Understanding Wiring Harnesses

Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable is proud to offer a wide selection of top-quality, custom cable and wire harnesses.

Designed to organize and streamline multi-wire systems in aerospace, automotive, medicine, telecommunications, commercial buildings, and even home electronic applications, cable and wiring harnesses can be customized to meet almost any specification.

Cable Assembly

Understanding Wire Harnesses

While many professionals refer to cable assemblies and wire harnesses interchangeably, these multi-wire (or multi-cable) arrangements can be crafted differently to serve different purposes for unique environments and applications.

Simply put, a wire harness is the exterior covering, or sheath, that protects an inner conductor or bundle of conductors. These inner components may already have sheaths for insulation and protection, or they may rely on the wire harness to create an ideal operational environment. Either way, the wire harness provides critical organization at the heart of a system, and does so with a simple, straightforward, low-cost design.

Wiring harnesses are designed to be simple yet effective, which keeps their cost down compared to more complex harnessing solutions. In many cases, a standard wire harness will provide all of the components necessary to optimize any interconnection requirements.

Understanding Cable Assembly Components

Our interactive infographic lets you explore the different components of our standard cable assemblies to better understand the function of each part.

Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable can assemble a variety of such harnesses, and our experts can help you determine what will fit your needs. However, if your needs are especially complex or specific, we also offer custom harnesses.

Custom Wire Harnesses

Wires and cables are indispensable tools for a wide range of today’s home and industrial systems, and harnesses allow technicians to create orderly, carefully fitted wiring solutions for any type of environment. Depending on the specific needs of an application, these harnesses can be built to accommodate systems up to 600 volts (UL) or 3000 volts (military), with high performance at temperatures ranging from -65 °C (-85 °F) to 250 °C (482 °F).

When evaluating a new cable or wire harness solution, remember to carefully consider the specific environment it will be used in and the temperature and conditions it will be exposed to. Evaluate all of the different cable types you may be able to use; custom wire and cable harnesses can be crafted with nearly limitless style and material options, including:

  • Wire ties
  • Lacing
  • Insulation materials of all kinds
  • Custom colors
  • Heat-shrink coatings
  • Custom labeling or barcoding
  • Four-color ink stamping
  • Individual tagging
  • Independent circuit IDs
  • Polypropylene, nylon, and paper fillers
  • Custom shielding

We take a strategic engineering approach to select the most ideal shielding and connectors for your application. At the same time, we take into account all applicable regulatory standards to ensure that your final harness is safe, reliable, compliant, and effective.

Other factors that bear on harness design include:

  • Whether the harness will be exposed to continuous flexion
  • If the harness will be used indoors or outdoors, and under what specific conditions
  • How many circuits and conductors are required for the assembly, as well as their characteristics
  • Level of voltage to be carried
  • Potential exposures, including chemicals, corrosive fluids, weather conditions, and moisture from other sources
  • Maximum, minimum, and average operating temperatures, as well as potential fluctuations
  • Local safety and environmental regulations that might impact component selection, installation, and inspection
  • Routing, breakouts, general shape of form


Custom Cable Harness

Wire Harness Applications

Since wire harnesses can be used to solve such a diverse range of interconnection challenges, they are used extensively throughout myriad industries. Virtually any industry that relies on cable arrangements can benefit from the use of wire harnesses. The following sectors, among others, often rely on wire harnesses to maximize efficiency and protect employees against the dangers of haphazard wiring:

  • Aerospace. Wire assemblies are used in an expansive range of aerospace products, such as drones, satellites, and aircraft to facilitate the transmission of power, communication, and more.
  • Automotive. Wire harnesses are critical for saving valuable space within automobiles within the dashboard, under the hood, lighting/signals, and more. They are also important for organizing complex wiring in such a way that technicians can easily identify their purpose.
  • Medical. Hospitals and clinics rely on wire harnesses to organize and protect wires in and between equipment, including crash carts, diagnostic and imaging equipment, dental equipment and more.
  • Telecommunications. Wire harnesses optimize use of space in a variety of telecommunications equipment, such as modems, routers, repeaters, and a variety of other communication and broadband equipment.
  • Information technology. Nearly all computers, laptops, servers, and other IT technology contain wire harnesses to optimize space and organize wires for easy identification and installation by technicians.
  • Construction. Wire harnesses are widely used within structures to provide wiring insulation and organization.
  • Manufacturing. CNC machines and other powered manufacturing equipment rely on wire harnesses to route and organize external and internal wiring.
  • Robotics and automation. Wire harnesses are used on most automated equipment and robotics to safely route, group, and protect critical wiring

