Wire Harness

 Wire Harness Manufacturing Terms, Tools, and Tips of the Trade

Wire Harness Manufacturing is our foundation and in our bloodlines. Dating all the way back since 1985. The Team at Falconer Electronics, Inc (FEI) takes tremendous pride manufacturing amazing products for our customers.

As a Custom Wire Harness Manufacturer, assembling and delivering superior products is our mission. Actually, we are wire harness geeks so we call it our Crusade.

Steps for Wire Harness Manufacturing Success

  1. Superior Quality
  2. Maintaining Impeccable Customer Scorecards
  3. Fast Turnaround Times
  4. Competitive Prices
  5. Highly Skilled and Seasoned Staff
  6. FREE Estimates (click here)
  7. High Productivity
  8. Agility and Flexibility
  9. Company Culture Dedicated to Customer Satisfaction
  10. Commitment to Safety

Our wire harness assemblies can be found all over the country on a daily basis:

  • As you walk around Walmart or Lowe’s, you will walk past our wire harnesses found in commercial power strips and electrical retail fixture displays.
  • If you drove past a semi-truck today (or if one went flying past you), our wires may have been waving to you.
  • Our wires can be found in a dentist office (not during a root canal – we refuse to contribute to that type of pain).
  • If you rode on a train today, our wires may have been also riding along with you.
  •  Another example includes our proprietary line of magnetic work lights and trouble lights
  • ATM Machines
  • Heating Systems
  • Handicap Accessible Transport Vehicles
  • Electrical Signage at retail cash register displays
  • and Much More…

A Helpful List of Wire Harness Terms, Tools and Tips 

For those new to the Wire Harness process, we have created a helpful guide of  Wire Harness Terms, Tools, and Tips of the Trade. Additionally, the list below includes a number of Wire Harness Terms and definitions. Hopefully, you will find these Wire Harness Terms helpful.

Wire Harness IPC/WHMA-A-620 Standard 

All of the Wire Harness Terms below are from the IPC/WHMA-A-620 which serves as an industry standard that provides criteria for commonly used wire harness assemblies.  Consequently, the standard sets a “collection of visual Quality Acceptability Requirements for Cable, Wire and Harness Assemblies.” To learn more about the IPC/WHMA-A-620, click here:  http://www.ipc.org/ContentPage.aspx?pageid=IPC-WHMA-A-620

Wire Harness Terms and Definitions

American Wire Gage (AWG) – A standard system for designating wire diameter. Primarily used in the U.S.

Bellmouth – The raised portion at the front and/or back of the wire barrel crimp that provides a gradual entrance and exit for the wire strands without causing damage.

Birdcaging – Wire Strands that have separated from the normal lay of the wire.

Braid – Woven bare metallic or tinned copper wire used as shielding for wires and cables and as ground wire for batteries or heavy industrial equipment. Also, a woven fibrous protective outer covering over a conductor or cable.

Cable – A group of individually insulated conductors in the twisted or parallel configuration under a common sheath.

Cable, Assembly – A cable with plugs or connectors attached.

Conductor – An uninsulated wire or the conductor of an insulated wire suitable for carrying electrical current.

Conduit – A tube in which insulated wires and cables are passed.

Connector – A device used to physically and electrically join two or more conductors.

Contact – The conducting part of a connector that acts with another such part to complete or break a circuit.

Continuity – A continuous path for the flow of current in an electrical circuit.

Crimp – Final configuration of a terminal barrel formed by the compression of terminal barrel and wire.

Crimp Height – The measurement of the overall wire barrel height after crimping the terminal.

Current – Total current is the combination of resistive and capacitive currents. Resistive current is present in both AC and DC DWV tests. Additionally, the capacitive current is present only with fluctuations in applied voltage (Ex: AC testing).

Dielectric – Any insulating medium that intervenes between two conductors.

Double Crimp– The process of two or more mechanical crimping operations on the same location in a single terminal.

Ferrule – A short tube. Used to make solderless connections to shielded or coaxial cable. Also, a terminal crimped onto the stranded wire to allow insertion into terminal blocks.

Grommet – A rubber seal used on the cable side of multiple contact connector to seal the connector against moisture, dirt or air.

Harness – A group of wire and cables, usually made with breakouts, which are tied together or pulled into a rubber or plastic sheath. A harness also provides interconnection of an electric circuit.

