Ribbon cable, a.k.a. flat ribbon cable or planar cable, is a cable designed in a flat and rectangular shape and gets its name from its resemblance to a piece of ribbon. It is made of conductors or wires running next to or parallel to each other on the same flat plane and as a result the cable is wide and flat.

Ribbon Cable may also be twisted on a per pair basis, but normally the twisted pairs go to parallel wires about every foot or so. So that even a twisted-pair one can be used with an Insulation Displacement Connector [IDC].

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The wires are fixed in place by the insulation and have a pin-to-pin spacing of 0.5 inches, but other spacing is possible.

 

Characteristic of ribbon cable

The main characteristic of ribbon cable is that it is flat and flexible and can hold many conductors. Large amounts of data can be rapidly transmitted via signals through it and the connectors which join the cable to a system.

Due to its flexibility ribbon cable is extremely useful when there is limited space to connect two components together. For example, it is commonly used within computer hardware to connect disk drives to a disk drive controller. In order to make installation easier and to align the cable conductors to certain pins, ribbon cable is typically colour coded, too.

 

Which industries is Ribbon Cable Used?

Ribbon cable is used in many electrical manufacturing industries, particularly consumer electronics manufacturing. It is essential in the design and build of many electrical products, with many manufacturers relying on the miniaturized version of ribbon cable, referred to as flexible flat cable or FFC, and a common component in laptops, mobile phones and many more consumer electronics products.

It is also often found in military and industrial equipment, too, including the automotive industry, aviation industry, military industry and even space exploration.

 

Folded Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies

Flat and ribbon cable can be folded into a custom configurations where spacing constraints are a limiting design factor. When folding is preferred at assembly, cables are pre-creases limit the stress cables normally endure from standard folding processes.

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Folding cables requires specific tooling and equipment in order to make sure the folds are complete and permanent.

 

Categories and types of ribbon cable

 PVC Hi-Flex Ribbon Cable

Symmetrical profile of this types of ribbon cable offers easy conductor separation (zip) without cable damage and allows reverse plane termination.

Halogen-Free Microzip Ribbon Cable

This Microzip consists of 30 AWG solid bare copper. Each leg of copper is pulled in parallel and fully extruded. A polarity stripe is co-extruded into position number one for easy identification.

Applications:

  • Ultra ATA 33, 66, 100 and 133
  • Internal wiring in non-halogen appliances

 

PVC Rainbow Ribbon Cable

Applications:

  • Internal wiring of electronic equipment

Features & Benefits:

  • Individually color coded conductors for easy identification
  • Fully extruded construction.
  • No lamination tapes to impede termination.
  • Zip construction
  • Symmetrically round conductors improve IDC termination.

 

Ribbon Cable Specifications

Ribbon cables are typically specified by two numbers: the spacing or pitch of the conductors, and the number of conductors or ways. A spacing of 0.050 inch is the most common spacing, but finer and courser pitch cables are also available, from 0.025 inch to 0.156 inch with custom spacing available depending on specific applications. In some portable electronic equipment, cable with a pitch as low as 0.3mm can be found.

Because of the availability of standard connectors, the number of conductors or ways is usually restricted to a few values. These include 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 24, 25, 26, 34, 37, 40, 50, 60, 64 and 80. The wire used in ribbon cables is usually stranded copper wire in sizes ranging from 18 AWG to 34 AWG or finer.

Ribbon Cable Advantages

The biggest advantage of ribbon cables is to allow mass termination to specially designed insulation-displacement connectors (IDC), although ribbon cables can also be terminated by using crimp contacts or solder-bucket connections. The IDC termination methodology allows the conductor of an insulated wire or cable to make contact by a connection process which forces a sharpened blade through the insulation, eliminating the need to strip the wire of insulation before connecting. IDC connectors are categorized by pin spacing, number of pins, and number of rows.

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