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Ribbon Cables

What are Ribbon Cables

Ribbon Cables

Ribbon Cables consist of multiple wires attached to each other in the form of a flexible ribbon. Due to their flexibility Ribbon Cables have many different functions. Also, they are a vital part of multiple electronics.  Another term for these cables is “flat cables”. This is a literal description of their appearance.

Structurally speaking the individual conductors form a ribbon by the addition of an insulating material. This material is usually PVC. However, Teflon is another material that can insulate the conductors.

Knowledge is Power

Have you ever gone to a mechanic with a vehicle issue? It is helpful to be able to describe your problem. Better yet if you know exactly the problem it will be quicker and easier for the mechanic to fix. People tend to want to laugh when they see a customer bring a car in for an issue and you hear them trying to make the grinding noise that their tire is making. However, if a mechanic can identify that sound they are more likely to go straight to the source of the noise.

How often does anyone think about the components of their everyday electronics? The same thing can happen with electronics. The more knowledge of components that a consumer has the better equipt they are to describe an issue. There are so many electronics that contain ribbon cables.  Electronics we use every day like computers, phones, and televisions contain Ribbon Cables. The more that is known about these cables the more likely it is that any issues that occur will be found.

Where You Can Find Ribbon Cables

Ribbon Cables are often chosen for projects due to their fixed-wire position and the ease of installation. Their fixed wire positions ensure that there will be no crossed wires or shortages. Also, there is the added perk of each individual wire having their own insulation.

Due to their flexible nature and their wire positions, Ribbon Cables are commonly known for their part in computers. Usually found in computer hard drives and CD drives. These cables are also parts of many consumer electronics products, test and measurement equipment, automated termination equipment, robotics, and even some medical equipment.

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Custom Cable Harness Estimator Picture - Custom Wire Harness Estimator Ribbon

The History of Ribbon Cables

 

The Early Years

The Ribbon Cable was first discovered in 1956 by Cicoil Corporation. Its original design was to be flat to fit into computers. They were to replace the large and inflexible cables. Engineers were able to figure out a way to use liquid silicone rubber to mold a very thin flat cable. They also contain multiple conductors of the same size, controlling the spacing of each internal copper wire. The Flat Cable allowed companies like IBM, Sperry/Univac, Honeywell, GE and NCR to replace bulky, stiff round cables with sleek, flexible ribbon cables.

Custom Cable Harness Estimator Picture - Custom Wire Harness Estimator Ribbon

In addition, in the 1960’s NASA was in need of a mission-critical, lightweight cable. Cicoil’s Cables met all of the rigorous requirements for a Space Flight Cable. As a result, the cable harness helped America put a man on the Moon. As a result, the lightweight Ribbon cables were integral to the first American Orbit of the Earth, first Space Walk in 1965, and the Lunar Landing in 1969. In addition in 1998, a new extrusion process allowed manufacturers to continuously produce lengths of flat cable.

Today

Today, Ribbon Cable comes in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. They are also in a huge range of applications. From high-speed computer connections with coaxial cable to rainbow cable. Many different methods and materials go into simplifying and reduce the cost of these cables. The standardizing of the design and spacing of the wires and the thickness of the insulation. They could also be easily terminated through the use of insulation displacement connectors. Finally, the simplicity of the cables, their low profile, and low cost due to standardization allows ribbon cables to be in computers, printers, and many electronic devices.

For more information on where to find these colorful cables and their uses, Check out next weeks blog!

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Do you know the similarities between cables and wires? Wires and cables are very similar in nature and they can have similar purposes.

The Main Similarities

The main similarities between cables and wires are that they both conduct electrical currents. Wires are the components of a cable. Multiple wires make up a single cable. Also, a single wire and a single cable both can have insulation or insulative jackets. However, a cable has an outer jacket while the single wires inside have their jackets as well. The differences in insulation can determine the different uses of a wire and cable.

Cables Cables

As stated previously, cables consist of multiple wires. There are cables that have the wires twisted to hold them together. There are also some that have the separate wires encased in an insulated jacket. This jacket doesn’t just hold the internal wires together but it also protects the internal wires from the elements. Cables can also contain numerous insulated wires. There is an extra level of protection when individual wires within a cable have their own insulation.  There is protection from corrosion and friction amongst individual wires due to the extra insulation.

Wires 

Solid and stranded are the two types of wires. Many individual strands of wire twisted together make up stranded wires. These strands can be very fine or larger depending on the application. Generally, the more strands and the smaller the strands the more flexible the wire is. Solid wire is just that, one strand of copper drawn to the appropriate gauge size. Also, wires can either be insulated or non-insulated. Insulted wires are less likely to have corrosion or the added issue of contact between non-insulated wires. A number of different applications use non-insulated wires. These applications include places where electrical wiring, armature wire, and magnet wire are needed. Non-insulated wiring is different from the insulated wire. This is due to it not being plated or coated with anything.

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