Ribbon cables, sometimes called planar cables or flat ribbon cables, feature a wide, flat shape, which resembles a ribbon. Each ribbon cable includes several conducting wires that run parallel to each other on a flat plane. This distinctive shape makes them easy to use in applications with limited space. In this blog, we’ll discuss the different types of ribbon cables to help you choose the right option for your application.


5 Types of Ribbon Cables Explained

So, how many ribbon cables are there? They can typically be categorized into five types, including:

  • Standard: Easily recognized by its gray color, a standard ribbon cable is commonly used for mass termination applications. 
  • Rainbow: Rainbow ribbon cables are constructed similarly to standard ribbon cables, except they are color-coded. This makes them easier to organize and identify.
  • Twisted Flat: This variant of standard ribbon cables features pairs of conductors that are twisted and bonded together, with alternating twisted and untwisted parallel sections. Because they have sections that are untwisted, connectors and PCB headers can be terminated with conventional IDC ribbon cabling methods.
  • Round-to-Flat: This ribbon cable begins as a circular bundle and then flattens into a ribbon shape, making it useful for tight spaces.
  • Bonded: Bonded ribbon cables aren’t as flexible as other ribbon cable types but simplify mass termination. Their bonded design facilitates improved cable organization from one end to the other. 


Choosing a Ribbon Cable

When between types of ribbon cables for a specific application, it’s important to consider the following factors:

  • Pitch: Pitch refers to the space between conductors within a ribbon cable. Typical pitch measurements include 0.5mm, 1mm, 1.25mm, and 2mm –  the pitch you choose will depend on your specific application requirements. 
  • Flexibility: Standard ribbon cables offer a high level of flexibility. Depending on your space requirements, you may need a customized ribbon cable solution with even greater flexibility. 
  • Life Span: It’s important to choose ribbon cables that have been thoroughly tested and rated for longevity.
  • Fire Resistance: Fire resistance is critical to the safety and functionality of electrical devices. Make sure to select ribbon cables that adhere to your application’s fire safety regulations. 
  • Extreme Temperatures: While standard ribbon cables work well in moderate temperatures, higher-temperature applications may require ribbon cables with silicon jackets for added protection.


Ribbon Cable Applications and Uses

The flat shape of ribbon cables can sometimes make them difficult to handle. For example, when used externally for computer-related applications, they can block airflow. For this reason, they are mainly used inside electronic devices rather than outside of them. 

Common applications of ribbon cables include but are not limited to:

  • Board-to-Board Interface
  • Instrumentation and Measurement 
  • Lighting 
  • Medical Equipment
  • Aerospace Devices
  • Defense Equipment
  • Robotics


Learn More About Types of Custom Ribbon Cables

The unique flat shape of ribbon cables makes them well-suited for use within various electrical devices, ranging from medical equipment and robotics to lighting, computer systems, and more. Understanding the different types of ribbon cables is key to choosing the right option for your application. 

At MarVac Assemblies, we can manufacture a wide range of custom wire harness assemblies, including ribbon cable, single-lead, multi-conductor, and twisted pairs. We can work with both stranded and solid wire ranging from 2 to 24 AWG, and our superior wire harness services meet WHMA/IPC-A-620 standards. 

To learn more about our custom wire harness assemblies for ribbon cables, contact us or request information today.

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