Featured: Sliced cable wires - Wire Harnesses and Cable Assemblies - What's the Difference?

Wire Harnesses and Cable Assemblies — What’s the Difference?

The recently published Cable Assembly Market 2022 Research Report predicts the cable assembly market will grow by nearly $68 billion from 2021 to 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 7%. Similarly, the wire harness market is expected to reach $191 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 6%. 

We touched on the reasons behind this growth in our recent article The Ins and Outs of Custom Wire Harnesses. This article addresses the critical differences between cable assemblies and wire harnesses. It also touches on benefits, applications, manufacturing, and testing.

What Is a Cable Assembly?

A cable is two or more conductors within a single jacket. A cable assembly is a group of wires or cables encased in a single tube of heavy-duty material ranging from thermoplastic rubber to vinyl to polyurethane. A cable assembly is designed for specific environmental factors, including heat, friction, moisture, and similar hazards.

What Is a Wire Harness?

A wire harness is an assembly of multiple cables and wires bundled within an insulating material. Rather than being encased like cable assemblies, the wire harness uses tie wraps, PVC, loom tubing, and other sleeving components to bundle the wires and cables. Since the harness is bound together, it provides a safe routing pattern. It further simplifies the wiring interconnections by providing an all-in-one integrated drop-in installation across multiple connection points.

Callout 1: Cable wires - Benefits of Cable Assemblies and Wire Harnesses

What Is the Difference Between Cable Assemblies and Wire Harnesses?

As you can tell from the definitions above, a cable assembly appears as a single thick cable with heavy-duty insulation. On the other hand, a wire harness is a bundle of separate wires and cables that, while held together, can still be broken out and routed independently. The cable assembly is highly durable and often used outdoors. The wire harness is best used indoors. 

The Benefits of Cable Assemblies and Wire Harnesses

Whether it’s cable assemblies or wire harnesses, they offer the benefits of pre-testing and drop-in use in product manufacturing. The alternative is routing single wires and cables throughout a product and hoping you’ve gotten each and every one installed correctly. 

Applications of Cable Assemblies and Wire Harnesses

The list of applications for cable assemblies and wire harnesses covers nearly every type of product imaginable. Here’s a shortlist.

Manufacturing and Testing Cable Assemblies and Wire Harnesses

One of the significant advantages of both cable assemblies and wire harnesses is that they can be manufactured and tested before they are installed in complex equipment. It’s far too costly to engage in troubleshooting after the equipment is assembled. Worse yet, failure after the equipment is in service could not only be expensive but even deadly.

The starting point for testing and manufacturing is the IPC/WHMA-A-620 standard. It provides every manufacturer guidance on what is acceptable and what is considered defective. This standard goes into every detail, from insulation and crimps to connector installation. Our checklist includes: labeling, continuity, wire gauge measures, crimp analysis, insulation, and even pull tests looking for broken wires and short circuits.

Manufacturing Custom Military Cables for Unique Applications

Callout 2: IPC/WHMA-A-620 Standard provides manufacturing guidance

We Can Help

Our name is Cables Unlimited for a reason. Whatever cable assembly or wire harness you need, we can provide it.

If your requirements are already specified and ready for a quote in your current projects, we are prepared to meet your deadlines and pricing targets. Our extensive in-house services and advanced manufacturing capabilities are in place to meet your requirements.

But Cables Unlimited offers much more than state-of-the-art manufacturing – our dedicated team is also known for going to great lengths to meet the needs of our customers, including working round-the-clock to meet tight turnaround time requirements.

Our sales representatives are standing by to assist you with product questions and quotes Monday – Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern. You can also send us an email or complete our contact form, and we’ll get right back to you.