Custom Instrumentation Cable Assemblies

Mueller Electric manufactures molded and unmolded custom-built cable assemblies, custom molded instrumentation cables, and various wiring harnesses. These cable assemblies are built for a wide range of industrial applications from machine building, conveying, packaging, robotics, construction equipment, agricultural equipment and more. Each application is specific and unique to each customer’s needs as our customers’ successful product launch is of vital importance to us.

Each cable has its own unique design and application. To gain a complete understanding of each specific cable build it is critical to have a partner who can take the time to listen, not only to the specific design needs, but also listen to what is important to each customer, i.e. high quality, fast to market, long lasting, how the cable looks, etc. Large engineering firms or larger manufacturers may want to rush through this process to get to the next project and consequently not understand the complete picture. Mueller Electric, in business for over 115 years, still has the ability to be the partner, which each customer deserves as we will have a sales representative and an engineer assigned to each specific case, ready to listen, ready to help each customer to a successful product launch event.

The custom-built cable process we employ is our Design – Test – Go program. We will work with the customer to finalize a working drawing of the conceptual product. From there, we will build a prototype for the customer to test and approve or make recommended upgrades. Once customer approval is received the customer can easily move to the order process and production can commence immediately.

When working with a customer on a custom-built cable or harness, although it may look simplistic, there are multiple key attributes to consider. These attributes are:

  1. Number of terminations and type. How many terminations will be needed? Many custom-built cables use a combination of termination to open end as well as termination to termination. Will each end be plugged into a previously designed mate or will it be hard wired? What is best for the application? Termination types are limitless as they can range from Circular connectors (M8, M12, M23, 7/8-16UN, ½-20UN, servo connections, etc), D-Subs, Deutsch, VGA, Military Circular, clamps, clips, plungers, and more. It must also be determined whether a mold is best to keep dust and moisture out of the connection or if an unmolded joint is best.      
  2. Number of pins. How many pins will be needed? Will it depend on the number of conductors? Sometimes, to plug into an existing connector, a certain number of pins may be needed to make the necessary connection, although, an upgraded wiring diagram may call out a fewer number of conductors leaving only a certain number of pins connected. It is not uncommon for a custom cable to have an 8-pin connector but only 4 pins connected to conductors. In any case, a wiring diagram will need to be clear from the drawing phase to insure an accurate pinout.
  3. Wire Type. The customer’s application will determine what type of wire will be required. The most common wire types are PVC (polyvinyl chloride), PUR (polyurethane) and TPE (thermoplastic elastomer). TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and TPR (thermoplastic rubber) may also be required depending on the application. There are also other wire types to choose from such as TC-ER (exposed run tray cable), PLTC (power limited tray cable), ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) as well as ITC (instrument tray cable). Each type offers its own unique ability to withstand certain abrasions, chemicals, temperatures, radiation and more. The customer’s application will determine the best wire to use in the custom assembly.
  4. Wire size, conductor type and shielding. What size wire will be needed? Is there a space contingent that needs to be considered? Will the conductors be transferring data or signal transmissions or will they be delivering power, either AC or DC? Will the wire have a combination of both power and signal? Will shielding be required? If ethernet based, twisted pairs will be necessary, sometimes with an overall shield or even individually shielded twisted pairs. Larger conductors are usually required for AC power while smaller gauge size would be acceptable for 24-volt DC power and even smaller sizes for transmission of signal data.
  5. What color of custom assembly does the project require? Black and yellow are the two most common colors requested. Other colors may be needed depending on the type of application. White may be needed for clean room applications, green is commonly used in data transmission, purple and blue are also colors that have been requested as well as gray. Sometimes a customer will desire the new custom cable to stand out from the rest and will pick a brighter color for the distinction.
  6. Overall length. What length does the cable assembly need to be? In a custom-built harness, these lengths are critical as they have to be exact, no extra play is allowed as it cannot hang loose around the motor or apparatus. In other cases, a little extra wire is desired. This can be seen more frequently with open ended cables as rewiring may be required over time and a little extra comes in handy. For cables with both ends molded space is usually a consideration so these tend to need to be exact as well. For flexing applications, many times a customer’s application will call for a coiled cord. In this event the extended coiled cable will need to be considered as well as recoil requirements. In short, will the length of the extended coil cord be adequate while the recoil maintains its shape? These are all to be considered when determining overall length of the custom cable assembly.

As mentioned above, although a cable may look simplistic, when considering a custom design, there is so much more to be considered. This is why a customer who has or is designing a custom cable of any type will need a proven partner with years of experience. Mueller Electric offers a one-on-one partnership which can take a project from a concept to a successful product launch. Let 115 years of experience work for you.                   

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