A Technical Guide to Tray Cable

Across industry tray cable (type TC) is a go-to solution that works in some of the harshest indoor and outdoor environments. Tray cable is a strong cable option, with many different features that make it ideally suited for an array of applications. 

In this technical guide, we’ll explore all you need to know about tray cables. At IEWC, tray cable is one of our many specialized products. We’re here to help you find the right cable for all your projects. 

What is Tray Cable? 

When exploring tray cable, it's essential to understand it first. So, what is tray cable? Tray cable refers to a specific type of electrical cable made for installation in cable trays. And what are cable trays? They are support systems that securely hold and help manage electrical wires and cables within a structure.

Tray cable must withstand many environments, including exposure to moisture, direct sunlight, and chemicals. The cables feature a rugged, protective sheath that guards against physical damage while meeting codes and standards for both fire resistance and safety. 

The various types of tray cables are used for many kinds of applications—commercial, industrial, and utility—in any place where a durable, flexible cabling solution is required. Tray cable offers power and communication abilities. 

There’s a range of tray cables on the market. Some types are designed for general-purpose applications, while other specialized designs are for hazardous locations and conditions. The construction of most tray cables protects them against a wide range of temperatures, including extreme heat. The cable withstands oils, solvents, and other chemicals too. 

At IEWC, we carry three main categories of tray-rated cables: SDT, Power Limited Tray Cable, and 600V Tray Cable. PLTC Cable has a voltage rating of 300V, whereas most tray cables generally have a rating of 600V. Most tray cables that we carry feature a PVC jacket and insulation. We also carry specialty options, including XPLE, CPE, PUR, TPE, Thermoplastic polymer, and even a low-smoke zero-halogen version. The 300V-rated PLTC cable is available in TPE and FR-PVC (flame-retardant PVC). 

IEWC’s proprietary SDT Cable is part of our ASCENT line. The SDT cable is a multiconductor tray cable ideally suited for many applications and permanent installations. We also have Flexible Tray Cable and Continuous Flex-Rated Cable, rated for millions of flexes. 

We also supply other types of tray cable, such as Instrumentation Tray Cables (ITC) and Armored (Interlock Armored) tray cables, upon request. If you’re looking for a specialized tray cable, reach out today to learn more. 

What is SDT Tray Cable?

Our ASCENT SDT cable is a small-diameter cable with flexible construction. SDT cable is excellent for installation in difficult areas with tight tolerances. The term SDT refers to "Small Diameter TPE" We designed this specialized cable option for use in harsh environments where additional protection from Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) is required. 

SDT cable features a shield that blocks EMI from impacting the signals transmitted through the cable. The cable also features a drain wire, providing a path to ground any interference captured by the shield. 

We use industry-standard E2 conductor color coding for ease of determination, installation, and field service. SDT cable has an FT4 rating—one of the highest flame ratings available. 

These unique aspects of SDT cables make them ideally suited for industrial settings like factories, refineries, and locations where heavy machinery and equipment generate significant amounts of EMI. The interference can disrupt the operation of sensitive equipment and communication systems, so shielded cables are essential for reliable operation. 

SDT cable is 600V rated cable, with a TPE jacket and PVC/Nylon insulation. The SDT is available in 12-18 AWG with many options for conductor counts. 

Some key features of SDT Cable include:

  • EMI Protection: The shield surrounding the conductors prevents EMI from impacting data or power signals within the cable. 
  • Drain Wire: We include a drain wire alongside insulated conductors for grounding and dissipating any captured interference. 
  • Durability: Like other tray cables, SDT cables are designed to withstand the harshest conditions, oil, chemicals, and extreme temperatures.
  • Flexibility: Install the flexible SDT cables in cable trays, conduits, or direct-burial applications. They're versatile for many project needs.
  • Standard Compliance: SDT tray cables meet all necessary industry codes and standards for safety and reliability in their applications. 

When minimizing interference and ensuring the integrity of electrical and data transmission is critical, SDT tray cables are a great solution. They’re ideally suited for industrial and commercial facility applications. 

