Get Just What You Need with Custom Cables: Part 1

Posted on Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Alpha Wire

While a broad range of cables are available in off-the-shelf configurations, some devices need special capabilities. When a project needs a unique combination of cabling features that aren’t available or needs to delete some unnecessary characteristics to save space or weight, a custom cable design could be the answer. It’s important that you understand what’s customizable and what’s not.


Cables don't always have to be made using copper conductors. While copper—in both electrolytic tough pitch (ETP) and oxygen-free, high conductivity (OFHC) formulations—remains an excellent choice for high-performance and low-cost conduction, it's not the only choice. Aluminum conductors can handle high voltage and high current long-runs at low cost. Specialized applications may benefit from special nitinol "memory metal" wiring, high-conductivity pure silver conductors, or even special alloys or stranding types that increase a cable's strength or its ability to flex.


In addition to the conductor itself, a custom cable can apply special plating to improve its capabilities. For instance, inexpensive tin coatings make it easier to solder copper conductors and prevent them from corroding as quickly, but prevent the conductor from being used in settings where high temperatures may impact it. Silver coating solves this problem and adds a skin effect that can be helpful for high-frequency signals, but carries a higher cost. Other coating choices, including having none at all, are also possible.


Conductors come in various sizes or gauges. Heavier gauges, denoted by lower gauge numbers, can carry more current but are thicker and heavier. At the same time, wires can be made of solid conductors, but are frequently made of smaller strands that are bunched together and twisted in a configuration that can increase its strength or flexibility.

Stop back and check out part 2...


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