Choosing the right materials

Cables and connectors can withstand a great deal if you choose the right materials. But this choice is a science in itself, as the world of connection technology offers all kinds of materials and combinations. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages depending on their use. This article sheds some light on a tricky issue.

What is the best material for a cable sheath – PUR or PVC? Is stainless steel a better material for connector housings than cast zinc or plastic? These questions can only be answered on a case-by-case basis, as each material has its own strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, there are no simple rules when it comes to choosing the right materials for connectivity solutions, as the specific application always plays a decisive role. Furthermore, any connection solution is only ever as strong as its weakest link. This is often an unsuitable material or accessory where the manufacturer did not pay enough attention to material properties for seemingly unimportant C-parts.

 

Requirements can vary greatly from one sector to another. In the food and beverage industry, for example, hygiene is the number-one priority when processing and packaging perishable goods. This calls for materials that can be easily washed down and that do not lose their functionality when they are treated with hot steam and aggressive cleaning agents. The rail industry, on the other hand, requires cables that can be safely routed inside passenger carriages. Here, they must meet strict fire protection standards. As you can see, the demands on the cables are completely different, calling for different materials to be used. These differences are also reflected in connectors, cable glands, seals and other accessories.

 

To find out where exactly these differences lie in the cables, we need to look at the most important cable components, starting from inside at the conductor and insulator and then working outwards to the sheath. The conductor is often made from bare copper, although tin- or silver-plated conductors can be a more sensible choice depending on the application and environmental influences. Tin plating protects the copper against a type of corrosion called tarnishing, helping to preserve its high conductivity. Silver-plated conductors offer the same advantage, and are often used in high-temperature applications.