Reusing Ribbon Cables and Connectors for DIY Projects

Introduction: Reusing Ribbon Cables and Connectors for DIY Projects

About: I like to build, scavenge material from junkyards, tear up machinery and stuff.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to my Instructable.

Today we'll see how to reuse ribbon cables, especially useful for tidy DIY projects.

Step 1: Gathering Wires

Ribbon wires are found in many electronic appliances, the most common ones are probably computer IDE and floppy data cables. Just open up some stuff and check inside!

As you can see from the pictures, I recovered a few of those ribbons, specifically from credit card readers, and they only have a connector on one side.

To use them for DIY projects, it is useful to have connectors on both ends, so that they can easily be plugged into male headers on your boards. I will be removing the connectors and reinstalling them.

Step 2: The Connectors

There are various types of connectors, most of them have two lines of contacts and are reusable.

As you can see, wires are clamped between two plastic parts, that's their usual setup, altough there could be another plastic bar on top to secure the wire more firmly.

Step 3: Removing the Connector

The two plastic parts can be separated.

Look on the sides, some have small plastic hinges (IDE cables usually have those), whereas these smaller connectors simply slide into slots.

If present, lift the hinges and pull the top away.

In this case, the top is firmly slid along the side notches, so I used a small screwdriver to lever it out. Don't push it in too far or you might damage the contacts.

When the top is off, remove the wires by gently pulling and twisting them upwards. The screwdriver could also help.

Step 4: How They Work

These connectors actually have small blades on top, which will cut into the wire insulation, coming in contact with the conductors within.

The top usually has small guides to keep the wires straight and in place.

Step 5: Crimping the Connector Onto the Ribbon

Now we're ready to crimp the connector onto a ribbon.

First off, I like to seat the top onto the main part of the connector, to make crimping easier.

Now slide the ribbon between the plastic parts, and make sure the keys face the same way (the small plastic protuberance), so to respect cable polarity.

Adjust the connector at the desired length, and tighten it by hand to keep it in place. As you can see, the wires fit perfectly in there, each in its own spot.

Step 6: The Actual Crimping

These connectors are too tough to be crimped by hand, and a using pliers will probably damage them.

What I do is taking two pieces of wood and securing them in a vice

Gently tighten until the wire is flat on the connector.

Step 7: Finishing Touch

Now that your connector is secured in place, trim away the excess wire.

Using a sharp blade helps making it flush and tidy.

Step 8: You're Done!

Now that you've mastered the technique, you can apply it to any ribbon wire and connector you come across, be it 40pin IDE or smaller generic ribbons.

I ended up with a few complete ribbons with connectors on both ends, and a few spare naked ribbons, which are always useful.

Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Step 9: Bonus Macro

The wire measures 1.25mm in diameter, including insulation.

I took the picture with a compact 6MP Canon Digital Ixus 60, and placed a simple projector lens in front of it, it works wonders.

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    7 years ago

    For a while now I
    collected them for any possible parallel work. Like converting a clock radio to
    a car clock. Junk the transformer, regulate the autos 14.5V to 12V, connect
    where the transformer was to ignition. Regulate 14.5V to 9V, connect where the
    9V battery was to constant power. Use a much smaller LED display like
    from an old DVD player, use ribbon cable to the display. (The clock radio may
    be too big to fit close, use a longer ribbon cable)


    Good work, thanks for showing how to reuse these cables, they make hookups more reliable and easier to maintain.