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Things, They Are a-Changin'

April 11, 2014

Beyond being continually challenged to stave off competitors and design innovative new products, many equipment manufacturers around the world also have to stay ahead of changing industry dynamics and associated legislation and standards. This necessitates wire, cable and wire management manufacturers to keep tabs on such changes and provide products that meet the associated requirements. IEWC works closely with these manufacturers to ensure it can provide equipment manufacturers with the latest, industry-leading solutions.

Going Green

Being environmentally-friendly and reducing carbon footprints are the goals of many standards that have been enacted by industry and government bodies. In the United States, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been working together on harmonized greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for passenger and light-duty vehicles. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requires vehicle manufacturers to comply with the gas mileage, or fuel economy, standards set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). In addition, these organizations implemented new emission standards this year for new tractors, excavators and other non-road diesel engines used at farms, construction sites and utilities. This has led many OEMs to develop "a variety of new technologies [including] more efficient engines with fuel-injection software, recirculated exhaust systems or catalysts that prevent pollutants from forming" (Scientific American). Heavy-duty trucks have been under similar requirements for numerous years already.

Beyond just emission standards, the passenger vehicle, truck and off-road equipment markets continue to feel the effects of fluctuating fuel costs. Other industries such as military and commercial aerospace are also enduring that trend, meaning OEMs are looking for fuel efficiency gains wherever they can. However, this also comes at a time when equipment is becoming more sophisticated, necessitating additional electronic components. This requires a reduction in both the size and weight of harnesses and components and is a challenge many of IEWC's manufacturer partners have embraced in recent years.

For instance, Alpha Wire's EcoGen™ product line is a great solution for applications that require space and weight savings. These wires and cables utilize mPPe, modified polyphenylene ether thermoplastic, insulation which is lighter and tougher than PVC. On the single conductor EcoWire, the wire can be up to 40% lighter and offer up to a 45% smaller diameter than equivalent wires, while on the multi-conductor EcoCable® and EcoFlex™ the cable is up to 65% lighter and the diameter is 47% smaller. In the aerospace industry, composite tape wrap cables from manufacturers like Nexans Aerospace and Thermax (CIT) utilize light weight, thin wall constructions which offer weight and space savings, without sacrificing the mechanical and thermal performance requirements.

Europe is well ahead of the United States when it comes to supporting "green" initiatives, as directives like Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) have been around for years. Many states in the U.S. have even passed legislation that requires OEMs to comply with RoHS requirements. WEEE sets out the responsibilities of electrical equipment producers with regard to the collection and recycling of waste from equipment at its end of life. RoHS bans the use of certain hazardous substances (such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and some polybrominated flame retardants) in electrical equipment, while REACH governs imported chemicals, chemical mixtures, and certain articles that release chemicals to the environment, in order to protect public health and the environment from hazardous chemicals.

Most of IEWC's manufacturer partners offer products that ensure equipment manufacturers and sub-assemblers can fully meet these directives. Of the regulated substance under RoHS and WEEE, lead is the one most commonly used in the wire and cable industry – primarily in PVC (polyvinyl chloride), neoprene, EPR (ethylene propylene rubber) and CPE (chlorinated polyethylene) insulations. Acceptable lead-free alternatives include PE (polyethylene), XLPE (cross-linked polyethylene), PP (polypropylene), FEP or ETFE. Halogen-free products, including wire, cable and wire management such as duct, are also a good solution, as they often exceed the requirements, while also often providing higher temperature resistance and reduction in smoke toxicity. General Cable has actually "developed a line of halogen-free cables, called 17 FREE™, in which all halogenated polymers and flame retardants have been eliminated and replaced with more environmentally friendly choices" (General Cable).

Social Responsibility

In regards to overall corporate social responsibility, controlling conflict minerals is important to many manufacturers. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 required the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to ensure public companies with U.S.-listed shares to disclose their use of certain minerals - tantalum, tin, gold and tungsten - and derivatives thereof that are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo or neighboring countries. IEWC works with its manufacturers to provide our customers with documentation regarding their raw material suppliers' status of "conflict minerals."

Industry Specifications

There are also regulations for specific types of equipment; for example, NFPA 79 is the electrical standard that has been developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and is "intended to minimize the potential hazard of electrical shock and electrical fire hazards of industrial metalworking machine tools, woodworking machinery, plastics machinery and mass produced equipment, not portable by hand." (NFPA 79). Certain wires and cables have always been suitable for use in certain applications under NFPA 79, including THHN, XHHW, CM, MTW, PLTC and TC. The latest 2012 revision allows for cables with only recognized (i.e. AWM) approvals to be used for NFPA 79 in certain circumstances, which means that manufacturers such as Alpha Wire, Lapp, and Lutze, among others, are providing guidelines on which of their cables are approved under NFPA 79-2007 and 2012 standards. To read this guidelines, please visit their websites, or to view the complete standard please visit the NFPA website.

There are numerous standards that equipment manufacturers and their sub-assemblers must comply with and IEWC and its manufacturer partners are here to ensure they have the complete interconnect solution they require.

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