Cables and Connectors

Standard twisted pair cable for controller interconnection and "accessories, connectors, and track" were the most often purchased component categories, Control Engineering Product Research shows. See other trends, new products, link to research report.

By Dick Johnson, CONTROL ENGINEERING October 1, 2008
ONLINE extra

– Eight product images have been added to dozen that didn’t appear in the print magazine article.
– See the excecutive summary and full PDF 2008 Wire, Cable, and Connector research report .

Here it is! A holiday that requires outside decorations and lights is approaching. You are elected to put them up. The rest of the family says they will help, but once the “fun” part of the project is complete (decorations and lights are in place), the tricky—read noncreative—part of this task rears its ugly head: Do I have the right extension cords to complete this job? What lengths do I need? Are these lights grounded or not? Is water and/or weather resistance an issue here?

Now imagine this connectivity nightmare for any size industrial plant, where all sorts of hostile environments lurk. Control engineering professionals in every industry know exactly how thorny these problems can become.

According to more than 230 survey respondents to our new industrial wire, cable, and connector product research survey, control engineers apply these components in a much wider range of requirements and applications than a decorating homeowner. (See accompanying graphic.) Those answering the joint Control Engineering /Reed Research study said they specify wire, cable, and connectors mostly for in-plant use. However, the breakdown for primary applications was not tipped in favor of any specific application. As can be seen from the chart, control panels, machine control, and process control applications accounted for the greatest usage. Likewise, usage among the remaining seven applications was significant and, for the most part, consistent with the previous survey in 2004.

On the shopping list?

Standard twisted pair cable for controller interconnection and “accessories, connectors, and track” were the most often purchased component categories in the survey, consistent with 2004. Changes did occur in other categories, however. The most significant of these was fiber-optic cabling, which jumped to the number four slot from sixth place. Considering the advances made in data transmission technology/efficiency and advantages of fiber optic usage, this result is not surprising.

The biggest loser was flexible variable frequency drive or motor supply cabling, which fell from the third place to fifth. Generally, the use/purchase plans for all other categories (shielded/interlocking armor, chemical/oil resistant, continuous/high flex, and internationally approved (RoHS, UL, CSE, TUV, CE, etc) of wire, cable, and connector products were consistent with previous survey results.

When asked if they used standard cable sets with connectors already attached, only 8% of those responding said they do so exclusively. The greatest majority (76%) used both standard and customized cable sets, which consist of customized cable lengths to which users attach their own connectors. It is probably safe to say that the “one size fits all” solution hardly ever applies to application-specific control solutions. As for use of cable carriers for cable runs, more used them (58%) than did not (42%).

Matching cable types to applications

Chemical- and oil-resistant cables were chosen more than any other type for special applications. Respondents reported using them in the following applications: 47%, outdoor environment; 67%, wash-down applications (food and pharmaceutical processing); 50%, hazardous locations, and 86%, in areas where oils are prevalent (machine centers, primary metals processing, etc.).

As might be expected, shielded cables were chosen most often for use in locations where EMF/RFI and other recurring noise problems proved to be a problem. Standard twisted pair cables found their niche in the ubiquitous Ethernet/data transmission area of factory automation.

Pacing the economy

The tightening of the U.S. economy has not dampened the outlook for wire, cable, and connector purchases for the next 12 months, however. According to respondents, 54% say their requirements will remain the same; 26% expect to buy more; 17% expect to buy less.

Of those respondents who expect a decrease in purchases over the next year, the overwhelming reason cited was the economic downturn. Among the control engineers responding, 74% reported that they were simply doing fewer networking projects. Current and expected moves to wireless technology accounted for 18% of the respondents expecting to decrease wire and cable purchases.

With such a positive projected purchasing outlook still on the horizon in a contracting economy, control engineers clearly feel that advancements in the wire and cable industry are continuing to meet their technological needs.

Even with all the cable and wire industry resources available, control engineers still depend on their background, training, and know-how to get the job done right. According to verbatim responses to the question, “what is your best advice to Control Engineering readers based on your experiences with buying, specifying, integrating, installing, or replacing industrial wire, cable, and connectors” most responses indicated that having a thorough understanding of the application, careful specification of componentry, and purchasing the best quality the project budget will allow is the best recommendation. Many of the respondents said it best—ensure you have matched the cable technology to the application. “Do your homework, there are no shortcuts,” says Dave Summers, engineer, Helios Coatings Inc. Furthermore Mark Rossi, architect for Schneider Electric adds, “Never, ever compromise on the quality of the cable. Once it is buried in an application, it is the most difficult component to replace.”

