Ghetto Ribbon Connector

[Marcel] was trying to shoehorn a few new parts into his trusty Nexus 5 phone. If you’ve ever opened one of these little marvels up, you know that there’s not much room under the hood to work with. Pulling out some unnecessary parts (like the headphone jack) buys some space, but then how to wire it all up?

[Marcel] needed a multi-wire connector that’s as thin as possible, but he wasn’t going to go the order-Kapton-flex route. Oh no! He built one himself from masking tape and the strands from a stranded wire. Watch the video how-to if that alone isn’t enough instruction.

Since the wires are uninsulated, [Marcel] is a bit careful to separate each strand with tape. While [Marcel] makes a straight connector in the video, we could easily imagine making a pre-formed cable just like the mass-produced flex cables that come with the phone. All in all, this is a great trick to have up your sleeve when space is at a premium.

We’re sure that some of you wire-wrap gurus would be tempted to just let your wires hang loose, but can you imagine how the insides of a phone would look with just a few additional peripherals?

69 thoughts on “Ghetto Ribbon Connector

  1. Neat idea, but masking tape, nononono that stuff does not age well.

    I feel some kind of urge to make a jig to do this after watching…. well not that much of an urge, but it will probably stew in the noodle and pop out next time I need a weird ribbon… if I don’t paint it with defogger paint or something.

    1. Damn, it demanded the mental front burner until I figured something… Hokay, thinking along the lines of, get a lump of dead tree, put a couple of slots in it, pull the cutter off an aluminum foil box, stick bits of that in the slots, strip the wire back, but leave it attached then an inch or two back from one side, you can clamp it down, G clamp, simple saddle clamp, blodge of hot glue, enough room to spread it out, then pull wires across, sit them in the notches, so they get kept even distance apart, either put a weight on the other end or tag them down with hot glue or something, or tape down maybe, so they stay taut. Then, if there’s room underneath, shimmy tape under, and apply, or maybe smart dudes put it there first, maybe even levelled it up with a bit of foam board or card.. so wires make light contact as laid, then you can slip knife or something under to apply more pressure to stick, then apply top layer and do the rubbing between wires to stick it together good, use a comb maybe? Then cut it all off…???… Profit.

      Now maybe if you need certain pitches, other things like bits of hacksaw blade will work, but don’t pull the wires too tight over it you nick or cut them… or failing that rolling/mashing metal gears of appropriate pitch down the edge of a popsicle stick may do it, or the wheel off a lighter. Some of the old lego railway track was serrated I’ve used that for a light duty rack before. Hmm, even machine screws could be useful. If you happen to find combs that match pitch you need, you can use single strand wire and wind it back and forth between them, because the teeth are long enough that it will hold. But that’s probably not too likely, larger pitches, you can just splay out old floppy cables etc, easy to splay a too small a pitch ribbon, not so easy to cram a large pitch ribbon into use for smaller…

      Okay, brain dump achieved, maybe I can think about something else now.

      1. … and if you wanna do several cables I guess you could tap in panel pins either side, which you may have to stagger, to wrap/tie off or loom between.

        Hey… talking of looms, maybe if you wanted super flexible cable, you could do multistrand packs of fine wire, then actually weave them together with fine fishing line or something…. because you wanted to take all day to make a special purpose cable…

        1. No just first thing in the morning with a headache, so processing on one core, so had to flush the pipeline to move on with my day LOL. Minus headache plus ritalin, I’d have just got up and done it, all of them, twice.

      1. Never seen enamelled ones. Fine yes, enamelled nope… it would have failed in one of the applications I’ve used it for, which is “wire trick” socket mods on x86 CPUs where you peg various voltage, frequency or multiplier pins to VCC or ground by connecting socket holes with a superfine wire jumper loop… basically cut a real short length and drop a U of it between specific holes, if they were enamel they wouldn’t have made contact.

          1. Strip PVC insulation from a pair of cheap headphones and take a close look at the cable. With signal and ground going through the same pack of wires and roughly half of the strands having different color, I’m pretty sure they have to be enameled.

          2. The stuff in headphone cords is annoying as fuck, when, inevitably, the cable connection to the jack plug fails. You tell your mate, “that’s OK, I’ll just solder a new plug on”, then when you cut the old one off, there’s no longer the three (or four) separate insulated wires in the cable. Instead, just one set of mixed strands for L, R, and GND. Some of which are enamel-insulated green, some red, some plain. It’s just about impossible to separate them from each other to solder to anything. Annoying as piss, and I can’t see why they do it, really. Must save 0.01p on each set of headphones. Or maybe it’s designed for throwing away.

      2. For enamelled wire, simply pull apart an old wall wart transformer, or something like a washing machine solenoid valve, 2 minutes with the Dremel to liberate the spool from its surrounding plastic or ferrite core confines and you have a hundred yards of the stuff.