Key Features of All Tray Cables

All tray cables, including SDT, share some standard features. Tray cable is a versatile, robust solution for communication and electrical applications. Tray cable is tailored for durability, safety, and performance under an array of conditions. 

Some of the most notable characteristics of tray cable include: 

  • Voltage Ratings: Tray cables commonly range from 300V to 600V for general-purpose applications. Higher voltages are available for industrial use. The voltage rating reflects the maximum voltage that your tray cable can safely handle, so it's critical to select the proper rating to meet your requirements. 
  • Shielding: While not all types of tray cables are shielded, most feature a protective layer of shielding against EMI. The shielding blocks out electrical noise and protects sensitive equipment. The shield may be aluminum, copper, or another conductive material. As with our proprietary SDT cable, the cable often includes a drain wire to facilitate grounding. 
  • Jacket: The tray cable's outer jacket protects against environmental conditions, including moisture and sunlight. The jacket also protects it from chemical and oil exposure. Most jackets are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), PE (polyethylene), or XLPE (cross-linked polyethylene), helping avoid any physical damage to the cable within. 
  • Insulation: The insulation material encases the conductors inside the tray cable. This insulation is essential to prevent electrical leakage, ensuring safe operation. Common insulation materials include PVC, XLPE, and EPR—each has different properties, such as temperature resistance, chemical resistance, and electrical performance. 

These standard features of tray cable reflect why it's a go-to choice for many applications, from power distribution and control circuits to communication and signaling systems. Control tray cable works in indoor and outdoor locations. 

To choose the right tray cable, consider your application's requirements. What are the environmental conditions? The needed electrical load? The requirements for EMI protection? You'll find the right tray cable for optimal performance and safety by reviewing these needs. 

Tray Cable Applications

So, where is control cable commonly found? We’ve discussed some of the main applications for tray cables. These durable and flexible cables are used in many different ways.

A few of the critical standard tray cable applications are:

  • Industrial Settings: Tray cables are ideally suited and widely used in manufacturing and processing facilities. This high-performing cable is ideal for power distribution, control circuits, and machine connections.  
  • Commercial Buildings: You’ll find tray cables in commercial spaces like office buildings, shopping centers, and hospitals. Tray cables are often used in lighting systems, HVAC control, and other electrical applications that call for a robust cabling solution. 
  • Utility and Power Distribution: Tray cables are helpful in utility applications. They’re often used in power generation plants and substations. Tray cable is a staple for renewable energy applications including solar and wind energy farms, connecting different parts of the power distribution systems. 
  • Data and Communication: Certain types of tray cables are used within data centers and at telecommunication facilities. These protective cables support data transmission and communication infrastructure with secure, reliable connectivity. 
  • Outdoor Installations: Many tray cables are used in outdoor installations (so long as they include the appropriate ratings). Tray cable is suitable for exterior lighting, traffic control systems, and outdoor security systems, thanks to their moisture and UV light resistance. 
  • Chemical and Petrochem Industries: In harsh conditions where exposure to chemicals is a primary concern, tray cables are an ideal solution. Select cables with specific resistance jacketing and insulation to ensure the safety and integrity of electrical systems for chemical refineries and plants.
  • Infrastructure and Transportation Projects: Tray cables are a common choice for infrastructure projects like bridges, tunnels, and airports. These protective cables are reliable for lighting, signaling, and communication systems. 

Whether for power control, data, or communication, the versatility of tray cables’ constructions and ratings helps them meet your needs. Tray cables are a hard-working solution that can meet big demands indoors and out. 

SDT Cable Applications

What about the applications for SDT (Small Diameter TPE) cable? These cables are used in many of the same applications as general tray cables, but because they protect against EMI, they’re the top solution for applications where maintaining signal integrity is paramount. 

