Molded Cable: Assembled vs. Molded Cable Assembly

Have you ever encountered a molded cable? Most electronic wires you use today, such as your laptop charger head, are molded. 

And the reason behind this practice is simple. It helps create a cable that is strong enough in use. 

What are the other upsides of cable molding, and how do manufacturers do it? We have prepared this guide to shed light on this practice. 

Let’s explore molded cables, their types, applications, and common molding materials. 

Table of Contents

What is A Molded Cable

It’s a typical cable featuring a molten material cover on the conductor’s surface. 

The molten substance perfectly encompasses the connectors. 

It ensures that the cover is part of the connector, as there is no cavity between the cable and the conductor. 

The final cable structure of a single-part cable is imperative in ensuring the cable is shielded against the following: 

  • Harsh environments
  • Shock
  • Vibrations
  • Flexibility

How a Cable Is Molded?

A molded charger head. 

A molded charger head. 

Cable molding involves forcing highly pressurized molten material into the cable’s cavity. 

Let’s explore the typical process followed: 

  • First, the manufacturer places molding materials into a molding machine. This device is under intense heat to convert mold materials to molten. 
  • Next, the materials melt, forming a molten resin. This material is mixed with a colorant to give the final cable the desired color.  
  • The manufacturer now forces the resin into a mold cavity with the conductor at the center. It perfectly covers the conductor while taking the shape of the mold cavity. 
  • Note that the manufacturer includes the desired cable logos at the molding stage in the cavity. 
  • Finally, the resin cools and forms a perfect molded cable ready for use. 

Types Of Molded Cables

A Molded Electrical Plug. 

A Molded Electrical Plug. 

Molded cable types and trade names vary depending on the manufacturer. 

So there’s a wide variety of them, but the following are the main types. 

Standardized Molded Cables

These are renowned for their ability to meet basic molded cable specifications such as the following: 

  • Ability to guarantee rugged performances
  • Having superior strength compared to other non-molded options
  • Potential for watertight compatibility

Examples of standardized molded cables include: 

Another critical characteristic of standardized molded cables is that they are cheaply priced. 

It means that your typical everyday cable is a standardized molded type. 

Molded Cables For Harsh Environments

As per their name, these can withstand harsh use conditions and extreme weather. 

Their durability is better than their standardized counterparts; thus, they’re more reliable. 

But their added ruggedness means they are pricier than the average standardized molded cables. 

Functions and Uses of Molded Cables

A molded British electrical plug. 

A molded British electrical plug. 

Molded cables have a wide range of upsides and applications. 

But the core function of the molding practice is primarily limited to the following two aspects. 

Resistances and Insulation

These cables can withstand all sorts of environmental conditions, extreme weather, and exposure to dust.

 Also, the average cables will creak in situations that require extreme flexibility and frequent strain. 

But molded cables are built to withstand all these scenarios. 

Therefore, the molded cables are highly reliable compared to other types. 

Here are some of the ways these cables are resistant compared to alternatives. 

  • These are arguably the most flexible wires at the cable exit joint. Note that most of the typical cable movements occur at this point. Therefore, the molding enhances the joint strength ensuring the cable can extensively withstand strength. 
  • Moreover, they are shockproof and will not wear out even in the face of abrasive factors. You can use them in almost all environmental conditions, and they’ll remain in top shape. 
  • Their 360-degree strain relief feature is also a critical advantage. It means damaging the cable during use would take a significant pull strength. 
  • Finally, they’re easily customizable as per the user’s needs. Hence, you can order a manufacturer to create a molded cable of your desired shape and fit the demand of your application. 

Protection

In addition to the insulation, these cables are renowned for their excellent protection of the wire beneath. 

The most important way to connect two cables is via soldering. 

Hence, the overprotection feature is imperative in ensuring that the soldered areas are fully protected. 

The mold bars the entry of water and environmental conditions that can affect the soldered joint strength. 

Materials Used In Molded Cables

An over-molded jack collector. 

An over-molded jack collector. 

There are primarily three primary molding materials: 

Photopolymers

It’s among the commonest molding components thanks to its ease of application. 

Photopolymers enable the application of low-temperature resin for a significantly less number of molding cycles. 

However, reduced molding cycles translate to fast wearing out of the mold. 

Hence, the manufacturer should increase the cycles to guarantee robust bond formation. 