Benefits of Wire Harnesses

Wire harnesses would not be so widely used if they didn’t present substantial benefits for wiring applications. Among other advantages, wiring harnesses benefit companies in the following ways:

  • Decreases cost compared to multiple individual assemblies
  • Improves organization, especially when a system relies on hundreds of feet of complicated wiring
  • Decreases installation time for projects involving extensive networks of wiring or cabling
  • Protects conductors from the elements outdoors or from chemical and moisture exposure indoors
  • Provides a safer work environment by cleaning up loose or scattered wires, maximizing space, and preventing trips and damage to wires and cable
  • Enhances safety by minimizing the risk of shorts or electrical fires
  • Decreases installation and maintenance time by potentially minimizing the number of connections and organizing components in a logical configuration

The many benefits of wire harnesses stem from very simple design principles. Sheathes protect wires against abrasion or exposure to hazards, minimizing the risk of workplace incidents. Connectors, clips, lacing, and other organizational strategies drastically reduce the amount of space that wiring must occupy and ensure that technicians can easily locate the components that they need. For equipment or vehicles that regularly contend with a web of lengthy wires, a wire harness is sure to benefit everyone.

High-Performance Materials

In addition to ensuring optimal organization, a high-quality wire and cable harness will provide reliable insulation and protection for the conductors within. There are many options for durable harness materials, and it’s important to select what is most beneficial for your needs.

Some of the most common insulator materials include:

  • PVC, or polyvinyl chloride
  • SR-PVC, or semi-rigid polyvinyl chloride
  • Cellular polyethylene
  • EPDM, or ethylene propylene diene monomer
  • TPE/TPR, thermoplastic elastomers
  • PE, or polyethylene
  • Both low- and high-density polyethylene (LPDE and HDPE)
  • Cellular, or foam, polyethylene
  • PU, or polyurethane, as well as polyurethane and nylon blends
  • Low-smoke plenum copolymers
  • Polypropylene (PP) and cellular (foam) polypropylene
  • FEP, or fluorinated ethylene propylene
  • TFE, or tetrafluoroethylene
  • PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene
  • ETFE Tefzel
  • PVDF Kynar
  • ECTFE Halar
  • IRR/PVC, or irradiated polyvinyl chloride
  • XLPE, or cross-linked polyethylene
  • Vinyl

In choosing between these and other options, it’s important to take into account environmental variables such as operating temperature and moisture. The presence of moisture, for instance, can necessitate a water-resistant material like polyethylene to avoid damage to the conductors.

Cable & Wire Harness Solutions

At Consolidated, we’ve been helping clients develop these solutions for more than 100 years. Our custom harnesses and assemblies can be found in a wide range of applications, and all projects are supported by our state-of-the-art production facilities.

Bearing in mind relevant industry standards and specifications such as IPC/WHMA-A-620, there are countless ways to develop a harness or assembly to meet the needs of a particular project. And with various options available for shielding, fillers, materials, identification, and style, the most efficient organizational solution for your project is simply a matter of strategic engineering.

Creating a custom cable ebookOur current catalog includes a wide variety of robust, high-performance cable and wiring harnesses guaranteed to organize multi-wire systems across industries. Our custom harness services are tailored to each and every client, with our technicians drawing on decades of multidisciplinary experience to determine the ideal strategy for each operation. Whether your cabling is for a home appliance or a state-of-the-art aircraft, our assemblies can enhance organization and safety at a competitive price-point. 

To learn more about our custom wire and cable harness solutions and discuss how we can help with your next project, check out our comprehensive eBook, Creating a Custom Cable,” or get in touch with our team today.

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