Polyurethane Jacket Gives Cleanroom Cables Their Mojo
Author(s): Bob King
Dec. 17, 2013
What makes a specialty cable, well, special? In the case of Helukabel's Cleanflex-HF product family, it's a polyurethane compound in the outer jacket that releases minimal dust particles as it flexes during cable-track movements.
"Right from the beginning of the development, our cable designers had to focus on the applications in cleanroom environments," explains Oliver Schmitz, sales manager, specialty cables, for Elgin, Ill.-based Helukabel USA.
"To prevent particles, which contaminate the cleanroom, from originating from the cable during continuous-flex operations, Helukabel designed a special polyurethane compound for the outer jacket that minimizes the release of cable dust into the immediate environment."
NED: What motivated Helukabel to develop these cables?
OS: Cleanroom cables are used in manufacturing processes for computer chips and photovoltaic cells. These clean environments need to be kept free of microscopic particles that can have damaging results on production.
Furthermore, many manufacturing processes performed in cleanrooms use highly automated equipment that require cable tracks to guide power and data cables to prevent the cables from being entangled with the machine's moving parts.
Helukabel's intent was to create a competitive cable with additional innovative features compared to other products on the global market.
NED: How are these cables different from similar ones on the market today?
OS: The biggest advantage of the Cleanflex-HF product family is the UL/CSA approval combined with excellent performance in cable tracks. To fulfill the UL/CSA requirements, these cables use a special polyurethane jacket, which is extremely abrasion resistant and releases minimal dust particles as it flexes during cable-track movements.
NED: What problems needed to be addressed during the development process?
OS: Helukabel's product portfolio already contains several different cables with cleanroom approvals, so our cabling engineers had some insight into the challenges that needed to be overcome. However, the Cleanflex-HF still needed to pass the entire approval process since it was a brand new cable.
Right from the beginning of the development, our cable designers had to focus on the applications in cleanroom environments. To prevent particles, which contaminate the cleanroom, from originating from the cable during continuous-flex operations, Helukabel designed a special polyurethane compound for the outer jacket that minimizes the release of cable dust into the immediate environment.
Samples were then rigorously tested by continuously flexing the cables in a track mounted on a machine in a cleanroom at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Techniques and Automation and measuring the particles that escaped into the ambient air.
NED: How long did it take from conception to final production?
OS: The entire process from idea conception up to the final delivery of the power and data cables to the customer took almost one year.
NED: What effect did cost factors have in changing the final design of the product?
OS: From the beginning, Helukabel knew the target prices that would be acceptable to the potential customers. So cable pricing was always an important issue to keep in mind during the development process.
NED: Who is your target audience and what benefits will they achieve from using these cables?
OS: The target audiences are the OEMs and MROs that build and repair automated industrial machinery used in cleanroom applications, such as semiconductor, electronics and photovoltaic cell manufacturing, to name a few. Customers that have in-house maintenance teams would also be in the targeted audience that we would like to reach.
NED: Do you have any other interesting information you would like to add?
OS: In addition to releasing minimal particles into the air, Cleanflex power and data cables are flame-retardant, halogen-free and resistant to oil, UV and chemicals, such as solvents, acids, alkalis and hydraulic fluids. They can withstand high levels of mechanical stress and alternating bending cycles, and are tear, abrasion and impact resistant, even at cold temperatures. The Cleanflex line is suitable for operating in temperatures between minus 40 and 80 C.