Insulation – A material that offers high electrical resistance making it suitable for covering components, terminals, and wires. This material also helps to prevent the possible future contact of adjacent conductors and a resulting short circuit.

Insulation Crimp – Area of a terminal, splice or contact formed around the insulation of the wire.

Jacket – An outer covering, usually nonmetallic, mainly used for protection against the environment.

Lanyard – A device attached to certain connectors that permit uncoupling and separation of connector halves by a pull on a wire or cable.

Multiple-Conductor Cable – A combination of two or more conductors cabled together and insulated from one another and from sheath or armor where used.

Polarization – A mechanical arrangement of inserts and/or shell configuration that prohibits the mating of mismatched plugs and receptacles.

RF Connector – Connector used for connecting or terminating coaxial cable.

Ribbon Cable – A flat cable of individually insulated conductors lying parallel and held together by means of adhesive film laminate.

Strain Relief – A technique or item which reduces the transmission of mechanical stresses to the conductor termination.

Stress Relief – A predetermined amount of slack to relieve tension in component or lead wires.

Terminal – A device designed to terminate a conductor that is to be affixed to a post, stud, chassis, another conductor, etc., to establish an electrical connection. Some types of terminals include ring, tongue, spade, flag, hook, blade, quick-connect, offset and flanged.

Tubing – A tube of extruded non-supported plastic or metallic material.

Wire – Slender rod or filament of drawn metal.

Wire Diameter – The overall conductor plus insulation thickness.

Types of Wire Terminals 

Terminals are defined as “a device designed to terminate a conductor that is to be affixed to a post, stud, chassis, another tongue, etc., to establish an electrical connection.”

Wire Terminals come in many different shapes and sizes depending on the size of the wire and screw. Also, there are several types of terminals include ring, spade, hook, quick-disconnect, bullet, butt terminals and flagged.

Wire terminals are available in insulated and non-insulated. Determining the best fit depends on your project or usage. Wire insulation provides a protective cover serving as a non-conductor.

The insulation spares the wire from water and moisture as well as protects against extreme heat or cold. Wire insulation is typically available in vinyl, nylon and heat shrink.  Non-insulated terminals provide much more economic value with its low cost. Also commonly used when extra protection is unnecessary.

When purchasing various Types of Wire Terminals, make sure that your purchase meets industry standards as well as project requirements.

Wire Terminals

Ring Terminals

Types of Wire Insulation

A ring terminal is a round-ended terminal that easily allows a screw or stud to be attached. Ring terminals also called ring connectors, come in various sizes. It is crucial that the ring terminal is compatible with the wire gauge and stud size. Ring Terminals are either crimped or soldered to the wire. Available in insulated or non-insulated.


Spade Terminals

Spade Terminals are also called spade connectors or fork terminals due to the shape of the terminal. A spade terminal is available in various sizes depending on the gauge of the wire and stud size. Additionally, the open-ended spade terminal is convenient to use allowing easy attachment or removal from the screw. Especially for wire harness projects that are tight on space for installation. They are also available in insulated or non-insulated.


Hook Terminals

Similar to the Spade Terminal, Hook Terminals are convenient to use with an open end (imagine a tiny version of Captain Hook). These terminals are produced as insulated or non-insulated. Hook Terminals offer a simplistic yet durable connection for a variety of projects.



Quick-Disconnect Terminals

A quick-disconnect terminal provides convenient and reliable usage while also offering an easy connect and disconnect between two wires. They are commonly found in auto, industrial and consumer products. Products can be insulated or non-insulated. Quick-Disconnect Terminals additionally deliver a stable and durable connection.


Bullet Terminals

Types of Wire Terminals

Bullet Terminals (also called bullet terminals) make an easy, reliable and secure connection. It is simple to disconnect as well. Bullet terminals also connect with the male and open-ended round female connectors creating a high-quality connection. Therefore, the connection with bullet terminals helps prevent corrosion and other potentially harmful materials from entering a wire harness.


Butt Terminals

A Butt Terminal connects or terminates single or multiple wires. Butt Terminals help prevent abrasion and cutting. Additionally, this extra protection helps keep out moisture, corrosion, and other negative elements. Butt Terminals serve as a simple solution to extend wires due to the ability to mate and connect wires. Simply install each wire on the open end of the connector, then crimp both ends of the terminal to secure the connection.