For more suppliers, visit . For systems integrators www.controleng.integrators . Also visit company websites listed.

Multiuse instrumentation cables

Belden Electronics 300V UL instrumentation cables feature soft annealed bare or tinned copper connectors and PVC flame retardant insulations and jackets for use in power-limited tray instrumentation installation applications. Cables constructed with PVC/PVC that have three or more conductors and 20 AWG or larger conductors can also be used for direct burial applications. As an option, also available are PVC insulated, PVC jacketed instrumentation cables—and several other insulation and jacket combinations—with a PLTC-ER (exposed run) rating that meets the crush and impact requirements of an armored cable. By eliminating the need for metal conduit and/or armor, PLTC-ER rated cable results in installation and maintenance savings. They are resistant to sunlight, moisture, and vapor penetration.
Belden Electronics

Extreme environment cabling

Alpha Wire Xtra.Guard flexible cable are said to be designed to deliver extreme performance and system reliability in most extreme environments, keeping automated systems running and data flowing at maximum capacity. Alpha Wire says the cables are unique in their ability to withstand the physical abuses of extreme flexing; immersion in oils, chemicals, solvents and fuels; EMI/RFI interference; UV exposure; abrasion; heat; cold; and direct burial. The cables handle any application: single or double axis, torsional, bending, rolling, or variable (random motion) from 1 to 20 million flex life cycles. Alpha Wire says these line extensions give it the industry’s most extensive family of flexible cable including new large AWG sizes (2, 4, 6, and 8 AWG) for flexible and flexing applications. Alpha Wire Inc.

Panel strain relief mounts

Panduit has introduced a new line of panel strain relief mounts, an innovative solution for securing dynamic cable bundles. These mounts are a reliable and cost-effective solution for control panel applications with control lights, touch pads, and switches in the panel door. A pivoting tether retains the position of the bundle relative to the hinge to prevent damage to bundles and components. The universal slot design permits the use of any of its developer’s ties up to 50-lb loop tensile for greater design flexibility. Panduit Corp.

Tiny but tough IECex connector

Amphenol Ampe-Ex is a miniature explosion-proof threaded connector specifically designed to allow a signal to pass through Zone-rated areas, using coax, fiber-optic cables, as well as standard copper wire. The new miniature connector is complementary to its developer’s Star-Line EX. Said to be of rugged construction, the Amphe-Ex connectors are ATEX and IECex approved for Zone 1 applications. Amphenol Corp.

Industrial cables for wide usage

General Cable’s industrial instrumentation, power, and control cables serve an extensive range of markets including power generation, refining and petrochemical, natural gas production, steel, pulp and paper, and factory automation. General Cable Inc.

IP69K-rated multi-fiber connectors

Anixter OptiTip MT connector meets the test requirements of IP69K and IP68 standards. Products rated to IP69K must handle high-pressure and high-temperature wash-down procedures at close range, 4 to 6 in. away. IP68-rated products must withstand long periods of under-pressure immersion in liquids and protect against dust or other debris. The OptiTip MT connector is a key component of Corning Cable Systems’ fully preterminated industrial cabling infrastructure that features fiber optic distribution trunk cables preinstalled with network access points at customer-specified intervals. Anixter/Corning Inc.

Positive locking connector family

The new Phoenix Contact Variosub Push-Pull plug connector system is said to have a unique, user-friendly, plug-and-play positive locking system to provide IP67 protection. Designed for Industrial Ethernet and Profinet applications, the connector family enables transmission of data and power signals directly to local devices. The Push-Pull is available in three versions and includes the RJ45 for copper data transmission, the SCRJ for fiber-optics data transmission, and the Combicon device connection technology for power transmission. Phoenix Contact

Low cost connector system

The Tyco Electronics Val-U-Lok connector system is a low-cost, wire-to-wire and wire-to-board connector system with 4.2 x 4.2 mm centerline. This connector system is intended for use in a variety of applications, including the HVAC and the appliance industries. The Val-U-Lok system consists of contacts for 26 to 18 AWG wire, plug and receptacle connector housings for free-hanging and panel-mount applications, and board-mount right-angle, vertical, or blind-mate header assemblies. Sizes range from 2 to 24 positions for double-row configurations and 3 to 5 positions for single-row versions. Tyco Electronics

