Cable assemblies are critical to various applications, covering a wide range of vertical marketing including demanding military applications or offshore harsh environments; however, they have also proven essential to home electronics, medical equipment, instrumentation, audio, and automotive applications. The use of overmolded cable assemblies has been found to provide specific benefits across these various applications.
Overmolded Cable Assemblies
An overmolded cable assembly is typically used to enhance a cable assembly that would otherwise rely solely on a backshell or heat shrink for additional protection, support, and/or strain relief. The process of molding a cable assembly involves molten PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or other high-performance polymers to encapsulate wiring materials. Overmolded cables are available in basically limitless shapes, sizes, materials, and configurations that offer many advantages and the needed flexibility for design engineers.
Benefit #1: Durability & Strength
Overmolded cables are designed to provide additional protection against harsh environments where exposure to dust, debris, liquids, abrasion, heat, cold, and harsh sterilization are involved. In addition, overmolded cable assemblies add overall strain relief and support continual flexing without damage to the termination point, which can be critical to the reliability of a design.
The choice of material is intrinsically tied to the benefits from implementing a cable overmold. The material choice should be one of the key specifications for a connector. Standard materials include TPE (thermoplastic elastomers), PUR (polyurethane), PVC, and Nylon, while higher-rated materials include polyester resin and silicone.
Benefit #2: Customization Options
Another benefit of using an overmolded cable assembly lies in the plethora of available customization options. The first is size: cable overmolds can be formed to fit inside or around any obstacles or tight spaces for any application. In addition, the size can be easily maintained and is flexible enough to meet an application’s specific requirements.
Cable overmolds also make it possible to choose color options that can do one of the following:
- Match a company’s branding
- Blend the cable into the product
- Provide a more professional finish vs. glanded and/or heat shrink solutions
- Differentiate between cables
Products can be made more aesthetically pleasing by using tooling that includes corporate logos or trade names. Customization also involves the connector style used: an overmolded cable assembly can be specified to match a specific connector shape needed, such as circular, D-Sub, USB, and others.
Benefit #3: Quick Yields
A customized overmolded cable assembly does not mean a long turnaround time, even if a significant quantity is needed. Through 3D printing, prototype models of the mold can be created both quickly and cost-effectively while ensuring that the overmold meets the application requirements prior to hard tooling. Once the overmold has been approved, the manufacturing process can produce large quantities at a relatively low cost. This is due, in part, to the combination of a vertical molding press with a rotary table that allows multiple molds to run on the same machine simultaneously.
Overmolded Cable Assemblies for a Variety of Applications
Understanding the appropriate place and time to use overmolded cable assemblies in your application can make the difference between success and failure. Designers looking to capitalize on the key benefits of overmolded cables will be able to take advantage of these connectors’ durability, strength, customizability, and short turnaround times in applications that depend on these features for a successful buildout.