Flagged Terminals 

Flag Terminals also called flag connectors offer a convenient and secure connection. Flag terminals work well in tight spaces as well as when a quick-disconnect is too large. Provides a quick and easy connection and disconnect. Also available in insulated and non-insulated.


Wire Insulation

Wires can be found…..seems like….everywhere. Any electrical product that demands a current flowing will typically require a wire (or cable). Even when you hear something is “wireless”, wires power the device sending a signal. Electricity traveling through wires bring each of us tremendous joy and pleasure (computers, the internet, music, social media, communication, vehicles, transportation, appliances, etc..).

Actually, can you imagine surviving a single day without electricity? Well, in the early stages, electricity did not travel so safely through wires. Thankfully electricity travels safe and sound through wires protected with wire insulation.

Wire Insulation

The explosive growth of electrical products well over a century ago drastically increased the use of wires carrying electricity. Unfortunately, uncovered or exposed wires caused extremely dangerous situations.

Furthermore, exposed wires led to electrical shocks or fire. However, a brilliant move was made to protect and strengthen wires by adding a non-conductive cover. Applying Wire Insulation to protect wires greatly reduced potential hazards and threats.

Taking a look at wire insulation in the 19th century, here is a cool video on porcelain insulators that were used according to the Thomas Edison Tech Center:

 Wire Insulation Evolution

Due to increasing demand, electrical products required an affordable and efficient solution to protect wires. Also with the early growth in popularity of wires, a wire harness assembly became necessary. It is much more efficient harnessing loose wires as opposed to allowing a “free for all”. Especially as electrical consumer goods and the auto industry exploded in the early 20th century.

Insulation serves as a non-conductor that separates and protects wires within a wire harness assembly. Especially since it is a nasty world out there with many detrimental elements that can cause harm to naked wires.

To save the day, an insulated jacket protects each wire from detrimental elements keeping the wire cozy and safe. In addition, insulation protects the wire from water and moisture as well as extreme heat or cold.

Thankfully wire insulation today is much more efficient, effective and affordable.  For example, thermoplastic high heat-resistant nylon coated wire (THHN wire) is low cost, lightweight, and an extremely popular wire insulation option.

Crimping Tools

With over 30 years of wire harness assembly experience, Falconer Electronics has accumulated an impressive arsenal of crimping tools. When crimping wires and cables for our customers, utilizing the proper tools allows our team to execute jobs with accuracy and efficiency. Also in a safe manner.

Many projects require crimping wires by hand. When producing wire assemblies for prototypes and small volume runs, handheld crimping tools sure come in…..handy.

It is extremely important to look over the entire assembly when selecting the proper tool. For example, a basic pliers-style crimp tool can fit various wires, connectors, and terminals. Of course, matching the right size tool is imperative when terminating wires.

Molex is a global leader in the manufacturing of high-quality electrical tools, components, and equipment. Falconer Electronics has relied on Molex for many years as a trusted source and supplier of crimping tools.

The team at Molex declares they solve challenges “through our collaborative process, we take a multi-dimensional approach that brings together engineers, product designers, and manufacturers to ensure the design cycle is smooth and seamless.”

Below is one of the “Bad Boys” from Molex that our team loves to use when tackling tough projects:

Pneumatic Crimping Tool

Not interested in crimping wires by hand? No problem. Pneumatic crimping tools are extremely beneficial and efficient. Additionally, a pneumatic tool allows you to work hands-free being powered by air. Also, these tools are fast, accurate and can drastically increase production.

We recently welcomed a new addition to our team. The Pneumatic Crimping Press pictured below is a “Plug’n Play” Pneumatic Press. Looks fierce, doesn’t it? It is ready and raring to CRIMP!! Especially ideal for wires requiring interchangeable crimping dies:

Tips for Successful Wire Harness Manufacturing 

  • The importance of the insulation fully entering and extending past the crimp tabs.
  • Having multiple wires inside the insulation, therefore, extending past the insulation crimp tabs.
  • The crimp does not break the insulation.
  • Also, the crimp fully wraps around and supports insulation (also cannot expose an opening greater than 45 degrees).
  • Insulation is not punctured to the point where tabs penetrate the conductor or wires.
  • Crimp tabs are in contact with the top of the insulation.
  • Insulation is flush with the crimped wire.
  • Additionally, identifying damaged insulation that reveals wires.
  • The wire, connector, assembly process, as well as insulation, are all compatible.

