New jobs, applications for wire, cable, connectors

Change may be the only constant, but, while many software-related changes happen fast and make only incremental changes, a few slowly emerging hardware advances can be pretty revolutionary. For example, recent improvements in wire, cable, and connectors are allowing these essential components to take on new tasks, serve in non-traditional settings, help retool existing networks, and deliver dat...


To view the complete Product Focus study click here.



  • Multiplying applications

  • Ethernet, wireless emerging

  • Pre-assembled systems gaining

Change may be the only constant, but, while many software-related changes happen fast and make only incremental changes, a few slowly emerging hardware advances can be pretty revolutionary. For example, recent improvements in wire, cable, and connectors are allowing these essential components to take on new tasks, serve in non-traditional settings, help retool existing networks, and deliver data and power in innovative ways. Greater and more diverse use of cables in Ethernet-related applications, and, ironically, in wireless settings is also fueling adoption of connectors, wire and related components.


'We've applied our knowledge of the factory-floor to Ethernet, and added heavier jackets, shielding and armor these components, so they can meet the electrical standards and parameters required in industrial settings,' says Frank Koditek, Belden's industrial market manager. 'At this point, industrial Ethernet is a really customer-driven market.' Some observers add that the ongoing emergence of fieldbuses, Ethernet, and wireless networks are pushing industrial wire, cable, and connectors from their historical process/petrochemical and discrete/automotive environments into newer food/beverage, pharmaceutical, higher-speed discrete, batch and hybrid settings.

In early March 2004, Control Engineering received 181 responses from subscribers involved in specifying, recommending and/or buying wire, cable, or connectors. Of these, 84% do so just for in-plant needs, while 26% specify, recommend, or buy these products for in-plant and for resale to OEMs, but only 16% do so solely for OEM requirements.

Diversifying uses

The top two overall applications in which these respondents use wire, cable, and connectors are still machine control and process control. However, they've switched places since June 2001's survey, and other applications now appear to be gaining ground. For example, primary applications for wire, cable, and connectors were: machine control with 61%, process control with 57%, and system maintenance with 30%, while material handling, packaging, robotic control, batch control, and business management all posted 16-18%. This was a significant change from 2001, when the top two applications for wire, cable and connectors were processing control with 70% and machine control with 69%.

Because users are constantly trying to wring greater efficiencies from larger, more sophisticated machines, they're also demanding more pre-assembled cables and connector systems, according to John Gavilanes, Lapp USA's engineering director. 'Manufacturers are pushing the limits of their machines, and they need pre-assembled systems to save on time and labor costs,' he adds. 'However, many newer competitors don't validate their products, which hurts overall manufacturer credibility, and so our new catalog includes ratings for oil resistance, flame retardancy, flexibility, and other capabilities.'

The most-used types of wire, cable, and connectors include: standard, twisted-pair for PLC interconnection at 94%; accessories, connectors, and track at 82%; flexible variable-frequency drive (VFDs) cable for motor supply at 71%; shielded/interlocking armor at 70%; chemical/oil resistant at 63%; fiber-optic at 59%; continuous/high-flex, for robotics, at 49%; and European standards-approved at 41%. These results also differed from 2001's survey, when 75% of the respondents required chemical/oil resistant components.

In the next 12 months, this year's respondents report that 83% plan to buy twisted-pair cable; 83% will purchase accessories, connectors, or track; 67% will buy flexible VFD cable; 56% will select shielded/interlocking armor; 58% will buy chemical/oil resistant; 54% plant to install fiber-optic; 44% will buy continuous/high-flex; and 41% will buy European-standards approved. Overall, while half of 2004's respondents say their wire, cable, and connector purchases will remain about the same, 38% plan to buy more, but only 12% plan to buy less.

Wire, cable, and connector products

For more manufacturers, visit . For system integrators, go to . Also, visit the company Web sites listed at the end of each item below.

Small-diameter VFD cables

Built to withstand corona discharge and voltage spikes while protecting variable-frequency motors (VFMs) and components, Serves V high-performance, small-diameter, variable-frequency drive (VFD) cables from Alpha Wire Co. incorporate several critical design features, including thermoset insulation to help prevent meltdown; tightly-fitted shields to reduce the probability of corona discharge; and large insulation walls to reduce capacitance. In addition, Series V is sunlight resistant and direct burial-rated without cable ducts. All 2 AWG to 8 AWG designs have four drain wires that add geometric uniformity to the cable, and advanced grounding for motors 40 HP and higher. Also, Alpha Wire has incorporated cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) insulated conductors to provide excellent low capacitance properties that aid system performance. Available with or without brake pair, Series V includes UL Type TC, 600 V, open wiring and UL 1000 V, flexible motor supply cable. Series V is also available with conductor gauges ranging in size from 16 AWG to 2 AWG for motors in the 1/2 HP to 100 HP range.

Alpha Wire Co.

