Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Flat flexible cables: what to do when you encounter a broken one, or when you loose the little wedge that holds them in their socket:

Although often called a ribbon cable, this type of cable is actually an FFC, a flat flexible cable. Most of these cables are not unique, at least most of the ones I have encountered have an amount of contacts divisible by 10, and have either a .5 mm or 1 mm "pitch", which is the amount of space between the center of one contact to the center of the other.

They can be cut with a nice sharp pair of scissors, useful if you have encountered one where the end is a bit damaged, but may have enough conductive material left on it that you can fix it by just shortening it a bit. They can also be carefully cut vertically, if you have one that has too many wires ( is too wide).

On a few occasions I have received items for repair where the little wedge, that holds the ribbon cable into the socket, has been lost. That's a mistake I just don't make anymore... but many do.

I have had some success buying full replacement sockets from digikey and stealing the wedge (I think it's called a slide lock). The replacement sockets are not hard to find, as long as you have the correct number of contacts on the cable ends, and the right pitch, you may very likely find that exact socket for sale, and then use its wedge.

Of course, counting the number of contacts on the end of a tiny ribbon cable is kind of a pain.

When I have to do something like that, I take a nice digital picture of it, then blow it up on my computer screen, so I can slowly move my mouse over it and count out loud while I do it.

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