Ribbon Cables — Beginner’s startup to Ribbon Cables

With the technological advancements and increased innovations in the engineering world, the industry of electronics is increasing day by day. The growth of technological world has led foundations for many incredible opportunities for engineers, designers, and technicians. For moving with the pace of the electronic world, it is essential for you to remain updated with the circuitry, manufacturing, and components. Furthermore, these days’ readers want to learn ribbon cable’s manufacturing considerations, issues with ribbon cables and what connector types are suitable for ribbon cables. This guide designs for ribbon cable that is also known as the flat ribbon cable. So it will discuss the basics of ribbon cables like types of ribbon cables, types of ribbon cables’ connectors, how to select ribbon cables, also how to repair damaged ribbon cables and how to buy them. By keeping in view the beginners and solder-mask designers who are just starting their work on ribbon cables.

CHAPTER 1: What Is Ribbon Cable


1.1 Definition:

Ribbon cable consists of multiple conducting wires that are placed in a parallel geometry to each other on a flat plane. We know the ribbon cable also as multi-wire planar cable.

Fashioned with thin and flat multi conducting wires, so the use of ribbon cables for making external connections inside any electronic system is standard.

For example, a 34 – wired ribbon cable is used to make the connection between floppy disk and motherboard. A 40 wire ribbon cable connects IDE CD drive, and IDE hard disk embeds its relationship through 80 wire ribbon cable in an electronic system. Given below is the figure of a ribbon cable.

Figure 1: Ribbon Cable

1.2 Material and Specifications:

  • Material used:

The most common material used for making ribbon cable is silicone rubber. Due to silicone’s flexible and elastomeric nature, ribbon cables are molded into a flat cable that comprises multiple conductors of the same size.

Other than silicone rubber, the insulating materials used for making ribbon cables are Teflon, olefin materials, and PVC. The stranded copper wire is commonly known as one of the most used cables for making ribbon cable assemblies. They are available in sizes ranging from 18 AWG to 34 AWG.

When you are purchasing ribbon cables, ensure that you know what type of shielding it exhibits. It is one of the most crucial cable material aspects which need to be considered. Shielding makes sure that the flow of current is smooth within the ribbon cable. There are different types of shielding available in the market. The shielding types include braid, foil, combination braid, foil, and spiral shield. So the table is given below shows the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of ribbon cable shielding:

ShieldingAdvantages and disadvantages
Foil ShieldsFoil shields are commonly used in MATV, CATV, and computer I/O cables.
Advantages of the foil shield include incredible coverage which is almost 100%, lightweight and the cost is affordable. On the contrary, the disadvantages of foil shields state that the value of DC resistance is high and the mechanical strength is low.
Brad ShieldsBraid shield is commonly used for terminating process interconnects, or you can say for controlling applications. Advantages of braid shields include extreme flexibility and excellent structural integrity.
Disadvantages of braid shields include heavy weight and lack of full coverage.
Spiral ShieldThe spiral shield is used in retractile cords, audio ribbon cables, and microphones.
Advantages include extreme flex life and increased flexibility whereas disadvantages state that this type of shield is not useful if audio frequency range gets over the field.
Combination ShieldsCombination shield is commonly used in the computer I/) ribbon cables, networking, CATV, and MATV.
Advantages state that this type of shielding present in ribbon cable has 100% foil coverage.
On the other hand, disadvantages include high cost as compared to other shields present in ribbon cables.
  • Specifications:

As far as specifications are concerned, ribbon cables are specified by two values, i.e., the number of conducting wires and spacing. Spacing describes pitch which shows the distance between two adjacent wires. The pitch spacing is normally found with 1mm, 0.025″, 0.050″, 0.100″ and 0.156″.It should note that you can customize spacing or pitch according to the desired requirement.

On the contrary, the number of conductors of cable’s assembly is also described regarding “ways” which explains how many positions a connector can take. There is a fixed standard of connectors’ positions i.e. 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 24, 25, 26, 34, 37, 40, 50, 60, 64, and 80, because they are restricted by the set number of conductors or ways in assemblies.