Color-coded DeviceNet connectors

Turck has introduced field installable connectors with color-coded connections for DeviceNet applications. According to the company, this product follows its commitment to the customer to connect it or bus it faster. The new connectors have standard DeviceNet pinouts to the connections to facilitate installations in the field, benefiting the user by allowing them to no longer carry around cumbersome pinout diagrams to every installation. Pinouts are clearly labeled and color coded to further ease labor considerations. Turck

Patch cords for harsh environments

Black Box Network Services have CAT6 patch cords that feature stranded 24 AWG cable terminated with industrial-to-industrial connectors or industrial-to-standard RJ45 connectors. Its cables and jacks meet or exceed TIA/EIA-568-B.2-1 (CAT6) standards. They also feature flexible double-jacketed PVC for extra protection and maximum strain relief that prevents accidental disconnects from industrial vibration. They are said to be ideal for use where cable terminations are exposed to regular abuse. They are also intended for use in areas where temperature extremes, EMI, and everyday wear-and-tear take a toll on data communications. Black Box Network Services

Miniature connectors, quality cordsets

Molex Brad Harrison passive media miniature connectors includes the first quick-disconnect alternative to hard wiring; IP67 and IP68 connectors are recognized for quality, durability, and customizability. Products include cabling & cordsets, connectors, tees, terminators, receptacles and distribution boxes. BradPower connectors and cordsets bring reliable power to electrical devices without the need for the tools, threading, and pipe bending associated with installing conduit. Molex

Online Extra – Wire, cables, connectors


Tools for wire and cable selection
To help those involved in using wire and cable in their machine, automation, or plant design efforts, National Wire and Cable offers the following tools and tutorials: Cable Geometry Guide, Possible Subcable Configurations and Relative Dimensions, National Wire & Cable

High flex cable for C-track/robotic apps

SAI High Flex cables are said to be designed for the most demanding continuous flexing applications. They include PUR/PVC cables and halogen-free PUR/PUR cables that are rated for C-track applications, are weld slag-resistant, and are designed to endure the twisting motion of robotic applications. They have be tested in flex C-track applications, where the cable continuously rolls back and forth, over 2,100mm at 1.75m/s and an acceleration reaching 50m/sec2. The halogen free PUR/PUR cables achieved a rating of 2 million cycles and the standard PUR/PVC cables are rated at 20 million cycles, without failure.2, the SAI high flex robotic cables are also subjected to a special torsion test that simulates the 360° torsion twisting motion of most demanding robotic applications. These cables also feature a special PUR jacket that provides protection against melting from weld slag, making them an optimal choice for robotic welding applications. All of the new SAI High Flex cables are available in 3-, 4- and 5-pole versions as plug-and-play assemblies with M12 or M8 male or female connectors for reduced installation and maintenance time. They are also UL and CSA approved.

Weidmuller Inc.


Flexible, oil resistant tray/machine tool cable

Olflex Controlnduit. It also complies with NFPA-79 Section 12.3.1. Control is said to be a strategic long term solution to industrial automation, machine tool, and other plug-and-play applications. It is highlighted with more approvals, advanced flexibility, and a superior oil resistance design versus traditional VNTC-style cable and is also approved for use as a bus drop cable (14 AWG and larger in 3c and 4c). Lapp Group


Wire for instrumentation, Class 1, Div. 2
Houston Wire & Cable has Instrumentation – 300 Volt Type PLTC Single Pair/Triad Non-Shielded PVC cable . It is for use in instrumentation and process control applications where protection from electrostatic interference is not required. UL listed as Type PLTC and ITC and approved for installation indoors or outdoors, aerially, in conduits, ducts and cable trays in circuits not exceeding 300 V. May be used in NEC Class 1, Division 2 hazardous locations. Houston Wire & Cable Co.

600 V cables, armored, for instrumentation
Okonite offers POS, SPOS Type MC-HL C-L-X Armored (600 V). These are thehe C-L-X Okoseal-N SP-OS, Type MC-HL Armored Instrumentation Cable, Multiple Pairs or Triads – Individual and Overall Shield, 600 V – 90 °C Rating.

