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A Brief Introduction to UL and CSA Cable Flammability Tests

Industrial wire and cable are often used in equipment installed in harsh application areas like oil and gas platforms, military vehicles, manufacturing equipment, etc. In such applications, there are possibility of fires breaking out. Fire is one of the greatest dangers that can damage and destroy industrial wire and cable. To ensure that the wires and cables are protected, manufacturers design the product with flame retardant materials. They also subject the cable through different types of flammability tests. We will elaborate about these tests in this post.

Agencies that Define Flame Tests

Agencies like UL, CSA, ISO, and NEC define tests within their respective standards to determine a cable’s flame resistance capability. All these agencies consider the following aspects for flammability tests:

  • Flame Propagation
  • Smoke Generation and Propagation
  • Additional Support for Combustion

The NEC focuses on fire hazards in buildings, while UL and CSA focuses on application requirements.

Brief Descriptions of UL and CSA Flammability Tests

As most customers look at cable assemblies for applications, we shall be focusing on UL and CSA flammability tests. These tests are divided into small and large scale flame tests.

UL Flammability Tests: These are divided into one small, and two large scale flame tests.

  • UL 1061: This is a small scale, vertical flame test. Cable that carry currents up to 500 Watts are subjected to this test. The UL 1061 is mainly used appliance wiring.
  • UL Vertical Tray: This test is performed to check flame resistance of power and communication cables used in trays. The test is similar to the CSA FT4 flammability test, but not as stringent.
  • UL 1666: This is also called a Riser Cable test. It is performed on cables that are used in vertical runs in a shaft. Like the UL vertical tray, the test is similar to the CSA FT4 flammability test, but not as stringent.

CSA Flammability Tests: These are divided into two small, and one large scale flame tests. FT1 and 2 are the small scale tests.

  • FT1: This is a vertical flame test that should only be performed on manufactured cables. The FT1 is mainly used to test industrial equipment wire or Appliance Wire Material (AWM) with 500W.
  • FT2: This is a horizontal flame test that is performed on finished cables. It is a minimum and mandatory requirement for flame testing flexible cords.
  • FT4: The FT4 test is designed to test cables, which are going to be installed and used in tray and shaft applications.

Apart from the above mentioned tests, there is a test that is defined by both organizations – VW-1. This is also a vertical flame test, but is performed on flexible cords, as well as finished cables with 500 W.

These are the most important cable flammability tests that you should focus on when manufacturing industrial wire and cable. Discuss your application requirements with the cable manufacturer. Accordingly, he can suggest the appropriate test. A well tested cable can provide great performance in an application for many years.

Decoding the Differences between UL Listed and UL Recognized Wires and Cables

UL Recognized ImageAs a customer searching for custom cable assemblies and wire harness, you are probably going through websites of various manufacturers and services providers. When you look at their accreditations, you may find two terms in the list – UL Listed, and UL Recognized. Generally, customers assume that these terms are interchangeable. However, this is far from true. As we realized that some customers are not able to understand the differences, we decided to write this post explaining the two terms.

UL – A Brief Description

The term UL stands for Underwriter Laboratories, an organization that provides safety consulting and certification services. UL specifically provides certifications for industrial wire and cable manufacturers worldwide. The UL label is not a certification, but an approval. It means that the product in question has been tested by UL, and has been approved for application use.

Decoding UL Listed

This label is for cables that are used in what UL terms as a Division 2 environment. Division 2 refers to any closed area where ignitable substances are used, stored, or handled. Wire and cable under UL Listed are tested to National Safety Standards, and are proven safe against fires, electrical shocks, and other unanticipated hazards. A well-known example of a UL Listed product is the VW-1 cable.

Decoding UL Recognized

The UL Recognized label is provided to wire and cable, which have been tested by UL, and are considered safe for use in commercial and industrial products and systems. Testing for UL Recognized is performed on products that are incomplete, or are restricted in terms of their capabilities. For UL Recognized products, the safety organization also communicates to manufacturers that these products need to be supported with additional protective devices, such as trays, or housing. A well-known example of a UL Recognized product is Appliance Wiring Material (AWM).

As you can see, these labels are utilized for distinct wire and cable products. For this reason, when searching for a cable manufacturer, customers always need to enquire whether the products will be UL Listed or UL Recognized, after understanding their application requirements.

Understanding the Benefits of RoHS Compliance

In cable assembly manufacturing, one of the most important certifications is RoHS. While most understand that it is a manufacturing certification, many customers do not know the details and benefits of RoHS compliance. To pass on the information, we are providing this blog.

What is RoHS?

RoHS is a European Union (EU) directive, which was adopted in 2003. RoHS itself is an acronym for Restriction of Hazardous Substances. It is mainly concerned with the manufacturing of different types of electronic equipment. These can range from household appliances, lighting equipment, electronic tools, to control instruments, and IT and telecommunications equipment. RoHS restricts the use of the following materials:

  • Cadmium
  • Hexavalent chromium
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

Why is RoHS Important?

