HomeTips & GuidesCustom Ribbon Cables: An Ultimate Guide On Ribbon Cord Assemblies

Custom Ribbon Cables: An Ultimate Guide On Ribbon Cord Assemblies

If you have ever taken apart your computer, then there’s no doubt that you’ve come across ribbon or flat cable cables that connect various components of your computer. Custom ribbon cables provide designs, especially for applications with space constraints. 

The article below covers all you need to know about ribbon cables and how they can save your project money and time. 

Table of Contents

What is the Flat Ribbon Cable Assembly?

Flat ribbon cables are rectangular cables made of wires running parallel. Manufacturers specially design it to enable mass termination of IDC connectors.

Benefits and Features of Flat Ribbon Cable Assembly

  • Constant geometry and predefined conductor spacing enable consistent electrical capabilities such as capacitance, attenuation, impedance, crosstalk, and time delay.
  • Ideal for applications in limited or confined spaces like electronics and computers. You can observe it normally for internal computer peripherals such as floppy drives, hard drives, and CD drives.
  • It’s available in a variety of shielding and various other options that reduce the chances of EMI posing a threat.
  • Eliminates common sources of malfunction and wiring errors because the bend readily confines to the mounting and fastens easily.

Disadvantages of Flat Ribbon Cable Assembly

Some older computer systems (Apple II series and BBC Micro) were used for external connections also. 

The ribbon shape disrupts computer cooling by interfering with airflow in the case. Also, it makes the cable awkward to handle, especially if several of them exist. 

Hence, round cables almost replace ribbon cables for external connections and are increasingly used internally.

Custom Ribbon Cable Specifications

Below are the various custom ribbon cable considerations.

Ribbon Cable Specifications

Ribbon cables are normally categorized by the pitch or spacing of conductors and the number of ways or connectors.

The most common spacing is usually 0.05 inches, which allows for a 2-row connector with a spacing of pins of about 0.1 inches. 

The size applied for interconnections in an enclosure was used for floppy disk drive cables and custom or older parallel ATA cords in personal computers.

Depending on the availability of basic connectors, the number of conductors is normally restricted to small numbers.

Sometimes, one can use a bigger width and strip it back to the needed requirement. For example, a 26-way IDC cable might have 1 wire removed to create a 25-way. The wire is normally stranded, either 26, 24, or 22 AWG.

Furthermore, there are also coarser and finer pitch cables available. You can find finer pitches of about 0.3mm on portable electronic devices like laptops, which normally use FFC.

Connectors of Flat Ribbon Cables

Often, IDC termination occurs on both cable ends. However, in some cases, just one end is IDC terminated while the other is terminated with a soldered bucket connection or regular crimp.

IDC connection

The primary use of ribbon cords is to enable mass termination for specially-made IDC connectors. The ribbon cord is forced on a column of sharp fork-like contacts, removing the need to strip the insulation of a wire before connecting. 

IDC connectors are grouped according to number of rows, pin spacing, and number of pins.

Although sometimes it’s possible to disassemble and use IDC connectors again, the design doesn’t make it easy.

The most common types of IDC connectors that come with IDC termination that are ideal for ribbon cables include;

  • BT224 connector – often referred to as BS9525-F0023 and DIN41651 standards. This connector is often used in ATA cords and is mostly called an IDC connector. It normally mates with a 2-row grid of header pins with a spacing of 0.1 inches or a purpose-made plug.
  • D-subminiature connector – often used for printer and serial ports. However, such connectors are less common than solder buckets and crimp types.
  • PCB transition headers – they normally have 2 rows of pins that are spaced similarly to BT244 connectors. They are meant to be directly soldered into the PCB.
  • DIN 41612 connector – mainly used for Eurocard buses.
  • DIL headers have pins with spacing similar to that of basic DIL ICs. They are normally used when replacing integrated circuits with connections to external devices. Also, they’re especially used on stripboards as PCb transition headers.
  • Micro ribbon connector is normally used for 50-pin SCSI and 36-pin printer ports.

Soldering Connection

Electronic hobbyists working on digital music boards or computers to hack or modify them often end up soldering ribbon cables.

Custom Ribbon Cables:

Caption: Digital Music Board

For someone who hasn’t been certified as an electrical technician, soldering ribbon cables can be difficult. 