Here are a few of the settings where SDT cable is especially effective: 

  • Industrial Environments: SDT cable is an ideal solution in factories and processing plants that house heavy machinery alongside electrical equipment. The SDT cable prevents EMI from impacting sensitive control circuits, instrumentation, and communication lines. It can withstand wet locations like chemical plants and industrial control systems in manufacturing. 
  • Data and Telecom Centers: SDT cable ensures clear, uninterrupted data transmission. In facilities like data centers and telecommunications infrastructure, protection against EMI is especially crucial. 
  • Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities: Medical facilities house precision instruments and patient monitoring equipment. Many of these high-tech tools are sensitive to electrical interference, so healthcare relies on SDT for continued smooth operation. 
  • Infrastructure Projects: In the infrastructure industry, communication is critical for safety. SDT cable protects control systems like traffic signals, railway signals, and airport ground lighting from EMI. 
  • Research and Development: Laboratories and R&D facilities use many sensitive pieces of equipment for measuring and testing. Many of these facilities require EMI protection from SDT cable to ensure the accuracy of data collection and analysis. 
  • Energy Generation: Another sector where SDT cable stands out is power generation, transmission, and distribution. SDT cable helps to protect control and monitoring systems for the stable, effective operation of energy production in wind turbines and other energy applications. 

SDT cable applies to many different industries, similar to standard tray cable. The most significant advantage of choosing SDT cable is that it protects against dangerous EMI. It's the ideal solution for any application where EMI could compromise the performance of sensitive and precise electronic systems. 

Tray Cables and Cable Tray Systems

In discussing tray cables, we must also review the components of tray cable systems. A tray cable system is the integrated assembly of cable trays and the cable inside them. These systems support, organize, protect, and manage many types of cables and wires.

Cable trays are the structural components that offer a support system for cables. The trays may be made of metal (typically steel or aluminum), fiberglass, or similarly durable materials. The trays come in many forms, including trough, channel, solid-bottom, ladder, and wire mesh types. 

Cable tray systems protect the cables from mechanical damage and environmental hazards while offering easy access. Many cable trays feature open designs, which allow personnel to reach the cables for maintenance, inspection, and upgrades.

The systems are easy to expand and reconfigure, making them very scalable. You can accommodate additional cables, change the layout, and adapt them to changing infrastructure needs. The cable tray systems comply with standards to enhance safety performance while offering a well-organized and neat installation (avoiding hazardous tangled and exposed wiring).

Tray cable systems are found across most industries that use tray cable. They’re a comprehensive solution to manage and protect cables in nearly every setting. They’re durable, flexible, and efficient.

Selecting the Best Tray Cable

When selecting a tray cable for your application, a few frequent questions often arise.

  • Can tray cable be used in residential projects?
  • Can tray cable be installed in conduit? 
  • How do I know how to calculate cable tray size? 
  • How do I calculate cable tray fill? 
  • What is the selection process to get the right tray cable for an application?

Choosing the right tray cable starts by determining your voltage requirements and selecting the appropriate conductor size and material. Other factors include temperature ratings, flexibility, chemical resistance, and sunlight resistant capacity. Assess your mechanical strength and shielding requirements for EMI and needed UL or other industry standards. Will you use the cable indoors or outdoors? Will you use conduit installation or direct burial?

Tray cables can be installed in conduit, depending on the installation requirements and the local electrical codes. The properties of the tray cable, including the size, insulation type, and temperature rating, must be compatible with the conduit. The conduit must protect the cable without damaging it, so consider bending radius and heat buildup. Make sure that there is proper ventilation and heat dissipation in the conduit. Also, check the fill capacity against the NEC (National Electrical Code).

As for residential use, tray cable is typically used for industrial hazardous locations and applications. However, it's still appropriate for electrical cables running power to detached garages, facilitating outdoor lighting, and within HVAC systems. Some tray cables are used in burglar alarms as well. The NEC explains how the different types of cable should be used.

Tray cable is durable and resistant to many environmental factors, but proper installation and practices are vital to ensuring safety and longevity. Conduit or cable raceways may be needed for additional protection. Local building and electrical codes may have requirements and restrictions for residential applications. For most residential wiring, other cable types, like NM/Romex, are often the more suitable choice.

Find Tray Cable and SDT Cable at IEWC

At IEWC, we carry an array of tray and SDT cables for your applications. Start by determining your needs and the parameters of your application. Our high-quality cables are suited for specific applications. 

Have questions? You can reach out to our team to request a quote. We can help you determine the best tray cable and SDT cable to withstand environmental conditions and protect your other components from damage.