With the continual, rapid growth of technology, many customers are throwing away obsolete equipment in large quantities. This is resulting in landfills being filled with hazardous materials. The high levels of electronic trash and e-waste is leading to mercury and lead poisoning. While recycling is being performed, many products are being shipped with some of the hazardous materials still in them. The RoHS directive was adopted to limit the amount of hazardous materials in the manufacturing equipment. The intention is to reduce the number of heavy metal poisoning incidents, and maybe even e-waste.

What are the Benefits?

There are two primary benefits of RoHS compliance, which can be accrued by electronic product manufacturers, as well as their customers:

  • Reducing Instances of Heavy Metal Poisoning:Most e-waste is transported to factories in third world countries. The workers in these factories suffer the most when it comes to lead and mercury poisoning. RoHS requires the use of lead-free solders and components, thus reducing the number of heavy metal poisoning cases in these factories. Also, the state of health of the workers and users has improved tremendously.
  • Product Reliability:Most of the well-known electronics manufacturers have adopted RoHS. Customers are now assured of complete product safety. As a result, the reliability of these manufacturers and their brands has improved dramatically. The popularity and sales of electronic components has increased.

As more organizations and countries are adopting the directive, there will be less landfill contamination, and poisoning cases. Overall, the benefits of RoHS compliance has not only impacted the electronics industry, but also provided solutions to electronic customers the world over.

Why Custom Power Cords are Important

custom power cordIf you look around your home or office, you will realize that every electronic appliance has a different power cord. Why is the power cord so important? Why should it be given so much attention? Let’s find out.

The Benefits of using Power Cords

Customers may not realize it, but using custom power cords can provide many benefits and even prevent accidents.

  • In workshops or storage space, using a power cord can eliminate the use of live wires.
  • Power cords can eliminate the need to transport power cables in large lengths for external work and equipment.
  • In factories, workers are generally given standard cords to customize and use. The customization process leads to wastage of wires, plastics, and insulation. By providing custom power cords, the workers have the exact cord they require for their work, and the wastage is eliminated.

Custom Power Cord Applications

Here are some of the common applications where custom power cords are used.

  • Temporary Lighting Applications: Custom power cords are useful in applications and events where lighting may be used temporarily. They can be used on external work sites, such as mining and drilling sites. Examples of commercial applications include weddings, open air concerts, and political party rallies.
  • Custom Wiring Applications: Power cords are the perfect solutions for environments where there is a necessity to use custom wiring. If wires are going to be placed underwater, or in high temperature environments, it would be wise decision to go in for custom power cords. They can address specific needs, while reducing any risks during operation.

These are the reasons why custom power cords should always be considered for industrial and commercial applications. Contact your wire and cable assembly manufacturer. He can provide you information on power cords for your application.

Why is it Beneficial to Get an ISO Certification?

In the cable manufacturing business, accreditations have become an important part of ensuring product quality and marketing one’s business. As more companies are emerging in the cable manufacturing industry, it makes sense to set oneself apart with accreditations.

Benefits you can gain from ISO 9001 Certification

While many companies may not be certain, applying for ISO 9001 certification can provide a variety of advantages to cable assembly manufacturers. Here are some of the reasons why this certificate is important.

  • Enhanced Image and Credibility: ISO 9001 is an internationally recognized standard. As a cable assembly manufacturer and supplier, having an ISO 9001 certification can assure customers about the quality of your design, manufacturing, and delivery processes. This is particularly important if you are working with many public sector organizations, or offshore customers. Thus, ISO 9001 certification can enhance your image and improve your credibility as a manufacturer.
  • Improved Process Integration:The process approach of ISO 9001 helps an organization to find and make improvements in various aspects like efficiency and cost savings. This is done through analysis and eliminating wastage of time and resources. This will result in better process flow, which will lead to increased efficiency, fewer errors, and improved cost savings.
  • Better Decision Making:Once the ISO process approach has been completely integrated, organizations will find it easier to make decisions that will increase efficiencies and cost savings. All decisions related to materials, designs, choice of manufacturing machinery will be made based on data and evidence. Also, the entire process will be continually monitored to make further improvements. Thus, the company owner can see the results based on the data provided.
  • Improve Employee Work Processes: For the ISO approach to be integrated completely, employees will have to be trained for the same. The new knowledge and getting used to the process approach will help streamline the employees’ work, as well as improve the work culture. They will take less time to work on and solve a problem than previously.

ISO 9001 is a good foundation for any organization. It supports companies to take better control of their internal processes. The gains received by implementing an ISO standard will lead to higher cost savings and great organizational success.

Why Choose Mil-Spec Connectors

54The military industry requires specialized electronic equipment and machineries for day-to-day operations. Compared to other commercial electronic products, military equipment is ruggedly manufactured, keeping in mind the adverse conditions in the application areas. They are manufactured utilizing mil-spec components, which exhibit superior performance and reliability characteristics. One such component that goes in the assembly of cables/wires in all the military equipment is connectors.

Should Cable Assembly Connectors be Mil-Spec Certified?

Yes, they should be. Being a crucial component in military electronic devices, cable assembly connectors must be exclusively engineered to work in extreme environmental conditions. Each component used in the assembly must be mil-spec certified. When the assembly is mil-spec certified, the user can be assured of reliable performance throughout its service period.