Crimping Wires Do’s & Don’ts

The IPC/WHMA-A-620  standard provides the necessary guidance on crimping wires that are acceptable vs defective. Here are a few examples of Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Insulation crimp tabs fully wrap and support insulation
  • Additionally, the insulation fully enters and extends past the insulation crimp tabs
  • Prepared wires must be in solid working condition – also cannot be scraped, nicked, severed or damaged
  • Wires retained in the connector
  • Crimp indent is centered
  • Insulation crimp must provide a minimum side report of 180 degrees
  • Wires should not be flattened, untwisted, buckled, kinked or otherwise deformed
  • Insulation should show no signs of pinching, pulling, fraying, discoloration, charring or burning.
  • Also, the insulation crimp needs to fully support and wrap insulation without causing any damage or breaking the insulation.
  • Broken insulation can expose wires causing safety issues and potential hazards
  • No cuts or breaks in insulation
  • Insulation cannot be charred
  • Insulation melted into the wire strands
  • Wire not secured by crimp
  • Contact has visible cracks and fractures
  • No Birdcaging – Wire Separation

These are just a handful of the requirements.

To learn more about the Wire Harness Manufacturer’s Association and A-620 Standards, please click here: http://whma.org/training-materials/a-620a-standards

Wire Harness Quality Control  

Wire Harness Quality Control is paramount at Falconer Electronics. Testing cables and wire harness assemblies are performed daily with every order. Therefore, quality control strongly impacts the bottom line with the wire harness assembly process. Also, our well-guided wire harness quality control and a solid test system prevents unnecessary errors, stress and lost profits.

High accuracy during the assembly process is the key to maintaining competitive pricing and reliability. Every step is taken to ensure accuracy at the time of assembling and producing the wires. Instituting a strict wire harness quality control system during production brings significant benefits for our customers.

Wire Harness Testing Check List

Safety First! Wire Harness Testing requires extreme caution since live wires are involved. Unfortunately, electric shock and burns can turn a great day into a really bad day quickly. Mandatory personal protective equipment on the job includes gloves and safety glasses when testing a wire assembly.

When performing Wire Harness Testing, our quality control department strictly follows the IPC/WHMA-A-620 Standard. This standard is a collection of visual Quality Acceptability Requirements for Cable, Wire and Harness Assemblies.

Below includes a checklist for testing wires in a wire harness assembly:

  1. Accurate Labeling
  2. Check for Damaged Insulation or Defective Wires
  3. Continuity
  4. Correct Wire Gauge
  5. Proper Crimping
  6. Free of Moisture and Corrosion
  7. Optimum Wire Placement Within Connectors
  8. Pull Test
  9. Test for Broken Wires
  10. Test for Shorts

Deming Values for Continual Improvement

Going old school, we are big fans of 20th-century management guru Dr. Deming. Dr. W. Edwards Deming created 14 points for management with a quest for continual improvement. Dr. Deming is credited with being the master of quality improvement particularly with his work in Japan during the 1950’s.

The Deming Institute continues the incredible legacy of Dr. Deming. Furthermore, one of the core values at the Deming Institute states: “We are dedicated to the Deming philosophy and the belief that working together, with humility, we can make a difference in the quality of life for everyone.” This is a truly inspiring mission!

According to Dr. Deming, implementing the 14 points is a philosophical way of conducting business with an unwavering quest for continual improvement. New tactics and behaviors become habits. Those habits eventually form into the core beliefs and culture of a company.

Two particular interesting points from Dr. Deming’s 14 points that help drive our wire harness quality control:

1. “Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and as a result to provide jobs.”

5. “Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.”

Consequences when continual improvement and quality are NOT the top priority:

  • High defect rates
  • Underutilized equipment
  • Poor productivity
  • Poor inventory management
  • Safety concerns
  • Finally, low morale with employees

Wrapping it Up 

In conclusion, at Falconer Electronics, Wire Harness Manufacturing runs through our veins. Consequently, having built literally millions upon millions of Wire Harnesses over the past 30 years, many of our employees say they could build a wire harness in their sleep. (Is that why they started bringing their pillows to work?)

On a serious note, Wire Harness Manufacturing drives our business. Delivering consistent and high-quality Wire Harness Assemblies contributes greatly to our successful long-term customer relationships and 33-year track record.

Thank you for reading our post on Wire Harness Manufacturing Terms, Tools and Tips of the Trade.

In addition, for more information on Wire Harness Manufacturing, click here.

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