The basics


A wire is made of a material with great conductivity like copper or aluminum; it is used as a conductor for electricity or transportation of signals. They all have a thermoplastic sheathing for protection. Different arrays of cables can be made, like cable assemblies or cable harnesses. They have similar purposes but… what is the difference between them?

What is a cable assembly?


Typically, it refers to a group of cables that are beneath a sleeve or plastic jacket; the material of the sleeve could be made of thermoplastic rubber, vinyl and others. It is often confused with the term Wire Harness, since the terms are quite related but have slight differences in the way arranges are made as for the purpose of each one.

As it was mentioned above, cable assemblies refer to a group of cables that besides having each wire with its own jacket, it gets an extra jacket around the whole cable arrangement. This provides the cable assembly to have more endurance to hostile environments and conditions, making this a suitable option for any outdoors installation. Some environments require robust cable assemblies, this may require another sleeve or a heat shrink during the manufacturing process. An advantage they have, compared to wire harnesses is that they have more flexibility.

It can be found in control processes, medical devices, electronics and more.

The wire harness


The harness has no jacket covering a group of cables. Instead, these cables are bundled together without an external sleeve. Though it is preferred for its low cost, it does not provide the same level of protection for outdoor installations because it lacks an additional sleeve. For that reason, it is mostly used in indoor installations or equipment with a case that can protect the cables (for example, the leads of a motor). Since this arrangement can become complex, depending on the needs of the design, it may need to have marked leads or any system that can help you identify each end of every cable in the harness. Problems may appear if the labeling is not made. However, this can be fixed with a continuity test using a digital multimeter.

Yes, a wire harness can be made at home and requires more handwork, but at the same time, it can be cheaper than cable assemblies. However, the main difference they have with cable assemblies is the purpose, whereas if it is indoors or outdoors.

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