If you’re convinced the cabling process involves only the wire and cable, think again. A range of cabling components, tools and other support products play a critical role in a quality installation. Here, manufacturers in the cabling industry discuss the breadth of the cabling market, how their products help support contractors through the cabling process in light of skilled-labor shortages, and some of the industry trends they’re witnessing.
Wire and cable
The wire and cable industry encompasses a wide variety of products for commercial, industrial and residential applications, from metal-clad (MC) cables to service-entrance and nonmetallic building wire, which are often available in both copper and aluminum conductors.
Among the many products it supplies to the cabling industry, AFC Cable Systems, part of Atkore International, is an armored and metal-clad cable manufacturer.
“One of our newest labor-saving cable and packaging solutions is our MC Luminary Quik, which simplifies installations by reducing the number of conductor terminations,” said Peter Lafreniere, cable product manager. “In addition, our long-length barrel pack solutions are easily transported around a job site by a single person, eliminating the need for reel stands and driving manpower efficiency by allowing for 360-degree pulling radius.”
Connectors and fittings ensure a continuous system or path by connecting cables to electrical panels, electrical boxes, luminaires and equipment.
“[Arlington Industries’] traditional fittings, 8412-series fittings for larger MC cable, and Snap2It metal-clad cable connectors accommodate the entire range of MC cable to fit knockouts from ¼-inch to 4-inch trade sizes and are designed to save installers time and money,” said Don Ambrose, Arlington Industries’ national sales manager. “The use of MC cable is gaining popularity because it comes prewired, eliminating the need to pull wire through a raceway (which also eliminates waste and damage to wires) and also comes in long lengths to bend around obstructions and corners.”
Arlington’s MC-PCS connectors accommodate MC cable and combine lighting and low-voltage circuits in the same wire bundle.
Cable tray/raceway/cable management
These structural systems help securely support, fasten and manage cables.
“Because contractors are increasingly strapped for time, we’ve identified ways to increase efficiency and installation speed right in the product design,” said Bob Crain, director of marketing and product development, Cablofil Products at Legrand. “For example, wire mesh cable tray systems can be installed and maintained with less skilled labor and in fewer hours than traditional conduit systems, and they’re also simpler and faster to move, add onto or change in an open cable management system.”
Clint Strong, CEO of Connectrac, maker of floor-based cabling and power distribution systems, said one hot trend is solutions that can easily adapt to space changes as well as those that promote connectivity.
“Our floor-mounted, low-profile metal raceways and flanking floor transition ramps install directly on concrete floor slabs, integrate with carpet or other flooring and create a virtually invisible cable pathway for any type of cabling and electrical power,” Strong said.
In addition to incorporating prefabricated power components, they enable connectivity anywhere in a space without core drilling or other methods.
At ABB Installation Products, Shaun Brannen, senior product marketing manager, said his company is helping contractors capitalize on cable and basket tray cost savings with two innovation solutions: the Cable Tray Helix fitting, which enables installers to quickly transition from horizontal to vertical surfaces, and QuickTurn basket tray, with factory-made fittings that eliminate on-site fabrication and increase the ease of installation.
“Installing cable tray systems—including supports, fittings and additional materials—is generally easier and less expensive than traditional conduit wiring systems,” he said. “After cable tray is installed, it’s easier to pull cables throughout a facility to the termination point, and cable tray’s open design enhances safety by not serving as a flow-through for corrosive, explosive or toxic gases.”
As a result of increasing industry standards/regulations, contractors often need cabling support products that are specialized for particular applications. Among those, Rocket Rack’s patented sanitary support system for conduit, process pipe and cable tray is designed for the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, consumer products and cosmetics industries.
“With the enactment of the 2016 Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA implemented much stricter guidelines for cleanliness and sanitation in food processing facilities in order to prevent foodborne illness,” said Julie Meyer, president, Rocket Rack.
Designed with sloped sides to prevent the collection of dirt and bacteria, these products can withstand heavy loads, and the company offers Rocket Rings, which further support cable mounting and management for devices and drives on conveyors, skids or equipment.
Chatsworth Products offers Pemsa Rejiband wire mesh cable tray—adjustable cable runway with movable cross members that simplify cable alignment above racks, cabinets and cable managers—and configurable Motive cable management products for managing cables alongside racks.
“We’re seeing more deployment of higher-power 60-watt [W] PoE in network cabling based on the latest amendment to the IEEE standard, 802.3bt, which increases the power range from 30W to 60W and then 90W,” said Duke Robertson, senior product manager, Chatsworth Open Systems. “With concerns over heat buildup in tightly bundled conductors, particularly as customers upgrade network switches and wireless access points to deliver higher power PoE and faster Wi-Fi, they’ll also need to use smaller cable bundles and intentionally space cable bundles in pathways, which our Motive cable manager can help support.”
Known for its flexible cable trays that don’t require field fabrication to maneuver around obstacles, Snake Tray provides products intended to simplify installation.
“These include our Mega Snake—a hybrid basket tray system that combines the strength and ease of a cable ladder tray installation with the flexibility and price point of generic basket tray—and our Snake Bus and Snake Connect solutions, which support the distribution of electrical power underneath raised-access floors,” said Scott Jacobitti, national sales manager. “Snake Connect offers traditional hub-and-spoke modular power for very low-profile floor systems, and Snake Bus offers over 18 kilovolt-amperes of power to office environments via its three-phase, 208-volt, 50-ampere service offering.”