For avoiding reverse connections in the ribbon cable, the technique of color coding used. Each edge of the ribbon cable comes marked with the red stripe which indicated that pin one connects to the connector. Color coding makes easier identification of conductors. These cables are commonly known as hippie cables.

  • Usage:

There are plenty of different applications where you can use ribbon cables. Assemblies of ribbon cable are widely used in computer’s internal components and parts like floppy drives, hard drives, and CD drives.

You can also use ribbon cables to build connections between moveable components like medical equipment, robotics, print heads, measurement equipmentand other electronic products.

One of the most significant advantages of ribbon cables’ usage is their termination ease, you can bring mass termination with ribbon cables by using IDC connector by keeping fixed, constant and controlled spacing.

If you have limited space, the ribbon cable is the best choice for your application. Due to the flat structure and flexibility, you can run within implementations of the straight run without any problem.

The only disadvantage of ribbon cables is that they do not allow any flexing in sideways. If you need any change in direction for your application, ribbon cables will not help so well. And you can still bring changes to its right angle by bringing a fold in the cable.

 CHAPTER 2: Ribbon Cable Connectors


2.1 Ribbon cable connectors’ types:

Ribbon cable connectors are commonly known with the name of IDC connectors. IDC connectors use a sharp forked contact due to which they pass through insulation and direct contact with the conductor is then established.

You should remember that this process is taking place typically at assembly’s both sides and ends. Identification of IDC connectors is based on the number of rows, number of pins and pin spacing/pitch.

Types of ribbon cable connectors:
Common types of ribbon cables embellished with IDC termination include DIL headers, PCB transition headers, DIN 41612 connector, microribbon, D – subminiature connector and BT224 connector.

Classification of ribbon cable connectors:
The rating of ribbon cable connectors is as under:

  • Interference:

Ribbon cable connectors are commonly known with the name of IDC connectors. IDC connectors use a sharp forked contact due to which they pass through insulation and direct contact with the conductor is then established.

Interference in general terms is defined as any mode of instruction which is causing disturbance or distortion. Keeping in view ribbon cable connectors’ intervention, need to note that these cables play a tremendous role in connecting two devices. However, there has been seen a couple of problems in the case of the analog area.

It was found in the 1980s that ribbon cables also behave like highly efficient antennas and are emitting signals on random intervals within the full range of electromagnetic spectrum.

These signals transmitted at random intervals were producing interference and distortion with television reception. Due to this interference issue of ribbon cable connectors’ types, their use for connecting two devices got limited.

You can use “naked” ribbon cables within system’s case but ensure that while connecting two boxes, these must be grounded.

  • Impedance:

Impedance is defined as the circuit’s opposition which is shown on current at the time when a voltage is applied.For example, the resultant impedance within a ribbon cable is going to be 110 Ω to 130 Ω if you are using 26 AWG wire with a pitch of 0.050″.For understanding ribbon cable connectors’ interference, it is essential for you to understand impedance.

2.2 How to make a selection for ribbon cable?

It is essential that you must know about how you can make a selection of ribbon cable. Given below is the table which comments on the critical factors to consider while buying ribbon cable:

PitchPitch is mainly about the spacing between multiple conducting wires of the ribbon cable. Select cable according to the desired pitch. The standard pitches available are 0.5mm, 1mm, 1.25mm and 2mm.
Temperature (Extreme)Standard ordinary ribbon cables usually process at nominal temperatures. However, if you need to operate them at a higher temperature, you will require a silicon jacket.
FlexibilityThough ribbon cables are extremely flexible if you need more flexibility under your design, you can customize them.
Life expectancyIt is highly recommended to go for ribbon cables that are tested for exhibiting a long life and high likelihood.
Resistant to FireRibbon cable must be immune to fire. It is not only required for successful processing but also for your safety and health.

 CHAPTER 3: Ribbon Cable Types


3.1 Types of Ribbon cables:

Ribbon cables consist of different types. So some of the ribbon cable types are as under:

  • IDE ribbon cable:

IDE ribbon cables are found in the following two categories:

34 – pin cable is usually used for floppy drives. On another hand, 40 – pin cable is used for optical drives and hard drives. The figure shows both of these IDE ribbon cables.


