Requirements, Regulations, and Standards...Oh My!

Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 by Alpha Wire

It is easy to get wrapped up in the overarching requirements, government regulations, and industry standards ththat encompass your machine's design, while overlooking what might be the most important component: The Wire and cable. But if one cable fails, the whole system could go down. Shouldn't we give it some more consideration?

Just like other components of a system, such as transistors, wires must be carefully considered and thought out. For example, if one was designing an electrical system that may be placed in a radioactive environment, Galium Arsenide transistors are most often used. Although they cost a little more than the average transistors, they’re less prone to radiation damage and actually draw current faster resulting in a faster switching transistor. Likewise, wires can be vulnerable to outside electromagnetic interference (EMI). Weak signals passing through wires can be corrupted by outside noise, while outside noise can also create a false signal.

To overcome this problem, some designers may decide to keep the wires out of environments with lots of noise. However, there are situations when this just is not a practical solution. Therefore, a special “shielding” or foil should be used to isolate the wire and prevent noise. A foil shield can provide a lightweight solution and is commonly used on small cables to provide modest protection from noise. In environments that are more prone to excessive EMI, a triple foil (aluminum/polyester/aluminum) shield with copper braid shield, Alpha's own Supra-Shield, can be considered. 

It is also important to consider the movement of the device when selecting wire and cable components. The difference between a flexible and a flexing cable can mean a reliable robotic arm vs. a constant repair. We have a whole whitepaper devoted to this topic, read it here!

But don't stop there! What else might your device need, and what type of environment will it be living in? Be aware of hazards that might not be readily apparent, such as severe vibrations, temperature fluctuations, or different types of chemicals that may be present in the environment.

Overall, there are many things to consider when choosing cables for a system design. Choosing a cable at the right time in the design process can save time and costs that may result from choosing an unfit cable. Hence, next time you are taking part in an electrical system's design process, remember the cables and wires are the lifelines of the system.


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