Miniaturizing Your Cable Design
When it comes to your custom cable interconnectivity solutions, bigger is not always better. As technology evolves, cable systems need to be smarter and faster, and perform well in even smaller spaces.
Consumers not only want information at the tip of their fingers, but they want it in an unobtrusive way. As a result, the trend for cable design has been moving toward a smaller overall cable or multiple cables being designed into a single hybrid cable solution.
How do you go about ‘miniaturizing’ a cable design?
There are different materials and components at various steps of the cable design that can lead to a smaller diameter or a bundled cable that offers a complete solution in one cable.
Reducing Wall Thickness
One way to literally miniaturize the cable is to reduce wall thickness of the insulation or jacket. Selecting a material with a high dielectric strength allows for a thinner wall while still maintaining electrical properties. Fluoropolymers are a great choice for miniaturization because of their extreme temperature resistance. A high temperature fluoropolymer can handle the increased temperature from adding more inner conductors into one cable without compromising performance.
Northwire offers an extrudable PTFE, which offers up to a 40% thickness reduction compared to other fluoropolymers! This means space reduction, weight reduction, and potentially cost reduction. A low dielectric constant also means reliable electrical performance.
Miniaturization is seen most industries including medical, automotive, industrial sensors, and more! The medical industry is focused on reducing gauge sizes and the overall cable diameter. While medical device manufacturers continually increase the functionality of the machines, they have not increased the area where the cable needs to fit. Cables need to be smaller to fit in the console or cabinet.
Cables also need to maintain optimal performance. Typically this means combining data, power, and sometimes control through one cord.
Doctor comfort is another consideration. Part of the push for smaller cables is due to the rise in handheld surgical tools which need to be lightweight to reduce hand fatigue. In order to maintain a soft and supple feel to the cable, a material with a softer durometer is recommended so it’s easy to maneuver and manipulate.
When choosing conductor material for miniaturizing, litz wire may be a good option. Litz wire offers more amperage in a smaller gauge size. This is because each litz wire is made up of individually insulated strands, which allows them to offer more amperage. For example, a 28 gauge litz wire can handle more amperage than a standard 28 gauge tinned copper conductor.
Another way to optimize amperage, while minimizing size is to switch from a larger gauge size conductor to several smaller ones. One example would be to replace a 20 gauge size conductor with six 24 gauge conductors and terminate them all to the same pin to give equivalent amperage to the original 20 gauge. This will help reduce size and weight in the cable.
Miniaturizing Overall Cable Diameter
When we talk about miniaturization we might always think ‘tiny’. However, making any size cable smaller in diameter is technically miniaturization. How is this achieved? A large cable can still be miniaturized or made into a smaller cable by choosing the right materials to reduce overall diameter. This could be achieved through conductor material, stranding, gauge sizes, jacketing materials, etc.
A Hybrid Cable Solution
Although it may not be the first thing you think of in terms of miniaturizing a cable, taking multiple separate cables and designing one, consolidated, hybrid cable solution is also considered miniaturization. The cable may not look ‘miniature’, however combining cable functions into one cable means less cable to store or secure out of the way. Wire sizes may be the same to meet certain electricals or agency approvals but combined into one hybrid cable.
Designing to End Application
The key for the Cable Design Engineer is to design to the end application. For example, combining power and data is common. However, keep in mind: Is the power high enough to affect the data signal? Will shielding the signal conductors be needed to protect them from the power bundle?
Know Your Connector and Assembly
Finally, keep your assembly in mind throughout the process of miniaturizing your cable. It will be helpful for your Cable Design Engineer to know what connector will be used and how you plan to terminate. Consider maximum and minimum overall diameter when choosing your connector to ensure the cable will terminate correctly. This forethought provides for the best cable material and design choices for your end application.
Whether your miniaturization goals are to reduce overall diameter or combine multiple cables into a hybrid solution, Northwire Cable Design Engineers can make recommendations and get creative with your design. Getting a Cable Design Engineer involved early in the process can ensure proper materials and components are selected to achieve your cable performance and aesthetic goals.