February 23rd, 2018 - Choosing the right materials for your custom cable can be a daunting task. To help clear up the ambiguity and to get you started on choosing an appropriate conductor type, we have laid out some information below on the eight most common conductors and the benefits of each. Keep in mind that it is important to consider the end application and its environment when choosing any custom cable material.
Bare copper is the most commonly used conductor type and is preferred in most applications because it is highly conductive and very cost effective. Offering a pure signal over long distances, bare copper also has natural flexibility and high tensile strength. With a temperature limit of 150°C, it is not the best suited for high temperature applications. If high temp performance is required, silver or nickel-plated copper may be a better choice.
If the custom cable or cable assembly will be used in a wet environment and corrosion resistance is a requirement, then tin-plated copper is a good conductor option. Another cost-effective solution, tin plating is also easy to solder and can withstand up to 150°C.
The low oxygen content and conductivity makes silver-plated copper an excellent option for audio cable due to the purity of the copper and the lack of tarnishing. Other benefits include solderability and a higher temp rating up to 250°C.
Nickle-plated copper is often used in high temperature applications due to its ability to withstand up to 450°C. In addition, the nickel plating offers corrosion and wear resistance.
Alloys are a combination of 2 or more metals. Silver, nickel, copper, beryllium, cadmium, RoHS-compliant chromium are selected for their overall toughness, break strength, and flex-life. Alloys are another great option for high temperature applications.
Steel is not a great conductor unless coated, but it is extremely strong and has less stretch than other conductor materials. Due to its high tensile strength and crush resistance, steel is often used in military and aerospace/defense applications.
Tinsel wire has high mechanical flexibility and is often used in low current applications such as telephones, headsets and other small appliances.
Optical fibers are well suited for light and signal transmission at high speeds, but do not conduct electricity. If flexibility is a concern, plastic optical fibers may be selected over glass optical fibers as glass fibers are very rigid and brittle.
Something to keep in mind is that the strength and flexibility of the conductor and overall cable really depends on the stranding configuration. If you have any questions about conductor materials give us a call at