Adam Parry, managing director at Helukabel, manufacturer of cables for automation and control, outlines what to look for when it comes to selecting the right cable for automated processes, what to consider and how to choose a reputable vendor.
Operating since 1978 there is no standing still for Helukabel, as the company celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Helukabel is not only known for its comprehensive range of cable from its extensive stock holdings, but also its gland and accessories range, as well as a thriving robotics and automated reeling division. The company is able to deliver cables for almost every application, and for those that need custom-made solutions, thanks to its manufacturing capabilities, Helukabel can offer these as well.
With over half a billion Euro turnover and 30 global subsidiaries, Helukabel listens to and understands its customers’ requirements worldwide. By using the latest in cable technology, its own dedicated research, development and test centre, as well as cooperating with international testing institutes, Helukabel is constantly innovating and pushing for solutions in an ever-evolving industry.
Automation certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, but with the development of technology and the focus of Industry 4.0, automation is being considered and embraced by greater numbers.
Industry 4.0 is commonly labelled as the new industrial revolution. However, taking into consideration new technology, best practise, and lean processes to improve quality, productivity and cost, the concept is more evolution than revolution. 4.0 will continue to develop organically, and whilst the perception is that automation benefits only the largest companies, it can help any organisation stay competitive.
Selecting the right cable
With the cost of cable in relation to plant, machinery or robotics minimal, it’s understandable why the importance of cable selection can be overlooked. With the potential huge cost of down time and often difficult to access locations of the cable, selecting the correct cable for the required environment and application is paramount to the longevity and performance of not just the cable but the whole machine.
Any cable not suitable for its installed application will have a negative effect on performance. If a mistake is made,it is possible for an incorrect cable to function after installation, which can lead to other consequential issues.
Factors to consider when selecting cables:
Environment: Cutting fluids, oils, chemicals (both direct and airborne) water, detergents and microbial resistance, temperature, UV resistance.
Performance: Speed, distance and frequency of travel, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), type speed and frequency of data transmission.
Choosing a vendor
Once environment and performance have been determined, a quality vendor can assist and guide you to the correct cable for your application. As the permeabilities are incredibly vast it is essential that the advice is accurate and correct.
It is possible to over specify a cable as well as recommend a cable that doesn’t match the performance required. From the outside it is visually difficult to measure the quality of a cable. And the devil is often in the details. A comprehensive specification sheet is imperative, but what key facts should you look for?
- Screening: If a screen is required, look for the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) symbol. Also, the publication of the braid coverage, 85% coverage is proved to be effective. Below this amount and EMC is often lost. With no British Standard for the amount of copper braided screen coverage, this is an area that manufacturers can cut corners and save costs. Often multiple screens are required for composite cables.
- Flexibility: The core stranding, whilst class 5 fine stranded coper conductors can cope with the stresses of occasional flexing, class 6 stranding is normally a pre-requisite for constant flexing cables. A fleece wrapping also aids in reduction of friction.
- Polymer: There are numerous types and blends of granulates in each type of polymer. PVC, whilst adequate for many applications, is generally lower performing than Polypropylene, Polyurethane, and Thermo Plastic Elastomer.
- Approvals:CE marking on all cables above 5mm o/d and listed on specification sheets for all cables, as well as additional approvals such as UL, VDE, CSA, HAR, TÜV, CCC, GOST, LLOYDS REGISTERED.
- Technical information:A vendor should be able to provide defined and certified information pertaining to: speed, travel, frequency, chemical resistance, current ratings, temperature range, bending radius (flexing and Static) and any approvals attained.
Other things to consider
When considering cables constant flexing installed in chain/track, there are three main categories: D1, 2, and 3. They are categorised by movement, bending radius, speed, acceleration and number of cycles (in millions).
Whatever cable you choose for your application, it is crucial to ensure it has been properly tested. Research and development are the foundations of Helukabel’s work, and products are continuously developed and enhanced based on customer feedback and cooperation with colleges and research institutes.
Helukabel’s cables are rigorously tested at its test centre in Hemmingen. For example, cables suitable for cable track implementation can be tested with acceleration up to 10G. Temperature ranges from -50°F to 482°F (-50°C to +250°C) are simulated in a special climate device, so that track cables can be tested for series production readiness before they are installed the harshest environments like refrigerated warehouses or steel mills.
- Test systems for bending and torsion requirements Cable track test systems with movement distances from 4 ft, 10 ft, 16 ft, 20 ft, 60 ft, and 132 ft
- Fire testing systems
- Abrasion testing systems
- Torsion test tower for wind turbines
- Aging ovens in accordance with UL, VDE, CSA, HAR, TÜV, CCC
To enable cables to function at the highest levels and to meet the most demanding conditions they need to be rigorously tested. Only by knowing the exact destruction points can you accurately certify your cable and ensure reliability.
In a constantly evolving world of automation that is pushing the boundaries of efficiency, speed and accessibility, it is imperative to work with a manufacturer that shares the same passions of innovation, quality and trusted experience to assist in providing the best solution. This will ensure that you maximise durability and cost savings, whilst ensuring future proofing and limiting issues and downtime.