When you think of extremely flexible wire, silicone insulated wire comes to mind because of it’s flexible properties. But what about using silicone in ribbon cable? Manufactures turn to silicone ribbon cables when applications require flat cables with specialized requirements or extreme flexibility. Flat cables and ribbon cables are often used when space is a factor ribbon cables can also be easily mass terminated using an insulation displacement connector (IDC). Ribbon cables are manufactured in a variety materials and configurations including silicone, the most common and least expensive insulation is PVC.
Space is a luxury as devices become smaller. Manufacturers from all industries are using flat and ribbon cables for more applications. Industries include:
These types of applications often need insulation materials other than PVC due to special requirements such as extreme temperature, low smoke, flammability, flexibility, sterilization and chemical contact. Silicone is an excellent choice for these types of requirements. Not only is silicone extremely flexible, it can withstand millions of flex cycles, and has good steam and chemical resistance. Silicone ribbon cables can be extruded or bonded depending on the type of termination used. Extruded ribbon cables have a tighter center to center tolerance than the bonded ribbon cable. When using a bonded ribbon cable, terminating with IDC is recommended. Extruded ribbon cables normally require tooling to control shape and pitch which may add to initial cost. Bonded ribbon cables normally do not have special tooling used.
Flat cables can be manufactured in a variety of constructions which may include zip cords, ribbon cables and flat cables with an outer jacket. Custom cables can also be constructed with shielded twisted pairs, overall shield, and with tubing or lumens. Custom flat cables are also available in smaller gauges which you cannot find “off the shelf”.
Silicone insulated wire and cables do have their drawback. Silicone has poor abrasion resistance, which can be a critical problem for applications where the cable comes in contact with sharp objects. Higher abrasion resistant formulas are available for silicone. Consult your wire and cable manufacturer regarding your application to find out the options available to you.