Need Cables for Machinery in a Cold Environment? Here's What You Should Consider First

October 23, 2020 Marco Thull

Cables in cold applications

Cables have to withstand a variety of external conditions today, including harsh weather conditions. Therefore, it's important to know what factors to consider when selecting cables for cold applications. Read on to discover what you should pay special attention to before installation.

Temperature Resistance

Cables fit for use in extreme temperature ranges are referred to as temperature-resistant cables. This means that the cables can be used in these temperature ranges without enormous loss of service life.

Temperature-resistant cables can also be categorized as heat-resistant or cold-resistant. Heat-resistant cables are often used in metallurgy, steel or rolling technology. Cold-resistant cables, on the other hand, are often used in refrigeration and air-conditioning applications or outdoor applications where negative temperatures are to be expected.

Application Example for Cold-Resistant Cables

An example of a cold application in the food industry is a storage and retrieval unit inside a deep-freeze warehouse. This application demands a lot from the cables—even at normal temperatures due to long travel distances or small bend radii. 

Skiers as comparison to cables in cold applications

This is comparable to a top athlete. A long-distance runner whose competition conditions are usually around 68°F will achieve worse results in snow flurries and icy temperatures than a Nordic cross-country skier who achieves his best performance in negative temperatures. This is also the case with cables in extreme temperature ranges. They're engineered to adapt to the temperatures, just as cross-country skiers adapt to low temperatures in snow and ice.

The Right Jacket Material

Choosing the right jacket material is crucial to ensure the full performance of a cable at low temperatures. We at igus® can always decide which cable is most suitable for a customer’s application due to the variety of cables we offer. Our cables consist of four different jacket materials (PVC, iguPUR, PUR and TPE) for a wide range of mechanical or chemical influences. The jacket material also plays a very important role in terms of resistance to cold. Our PVC cables, for example, are only suitable for use in temperatures up to 41°F. However, our PUR cables are resistant to temperatures as low as -13°F, and our TPE cables can withstand temperatures as low as -40°F.

Jacket Damage

Jacket damage

The error pattern of jacket damage is often found in deep-freeze applications. The jacket becomes hard and breaks up so the stranding or shield can be seen. The reason why jacket damage occurs in these applications is often due to selecting the wrong jacket material. As soon as jacket damage occurs, the cable must be replaced immediately, as the mechanical protection around the cores is now missing. 

The chainflex® Catalog

For each cable inside our chainflex® catalog, you will receive three different temperature specifications. These refer to the installation type of the cable. For the e-chain® installation type, we describe a real application in an e-chain® according to igus® test criteria because we have established that the following standard tests do not reflect the reality in the application. Here the test takes place at -40°F inside our climate chamber. For the flexible application, the data is based on a test according to DIN EN 60911-504. The cable is cooled down to test temperature. After the cable has been subjected to the test temperature for more than 16 hours, it is wrapped around a mandrel. After the removal, a pure visual inspection is carried out. The specifications for permanently installed cables refer to a cold impact test. A test weight is dropped onto the tempered cable. If the jacket is undamaged, this test is considered passed.

You will also find an overview from which you can see how high the guaranteed service life is in relation to the installed bend radius and the permanent temperature.

Laboratory Testing & a Guaranteed Service Life

igus cold chamber test laboratory

Due to the long-term tests conducted in our 41,000ft² test lab, our customers can always be sure that their igus® cables will last. Only real application tests enable us to provide a unique 36-month guarantee on all chainflex® cables. This goes far beyond the legally-required guarantee of 12 months. In order to maintain this, even in extreme temperature ranges, we test the cold resistance of our cables in a climate chamber. Here our cables are tested under real application parameters in an energy chain. We can perform tests at temperatures as low as -40°F.

Do you need cables for your cold application? Visit our webpage  or contact chainflex® Product Manager Don Nester. 

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