Cables comply with ICEA standards

Belden Electronics Division reports that its IndustrialTuff 300 V PLTC instrumentation cables, thermocouple extension cables, and 600 V tray cable (TC) instrumentation and control cables comply with applicable Insulated Cable Engineers Association (ICEA) standards. Cables meeting Exposed Run (ER) approval, formerly designated as Open Wiring, are also available. IndustrialTuff 300 V PLTC paired or triad cables have soft annealed bare or tinned copper conductors (22-12 AWG) with flame-retardant PVC insulation and jackets. Other insulation/jacket options include: XLPE/PVC, TPE/TPE, XLPE/CPE, and XLPE/Haloarrest. All cable jackets are resistant to sunlight, moisture and vapor penetration, and they're also indoor/outdoor rated. All PVC/PVC products include a nylon ripcord for easier installation, while products with at least three conductors of 20 AWG or larger are rated for direct burial. IndustrialTuff 300 V thermocouple extension cables are available with the same insulation/jacket options as the 300 V PLTC products. The pairs offer 20- and 16-AWG conductors (thermocouple type KX, TX, EX, and JX), while other AWG sizes are available as specials.

Belden Electronics Division

Rubber cord can serve in 105 °C settings

General Cable reports that its Carol brand rubber portable cords—such as its Yellow High-Visibility Carolprene SOOW 600 V, 105 °C rubber cord—are readily available for portable cord applications requiring 105 °C ratings. General's rubber cords feature temperature ratings from 90 °C to 105 °C and have oil- and water-resistant jackets. Available with yellow and black cable jackets, the cords are UL listed, CSA certified, and MSHA approved for indoor and outdoor use. .

General Cable

Data cables handle automation motion

Chainflex continuous-flex data cables from igus Inc. reportedly can withstand the often-intense motion of automated machinery on the factory floor, while consistently delivering reliable, smooth data transmission. Chainflex features conductor bundling; special conductor strand selection; tight pitch, core, and shield; tension core fillers; and rugged abrasion resistant jackets. These properties enable Chainflex cables to withstand continuous cycles at tight bending radii, and give users the benefits of high-speed data cables and the long-service life and flexibility of high-flex cables. Chainflex CFLG fiber-optic and CFLK polymer fiber-optic cables offer safe, space-saving data and signal transmission and EMI protection in automation applications. Chainflex cables are also used in igus' Energy Chains cable carriers that house and protect moving cables.

igus Inc.

PUR cables for continuous flex applications

Lapp USA's new Unitronic Etherline FD P Cat. 5 Plus cables are halogen-free, fine-stranded, oil-resistant-polyurethane (PUR) cables designed for continuous flex applications. Internal core wrap ensures proper performance during flex motion. They meet standard EIA/TIA-568 and TSB-36 & ISO/IEC 11801—Generic Cabling for Customer Premises for Class D links. Available in 26 AWG with two or four pairs, Unitronic Etherline continuous flex cables have special foil for flexing and a tinned copper braid shield, providing noise protection and integrity during flexing.

Lapp USA

Color codes aid quick connection of field devices

Phoenix Contact has added color-coded connections to its Quickon-One connector, making it easier to terminate sensor wires. Four colors—brown, blue, black, and white—have been marked on the connector to correspond with color-coded sensor wire leads. Quickon-One provides a quick connection during the time consuming task of installing field-wireable connectors to sensors or cordsets. It is a two-piece, screwless connection system that uses integrated insulation displacement connection (IDC) contacts, which provide a gas-tight connection, eliminating potential for lost screws or stray copper strands during assembly. In addition, there's no need to worry about screws loosening and intermittent signals due to vibration, temperature changes, and other factors. With a 30-sec assembly time, an IP 65/67 rating, and a wire range of 26 to 18 AWG, Quickon-One provides a reliable, time- and cost-saving alternative to the usual screw-connector versions.

Phoenix Contact

Connectors have up to 10 AWG conductors for 30 A service

Turck's 2-, 3- and 4-pin 'powerfast' connectors can be used to provide power from 600 V at 15 A to 600 V at 30 A. These cordsets and receptacles reportedly are ideal for providing power to factory automation equipment in automotive, steel mill and outdoor applications, or any industry where a heavy-duty power connector is required. The company adds they're perfect replacements for labor-intensive field wiring. In addition, powerfast connectors are available in 10, 12, and 14 AWG conductor sizes. Also, powerfast cordsets are available with a CPE (rubber) cable jackets. The 2-, 3- and 4-pin cordsets, made with a 1-3/8 in. threaded coupling nut, are available as a pigtail in male or female, and in standard or custom lengths. Turck also offers fully encapsulated mating receptacles with pre-soldered leads.

Turck Inc.

High-data-rate cable assemblies for ZD connectors

W.L. Gore & Associates Inc. reports that its cable assembly for the ZD backplane interface, Gore Eye-Opener ZD, combines its high data-rate digital cable assembly technology with the ZD high-speed connector to offer an interconnect that delivers exceptional signal fidelity and reliability at bandwidths of 5 Gbps and higher. Eye-Opener uses expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) as the dielectric core for digital interconnect cable. The helically wrapped ePTFE core ensures controlled electrical properties throughout the signal path. Smaller diameter and minimum bend radius, combined with low-dielectric constant materials, allow more signal lines per area, and deliver higher bandwidth performance more consistently than other cable configurations.

