Questions to Consider When Selecting Cables and Wires

5 min read

Wire selection is a critical piece of electrical assembly design as it affects the safety, functionality, ease of use, and serviceability of the assembly.  There are several factors to consider when choosing an electrical wire or cable. However, the most important factor to consider is the electrical requirements of your application.

While all applications are different, there are some basic things to know about electrical wire when deciding which wire is the best for your application.

1. What size wire do I need?

There are two aspects to consider- thickness (gauge) and length. To determine what gauge wire you need, consider the carrying capacity and the amount of current the wire needs to conduct (measured in amperage or amps). Wire gauge is directly related to how many amps you need to run through it.  The distance you need the wire to go can also impact the gauge of wire you need. The longer the wire, the more voltage you can lose through resistance/heat. You can counteract voltage drop by increasing the wire gauge (the gauge is increased by lowering the number) which will, therefore, increase the amperage capacity. 

2. How flexible should the wire be?

There are 3 main categories of cable flexibility:
Solid core – almost no flexibility in lower gauge wire
Coarsely-stranded wire – moderately flexible
Finely-stranded wire – highly flexible with frequent flexing or tension, you’ll want a cable that is finely stranded and has a high durometer like:

Additional sub-categories of flexibility in cable include Stationary, Hi-Flex (Bending Flex), Continuous Flex, and Torsional Flex (used for robotic applications).

3. Is wire insulation needed and what type?

The assembly’s working environment should determine the type of insulation your wires need.  Types of insulation vary by the type of electrical wire. Often insulation will vary to alter performance in certain environmental conditions, or to make the wire easier to work with.

 When deciding the insulation there are some things to consider:

Voltage and Ampacity – the higher the voltage level, the thicker the insulation needs to be to reduce the risk of shock.  Ampacity required determines on the size of the wire and the run.

Environmental considerations – exposure to the sun and UV, extreme temperatures, presence of harsh chemicals or oils can impact performance. Do you have harsh chemicals in your plant? You’ll likely want a cable such as this:


Abrasion/Impact resistance – looking for a cable that might need to be protected from impact, like getting hit or run over? You’ll want to consider a cable with a thick, reinforced jacket. Such as this:

Coating – some coatings can make it easier to print on the wire or push/pull them through conduit

4.  Do you have a wire color standardization?

Many companies use standardized wire colors to denote hot wires, ground wires, and neutral wires; some will even color code the different circuits within an electrical assembly. This variation of colors assists with troubleshooting while reducing safety hazards.

5. Does your equipment require specific cables?

MISUMI offers Equipment Specific Cables for transmitting communications and optical signals and connect between devices, such as computers and displays.

IEEE1394 Cable
Connection Cable for Terminal Block Conversion Units

Construction and material details vary by application, with differences in transmission quality, durability, etc. The ends of the cable feature connectors and sockets according to application, such as connectors for motors and solenoid valves, or for image and sensor transmission.

6. Are there problem areas with re-occurring failures?

When choosing the right cable for your problem area, you must first ask yourself why the cable is failing and how often it disrupts production? If your answer is often, it’s time to look for a longer-lasting product.

As experts in the industry, MISUMI can help you find the right solution for your failing cable or machine building needs. For more information, please email the Electrical Team at  

About the Author

Pete Oleinik

Pete works as a Technical Sales Analyst for the Electronics department at MISUMI. He has over 35 years of experience in the manufacturing, automation, and telecommunications industry, and is not only familiar with electronic components but servo motors and machine tools as well.

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