Jacobitti recommends ECs seek out cable tray designs that are easy to install, National Electrical Code-compliant and job-specific, so they don’t require reconfiguration.
A variety of tools assist contractors in installing cables. Among those, Greenlee offers pulling grips and ropes to help electricians set up cable pulls as well as a variety of cable pullers that enable electricians to select the appropriate puller for each job to maximize efficiency and productivity.
“While puller speed is important, setup time and dependability are equally important,” said Jae Lee, product manager. “By offering a UL-classified puller with a customized motor for improved durability and less risk of puller failure as well as pullers designed with no loose pieces (that normally can go missing), our pullers feature quick and easy set-ups and tear downs to improve productivity and reduce downtime.”
Offering tools used to terminate and splice conductors, ILSCO sees many trends driving the category.
“The increased use of crimping versus screw-pressure or exothermic approaches for terminating conductors has driven the entry of many new hydraulic crimping tools,” said Tina Hunter, ILSCO senior product manager. “On the surface, it’s good for electrical contractors to be able to make one tool investment regardless of the connector manufacturer specified, but some of these tools are tested and UL-classified with only building-code conductors, so if the job calls for flex conductors, the connection isn’t UL-approved. These new tools are only tested to UL safety standard 486A/B, which doesn’t qualify connectors for use in grounding applications.”
Given that most electrical jobs include installation of grounding systems, crimp tools that can’t produce UL-approved crimps are problematic. Hunter advises contractors work with their authority having jurisdiction in advance to ensure their tool investment will cover all jobs needed.
Crimping tools are a similar area of innovation for ABB, which recently elevated crimping technology with its Smart Tool+, a Bluetooth-enabled, dieless crimping tool, which uses an RFID reader to automatically verify the successful crimp of an agency-listed assembly.
“Registering such crimp information as lug size, serial number, crimp pressure and indention level, the data can then be uploaded to the cloud for future retrieval through ABB’s Bluetooth-enabled mobile app and provides the ability to perform automated quality checks and collect, upload and store required data to improve on-the-job safety standards,” said Shaun Brannen, senior product marketing manager.
According to Tom Fredericks, general manager/vice president, electrical division, at American Polywater Corp., “Contractors are increasingly being required to provide cable tension calculations prior to performing cable pulls.”
This trend has rendered the company’s cable-tension estimating software valuable in helping contractors plan and design their conduit raceway systems and cable pulls in advance.
“American Polywater’s Pull Planner 4.0 cable tension software program calculates ending tension and sidewall pressure on your cable pulls, making it an excellent tool to use prior to the pull to help eliminate splices and pull longer distances without exceeding tension,” he said.
With American Polywater’s range of cable-pulling lubricants, conduit/raceway sealants, and medium-voltage cable cleaners, “contractors can pull in all types of cable, from low-voltage through high-voltage cables, hand-apply, pour, or pump lubricants into conduit systems, and meet the [National Electrical Code] on conduit and raceway sealants to keep moisture and gases from entering conduits,” Fredericks said.
“We continue to see site owners increasingly focused on protecting critical electrical and communications infrastructure like cable raceways in the event of a fire,” said Ryland Marek, global market development manager—commercial and industrial electrical construction, 3M. “Fire protection products are increasingly being used to wrap cable tray and can be installed easily with virtually no disruption to operations.”
Marek said 3M’s flexible Interam Endothermic Mat (E-Mat) installs quickly, even on complex shapes, and releases chemically bound water to cool outer surfaces and significantly slow heat transfer in the event of a fire, protecting structural steel components for up to four hours, critical electrical components for up to three hours, and wall-opening membranes for up to two hours.
Enclosures house and protect wiring and cable in a variety of commercial and industrial applications. nVent Hoffman offers a broad range of time- and cost-saving solutions that are built to the highest UL and NEMA standards and support contractors in completing safe and cost-effective cabling installations.
“Examples of these innovations include our pull box extender, stainless steel screw cover pull box and trough, and our award-winning angled trough,” said Bruna Oliveira, global product manager, commercial and wireway, nVent Hoffman.
For the market’s growing number of harsh-environment applications, ABB’s explosion-proof enclosures help contractors terminate wiring in hazardous locations. These National Electrical Code and UL-compliant products help protect, distribute, control and manage electrical systems in atmospheres with the potential for dust, explosive gas and others.
Cable/wire assemblies and fasteners
“In order to minimize on-site schedule disruptions and installation quality issues and address labor shortages, many contractors are doing assembly work off-site in controlled-environment prefabrication shops,” said Legrand’s Crain. “Because prefabrication is such an effective way to solve these issues, we’ve designed a line of branch circuit wiring mounts and assemblies that enable field adjustments post-assembly in the shop.”
In areas where repetitive wiring is needed, such as hotel rooms where many room configurations are the same, these products are helpful.
“Using our prefabricated EZE-Fab Assembly can save time on the job site and eliminate repetitive cabling work, which helps enhance the overall quality and speed of installation while minimizing mistakes,” Crain said.
ACS/Uni-Fab, part of Atkore International, agreed that contractors can increase efficiency on jobs by doing some of the more repetitive work ahead of time.
“Our ACS/Uni-fab prefabricated device assemblies and fully engineered systems are designed to the contractor’s specifications and released in stages according to the installation schedule,” said Gene Ellis, product manager.
Other Atkore prefab options involve cable tray, steel and PVC conduits.