A Guide to Flat Ribbon Cable Assemblies

Flat ribbon cable assemblies utilize multiple wires as well as insulation displacement connector terminations. The cables used are laid flat and parallel to each other. The end product of a flat cable assembly is therefore wide and flat in the shape of a ribbon, hence the product’s name.

Key benefits of ribbon cable assemblies

Because these cables are so flat and flexible, they can be squeezed easily into confined spaces, or used within machines even when there is limited space. They can even be run straight through applications, due to the shape and profile of cable. Although these products do not allow for sideways flexing, a change of direction can be achieved. If you need to create a change of direction in this assembly, you can create a right angle by folding the cable over on itself.

It’s great to use ribbon cable because the termination process is so simple. Also, mass termination is also possible, making the whole process extremely efficient. They can be mass terminated with the use of an IDC connector, which pierces the insulation to contact the conductor. This is usually performed at both ends of the assembly, and is believed to be more effective than a crimp or solder.

Common Ribbon Cable Specifications

  • The spacing and the number of conductors are the key specifications used in this assembly.
  • The spacing will be recorded in a variety of distances. Typically, the spacing to choose between is 0.025”, 0.050”, 0.100”, 0.156”, and 1mm pitch. However, it is possible to create custom spacing if needed.
  • The number of conductors of an assembly will tell you the number of positions a conductor can accommodate. Typically, this is restricted to 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 24, 25, 26, 34, 37, 40, 50, 60, 64, and 80 positions. It’s most likely that common PVC will be used as an insulating material, but olefin based materials or Teflon can also be used.

What applications are you most likely to find flat ribbon cable assemblies?

  • You’re most likely to find ribbon cable assemblies within internal components of a computer; specifically hard drives, CD drives, and floppy disk drives.
  • They are also used for connecting moving electronic components, such as white goods, print heads, medical equipment, robotics, or automated termination equipment.
  • Often in these applications, space can be a major constraint, and that’s where ribbon cable assemblies come into their own.
  • What’s more, the materials can meet requirements applications exposed to high temperatures or hostile environments.
  • This, plus their ability for mass termination makes them a fantastic all-round choice for cable assembly manufacturers.

For more professional advice on fiber-optic cable assembly manufacturing and to shop a professional range of components, check out the Star Engineering website.

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