Compact connector accessories

mounting and/or strain relief are required and opens Lever-Nuts to applications requiring additional connector support and identification. This flexibility is said to create a wide variety of secure mounting configurations including: DIN-rail or chassis-mount, horizontal or vertical positions, andwith or without additional strain relief.

Wago Corp.


High-flex cables

Chainflex CFBUS cables are flame retardant, oil-resistant and UL AWM-, ROHS-, and CE-compliant. They feature a minimum bend radius of 10 times their outer diameter and operate within a temperature range of–31 to 158 ºF. Equipped with a pressure-extruded, flame retardant, TPE-blend outer jacket, CFBUS is designed with Energy Chaincable carriers in mind. The bus cables are said to deliver superior performance in freely suspended and gliding applications reaching 1,312 ft. CFBUS can also be found inindoor and outdoor applications, including storage retrieval units, machine tools, ship-to-shore cranes, and cleanrooms. Chainflex CFBUS also features an overall shield for increased EMI protection in any high noise industrial environment. Igus Inc.

Other providers’ products

Profinet hybrid cables
Hybrid Profinet cabling from Harting simplifies installation by combining Profinet data and 24 V power distribution in one cable. Installation is easier and faster, and your machines and systems are more reliable, company says. The new hybrid cable is ideal for use with the Harting Profinet Han 3A RJ45 connector family.

Interconnect cables for HD technology

Coleman Cable Inc. has introduced SignalPlus high-performance interconnect cables.and oxygen-free copper conductors for what is said to be superior connectivity and signal transfer. Applications include security, sound, telecommunications, electrical, commercial, and industrial applications. . Coleman Cable Inc.

Right-angle connectors with spring shielding

Binder-USA’s M12 product line has been expanded with the addition of shielded right-angle cable connectors using the advanced iris shielding spring feature. The connectors are said to be ideally suited for automation and industrial network applications where space is limited. The Series 713, 715 and 825 connectors feature an internal iris spring, which simplifies the connection between the cable shield and the connector body. This concept allows fast and easy installation of a braided or metal foil shield with 360° protection from electromagnetic interference. The connectors have 4 or 5 gold-plated contacts and are available with A-, B- or D-coding. The cable outlet accepts cable diameters from 5 to 8 mm. Connectors are IP67-rated for a protection from the ingress of water and dust. The connector housing is made of brass and die-cast zinc. Both male and female field-attachable cable connectors are offered with this new feature. . Binder-USA

Motor connectivity made easy

Manufacturers can establish secure connections to the Allen Bradley ArmorStart Distributor Motor Controller and reduce installation costs with the ArmorConnectPower Media using three-phase (Bulletin 280) and control power (Bulletin 889 and 888) cable systems. The ArmorStart Distributed Motor Controller offers a “plug and play” design that allows users to quickly connect the ArmorConnect Power Media to ArmorStart Distributed Motor Controllers. Its straightforward design eliminates the need for specialized labor and tools, and reduces overall installation time. And because the manual wiring process is eliminated, future downtime from assembly error is avoided. The three-phase and control power media include several accessories for users’ connectivity needs to provide application flexibility. Three-phase power media accessories include cordsets, patchcords, tees, reducers, and power receptacles. Control power media include cordsets, patchcord cables, t-ports,and receptacles.

Rockwell Automation


Circular wire connector
ITT Interconnect Solutions developed a miniature circular connector solution. Designated the KPTC Series, the backshell connector provides high contact density in a rugged metal shell and was originally developed for a luxury car manufacturer and an associated subcontractor to accommodate specific harnessing requirements within automotive diagnostic equipment. The KPTC Series connector is capable of integrating custom harnessing rigs and a wide range of wire gauges. Additional features include IP67 sealing and gold plated contacts, allowing the connector to withstand harsh environments, as well as bayonet coupling for quick and simple mating and unmating. A shielded endbell is available for fast assembly. Offered in size 20 and size 16 contacts, the KPTC Series connector features a lifespan to at least 500 mating cycles. Contact current rating at 20 °C is 7.5A for the size 20 connector and 22A for the size 16 connector. Contact resistance is 14.7mΩ and 3.8mΩ, respectively.
ITT Interconnect Solutions