W.L. Gore & Associates Inc.

Pluggable terminal block relay

Wago Corp.'s new 788 Series plug-able, DIN rail-mount relay uses the firm's Cage Clamp-S spring pressure connection technology for push-in connection of solid wire or ferruled stranded wire and screwdriver-actuated connection of all wire types. Measuring just 15 mm wide, 788 Series' compact design provides application benefits. Other features include easy potential commoning with insulated, plug-in, comb-style jumper, eliminating redundant wiring on either the coil or the load side and pre-marked connection points for easy circuit identification with optional custom marking on the relay lever. 788 Series is designed for terminating wire sizes 22-14 AWG; switching up to 16 A at up to 230 V; input voltages of 12, 24, 110 V dc or 230 V ac; 4 kV insulation voltage between the coil and the load; and a UL flammability rating of UL94-V0. .

Wago Corp.

Connection system provides flexible solutions

Woodhead's new Brad Power connection system for power distribution takes advantage of recent changes to NFPA 79-2002, which permits using factory-applied connectors molded onto cables for line voltage, communications, and low-voltage industrial machinery applications. Brad Power products are modular, flexible, scaleable, and code-compliant quick-connect wiring solutions that offer lower installed cost and faster commissioning of industrial machinery. Flexibility and low cost are achieved by eliminating the need for conduit to run power to industrial machinery. Brad Power's dual-rated STOOW and TC/open wiring-rated quick-connect cordsets allow a trunk/feeder line to be installed along a machine's structure with convenient access points for power to be dropped to field devices, such as motors, lights, heaters and other electrical devices. .


Socket connectors have IDC technology

Weidmüller is expanding its compact 3.5-mm pitch socket plugs for printed-circuit boards with versions using insulation displacement connection (IDC) technology, which shortens installation time and reduces costs. BLIDC3.5 is available in two- to 16-pole versions with or without screw-fixing flanges forsecurely connecting socket plug to pin header. The socket also permits 90° or 180° wire outlet angles from the same connector. Another version, BLIDCB, has been specially designed for wiring in bus systems. Ratings for BLIDC 3.5 and BLIDCB 3.5 are the same, namely 125 V, 6 A maximum, and 0.5 mm² (AWG 20) cable size.


Unit Purchase Volumes

51 respondents collectively bought almost 1.5 million feet of wire and cable in the past 12 months, for an average of 29,356 ft. per respondent

1 to 1,000 ft.


1,001 to 5,000 ft.


5,001 to 10,000 ft.


10,001 to 50,000 ft.


50,001 to 100,000 ft.


100,000 ft. or more


Source: Control Engineering with data from Reed Research’s “Wire, Cable & Connectors Product Focus Study,” July 2004, the complete study accessible by clicking here.


Dollar Purchase Volumes

51 respondents collectively bought more than $3.26 million worth of wire and cable in the past 12 months, which amounts to an average of $64,036 per respondent

1 to 1,000 ft.


1,001 to 5,000 ft.


5,001 to 10,000 ft.


10,001 to 50,000 ft.


50,001 to 100,000 ft.


100,000 ft. or more


Source: Control Engineering with data from Reed Research’s “Wire, Cable & Connectors Product Focus Study,” July 2004, the complete study accessible by clicking here.


Cable Selection Criteria

To pick the correct type of wire or cable for their applications, respondents say they need to know about several essential criteria:

Electrical requirements (voltage, current, flow, etc.)


Signal type, characteristics, strength, etc.


Load requirements, resistance ratings


Environmental issues
(noise, hazardous chemicals, etc.)


Equipment specifications




Source: Control Engineering with data from Reed Research’s “Wire, Cable & Connectors Product Focus Study,” July 2004, the complete study accessible by clicking here.


Types of Connectors Used

Junction boxes






















Source: Control Engineering with data from Reed Research’s “Wire, Cable & Connectors Product Focus Study,” July 2004, the complete study accessible by clicking here.


Use of Standard versus Customized Cable Lengths

When asked if they use standard cable sets with connectors already attached, or if they customize cable lengths and add their own connectors, 91% of respondents report using customized cable lengths with connectors, while 84% use standard cable lengths.

Standard cable sets in standard lengths


Customized cable lengths with own connectors


Both standard and customized


Source: Control Engineering with data from Reed Research’s “Wire, Cable & Connectors Product Focus Study,” July 2004, the complete study accessible by clicking here.


Present and Future Cable Use


5 years from now

Stationary applications



Flexible applications






Source: Control Engineering with data from Reed Research’s “Wire, Cable & Connectors Product Focus Study,” July 2004, the complete study accessible by clicking here.

To view the complete Product Focus study click here.

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