Options and Variants in Wire Harness Design

How to Save Time Managing Options and Variants in Wire Harness Design

The majority of electrical designers have to contend with options and variants and the resulting harness families and derivatives. Today I’m going to investigate the source of these differences and explain how you can save time in updating the associated data.

You’re likely familiar with the offsetting game when creating harnesses that can be reused as often as possible…

  • While minimizing liability through the presence of unused wires and connections.
  • And keeping the design, assembly and harness component costs down.

Let’s take a look at the different kinds of options and variants to fully appreciate the scope of the issue.

Environmental differences

Weather, such as hot or cold and dry or wet conditions, as well as substances such as dust, sand and ice, impact the positioning of equipment and the selection of components such as flange gaskets that protect against moisture

Standards for protection

EMC/EMI can be impacted hugely according to the different standards used, such as the IEC in Europe and the FCC in America. For example, special purpose machinery in Europe can remain in a single phase supply mode, whereas in America, three phase supply is required to handle similar power requirements.


These are 110V in America and 220V in the UK. As a result there are very large space-consuming conductors in goods for the American market.

Color standards

In Europe, Australia and New Zealand wiring colors follow the international IEC 60446 standard of blue/brown. In America there is yet another standard of colors. Then, to confuse this further, these can vary by application.

Technology constraints

For example, the option to have a DAB or FM radio may be possible in one part of the world, but not in another depending on the regional infrastructure.

Component availability

Using locally sourced components can be far more cost effective, but requires some adjustments to designs.

Availability of manufacturing plant

The equipment required to build a harness can vary country by country. So a harness built in Brazil and Germany may use different techniques.

The possibilities are endless, and therein lies the challenge of managing all of this while keeping costs down and maintaining the desired level of quality.

Reducing design effort across options and variants

For the designer, there is a lot of time consuming effort involved in managing the diverse options and variants. Which brings me to explaining how effort on one aspect of the design can be automatically copied across the different harness families and derivatives for the same wire – something that has been improved in the E3.cable and E³.formboard modules of E³.series version 2014A.

Harness families and harness derivatives are supported within a single design

By supporting all aspects in a single design, you don’t need to handle different options of the same wire. The bottom line is that you can create a connection between two pins with two clicks. Then using the Wire Properties, just add two possible option combinations as a Boolean expression.

All optional wires and all possible routing paths are created automatically by E3.series

Then (this is the cool part) E³.series duplicates the properties of this wire automatically – there’s no more manual work to do like there was previously. After this change in the cross section for one of the two wire records, the new pin terminals for the new cross section are calculated automatically.

Single dialog view

With this new dialog, all the wires in all option combinations, all valid pin terminals, all active and inactive options – absolutely everything is in one place. It’s the same in the Device Properties – the blind plug is also shown there, which is really helpful. Previously I had to hop through different property dialogs and switch options on and off. Granted, this is not ground breaking, but these things all mount up to make a difference.

And there’s more

Why not check out E³.series 2014A for yourself?

Written by

Dipl. Inf. Wiss. Ulrich Prottung, E3.series Product Manager, studied Information Science at the University of Konstanz. He has worked for over 25 years in the electrical CAD business, having worked in many different roles, amongst others as General Customer Support Manager. Some years he taught at the University of Applied Sciences Ulm.

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