Cable Assemblies Vs Wire Harnesses – What’s Different?

On the outside, it may seem that there are no major differences between cable assemblies and wire harnesses. Oftentimes you will hear the two terms used interchangeably by experts and professionals alike, which can lead to confusion, not to mention the potential for wasted time and money. Some of the main differences are highlighted here so that you will have a clear idea of what exactly makes cable assemblies and wire harnesses so distinct.

Wire Harnesses

As the name suggests, in order to assemble this you will need a wire, which is also referred to as a conductor. The wire can be an individual strand or a group of strands which is then covered by sheathing, which is usually a type of thermoplastic or thermoset. These groupings of wires need to be bound together and held in place with either a cable tie, tubing or woven braiding. One of the slight drawbacks of wire harnesses is since the wires only have one layer of sheathing, protection from natural elements such as rain is limited.

A major upside is that it is much smaller in size and weight than a cable assembly. This means that you will save money on both material and labor costs. If you are not concerned about environmental vulnerability and exposure, or your installation is minimal, then this may be the preferred choice for you. More often than not, a wire harness will be found inside items such as vehicles, computers, control cabinets and electronic assemblies.

Cable Assemblies

These are found in various places and more often than not they are exposed, unlike wire harnesses. You can found cable assemblies in medical devices, military electronics, industrial controls and security products, just to name a few. One of the advantages of a cable assembly is that, unlike a wire harness, there are extra layers of plastic sheathing which will provide more protection against the elements. This is especially important if you are working in volatile environments. Having all of your conductors in one neat bundle also makes it easier to work around and transport.

With assemblies, you also have the bonus of being able to allow connectors on the ends of the cables to be over molded. This essentially seals the entire cable off and further protects against wear and tear and potential damages. The main drawback to a cable assembly is due to all the extra layers of sheathing, the size and weight will be considerably increased. In certain situations this will make transportation and assembly more difficult and the cost for materials and labor will increase. However, the money you will save from environmental damages far outweighs these initial investments in security.

While there are many differences between cable assemblies and wire harnesses, they are both extremely useful and necessary in today’s world. No matter what profession you find yourself in, more than likely you are using both of these items both in the workplace and at home.