In the past, we’ve discussed a wide range of products that at first glance look very similar to one another. This breakdown we'll be looking at a different type of product that's relied on for a few unique applications. The construction of these cabling products makes them a more beneficial choice and is what their names are based on, 'Ribbon cable' or 'flat multi-wire planar cable'. With thousands of different wiring products, how does the ribbon cable differentiate itself and what makes this product unique?

Ribbon Cable

In order to fully understand these flat wires, you'll first need to learn about the different constructions and the applications they're used within. A ribbon cable is defined as “a cable with many conducting wires running parallel to each other on the same flat plane. As a result, the cable is wide and flat. Its name comes from its resemblance to a piece of ribbon” (Wikipedia). The unique aspect comes from the ribbon cables flat construction. While many other products typically have single a conductor and a circular construction, or a multi-conductor circular construction, the flat ribbon cables are thin with limited flexibility.

 

Types of Ribbon Cables

 

Twisted Flat Ribbon Cable

The twisted ribbon cable is a variant to the standard construction, but with pairs of conductors that are twisted and bonded together. This type of twisted cable is a little bit different than twisted paired cables, because parts of the cables aren't twisted. This is done to make the connectors and PCB headers able to be terminated with traditional IDC ribbon cabling techniques.

Twisted Ribbon Cable

 

Rainbow Ribbon Cable

Rainbow ribbon cable has the same construction as the standard ribbon cable but has a rainbow colouring that helps with organization and identification. This construction can sometimes have the ends split for individual termination.

Rainbow Ribbon Cable Rainbow Ribbon Cable

 

Standard Ribbon Cable 

 The standard ribbon cable is used for its ability to mass terminate and can be identified by its grey colour.

Ribbon Cable Grey

 Round To Flat Ribbon Cable

The round to flat ribbon cable is unique among ribbon constructions. The start of the cable is bundled into a circular construction and then splits apart for application use. This construction is very useful for tight space, while the ending portion still reaps the benefits that the ribbon construction offers.

Round To Flat Ribbon Cable

Bonded Ribbon Cable

A bonded ribbon cable is another unique construction. This product is available in 3 different types of cables:

The bonding allows these cables to keep an organized construction from one end to the other. The bonding of these cables takes away much of the flexibility and can be difficult in tight spaces, but makes mass termination with a wide range of cabling products significantly easier. Ordering this product is also different than other ribbon cables because unlike them, the bonded ribbon cable doesn't have preset sizes. For this construction, you choose your product and then our team seals them together using adhesive glue. Similar to the other constructions, the bonding is used for organization, identification and mass termination.
 

Bonded Ribbon Cable

 

Types of Ribbon Cable Connectors

The main point of any kind of ribbon cable is to enable mass termination, specifically for IDC connectors. These rows of sharp contacts are applied on both ends of the cable, although on special occasion one end may be crimped or have a solder-bucket connection.

Most popular types of connectors that are available for ribbon cables:

  • BT224
  • D-Subminiature
  • Micro ribbon
  • DIN 41612
  • PCB transition header
  • DIL headers

 

Ribbon Cable Applications

Ribbon cables are used typically in computer applications within internal peripherals. These applications have changed over the years originally used in BBC micro and Apple 2 series, for older computer models. Today they’re prevalent inside hard drives, CD drives, floppy drives and wire harnesses.

Sycor’s different ribbon cable Constructions


Ribbon cables are unlike any other cabling product and can come in a variety of different constructions and colours. The most consistent deciding factor that determines if your application should use a ribbon cable, is if mass termination is essential. Feel free to reach out to our sales team at Info@sycor.com for any additional information, our expert sales team is more than happy to help.

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