For equipment such as shop-built OEM machinery or field-installed systems installed in a manufacturing facility, designers must make many technical selections for cables and wiring based on electrical characteristics and other specified parameters. Products improve and standards are updated, so there are many cases where designers would want to use newer cable technologies with increased performance; however, users may find themselves constrained by what they already stock.

Standardizing on cables helps with ordering and stocking but sometimes pushes users to select over-specified cables or results in leftover cables on stockroom shelves — both money-wasters. For these reasons, many end users, machinery OEMs, and system integrators are switching to cut-to-length cable to quickly and cost-effectively get exactly what they need.

Electrical cables are used in many services such as power delivery, automation signaling, and communications. Specifiers must consider electrical characteristics such as conductor ampacity, insulation materials, shielding from electrical noise, and more. Physical conditions such as flexibility and resistance to extreme temperatures, sunlight, water, and chemicals must all be addressed. Many standards and codes come into play.

Designers invest a lot of effort selecting the right cables for their applications. If they choose a specific cable for every situation, they may end up with dozens of part numbers. On the other hand, if they standardize on fewer cables, it usually means some parts of the installation will have an oversized or more expensive cable than needed. When designers need to try out new and improved cable options, buying a whole spool is cost-prohibitive.

Cut-to-length cable suppliers offer an option for end users addressing these issues. To be successful, a cut-to-length supplier must ensure that a wide range of products is offered, stock is carefully maintained, quick delivery and good pricing are available, and UL Certification for respooling cable is met.

Cost and delivery are always prime concerns for end users but it is important to ensure cut-to-length suppliers are certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL) for the respooling and traceability process defined by UL as “Processed Wire — Respooled.” This quality assurance practice enables all cables to be tracked back to the master reel.

Installation crews are already familiar with laying out their work to determine how much cable is needed based on routing. Typically, they would then check stock, order more material if needed, and then begin setting up their reels. Using cut-to-length methods, the installers do the same takeoff but then place an order for exactly what is specified by the designer. The order is delivered to the jobsite within a day or two, so the cable supplier acts as a virtual stockroom and this process saves work for field personnel.

Specifying cut-to-length cables from certified suppliers provides a better solution than traditional approaches by helping end users and OEMs get exactly the products they need in the most economical manner.

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Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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