This cable gets its name from its appearance. It is wide and flat like a ribbon and consists of many conducting wires lying flat and parallel to one another. To determine the size of a ribbon cable, you must consider and measure the spacing, or pitch, between the conductors, and the total number of conductors (also called "ways"). As an example of how this terminology would be used, a flat cable with 20 conductors would be called a 20-way ribbon cable. The number of conductors offered usually corresponds to the standard connectors available. Common counts range from 4 to 80 conductors. The most common pitch or spacing is 0.050 inches or 1.27 millimeters.

Because ribbon cable is flat and takes up very little room, it is great for applications where space is at a premium. This is why it is often used as internal computer wiring. Another convenient benefit of this flat cable is that it can run beneath carpeting. However, it may only be utilized in straight-run applications because its design does not allow for sideways flexing. This type of data cable is also regularly used in automated termination equipment.

The design of ribbon cable, with multiple conductors running parallel to one another, also facilitates fast and easy mass termination. IDC connectors are usually used for this process. These connectors have a line of bladed slots that cut through the wire's insulation to make tight connections with each conductor.

Allied Wire and Cable offers PVC gray ribbon cable and PVC Rainbow Ribbon Cable in many different sizes. We also offer UL/CSA printed cable. To aid in the installation process, the gray cables are often marked with a red identification stripe along one edge, which is generally considered to match with Pin 1 in a cable connector. This identification striping reduces the chance of reversed connections which could harm electronic components.

Rainbow ribbon cabling uses a repetitive standard color code. Colors are brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, gray, white, and black. If there are more than ten conductors, the colors begin to repeat in the same order.

Allied Wire also stocks a selection of military-grade M49055 ribbon cable. It is a durable, non-combustible, high temperature, FEP-insulated flat cable (200°C) found in the Mil-Spec Wire section of our online catalog. If you need something special, consider using our value-added services. They are available for flat cable, as well as our other electronic wire and cable, and can save you time and labor in the field.

Have questions about ribbon cables? Visit our Ribbon Cable FAQ.