Figure 2: IDE ribbon cables

  • DSI ribbon cable:

Drive Serial Interface is abbreviated as DSI. DSI ribbon cable is used to make the connection between communication adapters and peripherals. You will see an RS485 serial port which is built on DSI ribbon cable.

  • HDMI ribbon cable:

HDMI ribbon cable is known for its lightweight and is considered ideal for applications that are restricted with limited space. As this type of ribbon cable is flexible, it makes sure that the strain produced is minimum.

HDMI ribbon cables are properly shielded and are embedded with plated HDMI connectors. These connectors are responsible for providing high-quality audio and videos.

You can use HDMI ribbon cables for connecting cameras to HD display monitors, for HDMI to AV video converters and wireless transmitters.

Figure 3: HDMI Ribbon Cables

  • Raspberry Pi ribbon cable:

Raspberry Pi ribbon cables are specially designed for connecting Raspberry Pi or to any Raspberry source. The interface these ribbon cables use is called CSI interface. These cables exhibit flat structure and commonly plated with the tin-copper conductor. They come with white PVC insulation and polyester supporting tape. You can use these cables as a replacement cable for Raspberry Pi camera. The figure shows the raspberry Pi ribbon cable.

Figure 4: Raspberry Pi ribbon cable

 CHAPTER 4: Ribbon Cable Repair

 Ribbon cables are delicate and are sometimes easily breakable. The process of repairing ribbon cables is lengthy, and also it needs much concentration. So for fixing the ribbon cables, you need to follow the following steps:
    • The first step for repairing ribbon cable is exposing ribbon wire’s ends. For this, you cause sandpaper of (600) grade. You can also use a good razor for this step.
    • Abrade the insulation for about 1 – 2mm. Remember that you need to do this on only one side of the ribbon. You can use some sharp pins or continuity checker to make sure that now you can access the wire.
    • The side which does not require to be abraded should be stick to broken cable back by using flexible adhesive tape. During this process, you need to align the broken pieces in such a way that they are as close to each other as possible.
  • Now cut two more pieces of tape and stick them on ribbon cable’s top. It should be the stick in such a way that it is wrapped around and underneath to the tape. A small distance or gap must be left at the exposure point of wires.
  • The final step is bridging the cables that are broken. You can do this step by using conductive epoxy resin. One of the most commonly used conductive epoxy resin is silver – loaded resin. You can get it quickly from any electronic shop.

Below are attached some pictures of the process that will help you to gain some idea regarding the ribbon cable repair process.

 CHAPTER 5: Where to buy and custom Ribbon Cables?

 For the reason that we are manufacturing ribbon cable assemblies for many years. So we have a good range of different ribbon cables that are available in various lengths. Most noteworthy, We are here to add value to your business and your projects.

There are plenty of distributors and manufacturers of ribbon cable assemblies present in the market but selecting the right distributor is a hard thing. We are best-known distributors, and we ensure that your choice for buying ribbon cable from us is right. Our prices as compared to the electronic market for ribbon cables are low. We are providing complete production facilities in the country.

Figure 5: Cloom Custom Ribbon Cable

Our complete services for ribbon cable purchase range from design, drawing, prototyping and mass production. We are known specialists, distributors and manufacturers dealing with connectors, subassemblies, boxes, looms, harnesses and cable assemblies and so on.

You should trust entirely on the quality of our ribbon cables as our company’s ideology revolves around the quality of the product. We keep in high standards of quality, and we go out of the way to meet our customer’s requirement. Other than ribbon cables, you can contact us for other electronic parts and components too like plastic parts, metal parts, LEDs, transformers, cables, power supplies and PCB boards. We guarantee that our company is the right place for you to buy ribbon cables at best possible prices with the full range of options.


 So, if you are looking to get high-quality ribbon cables and coaxial cables, contact us as we known industry leader of electronics’ market. We are also customizing the designs and prototypes of wires right following your needs, to your project needs and your business needs. Whatsoever your specifications are, you can give a call to us and we will get back to you with the exact thing you want. Our services are available 24/7 at our online website. You can contact us at any time for your project needs. We will make sure that you got the top quality and improved performance. So, visit our website today and book your desired cables. Try us!