Opening up the complex machinery and computational equipment that runs most industrial operations produces mostly a jumble of cables & wires whose difference few can discern. However, there is one type of cable that stands out in its appearance and is easily recognizable by just about anyone — ribbon cables. Even if the essential functions of these cables may be out of reach for the layperson, their versatility in a variety of settings has made them a mainstay in a host of important industries.
Of course, few questions about ribbon cables can be as important as the simplest and most direct — what are ribbon cables? In short, a ribbon cable is a cable made up of a series of wires that run parallel to each other. This creates a flat plane resembles a piece of ribbon. While ribbon cable can be found in different shapes and sizes, as well as colors, the most notable version of ribbon cable happens to be the rainbow-colored variation.
More often than not, ribbon cables are used in computer and diagnostic equipment. Because of the small amount of space available in this type of equipment, ribbon cable ends up being an optimal choice since it can lay flat in cramped areas. Its origin story goes back to the mid-1950s, but by the 1960s, ribbon cables were already being incorporated in the U.S. Space Program.
As one might imagine, the colors found on ribbon cables actually do mean something. Color-coding is used for ease of installation. That said, incorrectly connecting the cable at best will keep communication from taking place between two components. At worst, though, there can be extensive damage done to electronics.
Perhaps the biggest criticisms levied against ribbon cables are regarding their flexibility and the dissipation of heat. While ribbon cables excel at being used in tight spaces, they lack sideways flex. This can make them tougher to use in non-straightaway applications. Their shape also makes it tougher to allow heat to efficiently dissipate, a constant concern for electronics especially in commercial and more industrial settings where excess wear & tear on equipment is common.
Criticisms aside, ribbon cables remain some of the most common components used in computers, machinery, and all equipment in need of communicative function hampered by tight space. Furthermore, ribbon cables can be customized, allowing companies the opportunity to specify the exact type of cable they need without compromising or settling for something “off the shelf”.
Ideal customization, however, starts with the right manufacturer. LoDan Electronics, Inc. has been at the forefront of cost-effective, custom-engineered interconnect solutions since 1967. Click here to connect with our Engineering Support team to help you craft the ideal ribbon cables for your next project.