People often mistakenly use the terms cable assembly and wire harness for each other. That is because many think that these two terms refer to the same product. However, as it turns out, these two products are entirely different from each other.
Cable assembly and wire harness are similar to each other only in terms of their usage. They both conduct electric power or transmit signals from one point to another. Moreover, their primary function is also similar – to protect and organize wires. However, we use cable assembly and wire harnesses for entirely different purposes.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two products.
1. What is the Basic Difference Between Wire and Cable?
Often, people get confused between these two basic terms. In short, a wire is a single strand of an electric conductor. It is usually bare but sometimes appears twisted. There are some wires which contain multiple strands for more flexibility. However, these strands always remain in electrical contact with each other. Thus, it acts as a single conductor. Also, wires with a coating of an insulating layer or light-colored PVC are available.
On the contrary, a cable is a bundle of two or more wires. It consists of multiple individually insulated wires within a protective sheath. These insulated conductors run parallel, bonded, or twist together into one casing. The number of cables present in a cable can range from 2 to 100, sometimes even more. Usually, there will be a protective covering around the wires present in a cable. A cable has an inner sheath, armoring, and an outer sheath to ensure optimum protection. In general, most cables contain a positive wire, a neutral wire, and a grounding wire.
Manufacturers use materials such as aluminum or copper to make wires and cables.
The wire harness is a protective sleeve and sheath covering a bundle of wires or cables. A wire harness can combine hundreds of cables in a highly organized manner, connect with the help of ties, tape, laces, or a combination of all three. Wire harness arranges the wires not to let them interfere with the electrical system. It also keeps the cables apart to avoid unnecessary interaction or circuit coupling. Wire harness ensures the maximum utilization of space in limited areas.
Cable assembly is a group of cables covered by an extra protective sleeve/sheath. These wires can be either stranded or braided. Examples of cable assemblies include power, Ethernet, and antenna cables. The function of cable assembly also is to organize wires and cables. However, there is a marked difference in the materials used in these two products. Let’s look at that in detail.
The material of the covers of both products is similar but differs in its toughness.
Wire harnesses will have a protective sheath made of thermoplastic or thermoset material. That will be sufficient to provide essential protection to the wires from shock or corrosion. The wires and cables have the necessary insulation of plastic or rubber coating them. However, these wires and cables generally have low resistance. You can use gauges to measure these wires. As the capacity of the indicator increases, the size of the indicator will decrease. Ironically, thicker wires are at more risk of damage than thinner wires.
Meanwhile, cable assembly provides added strength and endurance to its wires and cables. It has a stress-resistant coating and uses a more robust material for added protection, covers function both as a protective shield and an insulator. Manufacturers use vinyl, thermoplastic rubber, or shrink-wrapped thermoplastic to make this cover. Moreover, the cable assembly contains numerous fillers such as nylon or Kevlar. Additionally, it will also have connections and terminations within it.
Manufacturers customize cable assemblies according to their particular environment of use. They are mostly manufactured by hand due to their intricate nature. Today, you can select cable assemblies of different sizes, shapes, and even colors.
Wire harnesses form an unavoidable part of most devices and machines today. sMost of the household products or tools make use of wire harnesses. These include products such as computer, television, and refrigerator. That is because most of these products already come with a protective shell. That removes the need for added protection from the wire harness. Moreover, a wire harness is also present in most automobiles, from cars to airplanes.
Cable assembly is for use in harsh climatic conditions or extreme temperature variations. Heavy industries generally make use of cable assemblies for their manufacturing processes; they protect external factors from the electric flow in its wires or cables. For instance, they can save technicians from many health and electrical hazards.
Industries such as medical, military, aerospace, security, and construction extensively use cable assembly. Also, cable assemblies are more accessible to route than wire harnesses. Thus, they are the most suitable for high-speed data transfers.
Most machines and products make use of an extensive collection of wires and cables. If we stretch out these wires, they can extend to kilometers. That is why binding and securing them together becomes crucial in any product. That will not only optimize the use of space but also protect the wires from damage or shock. Thus, both wire harness and cable assembly play a significant part in our day-to-day life.
The wire harness is a cost-effective solution to organize electric cables and wires better. It doesn’t focus on providing added protection to its wires and cables. Thus, it costs less compared to the cable assembly. Moreover, it generally has a smaller volume compared to the cable assembly. That means they require a lesser amount of material and effort. That is also an essential factor in the reduced cost of the wire harness.
However, the cost of the cable assembly is reasonable due to the added protection it provides. Therefore, before choosing these products, validate their value with your purpose.
It is essential to understand the area of use before choosing these products.
Wire harnesses can only provide minimal protection for the wires. It cannot protect them from extreme temperatures or friction with each other. Its only purpose is to organize wires and cables efficiently. Therefore, a wire harness is more suitable for indoor usage.
In contrast, the cable assembly is the best choice for outdoor use. That is due to its high resistance to external factors. It provides sufficient protection from external factors such as heat, dust, and moisture. It also protects the wires and cables from friction, compression, corrosion, and so on. You can choose a cable assembly of any size or shape according to your particular needs. The format will depend on the area where you intend to use it and other environmental factors.
If your cable requirement is not very extensive, you can make do with a wire harness. It is also cheaper and more straightforward than making use of cable assembly here.
The wire harness is a better option if the connector has multiple branches. For instance, a PC power cable uses a wire harness instead of a cable assembly. That is because it has various departments that connect to the hard drive, motherboard, and LED.
However, in a cable assembly, you can sheath and mold connectors easily. They will enhance the level of protection provided for the wire and cables. These connectors are usually present on each end of the cable. If you need to connect two PCBs, the cable assembly is your best option.
The flipside to cable assembly is that it often has a substantial and bulky built. That makes it hard to use in many situations. On the contrary, a wire harness is light and compact. That makes it very easy and convenient to use.
Both wire harness and cable assembly make installation possible within a lesser time. With these products, you don’t have to install each wire and cable individually anymore.
Cable assembly and wire harness are similar to each other in terms of their function. However, their purpose of use and environment is entirely different. You can use both for the convenient organization of wires and cables in your project. But it is crucial that you choose between both these according to your specific needs.
If you need only a low-cost solution for organizing your electric system, go for a wire harness. However, if high-quality protection is your priority, go for cable assembly instead. For a successful electrical system, choose between these two products after careful consideration. Selecting a cable assembly or wire harness rightly is sure to give you a successful outcome.
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