Hardened steels

It’s another common material but requires more molding cycles than photopolymers. 

Hence, their covers are more robust than the photopolymers. You’re likely to find hardened steel molding in mass-production environments. 

But, note that their application will significantly balloon the costs compared to photopolymers. 

Aluminum

You can also opt for aluminum molds. But owing to its relative softness compared to hardened steels, it undergoes minimal molding cycles.

 Hence, the bond is short-lived, but if you’re keen on cutting costs, then aluminum will come in handy as it’s cheap. 

Assembled vs. Molded Cable Assembly

Check out the primary differences between assembled and molded cable assembly.

 Understanding the differences is handy in choosing the best between the two.

Assembled Cable

A Cable assembly solutions fixture. 

A Cable assembly solutions fixture. 

They comprise numerous parts of the cable consolidated together. Practically, you can create assembled cables in the field. 

Hence, if stuck between an assembled and a molded cable assembly, here are some guiding specifications. 

Installation

With an assembled cable, there’s a pertinent need for expertise in assembly work. 

Because the assembly happens in the field, you must have an experienced person in assembled cable installation. 

Moreover, testing the cable assembling is imperative to ensure their top performance. 

Cost

The production cost of assembled cables is, in most cases, lower than buying molded ones. 

But beware that installing assembled cables takes a lot of work. It can significantly increase the resulting labor costs. 

Hence, when deciding which of the two is cheaper is not outright. 

You must comprehensively evaluate your options. 

Repairs

Repairing assembled cables is relatively easy as they comprise various components. 

So it is as simple as identifying the faulty part and fixing it. Repairs are cheaper than replacing the entire cable layout. 

Functions

Assembled cables are typical wire harnesses and are thus used for that application. 

Hence, this guarantees flexibility during work as you can mold them per your needs. 

Molded Cable Assembly

A molded cable. 

A molded cable. 

So how do overmolded cable assemblies compare to the assembled cables discussed above? 

Customization

One of the primary standout features is the customization aspect. 

You are spoilt or choice on over-molded cable materials and color as all these factors are customizable. 

It is critical to create a perfect cable for particular environmental conditions. 

Limited Installation Errors

Most of the processes in molded cable assembly are streamlined. 

Hence, there is no apparent need for additional procedures, which means minimal installation errors. 

Strength and Flexibility

Finally, one of the main issues at the point they exit cable connectors is the apparent stress that can lead to damage. 

Overmolding eliminates this issue by creating a flexible joint with a strain-relief feature. 

Thus, susceptibility to joint failure is not common with molded cable assemblies. 

How to Choose the Right Connector: Assembled vs. Molded Cable Assembly?

A worker creates a wire harness. 

A worker creates a wire harness. 

When choosing between the two, you must primarily consider two main factors. 

Cost

The initial acquisition cost of the molded cable assembly is relatively high, especially if you need custom-made fixtures. 

On the flip side, assembled cables are cheap to make as they involve setting up individual parts on-site. 

Nonetheless, the labor costs and the expertise necessary for assembly can take the expense quite high. 

Hence, the bottom line is evaluating the overall costs before picking on one of the options. 

Environmental concerns

Are you looking for a cable capable of withstanding conditions like air pressure and temperature extremities?

 Then choose molded cables. While assembled fixtures are cheap, they don’t guarantee the tenacity to remain unfazed by these conditions. 

Customized Overmolded/ Molded Cable Assembly Applications

A hairdryer with a flexible over-molded cable. 

A hairdryer with a flexible over-molded cable. 

Molded cables are useful in a range of industrial applications that include the following: 

  • Automotive assemblies, especially in dust, chemicals, vibrations, and heated environments. 
  • Communication systems that operate under harsh environments and weather. 
  • Home appliances that require significant flexibility, such as heater cords. 
  • Wind and solar energy systems
  • Oil and gas processing plants and installations. 
  • Military and defense industry equipment. 
  • Medical equipment, especially machines requiring top-level reliability. 
  • OEM applications. 

Summary

Finding the perfect cable best for your application can be quite arduous. 

It is because some cases in the auto industry compel the cables to operate under extremely high temperatures. 

Also, cable flexibility in automotive is necessary for situations where the wires must go past barriers. 

Thankfully we have over-molded cables to bank on. Their alternative is assembled installations that are cheaper but not so reliable.