Electronics > PCB/EDA/CAD

What is your preferred method of documenting cable assemblies?

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Hans Mortensen:
Hello all, I'm looking for some advice regarding documentation of cables. I am a mechanical engineer who makes electrical enclosures for a small electrical engineering company. As part of my job, I quite frequently need to make cables and routing diagrams. The problem I am facing is the labor-intensive nature of creating cable documentation. It just seems to take forever! Part of the problem is that each section of the process is created on a different platform, I use KiCad for system schematics, SolidWorks or AutoCAD LT for routing and Excel for cable assembly information. I feel that this is definitely slowing my work and causing errors and contradictions, not to mention the problem of keeping track of revisions (If I do so at all). I just feel there must be a better way that will make my work more productive and of higher quality.

I made a chart today to show why I want the three types of documentation due to their unique attributes and how they relate to one another. Is there something that can unify these together in to a single ecosystem, like how PCB's documentation is managed? Or is there something bigger here that I am missing?

Stray Electron:
   I can't give you any advice on the documentation end of things but if you're testing cable assemblies, and especially if you need to know if any two cable assemblies are wired the same then take a look at some of the Cirrus Systems Corporation's  Cable Tester such as the 1000 systems.  Cirrus makes socket adapter for them that will fit just about any known connector. And the interface connector is simple so it's easy to make your own adapters if need be.  Many of CS cable testers only come with two interfaces so you can only use two adapters and are therefore limited to testing between any two connectors on the cable. But CS also sells optional "boxes" (I'm not sure what they call them) that have additional interfaces so you can add more connector adapters and can test cable assemblies with multiple connectors.

   One of the nice features of the CS testers is that you can plug in a known good cable with unknown pinouts and the tester will "learn" connections the cable and then you can plug in other cable assemblies and it will tell if the pinout is the same.  You can also scroll through the display on the tester and it will show you all of the signal routing and any internal connections.  My tester also has an RS-232 port so I have connected it to a portable PC via RS-232 and directed the wire list to the serial port and then captured the wire list in a file.

   I've had my tester for over 20 years and I don't know what Cirrus offers today but their old model testers work so well that they're always in demand and the E-Greed sellers are asking stupid money for old models similar to mine.

   PS  I just looked at Cirrus website for the first time in years and it looks like their current line of testers still has the same interface and the same connector adapters. https://www.cirris.com/products/adapters   But for some reason they only show a few of their available connector adapters. I know that they used to show hundreds of them.  <https://shop.cirris.com/product-category/adapters/>

  Oh, I finally found a picture of a 1000 with two added-on interfaces  https://www.cirris.com/61-product-information/96-signature-1000m-2000


--- Quote from: Hans Mortensen on March 20, 2023, 11:27:39 pm ---I use KiCad for system schematics, SolidWorks or AutoCAD LT for routing and Excel for cable assembly information.... Is there something that can unify these together in to a single ecosystem

--- End quote ---
I think the issue might stem from using tools that don't really share an ecosystem... a "complete" solution like that might be more likely if you were on electrical & mechanical cad on a shared platform from a vendor with some sort of shared "project" level tools that support that kind of integration.

I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to do with kicad, but I haven't seen anyone do it, and it would potentially  be a different implementation for every mechanical cad platform you wanted to support. Might make for an interesting project.

Hans Mortensen:
Thanks, this is a cool bit of kit.

I haven't really used it in anger, but WireViz looks pretty awesome for the harness side of this.

Integrating them seems challenging outside of a massive product like Altium.


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