  • Often, one first strips off the wire using a razor
  • Then, separate the wires before proceeding to solder them. 
  • You might also need sandpaper to wear off the plastic covering on the wires. 
  • Also, the sanding helps prime the copper tracks. 
  • Once the tinned soldering iron contacts the bare wire, you can guide the solder onto the track.

Custom Ribbon Cord Assemblies at Cloom

Cloom offers ribbon cable options for reliable performance even when exposed to extreme conditions.

Hybrid Ribbon Cable

In medical, commercial aviation, and industrial automation, single applications often require coaxial, power, and data cables. However, they are extremely constrained by environmental limitations and space.

Coaxial Cable

Caption: Coaxial Cable

Hybrid ribbon cables utilize different types and sizes of wires, including shielded parallel pairs, single hook-up wires and micro coaxial cables.

Bonded Ribbon Cable

This cable can maintain a constant design on both sides thanks to the bonding.

It also makes mass termination simpler for a variety of cable products. 

However, bonding eliminates significant adaptability and is often challenging in small spaces. 

Unlike a standard ribbon, the wires of a bonded ribbon cable are aligned differently because its dimensions aren’t standard.

At Cloom, once you pick an item, our team of experts uses adhesive glue to bond all the pieces permanently. 

Bonding does all the same identifying, bulk terminating, and organizational functions similar to other constructs.

Intermittent Bonding Ribbon Cable

A flat, intermittent bonded ribbon cable enables increased flexibility, 1800 cable rotation at separate sections, and better wire placement.

Also, it enables semi-automated or fully automated termination, thus saving time during the termination of mass production and reducing termination errors.

Twisted Flat Ribbon Cable

The components of the twisted flat ribbon cable comprise alternating parallel and twisted wire sections.

The parallel pairs enable the termination of PCB connectors and headers via the traditional IDC ribbon cabling technique. The twisted pairs reduce the risk of crosstalk.

Rainbow Ribbon Cable

Rainbow ribbon cords utilize a repeating color pattern to identify the conductors. 

Typically, the pattern applies the industry-set color code in which brown is used for a conductor and pins 24, 11, and 1. On the other hand, the color red is used for a conductor and the pins 22, 12, 2 etc. 

The rainbow ribbon cable might have insulated conductors drawn parallel to one another. However, it might also be manufactured using twisted pairs with a constant flat section enabling termination at certain length intervals.

The edge-marked cord normally has a marked stripe in the beginning conductor that connects to the first pin of the adapter. The stripped mark can be a random color as long as it’s established on the center spacing or pitch of the cord.

The above identification method is ideal for cords with more than two IDCs, with all the connectors connecting to all the wires.

However, when small bundles or individual wires require separate termination, the above identification method becomes less helpful.

For such a case, some additional marking will be used on certain conductors to enable proper termination and identification.

Custom Ribbon Cables: Standard Ribbon Cable

One edge of the cable is marked with a red stripe to reduce the chances of a reversed connection. The striped edge is usually connected to the first pin on the connector.

The above identification method is ideal for cables with only two or more IDC connectors that every connector connected to a wire.

However, when small bundles or individual wires require separate termination, the above identification method becomes less helpful. 

Custom Ribbon Cables: Round to Flat Ribbon Cable

The round-to-flat ribbon cable is a rather unusual form of ribbon design. It starts as a group of circular structures, then unwinds, enabling use in several locations.

This is ideal for confined areas since the final segment enjoys the benefits of the ribbon construction.

Custom Ribbon Cables: Folded Flat Ribbon Cord Assemblies

Ribbon and flat cables can fold to create custom configurations where spacing constraints are a limiting design factor.

Folding your cables during the assembly process helps reduce costs as your cables arrive ready to use in the assembly.

The folding process requires equipment and tooling to ensure the folds are complete and permanent.


If you’re designing an assembly in an area where space is a major issue, then ribbon cables can prove to be rather helpful. For all your custom ribbon cord assemblies, contact Cloom Tech.

Hi I am Christa, sales manager of Cloom.

I have extensive expertise and experience in wiring harnesses and I believe I can help you.

And we have a very professional technical team who can clearly understand the customer’s needs and give professional suggestions and solutions after receiving the drawings.

If you also have wiring harness needs, please send me the drawing so that we can give you our quote and start our business.

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