The Case for Custom Cable Assemblies

By Contributed Article | May 11, 2016

Choosing off-the-shelf cable as an afterthought comes with big risks, according to Northwire Inc.



Making cable and connector decisions an afterthought and then choosing a quick off-the-shelf option can result in additional costs with negative outcomes for OEMs, contract manufacturers, and product and design engineers.

The many risks of choosing a cable assembly not suited specifically to an application’s needs include the following:

  • Safety issues – Certainly the most important consideration when specifying wire and cable assemblies is safety. Many buyers for wire, cable, and connectors are not fully aware of the serious implications of poor-quality wire assemblies manufactured from carelessly sourced materials. Crisis can result from toxic smoke, electrical fires, and catastrophic combustion damage, and may even result in loss of life.
  • Equipment damage – Proactive risk analysis, customized mitigation, and utilization of advanced technologies such as sensing cable can safeguard equipment and operations on the industrial floor.
  • Environmental harm – Devastating environmental effects can be mitigated with custom cable assemblies engineered with leak protection, sensing, and notification capabilities in environmentally sensitive and at-risk areas.
  • Productivity downtime – Leveraging subject-matter expert (SME) analysis of performance requirements on the front end of your cable assembly project helps to ensure optimal cable assembly life with reduced failures throughout the production cycle.
  • Recalls and revenue losses – Even technology superstars such as Apple are susceptible to costly recalls due to connectivity failures as seen in its recent USB charging cable recall. Customized analysis of the cable assembly application and extensive testing protocols greatly reduces this risk.
  • Lawsuits – Turnkey efficiencies provided by a credible cable assembly supplier allow product engineers to focus on specific areas of design and testing within their wheelhouse.
  • Reputation harm – Failure to invest in customization for cable assemblies to ensure connectivity significantly increases field failure issues that reflect negatively on brand reputation.

Conversely, partnering with a quality cable assembly supplier to co-create customized connectors and cables results in proactive disaster prevention solutions and performance assurances.

Working with a custom cable assembly provider offers many advantages, including the following:

  • Increased value – Product and process value is only as high as that of the weakest connectivity link, and it can be safeguarded with correctly specified cable assemblies based on critical performance criteria.
  • Improved efficiencies – Learning curves and production timelines can be significantly reduced via a well-established cable assembly procurement process and streamlined integration of optimally compatible wire, cables, and connectors suited for the application.
  • Safety assurances – Working with a reputable cable manufacturer ensures tested and proven design integrity and a quality supply chain with the integration of safe materials in compliance with REACH, RoHS2, IEC, LSZH, HFFR, and more.
  • Higher performance levels – Sourcing cable assemblies from a company with respected agency and third-party testing as well as professional certifications that meet the standards of UL, CSA, cUL, cULus, CE, MSHA, NFPA, ANSI, ABS, IEEE, SAE, and others will result in optimal performance.
  • Proper compliance with standards – Understanding the nuances of required compliance standards is often complicated, but appropriate compliance can expedite product launch, process efficiencies, and cable assembly integrity.
  • Shortened time to market – Customized analysis for the cable assembly application supports proper use of material and compounds, cable and connector compatibility, and agency compliance verifications, which shortens time to market. Custom-made cable assemblies that are in stock and readily available for rapid deployment also contribute to faster end-product delivery.
  • Protection of bottom line – Extensive time and budget outlays associated with new product design and automation processes, including research, engineering, prototyping, manufacturing, and testing, are protected when custom cable assembly analysis and sourcing is provided for the specific application.

“While learning curves can be incredibly steep and costly, the good news is they can be overcome,” says Steve Kedrowski, Northwire product and electrical engineer. “The biggest issue is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Collaborating with a reputable manufacturer of cable assemblies allows the expertise and knowledge of a multitude of subject-matter experts to flow into your project with vital information.”

Finally, remember that SMEs proficient in custom cable assemblies provide key decision-making direction within the following seven critical areas:

  • Understanding the benefits and challenges of cable material options
  • Extreme engineering factors
  • Field-proven and tested designs
  • Hybrid cable types and assembly options
  • Panoramic view of cable management efficiencies
  • Installation requirements and shortcuts
  • Fully integrated connectivity solutions

Only subject-matter experts that understand the vulnerabilities and capabilities of the complex cable assembly engineering process can deliver a fully integrated cable and connector assembly that aligns with the product specifications and the demands of the industry and application.

This article was contributed by Northwire Inc.

For more information, contact Northwire at [email protected].

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