Up In Flames: Cable Flammability Ratings

May 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

Fires can’t always be prevented, but with a plan in place, fires are more easily contained and people can be kept safer. The same principle applies when choosing cables for your communication network. Some cable materials can pose real threats when ignited, especially if the fire is in an enclosed space where evacuation is not an option. For this reason, cable flammability ratings were developed. Here, we’ll take a look at what these ratings mean and how to use them to keep yourself safe and keep your communications equipment from going up in flames.

 

Most commercially available cable assemblies have an outer jacket made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is durable and flexible, making it a great option for many applications. But for all of its benefits, PVC has some serious shortcomings. In a fire, PVC cables can act as a flame accelerant and emit dangerous, toxic gases. Fortunately, there are cable jacket materials on the market that are less-flammable and much safer. These are especially good options for installations in enclosed spaces such as ships, aircraft, submarines, trains and other vehicles.

 

General Purpose (CM, CMG, CMx)

These cables comply with UL-1582. They will burn but they partially self-extinguish. These are often used for workstation cables and patch cords, but are not for use between building floors or in air plenum spaces.

 

 

Riser-rated (CMR)

Riser-rated cables are UL-1666 compliant and are designated for use in vertical tray applications such as cable runs between floors, through cable risers or in elevator shafts. In order for a cable to be Riser-rated, it must be able to self-extinguish.

 

 

 

Plenum-rated (CMP)

Plenum-rated cables comply with NFPA-262 and UL-910. They are the only cables permitted in spaces identified as air plenums, such as raised flooring systems and air handling ducts. Cables designated as plenum-rated are able to self-extinguish and will not re-ignite.

 

 

Low-Smoke Zero-Halogen (LSZH)

 

As the name states, these cables produce low-smoke and zero halogen, plus they are self-extinguishing. Because they significantly reduce the amount of smoke and eliminate harmful halogen from being emitted, they are used in enclosed spaces where smoke and fumes can injure people and equipment. For more information on LSZH cables and where they are used, check out this blog post.

 

 

 To see exactly how each of these cables burn, watch our cable flammability test videos.

 

Case Study – On-Ramp Wireless

April 27, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

Imagine a wireless network with more reach, capacity and scalability than any other wireless network, including cellular. That network exists and it is called the On-Ramp Total Reach Network. On-Ramp created the first wireless network built from the ground up to power wide-area machine-to-machine communication. This network uses patented technology to achieve unprecedented reach, capacity and scalability.

 

On-Ramp’s innovative technology operates in unlicensed bands and utilizes weak signals, even if they are in high-noise environments or over long distances with immunity to high-interference. This process produces groundbreaking performance with drastically less infrastructure cost, making On-Ramp wireless an ideal solution for many applications including utility, energy, agriculture, tracking and other M2M applications.

 

The issue On-Ramp had was finding a partner that offered end-to end wireless networking products to meet all of their needs. They needed a complete wireless networking solution that was made to withstand the rigors of field use with minimal lead time while being competitively priced.

 

L-com was the perfect partner, able to meet the needs of On-Ramp’s Total Reach Network with a wide range of products that included coaxial adapters, surge protectors, 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi antennas and low-loss cable assemblies. With the help of L-com’s products, On-Ramp able to supply its customers with an innovative networking solution with unmatched performance, lower TCO and greater ROI.

 

To read the full details of this case study, click here.

 

 

IP Ratings for Dummy’s

April 20, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

Don’t know an IP rating from an IP address? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. First, IP ratings have absolutely nothing to do with IP addresses. In this case, IP stands for ingress protection. Ingress protection (IP) ratings are used to measure a product’s level of protection against liquids and solids - qualities that can be very important for expensive communications equipment, especially when exposed to harsh environments.

 

An IP rating consists of two digits, each with its own meaning. The first number in the rating represents protection from solid objects and particulates such as dust and sand. These numbers range from 0 to 6. A rating of 0 means there is no protection and a 6 means the product is 100% protected.

 

The second digit in the rating signifies how well the part is protected from liquids. These numbers range from 0 to 8 with levels of protection varying from no protection to fully protected even when completely submerged and under pressure.

 

A variety of IP-rated communication system components are available to support a wide range of applications where standard products will not work.  These include IP67 and IP68 cable assemblies, couplers and adapters. Waterproof varieties also include USB, Ethernet, video and fiber optic products designed for unforgiving industrial environments.

 

Here is an example and a chart to illustrate exactly how IP ratings work:

  

 

 

To view all of our IP-rated products for use in extreme conditions, click here.

