase a more flexible type when the design is of limited space or requires a more flexible type, purchase a custom ribbon cable with greater flexibility that suits the job.

Long life

Put into consideration the life span of the ribbon cable you intend to purchase. Like every other electrical component, it is necessary to choose a ribbon cable that can survive the test of time. Choose a ribbon cable that is adequately proven by professionals and also assured of a long life cycle.

Fire resistant

Fire-resistant is another factor to consider when choosing a ribbon cable. The importance is not only for the benefits of the electrical equipment but also for safety too. Make it a point of duty to settle for a ribbon cable type in line with the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directives and fit according to fire safety standards.

Chapter Six:Cloom Tech Custom Ribbon Cable Service

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At Cloom Tech, our watchword is an excellent delivery of service. We are best at the services we render.

Cloom Tech is not just a body of professional teams who are specialised in different areas of expertise. With us, you are guaranteed a superb custom ribbon cable service as it is a part of what we are known to do well.; we are a team of seasoned professionals who take a keen interest in delivering effective results.

In search of a service provider, look no further; Cloom Tech is the perfect name for the job.


Ribbon cables are indeed important for various connections of sorts. They play important roles in connecting various applications like mobile phones, laptops, electronic devices.

These coloured-looking cables are very efficient in producing second- to- none output results. They appear in various sizes and pitches. To make full use of the ribbon cable, it is important to derive all the information about it.

Fortunately, the information you require is available in this write–up. Should you desire to know more about how ribbon cables work, feel free to contact us.

Hey, I am John, General manager of Cloom and OurPCB.

I am a responsible, intelligent and experienced business professional with an extensive background in the electronics industry.

Reach me at sales@wiringo.com to get a quote for your projects.

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