Parametric Data Cable Maker

by hemocyanin, published

Parametric Data Cable Maker by hemocyanin Jul 10, 2015


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Assembly video: https://vid.me/Kwxf

Ribbon cable version: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1107461

Ever wish you could have some nice orderly data cables for your arduino projects without paying a surprisingly large amount for crimpers, sockets, and pins? This isn't the perfect solution, and you have to do some soldering and gluing, but it is probably the cheapest if you repurpose spare cables of one sort or another.

All you need are some cheap male (for plugs) or famale (for sockets) headers like these:
https://www.sparkfun.com/products/116 / https://www.sparkfun.com/products/115
https://www.adafruit.com/products/392 / https://www.adafruit.com/products/598

These look cool and will save xacto-ing female headers, but I don't have any: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/743

Then print out a shell to accommodate as many or as few pins as you want in either a single or double column format, with or without a strain relief shell. After that, solder up your wires, superglue the shell in place (liquid superglue on the header after insertion into shell (seeps into crevices), gel superglue between plug shell and strain relief shell), and voila -- data cable. It has an (optional, default) indicator bump so you can keep track of the correct orientation.

To use this, either download the openScad file and edit the variables in openScad, or use the "open in customizer" button in the right hand column of this page.

Printing with a brim is definitely recommended. Photos show mostly ABS (there is one clear PLA shell) and printed on a Lulzbot Mini. ABS is more forgiving, PLA requires more tweaking and closer tolerances because of its rigidity.

Potential Cura Issue: You can print with or without divider walls between the pins. I found that with my printer, Cura (lulzbot edition, version 14.09, OSX) would not print the divider walls -- they are a single nozzle width (0.5 mm in my case, adjustable to your printer of course). However, slic3r with pronterface to rescue -- that software prints out the divider walls like a champ.

PS: This is my first involved (for me at least) openScad project, and I'd really like to become somewhat proficient at using openScad. I'm also not a professional coder so hints, tips, and criticisms with corrections or examples would be deeply appreciated.

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This is brilliant. I'm thinking about using it for an Arduino Mega to breakout all the pins. It looks like the angle on the strain relief shell might be pretty sharp for the long double-row header. Maybe that's just how it looks to me in Customizer. What do you think?

I am an electrician and I happen to have access to all sorts of cable. CAT5 is among them, but it would be awesome if I could customize the cable diameter too. The 0.1" spacing is great as far as I'm concerned, but the insulation type, shielding, etc. can effect the overall diameter quite a bit. I like using the machined headers too when I want a project to look a little nicer or if it might get more abuse, so I'd be interested to see if it works just as well with those, although it looks like it to me like it would. Thanks for adding the ribbon cable version as well.

I'm excited to give this a try the way it is. None of us have the time for everything we'd like to do, so thanks for sharing your work and if you feel like adding on, that's just gravy.

Thanks for the kind comments. There is a variable named "cableRadius" that lets you adjust the size of the round hole on the end of the strain relief shell (I think it is on a separate tab in Customizer). So if you have some fat cable bundle that's 10mm across, just change that to 5mm (it's a radius, not a diameter). With fat cables this can make the shell kind of stubby looking, but you can adjust the height of the shell too with the "strainHeight" variable. All measurements are in mm.

The one feature I'd like to see would be making the strain relief shell come off the pin bar at an angle -- the plug can get kind of tall if you start extending the shell for large diameter cables. Sadly, this was one of my first openscad projects and I can barely comprehend what I wrote. It would make a great remix though for anyone who wants to risk the brain melt reading this code can cause. ;-)

Hi, thank you! That thing is extremly useful. Till now i always used hot-melt pistol to hold things together but looked embarrassing. With your thing my connectors raised to a professional level. As Teqkng said, i too would like a version for flat ribbon cables, becaus 90 percent of connections i make are made with this type of cable. Will try to understand your source code and in some future will be able to modify it for flat cables.

Thank you for kind words. I agree about the flat cable design -- especially because cables with more than 8 conductors aren't that common. Sure, they're easy to buy, but it's nicer just to have something you can just dig out of the box of old wires to use, and what self-respecting geek doesn't have a stack of old IDE cables stashed away?

I've made a couple trys at modifying this thing, but part of the problem is that the original openSCAD script I wrote was one of my first ones, and it is ugly with a capital U. But you are right -- time to give flat cables another go.

HI! This is fantastic! How about an option for Flat ribbon cable so it can be used to make custom Jtag testing cables.

That's a good idea! I'll give it a shot.

Great Idea! I'll be using it momentarily ;-)

Hey thanks. ;-) I hope it comes together OK.

this looks like it could be very useful