 

HaLow Wi-Fi for the IoT

April 13, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 


The Internet of Things (IoT) might have found a saving grace for keeping all of those “things” connected. HaLow Wi-Fi, pronounced like halo (hay-low), is coming to scene with a list of virtues p

erfect for smart homes, smart cars, smart cities, and even healthcare, industrial, retail and agriculture.

 

Generally, we’re used to Wi-Fi aiming to achieve lightning fast speeds with the ability to move large amounts of data.  But with IoT devices, there’s no need for super-speeds and the amount of data being transmitted is typically small.  The real need of the IoT is for devices to remain connected wherever they are without dwindling power supplies or depending on cellular data. 

 

HaLow Wi-Fi is slated to offer double the coverage range of traditional Wi-Fi while lowering power consumption. This would not only set it apart from other Wi-Fi standards, but also make it ideal for many IoT applications. Thus, the Wi-Fi Alliance is hoping HaLow will replace cellular networks in smart cities and Bluetooth radios in wearable devices.

 

HaLow is an extension of the IEEE 802.11ah standard and uses the 900 MHz bandwidth instead of the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands. The 900 MHz band is a low-frequency workhorse usually reserved for microwaves ovens and baby monitors. By using this robust frequency for Wi-Fi, the signal is able to reach further and penetrate objects and obstacles without dwindling the device’s power supply – many of which run solely on batteries.

 

Reported data rates for Halow are between 150 kilobits and 18 megabits per second. This is significantly less than traditional Wi-Fi rates, but speed is not the focus in this case. For the IoT,  power consumption, reliability and distance are the priority. The HaLow standard will be official next year and might be exactly the  divine intervention needed for the IoT.

 

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Specialized Cabling Systems for Military Applications

April 6, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

When you hear the word “military” you probably think of tanks, weapons and camouflage. Military communications and cabling systems may not be the first things that come to mind, but they certainly are an important part of military operations.

 

Cables being used in combat zones face more rigorous requirements than those used in everyday civilian applications. Military voice, video and data systems are designed for rapid deployment in harsh environments with exposure to extreme temperatures, shock, vibration, dust and moisture. Cables in these systems are also exposed to heavy EMI and RFI from motors, switching power supplies and nearby microprocessors, all of which can be detrimental to network performance.

 

These extreme conditions would render a commercial communications system useless, so combat-specialized infrastructure products have been designed to meet the needs of today’s combat-ready network systems.

 

Here are some examples of products and technologies designed to meet the needs of military communications networks.

 

Fiber Optics

 

By design fiber cables are immune to EMI and RFI sometimes encountered in the combat theatre. Additionally, fiber optic cables are now offered in special crush and impact-resistant designs and some military-styles are available with armored jacketed cable.

 

Connectors such as the Straight Tip (ST) are fitted with heavy tension springs to ensure proper mating when exposed to major shock and vibration. They are also offered with locking mechanisms for additional protection against optical disconnects.

 

Other fiber optic connectors for military applications feature Ingress Protection (IP) rated designs with screw lock mating and extra-strength strain reliefs of over 250 Newton’s to ensure a solid connection during field use.

 

Shielded Ethernet Cable

 

Shielded Cat5e or Cat6 copper cables are the way to go when fiber cabling isn’t an option. Military applications require shielded twisted pair (STP) copper cables and rugged military-style connectors for most applications. STP cabling reduces the damaging effects of EMI and RFI sometime encountered in the field.

 

Other Ethernet cabling options for military apps include IP68 rated cables that utilize ruggedized Anodized or Zinc Alloy finished connectors and double shielded, high-flex, UV and Oil resistant FR-TPE (Flame Retardant Thermoplastic Elastomer) jacket that is CMX outdoor rated to stand up to the toughest environments.

 

Jacket Compounds

 

Whether you’re using fiber or copper cables, the cable jacket compound should always be taken into consideration. The outer cable jacket of many copper and fiber cables is usually made of PVC material that is toxic when burned and can accelerate a fire spreading.

 

Low-smoke zero-halogen (LSZH) jackets are a much safer solution and a popular choice for military applications. As the name implies, LSZH cables produce minimal smoke and no halogen, both of which can be harmful to people and expensive communications equipment. LSZH cables will also self-extinguish which makes them ideal for enclosed spaces such as ships, aircraft, tanks and other vehicles.

 

Polyurethane jackets are sometimes used in military applications because of their ability to withstand damaging UV rays, oil and petroleum-based products, and mechanical abuse. Though cables with a Polyurethane jacket will also release toxic gases and will not self-extinguish like LSZH cables.

 

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