        1. I wouldn’t recommend this. I have tried pulling enameled wire off of a transformer (several, actually) and found out they cover the whole spool in a type of epoxy to eliminate ringing. I don’t know how it’s applied but it was found all the way to the very center. Thin wire strands will break. It also seems to affect the enameled coating as you pull or have to tug the wire free from the windings, I believe it breaks off the enamel.

  2. Just thinking if you need a super durable ribbon, you could just tape each end and run it through a laminator. Though kind of limited applications for that, unless it was narrow it probably wouldn’t like bending much.

    1. I know when you wanna break out the laminator, when you want a super flat cable that turns a right angle, or weaves round a funny shape.

      Also, could laminate antenna shapes, RFID coils etc… hmmm wonder if you could dead bug some really flat SMD stuff with fine wire, and then laminate it…

          1. Now my brain wants me to do toner transfer or direct print onto aluminum foil tape or 0.01 aluminum like soda cans to see if it can be etched with drano (Lye/sodium hydroxide) to make keyboard matrix patterns to laminate together. Guess you’d have to interface with edge connectors because you’ll probably melt the whole deally before you get aluminum solder paste to make a good connection.

        1. I just know I’m going to end up spending a couple of hours extracting the resultant molten goop and exploded coin cell from my laminator… but then again, the reason I have it in the first place was because it was sticking out of the Council dumpster. Evidently they don’t pay council employees enough to bother extracting things from top of the range A3 laminators. Their loss, my gain.
          (What kind of spell checker is this… it doesn’t know how to spell goop }:¬) )

    1. Why? It makes me think of all the heroic measures the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto took to improvise and hack up weapons and defenses in the face of certain extermination by the Nazis.

  3. Another think…

    Get a paint stirring stick, or other similar piece of not too hard but tight grained wood, as wide as you want the ribbon. Wax it thoroughly one side with a candle. Pressure roll the waxed side with a bolt that has the desired pitch. You can also do this by clamping it against the bolt in a vice and pulling it out. Hopefully you now have evenly spaced grooves. Dust it off to make sure there’s no wax crumb on there. Lay conductors in the grooves, hold in place at ends or if you don’t mind wasting the wire, just wrap it around and around…. now, working fast with a full size hot glue gun and a spatula that isn’t going to cool the glue off too quick, spread the whole thing with a thick layer of hot glue from one end to the other… wait for it to cool, hope the wax worked, peel off the stick, wipe the other side with solvent to remove wax, spread a thin layer of glue that side to finish…. can maybe even do it with PVA type glues if you’re patient.

    1. a similar idea: Use a “beading loom”. Use all-thread of desired pitch. Wind enameled wire around loom. place piece of wood under the wire to support glue. use wax paper to be the “hot glue release” above the wood.

      I never have any luck embedding a pic, but here goes:

  4. There are Caucasian ghettos as well. The baggage is not in the word.
    Hot glue, that’s ghetto. Try silicone rubber. I pull ribbons out of scanners etc. and sometimes reuse them or find one is a replacement for a damaged cable.

  5. It would be easier and better looking if it glues on the first half of tape 2n-1 wires tightly (n being the needed number of wires), then removes the even number wires, making a gap equal to a wire thickness, then add the second half of tape and comb.
    I also suggest using some other type of tape as the usual ones tend to peel off after few months and the glue starts bonding with anything touching it.

  6. Now that is what I call a very useful hack! For the tape you could try the removable labels that some large milk or juice containers have. It is a really tough plastic but the adhesive lets you peel it off the container relatively easily in one piece.

    Coincidentally we are running a competition in our household at the moment to find uses for this material, so far the leader is “fly-paper”, but this DIY ribbon cable idea looks like a winner.

    1. Oh yah, know those labels they are freaking tenacious and remain super sticky. Stickier than name brand duct tape is now (I’m glaring in your direction Duck brand.)

      It’s a PITA trying to keep them unless you cut them out I guess. Do they peel any easier if heated?

      I guess the missus doesn’t want you to “wax” her with it?

      1. LOL I’ll suggest that and see what happens, if I never post on HAD again you can guess the outcome. Did I mention she is experienced with a scalpel and has detailed knowledge of human anatomy?

        In the mean time you can see if those labels will stick to each other, but then still separate. Adhesive side to printed side, not adhesive to adhesive, I don’t think that would ever come a part again, which is actually a handy attribute.

  7. I find this method of making diy ribbon cables very interesting but doesn’t anyone else want to know WHAT THE HECK is he putting inside his nexus phone?

    That sounds more interesting to me. si please tell me, i must know lol.

  8. So many ways to do this…
    Maybe this was already mentioned along with the dozens of other ideas but…
    How about hot glue’ing 2 bolts on each side of a piece of (whatever) that is about the same thickness as the bolts and as wide as you need the cable, then simply wrap the wire around the entire assembly with the wires going into each bolt thread.
    That way you are making 2 at once. Cover both sides with tape and the trim the ends

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