What is Cable Assembly?
Cable Assembly also known as wire harness, cable harness, wiring assembly, or wiring loom in its simplest term can be defined as a systematic and integrated grouping or arrangement of cables/wires within an insulated casing for better protection, insulation and to prevent disruption to the signal that might be due to vibration, abrasion, moisture, fire, and electrical malfunctions or power surges.
Figure: (Left) Bunch of wires with an easy to install common connector
(Right) Factory ODM OEM Automotive Wire Harness
Why Cable Assembly?
Cable assemblies are often used for transmitting power or informational signals and provide power of several individual cables and organize them in an easier to install package that is also easier to replace and maintain. A cable assembly is often covered in a sleeve that provides protection to the assembly.
Most electrical systems are cramped with many cables of different colors and sizes. Each electrical wire representing a unique function. With so many cables running within a system, a harness provides one common connection point. Wiring is a complicated process handled efficiently only by professionals with an IPC certification. Generally each wiring system comes with a schematic. A wrong connection in the circuit interferes with the function, rendering the whole harness useless and potentially dangerous. Instead of numerous single connection point wires, having a common connection point in place reduces the probability of error.
Figure: Beauty of organized cable assembly
A cable assembly can be created using a number of different casings — straps, cable ties, cable lacing, sleeves, electrical tape, conduit, braiding, a weave of extruded string, or a combination of the these materials – but the purpose is always to increase the efficiency of the products.
The design of cable harness is solely dependent on the electrical and geometrical requirement. The production is mostly manual with preliminary automated crimping of the wires. The wires are first cut to the required length and then connected to the terminals or connector housings. The cables are then clamped together.
Manual work includes routing wires through sleeves, crimping with fabric tape on wire strands, fastening strands with tape, clamps or cable ties. The automated pre-production work covers cutting wires using wire cutting machines, twisting wires and soldering the ends.
Advantages of Cable Assembly/harnessing
Security and safety: The cables are better secured when arranged in a harness of insulated material. The non-flexing bundle diminishes the chances of a short-circuit and reduces abrasion as well as moisture related damages. A single wire is relatively easier to install as compared to multiple wire system. Installation time is reduced and the process is simplified as well as easily standardized. Covering the wires in a fire resistant material nullifies the chances of electrical fires.
Simplified use: One clamped wire unit is simpler to handle than individual wires. A typical example of wire harness is the car audio system. Instead of connecting each wire individually to its respective slot, a bunch of clamped wire unscrambles the electric circuit by linking connection A to connection B – both being harnesses.
Reduced clutter: The necessity of an external coating of PVC or non-flexible tubes is canceled out. Space is conserved. Installation becomes simpler and over hauling is fuss-free.
No time lost: Cable harnessing works on a ‘plug and play system’. They are ready to be used post-installation. They are designed in a way to fit exactly into the space that they are meant for. Many industries also vouch for wire harnesses’ efficiency. They are proven to reduce the time taken for production of certain equipment.
Applications for Cable Assemblies
There are many applications that use cable assemblies. They are often found in airplanes, cars, and construction equipment. Cable assemblies can also be part of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and RF, serial, Ethernet and high-speed connectivity applications.
Figure: RF Coaxial Cables RJ45 Ethernet Cable