Besides the cables, the connectors used in the assembly should be mil-spec certified. This is because mil spec connectors provide outstanding mating performance, durability, and minimal contact resistance. In addition, they are designed to withstand extreme shock, exposure, and vibration. Moreover, there is no fire hazard associated with mil spec cable assembly connectors. They are designed to offer high-density contact arrangements in applications where space and weight are prime considerations.

Due to all the aforementioned features, mil spec connectors are preferred for military cable assemblies for use in:

  • Military aircrafts
  • Military communication systems
  • Hand held and vehicle platforms
  • Military ground support systems
  • Military computer systems
  • Electric testing equipment
  • Blind mate applications
  • Hand held and vehicle platforms
  • Unmanned systems

Mil-spec cable assembly connectors are environmentally sealed for applications across a wide temperature range. They ensure long lasting sturdy performance in mission-critical military applications.

You must have now understood why military applications require mil spec-connectors to assemble cables of varying specifications. You can now enhance your search regarding the various styles of mil-spec connectors available and the prominent manufactures leading the marketplace. You can also extend your search on several criteria to consider when selecting the right connector type for your application. All these information will certainly help you now or sometime in the future!

Best Practices for Organizing Wires and Cables for Businesses

=cable assemblyWith computers, software, and other electronic machines becoming staples in organization, cable organization should become a high priority on a company’s list of ‘to dos’. Not only can it save your time and money, it can also eliminate the need to trace the cables. Organizing your cables can also help improve hardware air flow. This can reduce the chances of equipment failure due to heat retention.

Six Best Practices for Cable Organization

Like any industry, wire and cable manufacturing also has a set of best practices for cable organization. Here is a list of them.

  • Label your Cables: The cables should be labelled at the power and the network ends. This will make it easier when you need to trace a cable. You can even create a list of the labels and the corresponding cables to save time.
  • Choose the Right Cable Lengths: Choosing the right cable lengths can provide many benefits. The chances of cables tangling will be reduced. The right cable length also supports the creation of wire harnesses and cable assemblies. You can choose either short or custom cables according to your requirement for the harness or assembly.
  • Don’t Bend the Cables: This is something that should be avoided as far as possible. Cable bending can hamper the performance of the cables. It can lead to the creation of friction in internal wiring. Enough friction over a period can physically damage the cables as well.
  • Bifurcate the Cables: A simple way to keep your cables organized is to bifurcate them into the area of work. This can be power, network, communications, etc. This will allow you to access the cables easily if needed. Also it can reduce the chances of electromagnetic interference.
  • Make use of Anchor Points: When a lot of stress is placed on the cable ends, they can suffer from stress, and even break. The cable ends can also get unplugged due to immense weight and pressure. Installing anchor points can ensure that the cable ends do not suffer any kind of damage, or result in unplugging.
  • Use Velcro Ties: Velcro ties are good solutions to bundle and separate cables. They are a better option than zip ties, as they can be easily maneuvered. Velcro ties can even cut to custom lengths to fit the needs of a cable assembly.

All of the practices can ensure that your cables within the company are organized, bifurcated, and stored safely and efficiently.

5 Steps for Complete Obsolescence Management

electro mechanical assemblyIn today’s fast-paced world, one of the fastest moving markets in terms of new products and designs is the electronics industry. Due to the fast pace, and continual changes, there is always a risk of components and products becoming obsolete. There can be many reasons for this – the technology can change, consumer trends may shift, or a new product may be released, making the existing one obsolete.

Obsolescence can be a problem for electronics manufacturers. It can result in wasted time, money and efforts. If the product has truly become obsolete, production may stop altogether. All of these can negatively affect a business.

So, is there anything manufacturers can do to reduce losses, and prevent the obsolescence of components? Read on to find out more.

Obsolescence Management Steps

Given below are a few tips that your organization can use to manage obsolescence.

  1. Analyze the BOM: An important step is to take your Bill of Materials (BOM), and divide it into manageable sections. You should be able to look at each component, and analyze each part separately. You can remove any custom components that are rarely used.
  1. Filter Low Risk Components: Low risk components refer to those off the shelf products that are easily available in the market. This will allow you to focus more on the high risk components.
  1. Assess Risk of Obsolescence of Other Components: The third step involves risk analysis. You need to study each remaining part, whether they are critical to the device’s operation, and what the probability of obsolescence may be. You can use risk analysis tools to complete this task.
  1. Prioritizing Components: Once the risk assessment is complete, you need to again divide your components. This time, they need to be divided with ratings from low to ultra high risk. This will allow you to rank the components in your BOM and manage their purchases accordingly.
  1. Deploy Mitigation Strategies: Based on the component ratings, you can employ the corresponding mitigation strategy.
    1. Ultra High: Strategies can include redesigning, system upgrades or component replacements.
    2. High: Additional research should be performed to confirm whether the component will become obsolete in the future.
    3. Medium: The component position in the market should be monitored for possibilities of obsolescence.
    4. Low: Implementing any strategy for obsolescence would be too expensive for these types of components.

Once this process has been completed, you can perform these steps once every six months. It will allow you to stay on track with the components you are sourcing and using in your production processes.