Cable Assembly: Ruggedized Connectivity


Premium Wire and Cable Interconnects Custom Built for Your Electronic Assemblies

Most people encounter frayed cables in their daily lives, such as degraded insulation on old lamp plugs or bent phone charger cables. This can result in a loss of performance and potential shock. Standalone devices can be easily fixed or replaced, but internal cables must provide long-term stability for demanding applications.

At VSE, our engineering team recognizes the importance of reliable PCB cable assembly for enhanced service life, especially for high-power wires and those carrying EMI sources or sensitive signals.

Common Cabling Options

Description Pros Cons Automated Assembly Ready?
Cable Ties A cinching tool pulled taut and locked in position.
  • Inexpensive
  • Quick manual installation
  • Highly applicable
  • Unsuitable for cabling in tight spaces/opening
Tape Adhesive wrap-around wires. Can be insulative.
  • Handles wires of irregular shapes
  • Inexpensive
  • Marginal resistance for chemicals and moisture
  • Relatively low thermal resistance
Woven Braid Woven material placed around wires.
  • Protection against abrasions and chemicals
  • Unique structure allows moisture and heat to drain from cable
  • Expensive
Heat-shrink Tubing Sheath placed around wires is heated to mold to shape.
  • Reduces cable flex
Spiral Wrap A system for cable-of-cables.
  • Most durable to surface abrasion
  • Supports intricate cable breakout for greater organization
  • Reduced flexibility
  • High-cost
Insulative Sleeving A loose-fitting bundling option.
  • Adds protection while maintaining flexibility
  • Additional dielectric layer for improved electrical resistance
  • Performs best in simple cable assemblies
Slit-wall Loom Tubing A rugged sheath for physically demanding operations.
  • Best protection against a range of physical modes (abrasion, impact, crushing)
  • Expensive
  • Loss of flexibility

Cable Assembly From an Experienced Electronics Manufacturer

Cabling is essential for transmitting power and data in electrical systems, typically through inter-board connections. Cable assemblies and wire harnesses have significant overlap, but cables technically refer to multiple wires enclosed in a common sheathing, while not every wire is a cable. Wire harnesses provide organization for inter-board connections, but cables offer a barrier between the conductor wires and the surrounding environment inside the enclosure.

At its most fundamental level, cabling provides a protective sheathing that isolates the conductor wires from their surroundings. Bundling wires into cables is advantageous for inter-board connections, and wire harnesses can provide the necessary organization.

Cabling enhances the wire parameters in the following ways:

Electromagnetic shielding:

Arguably the largest benefit provided by cable assembly, cables will significantly impede the transceiving between enclosed wires and their surroundings. For nominal EMI, this can be achieved with a simple twisted pair wire, but complications may arise: high-speed signals may still emit noticeable EMI, or multiple twisted wire pairs can couple together if their twist rates are too similar. A shield-jacketed cable or shielding tape underneath the sheath may better mitigate EMI than twisted pair wires alone.

Mechanical protection:

Wires may brush or rest against surfaces that, over time, can abrase the insulation and, eventually, the conductor itself. Cable sheaths help in two ways: they provide an extra layer to prevent damage from reaching the surface of the wire while also bolstering abrasion resistance (and, more rarely, improving structural integrity to mitigate impacts and crushing forces). The material properties of a particular sheath may also allow it to withstand certain chemicals or liquids better.


The cable assembly prevents individual wire catch-and-snag that could result in connectors separating from wires or wire tearing. Compacting the space occupied by a bundle of wires also allows cables to be pulled through tighter openings in an enclosure.

Cables Engineered To Maximize PCB Performance

A signal is only as good as it is reliable. At the board level, efforts focus on minimizing loss, noise introduction/coupling, and EMI reduction for improved performance. These topics are still important for inter-board connections, but the new physical interaction layer means additional considerations must be considered.

Our DFM team at VSE has extensive experience with cable management and how to balance performance and long-lasting reliability:

Enlarge bend radii as much as possible

In addition to placing unnecessary stress on connectors, excessive bend radii slow the manufacturing process. With a comprehensive box-build plan, we ensure synchronicity between the enclosure and cable assembly.

Tight tolerances only when necessary

Tolerancing is an important aspect of manufacturing, especially at the board level. However, overly tight tolerancing for the box-build can be restrictive and significantly impact per-unit cost due to reduced yield.

Reference length dimensions from the back of connectors

This helps hit the sweet spot of cables having a necessary minimum slack without additional material fees that are cost-prohibitive on a per-cable basis.

Our holistic approach to electronic system manufacturing means every system of your board works towards a common goal: meeting design intent while optimizing performance and cost.

From Design to Custom-built Cable Assemblies

Cables must perform robustly to flex with the demands of multiple system interconnects. Our engineers accomplish this by working from project data to create a build and test plan for cables:

Bill of Materials (BOM)

The list of materials and components with part numbers that will be used to fashion the cable assembly. We review every BOM for pricing and availability, and even in times of shortages can offer superior sourcing by leaning on our extensive network of suppliers.

Assembly drawing

A detailed drawing of the cable assembly with build instructions and label positions. These provide designers and technicians with the necessary information for cable component placement, attachment, etc.

Wire list

A document detailing connector pin-outs, net information, wire colors, and connector images to illustrate pin locations.

Test specifications

Finished cable assembly specifications and requirements. During and following manufacturing, our quality control team will constantly check the build to assess the quality and projected reliability.

VSE also offers engineering services for design teams needing additional assistance realizing their electronic design. Our engineers are committed to building electronics for our customers, whether for a design team embarking on their first NPI or accomplished designers looking to take their product performance to greater heights.

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Experts You Can Trust for Your Next Cable Assembly

Supporting the performance and reliability of inter-board connections is a cornerstone of electrical system quality. Even the best designs cannot go far without this requisite infrastructure level, but cable assemblies designed from the ground up for the particular needs of your single- or multi-board box build can go even further.

At VSE, we’re able to offer full turnkey assembly solutions for PCBs that optimize features and functionality at every step of the way.

If you are looking for a CM that prides itself on its care and attention to detail to ensure that each PCB assembly is built to the highest standards, look no further than VSE. Contact us today to learn more about partnering with us for your next project.

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