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Our Guide to Braided Wire and Braided Cable

Posted by Evan Freemon on June 10, 2019 | Updated on July 9, 2024

In this guide to braided wire and braided cable, we discuss the specifics of each one, how they are used, the best applications for each, and more. Read on for more information, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you have!

What is Braided Wire?


What Is Braided Wire?

Braided wire is a type of shielding that gets built into a cable for two reasons:

  1. To protect the cable from electromagnetic interference (EMI).
  2. To increase the flex life and mechanical strength of a cable.

The shielding looks just as you would imagine; several fine wires tightly woven into a meshed tubular formation that wraps around a conductor. Braided wire tubing can also be flattened to achieve a specific width. Overtop is a thin insulating outer layer that covers and protects the braided wire and the internal components of the cable.

The most common materials used for braided wire include tinned copper and silver-plated copper. Customizations are also available for specialized applications, including:

  • Nickel-plated copper
  • Gold-plated copper
  • Pure silver
  • Pure nickel
  • Gold alloys
  • Monel
  • Bronze

Why Is Braided Wire Important?

From smartphones and radio waves to natural sunlight, EMI is all around us. Without proper shielding, EMI can interrupt signal strength, causing data loss or complete electrical failure. Interwoven metallic wires can deflect electromagnetic frequencies to protect cable signal strength and reliability, especially low- to medium-frequencies.

Additionally, the lattice design of braided wire shielding reinforces the strength of a cable by providing enough flexibility to withstand frequent pulling and bending. Braided wire also creates a low-resistance ground path ideal for short runs.

What’s the Difference Between Braided Wire and Foil Shielding?

Foil shielding is a metallic tape that can be used as an alternative to braided wire. This type of shielding offers excellent protection against high frequencies and costs less than braided shielding, but without the reinforcement of a lattice formation, metallic tapes tend to fold, buckle, or kink if used in demanding applications. In other words, braided wire is more versatile, protecting a cable from both mechanical stress and EMI. However, the added strength does come at a higher cost.

Despite the many advantages of braided wire shielding, it isn’t always the best fit for your application. Braided wire only provides around 70-90% coverage and adds bulk to the cable design, which may not be ideal for applications that deal with tight spaces or require 100% coverage.

Now that we’ve covered braided wire, it is time to get a better understanding of braided cable.

When Should You Use Braided Cables

As of 2020, the average number of connected devices was 50 per household. But as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to proliferate, a new challenge has quietly taken hold of the electronics market – The Interference of Things. More specifically, the electromagnetic interference (EMI) of things.

What Causes EMI?

EMI is a disturbance generated by an external source that can negatively affect the performance and reliability of an electrical connection. Without proper precautions, EMI disturbances can interrupt signal strength, contribute to data loss, or cause complete electrical failure. EMI also occurs both naturally and unnaturally, making it particularly difficult to navigate.

The top two generators of EMI include:

  1. Electronic equipment – EMI is inherent in all electrical devices, directly resulting from the so-called “noise” that is created through thermal agitation (i.e., electron movement and circuit resistance). The most common offenders of EMI/RFI include power lines, transmitters, and various types of electrical collectors. However, connected devices such as smartphones, smart TVs, and smartwatches, along with household appliances such as microwaves, also contribute to the noisiness in an environment.

  2. Atmospheric noise – EMI/RFI also occurs naturally via solar radiation or electrically charged rain particles. As such, any equipment that is not properly shielded can experience disruption during significant snow or electrical storms.

Braided Cables for EMI Protection

There’s more than one way to protect or “shield” a cable from EMI. The style of shielding you choose will depend on frequency levels, mechanical stressors, and other elements specific to the application environment. But one thing is for certain: given our growing dependence on connected devices, all future electronics will require some form of EMI protection.

Braided cables feature a type of shielding that consists of fine metallic strands (usually copper) tightly woven together into a meshed, tube-like formation. The interwoven wires wrap around the cable conductor to achieve three important outcomes:

  1. To deflect electromagnetic interference (EMI)and radio frequency interference (RFI)
  2. To strengthen the cable’s flex life and mechanical strength
  3. To prevent the cable from transmitting EMI/RFI to other nearby electronics

Tinned copper and silver-plated copper are the go-to materials used in braided wiring; however, product engineers can select from a list of alternatives, including:

  • Pure silver
  • Pure nickel
  • Nickel-plated copper
  • Gold-plated copper
  • Gold alloys
  • Monel
  • Bronze

When Should You Use Braided Cables?

Even though braided cables only offer 70% to 95% coverage, they are considered highly effective at protecting against all frequency levels. This is due in part to the higher conductivity of copper (most commonly used in braided cables) and in part to the bulky braid-like design, which remediates noise.

Keep in mind, braided cables can be flattened to fit into confined spaces, but they still tend to be on the bulky side and may not be suitable for all situations. The best applications for braided cables include:

  • Applications involving low to medium frequencies
  • Electrical components that must endure frequent pulling and bending
  • High shock or vibration applications
  • Applications involving significant temperature changes
  • Short runs that require a low-resistance ground path

The electromagnetic frequency spectrum will continue to expand, creating greater demand for shielded cable and connector solutions, such as the protective lattice design of a braided cable.

Check Out Our Free Whitepaper as an Additional Resource on Connector Shielding

If you need shielded cable but aren’t quite sure which product to choose, don’t just guess. The consequences of selecting the wrong product are not worth the risk. Instead, contact iCONN Systems for expert guidance and recommendations. Together, we will outfit your product with the exact protections needed to be successful.

For more information on EMI/RFI shielding, download our free whitepaper!

Allow iCONN to Be Your Destination for Connectors and Cables

iCONN is your go-to destination for application-specific connectors and cable assemblies. Be sure to contact us today for custom engineering, personalized service, and agile manufacturing at scale!

 EMI/RFI Shielding White Paper

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