Industrial vs. Regular Ethernet

Industrial vs. Regular Ethernet: Does it Matter?


Absolutely! Durable Cable Is Imperative in Harsh Environments

One area that can make an incredible impact for manufacturers, either positively or negatively, is the reliability, security, and strength of their networking cable. Simply using any Ethernet cable won’t work. Ordinary Ethernet devices that might perform just fine in a temperature-controlled office setting won’t hold up to the extremes of an industrial environment.

I’m talking grease, dust, water and unthinkable temperatures. The environment many industrial facilities operate in is significantly different from that of an office building or retail store. And yet, many seemingly basic functions are still expected to run smoothly, despite these conditions. Factories need to be able to transfer data from one machine to another and they need to be able to rely on their cable to perform in extreme conditions.

Here’s a great analogy: How ridiculous would it be to place a penguin in the desert?

We all know that penguins can't thrive in a desert. They are not built for that environment. Similarly, the environment that cables are placed in makes a huge difference in their ability to function properly.

Does Ethernet Cable Quality Matter?

The short answer is, if your Ethernet cables are not meant to withstand the environment they are in, they won’t work. At least, they won’t work the way you want them to. Cables are manufactured to perform specific functions in specific environments. This includes environments that have:

  • Extreme temperatures (hot or cold)
  • Grease, oil, water
  • Dust and dirt
  • UV exposure

When you put a commercial-grade cable in an industrial area of any kind, it will likely physically damage the cable, resulting in data loss and potentially downtime.

Cables Exposed to High Temperatures & UV Rays

Laboratory simulations of extremely high temperatures clearly show how commercial-grade cable performs versus industrial-grade cable. Exposure to high ambient temperature or high UV levels degrades the cables, leading to breakdown of the jacket followed by rapid degradation of the insulation materials. This reduces signal strength carried by commercial-grade cables and can cause signal failure or reliability issues.

What you’ll notice: Cables will fade in color and become brittle over time. Water ingress will happen, leading to potential equipment damage and signal failure. Signal attenuation may be higher than normal, leading to lost data transmission.

Prior to testing, jacket color was pink for commercial-grade and black for Belden industrial-grade cables.

Cables Exposed To Low Temperatures

When exposed to extremely low temperatures in a series of laboratory tests, industrial-grade cables clearly outperform commercial-grade cables. Commercial-grade cables become brittle when exposed to cold temperatures. Damage typically occurs during flex, mechanical shock and/or impact.

What you’ll notice: a commercial-grade Ethernet cable jacket will crack if moved, exposing insulated conductors to outside contaminations like water, dust, oil, rodents, and physical stresses such as crush or cut-through.

Prior to testing, jacket color was pink for commercial-grade and black for Belden industrial-grade cables.

When making decisions about what type of cable to use in a particular industrial setting, it is easy to assume “they are all pretty much the same” or to consider price alone. However, thinking back to our penguin example, there are some combinations that don’t make any sense. Putting a non-industrial cable in an industrial environment is one of those examples. What might save money during installation can cause much more damage and waste much more money in the future due to outages caused by cable failure.

When you choose cables for your specific environment, remember: industrial environments like factories, plant floors, or refineries are not the same as offices. Your machines require significant data in order to function correctly, and choosing cables that are made to withstand extreme temperatures, shock, vibration, grease, water, and more ensures that they have the necessary data to perform without interruption.

This Resource Compliments of Belden

Belden is a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of broadcast, enterprise and industrial connectivity and industrial networking and products for many industries including broadcast, oil & gas, data centers, energy, healthcare, and industrial automation. Belden's reliable products and design, engineering and manufacturing excellence enable them to create end-to-end signal transmission solutions that meet the most demanding standards for data, sound, and video applications.