We’ve spend a lot of EYE ON NPI weeks on the niftiest sensors, microcontrollers, and wireless eval boards. But every engineer knows that your design can have the coolest tech in it, and then fail because of a bad mechanical connection. Cabling and connectors are not as sexy as a Bluetooth chip, but they are essential to any design – and a poor quality cable may not fail for weeks or months, bringing the whole product down for want of a single bad crimp!
That’s why we were psyched to see this new service from Digi-Key and Molex (a juggernaut in the connector industry!) called Molex Custom Cable Creator.
This is awesome because there’s a frustrating ‘dead zone’ in cable needs, where you can’t use an off the shelf cable, and you’re not ready to have a cable factory make 10,000 pieces. Even for only a single cable, crimping and crafting cables is a challenge (say that 5 times fast!). You have to have the right crimp tool, which can be surprisingly expensive and difficult to use, and you have to be super careful not to nick the wires – where strain can build and crack the wire when moved.
The Molex Cable Creator allows users to choose from many different product connector families, circuit sizes, wire gauges, UL styles, cable lengths and more. To meet the needs of unique applications, the proprietary pinout configurator provides options to select individual connections and wire color.
Popular Molex series like Pico Blade, Micro-Fit, Mini-Fit, Milli-Grid, Pico Clasp, Nano-Fit, Ultra-Fit, KK 254, DuraClik, Mega-Fit, Clikmate and so many more Custom Cables can be created by your request. The new Custom Cable Creator is a revolutionary tool poised to dramatically help wiring harness designers develop solutions to meet their exact needs. The amount of customization now available, customers can easily design their own pinout for the wires and greatly simplify cable routing and management.
Let’s go through the process ourselves. First up visit the Custom Cable Creator here. We’re going to make a matching connector for a barcode scanner we stock on Adafruit. The scanner connects using an 11 pin Molex cable with PicoBlade connector – 1.25mm pitch.
Start by selecting the Side A connector, there’s over a dozen choices from 6.7mm pitch down to 1.0mm pitch. We picked PicoBlade 1.25mm. Then select the number of rows and circuits – in this case single row, 11 circuits. You can pick the cable end type, either receptacle or plug. In this case we want a receptacle so it plugs into the scanner. The image will update based on your choice so you have a good sense of what you’ve got selected!
Next, pick the cable length and wire gauge. I want a cable about 6″ long, that’s 150mm. The scanner doesn’t draw a lot of power so 28 AWG is fine, that will make it flexible.
Onto the other side of the cable – since the wire gauge was set in the previous step, you can’t go with any connector you please – only some will let you connect the gauge wires. Another option is…no connector! Say you want to solder this to a perfboard, choose “Single ended” to get bare wires at the end. In this case, I want to connect the 4 USB pin wires to my single board computer. The connector will fit into 0.1″ header so I choose KK 254 which gives me a 0.1″ receptacle at the end. In this case I want 4 circuits for the 4 data pins
Here is also where you pick pinout configuration and cable colors. Since we’re only using 4 wires, we want to make sure they’re inserted into the right slots. In this case, we’ll be populating slots 1 through 4.
I’ll set the colors to match the USB standard, that’s always a nice touch.
To wrap up, pun intended, we pick the cable bundling or wrap. I would do these for thicker cables, woven braid in particular is my favorite kind of covering!
Now we finish placing the order. Cables are super customized so the sample cost won’t be automatically calculated. Someone will email you to complete the order and pricing for a sample and then for larger quantities.
If you don’t need a complex cable, there may be an off-the shelf one available. Check out the cable assemblies category on Digi-Key for a wide range of pre-made cables, we’ve definitely used the assembled IDC cables for quick inter-board connects.
If you’re not a fan of wire crimping, you can get pre-crimped wires for standard Molex connectors, in a variety of colors and lengths. The only thing is that you’ll get the same crimp on both sides in most cases.
That’s it! To try it yourself, visit https://www.digikey.com/en/product-highlight/m/molex/custom-cable-creator
And check out the video below: