Important Cable Design Considerations

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Posted On:
November 04, 2020
Balancing want versus need
Important Cable Design Considerations

For optimal connectivity remember: Form follows function

Designing custom cable solutions for your end application can be a balancing act of factors to consider, such as the application environment, life expectancy, and specific functions. Considering these factors help in the selection of cable materials, components, construction, and color specification.

For custom cable used in critical applications, remember this principle: Form follows function.

Consider the design of your interconnectivity early in your product development life cycle

Think of the cable and connector solution as the nervous system of your device. Without it, the device does not have power or a way to send and receive data, rendering the device unusable.

Therefore, it is important to consider connectivity early in your product development life cycle. You will save time and money if you keep the cable and connector requirements in mind when designing your next device. It is too important not to. What may seem like a way to save space or weight, may lead to more work and ultimately, more cost down the road.

Design your device large enough to include your interconnectivity

Commonly we see a device designed without adequate space for the cable and connector. The device itself is compact and nice looking, but the door will not shut when the cable and connector are plugged in. Then decisions are made to reduce the size of the cable strain relief to fit inside the cabinet. Yet this sacrifices cable longevity.

It is important to consider the space needed for the cable and connector in the overall system design, as well as know the purpose of the interconnectivity before altering its design for optimum performance.

Design your device with connectivity that functions as intended

Designing a cable at an angle that is too severe or a cable assembly that doesn't plug in correctly will prevent your device from performing as expected. Make sure your device performs its intended purpose by designing how and where the cable and connector plug in.

Design compact connectivity wisely to perform for the life of your device

As many industries make a move toward smaller, more compact devices, the trend toward smaller cables follows suit. That could include combining multiple cables into one cable with multiple functions. When this is done, the connectivity requirements of the application need to be considered. As the cable solution becomes smaller, heat generation becomes greater. This can lead to continuity and longevity loss.

A Northwire Cable Design Engineer can help you select the right material and proper stranding configurations to mitigate heat generation and allow for heat dissipation.

Extreme Environments
Intended use vs how a device is actually used

How a device is intended to be used and how the device is actually used can vary greatly. Think about your vacuum at home. Do you pull the cable from the other end of the hallway to unplug the cord? Do you haphazardly loop the cord around the outside rather than coiling the cord around the cable holders?

If the cables were designed with aesthetics over function then the user may experience failures in the field. Inner conductors can break if not protected correctly. Conductors can pull out of connectors if they are not terminated appropriately.

What works for one application and end user may not be the same for another. Think about how the device will be handled, stored, or cleaned in the field. Custom cable design varies depending on the end application and the environment it is used.

Function should be kept top of mind!

Less cost doesn't always save money

When the cable and connector assembly are a last consideration of a new product development project, cost can be a major factor. Some find that they are the end of their budget but still need an interconnect system to transmit data and power!

When cost is a limiting factor, an inexpensive PVC may be chosen over a more robust material with a superior temperature range and durability such as a TPE or TPU. What may seem like a cost-effective solution can turn into a more costly and time-consuming endeavor in the long run.

Dealing with cable failure or trying to fix a ‘cheap’ design can even more time and money to a project when you consider testing requirements, product sign offs (whether internal or at the end customer), and when meeting required certifications or standards.

Table showing jacket material benefit comparison

​​​​​​Typically, one would not think to complain about getting more than they asked for. However, if gold plating your cable design is leading to failures or unnecessary components and materials, you may want to conduct a design consultation.

Northwire Cable Design Engineers can help you prevent design flaws leading to cable and assembly failures; reduce cable cost by selecting materials and components for optimal performance while omitting unnecessary extras.

It may seem like it would be faster and cheaper to make an off-the-shelf cable work. Yet, when an application requires consistent connectivity, cable failure means a line down, a cancelled surgery, or data loss to critical systems. 

For optimum connectivity, remember: form follows function for your cable and assembly design.

Whether you are have a sketch in mind for your next device or have a device design and need help with connectivity, Northwire Cable Design Engineers can help you select the right materials components for your end application to ensure form follows function.

Start your custom cable design today!