How to select the right wire and cable identification marker

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Stephen Earley, TE Connectivity's global product manager for wire and cable identification, explains why it is important to select the right type of identification marker for the job and how TE is connecting with panel electrical installers and panel builders.

How to select the right wire and cable identification markerWhen faced with a finding the right wire and cable identification product from hundreds of options, wire and cable identification can seem complex. There are many products and standards on the market and there is a big mix of personal preference among installers and customers about the best type of product.

Any identification marker has only two purposes: to remain in place and to remain readable. Markers need to survive tough environmental factors such as chemicals, moisture, mechanical wear and tear, abrasion, extreme temperatures and strong sunlight. By remaining readable and attached to the cable, a marker will ensure that, during inspections, refurbishments and refits, technicians and engineers can quickly identify the right wire or cable.

When choosing, installers can opt for markers such as slide-on and snap markers, self-laminating and flag-style pressure-sensitive labels, as well as heat-shrink and markers suited to harsh environments. With all these products to choose from, most installers often turn to familiar and trusted suppliers like TE, as well as their own and their colleagues' experience and recommendation.

How do you choose the right wire and cable identification product?

TE Connectivity is now offering better support to installers and buyers of markers by taking the time to connect with them. One of the first signs of this is the new catalogue, which has been designed around the three approaches that buyers take when searching for markers. This makes it simpler than ever to find an off-the-shelf product that meets the right specifications for the installation at the same time as meeting the product preferences for the end customers.

The first thing buyers do is look for the right product type, so markers are listed by types such as printable tubes, tags, labels, pre-printed markers and printer hardware, software or accessories such as ribbons and reel holders. The second thing they often want is to find products that meet the standards and specifications of a particular industry fast, whether that is general-purpose electrical, industrial, marine, rail or defence.

The third and final way is when the specifier already knows a part number for their marker - they can make sure that they order the right size and quantity by delving into the detailed listings in the catalogue.

As well as the catalogue, TE is bolstering its behind-the-scenes product support - for example, by providing one-page fact sheets for every product that gives extra hints, tips and explanations such as about colour coding or imperial/metric conversions.

Most popular wire and cable markers

Three of the most popular types of marker are pre-printed markers, self-laminating labels and flagging labels.

For one-off or low-volume projects, pre-printed snap- or push-on markers such as Z-type markers can be used to spell out the label one letter or number at a time. Although this can be time-consuming, it is simple, straightforward and flexible. Different products suit different applications and some can even be used on pipes and conduits.

When moving to higher volumes, fitters need to take an automated approach by using a printable system for either self-laminating labels, which wrap around the cable, or flagging labels such as self-laminating SBP labels that tail around the cable and stand out like a flag. These support bar codes, sequential numbering, logos or symbols and letters from any alphabet.

When marking cables for tough industrial environments, heat-shrink tubing can be the best option. For example, the D-SCE marker will give guaranteed performance when used in close proximity to diesel engines, where it will withstand extreme heat and organic liquids.

Materials science

Failure of a marker can come from the material itself or because the mark fades or rubs away. Many environmental factors can increase the likelihood of failure, such as solvents, diesel or other chemicals, abrasion or mechanical wear, or prolonged exposure to sunlight.

To guarantee performance, TE uses a system approach that includes the material of the marker and the mark on it. It ensures that the marker remains in place and legible so that a maintenance technician will be able to find the right cable quickly and efficiently when the time comes.

In terms of the material, markers are normally based on polymers with chemical additives lending characteristics such as low fire hazard performance, and resistance to ultra-violet light, mechanical wear or chemical exposure. The system approach includes laboratory testing against industry standards to prove the performance of individual product lines.

In manufacture, control and traceability become imperative. The end product can be affected by many variables in the production process, even with the same ingredient quantities. Tight control in development, testing and manufacture translates to consistent, high quality and dependable marker which are readable and firmly attached to cables and will be for many years.

For printable products, the system approach includes the marker product, printer, ink and software settings, as these are proven and tested together against the industry standards.

TE's background in materials science for markers goes back 70 years, when Raychem developed the first heat-shrink tubing made from cross-linked polyethylene. Since then, TE has worked on developing the best product set and, to help with this, acquired the Critchley and Idento brands and their leading products.

Follow the link for more information about wire and cable identification marker products from TE Connectivity.

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