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.

 

Cable Showdown: Cat6 vs. Cat6a

March 23, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

 

Cat6 and Cat6a may be two of the most popular standards for Ethernet cables, but how do you decide between them?  Depending on your application, one may work better than the other. To help you decide, we thought we’d stack them up side-by-side for a showdown.

 

  

 

Both Cat6 and Cat6a offer speed, flexibility and cost savings. They can both be used for PoE applications and are ideal for transmitting voice, video and data, though Cat6a is able to move larger volumes of data. Cat6 cables are great for connecting access points and other devices including media converters, switches and wireless controllers that are typically running at 1Gbps speeds. Cat6a cables are typically used in data centers and storage area networks (SAN) that require 10Gbps connectivity or more through trunked 10Gbps connections.

 

The cost difference between the two is minimal. The main difference is that Cat6a is able to transmit at 10 Gbps supporting 10GBASE-T over longer distances than Cat6 cables. Cat6a also builds upon Cat6’s capability to protect against alien crosstalk, which improves performance. Though if a shielded cable isn’t necessary and a lighter option would work best, unshielded Cat6 has the advantage. As always, the requirements of your application will dictate which cable to use.

 

All Contacts are Not Created Equal

March 9, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

Certain contacts work best on certain types of cable. Here, we’ll take a look at how to determine which type of contact is best for your application.

 

First, you need to determine which type of cable you’re using – solid or stranded. All cables will fall into these two categories no matter if they’re Cat5e, Cat 6 or otherwise. 

 

A solid cable’s conductors are made of solid metal, usually copper, making the cable more rigid.  Solid cables are typically used as infrastructure cabling in walls, ceilings and conduit where flexibility isn’t necessary since the cable is put into place and left alone. They are also cheaper, transmit better over long distances (lower attenuation than stranded cable), but they are more likely to break if bent repeatedly.

 

Stranded cables are much more flexible because the conductors are made of thin metal wires that are twisted together to create a larger, thicker conductor. These cables are frequently used as patch cords and shorter network cable runs that need extra flexibility for bending.  Stranded cables are typically more expensive than solid cables, but they work well for shorter distances and can stand-up to repetitive bending without breaking.

 

Now that you’re clear on solid versus stranded cables, we can take a look at the types of contacts that are available for RJ45 plugs that are used on Ethernet cables.

 

Each contact is designed for a specific cable type and not all plugs will work on all cables. 

 

The diagram below outlines that main contact designs that are available. Some contacts can be used on both solid and stranded cable. Always check the manufacturer’s datasheet to determine if the plug/contact can be used with your cable type.

 

Best Fit Guide - Modular Plugs

October 27, 2016 at 8:00 AM

 

If you’re making your own phone or Ethernet cable, using the right modular plug is critical for the performance of your cable.  But how do you know which one will be the right fit?  With so many so many options available, choosing the right modular plug can be very confusing.  Here are the 4 factors you need to consider to get the best fit.

 

1.  Solid or Stranded Conductor Cable?

The first step is to determine which type of bulk cable you’re using, solid or stranded conductor, because each one uses a different type of plug.

 

Plugs for solid conductor cables use contacts that straddle the wire. This type of cable is typically used for permanent wiring runs inside walls and ceilings. Solid cable is cheaper and less flexible than stranded cable, so it’s best used in areas where flexibility isn’t the priority. Solid bulk cable is usually sold in pull out boxes.

 

Plugs for stranded conductor cables use contacts that pierce the wire. Stranded cable is more flexible and is frequently used in patch cords where flexibility is needed. Stranded bulk cable is usually sold in reels or spools.

 

2.  Cable Outer Dimension (OD)

To ensure your plug will have the proper fit, you must measure the outer dimension of the cable jacket. Most Ethernet cable has a nominal OD of 0.180" to 0.250".

 

Problems often occur when special jackets are used or the job calls for heavy shielding or specialty cable. 

 

3.  Conductor Outer Dimension (OD)

Cables come in many different types and styles. For example, a 24 AWG stranded data cable might have a conductor insulation diameter of 0.046", which will not fit the common RJ-style plug. So it is important to know the exact outer dimension for a good fit and optimal performance.

 

4.  Flat or Round Cable?

Modular/Telecom cable is available with either a flat or round jacket over the wires. The plug should have the appropriate entry to ensure a snug fit with the cable jacket.

 

5.  Shielded or Unshielded Cable?

If you are using shielded cable, shielded plugs should also be used. Shielded plugs have a metal outer shell and are often specified in areas where a shield or ground connection is required. Areas with high electrical noise also use shielded cable and plugs.

 

Whatever plug you need, L-com carries a full-line of RJ45, RJ11 and RJ12 plugs. Watch our instructional video on how to make your own Ethernet cable.

 

5 Things You Need to Know About Shielded Ethernet Cables

August 18, 2016 at 8:00 AM

 

Shielded Ethernet cables are widely used, so you may know what they are. You may even be familiar with some of the advantages and disadvantages of using them. But if you want to dig a little deeper into the world of shielded Ethernet cables, here are 5 things you need to know.

 

1. A single-shielded Ethernet cable has the lightest available shield but still weighs 12% more on average than an unshielded cable. A double-shielded Ethernet cable weighs as much as 30% more than the unshielded version. This additional weight may not be a big deal if you are only running a few shorter cables, but if your network is using dozens or hundreds of shielded cables, the combined weight could be enough to damage a rack, cable ladder or other cable management infrastructure. 

 

2. Double-shielded cables  have both a foil and braid shield and can better protect data from EMI/RFI and alien crosstalk (AXT). This protection results in higher transmission speeds and fewer data transmission errors.

 

 

3. High-flex industrial cables are shielded and built for continuous or high-flex applications, and also employ special jacket materials to solve common industrial Ethernet problems. They are designed for environments where ordinary patch cables fail. These cables will not breakdown when exposed to oil based lubricants, making them ideal for robotic control systems on the factory floor.

 

4. Shielded IP67-rated and IP68-rated Ethernet cables use a hood around the male connector that can screw onto the barrel of a female jack for protection against moisture and dust. Shielding the cables and connectors ensures better performance and higher data transmission rates.  IP67 and IP68-rated cables are also protected from liquid immersion, giving them another layer of protection.

 

5. Shielded Ethernet cables provide maximum performance even in high EMI/RFI environments.   Category 6 shielded cables are designed to handle today's hi-speed Gigabit Ethernet applications. Category 6a cable assemblies offer true 10 Gigabit Ethernet speeds at frequencies up to 500 MHz, making them ideal for high speed computing applications often found in data centers. Both Cat6 and Cat6a shielded cables are designed to outperform with super speeds and shielding protecting your data from interference.

 

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