Cable assemblies are groups of cables or wires that are combined into a single unit. Cable assemblies can transmit power or data signals.
Cables can be shielded or unshielded. Shielding is usually accomplished through the use of copper tape, a covering of conducting polymer, or a copper and aluminum braid. Shielding may be foiled, which means that it is applied to individual cable pairs or quads. It may also be screened, which means that the shielding covers the entire group of cables.
Unshielded cables offer the following advantages:
- Easy to install
- Easy to maintain
Shielded cables are thicker and more sensitive to work with, but they offer some important advantages over unshielded cables:
- Cancel out electromagnetic radiation
- Reduce electrical noise
- Good for industrial installations where nearby equipment may cause electromagnetic interference (EMI)
Electromagnetic interference is a disturbance that may be created by natural or man-made sources. These sources may include motors, generators, air conditioners, smartphones, weather (including sun, storms, etc.) These disturbances may result in surges of electricity or voltage that cause a circuit to under-function or to stop functioning altogether. If you’re transmitting data, the data may come through incorrectly or not at all as a result of these disturbances.
When deciding between shielded or unshielded cables for cable assemblies, consider the intended use of the assembly. Take into account where and when the cable will be functioning and how vulnerable it will be to electromagnetic interference.
Note that if you opt for shielded cables, they may include a drain wire to counter EMI. Make sure that they are installed properly with shielded jacks and couplers, however, if you want them to be sufficiently grounded.