Why only the best cable protection systems are good enough for today’s electrical world

From safeguarding the wiring that lines our buildings, machines that manufacture our food and carry electricity for data centres, tough cable protection has never been more essential.

Adequate protection of the cabling that powers critical equipment, resources and processes, has always been a necessary concern for many businesses in critical industries such as Food & Beverage, Medical, Data, Construction and Transport. However, as reliance on electrical technologies has become more prominent than ever before, with working environments and conditions becoming tougher as a result, getting the right cable protection in place has never been more crucial.

These days, an electrical system is only as reliable as the conduits and fittings that are protecting them, with cable protection systems designed to defend the wires and cables housed within against aggressive elements in the most demanding applications. However, when it comes to installing a cable protection system, often the consideration is put on upfront cost rather than getting the right solution for the right application. This can often result in a false economy, with wrongly applied conduit systems lasting for a short period of time, leading to more frequent replacement. This is also before lost costs associated with potential downtime, electrical failure and critical damage are even taken into account.

For a combined 100+ years, ABB Cable Protection has delivered the broadest range of innovative conduit systems in the world, used in a variety of specialist applications across the globe. Through our industry-leading brands PMA, Adaptaflex, Harnessflex, Kopex, Kopex-Ex and Cable Glands, our cable protection systems are specially designed, manufactured and tested to safeguard critical electrical wiring in even the toughest conditions. With specialized solutions for rail, robotics, food and beverage, automotive, EV, construction, oil and gas, pharma, renewable energy and many more, we have the knowledge and experience regarding what today’s industries need from their cable protection systems.

With this in mind, we decided to share our insights on what we think businesses, engineers and installers should look out for when it comes to choosing the right conduit system:

An integrated system is a better system

It can be easy to fall into the trap of mixing and matching conduit and fittings, but there are many downsides to this approach. Often, when cable protection systems are designed, manufactured and eventually tested, they are done so as an integrated unit. This ensures that they are built-to-withstand the expected elements within the applications they are used, offering product longevity as well as optimum performance.

In addition to this fit-and-forget peace of mind, choosing conduit and fittings that are designed to be used together also offer installation benefits. When using a mix-and-match system, installers may find themselves struggling to easily fit conduits and fittings together correctly, even resorting to unreliable taping in some cases. This not only compromises the integrity of the cable protection system, but also means the installation takes long than necessary. By using a complete cable protection system that is built to last, installers will find their time is saved as components easily and securely clip together.

Consider the necessary environmental protection

Cable protection systems are used in a variety of applications across many diverse industries – power generation, robotics, food processing, waste water treatment, off-road vehicles, rail, renewable energy – the list goes on. Depending on the industry use, a cable protection system will need to have certain performance attributes to ensure it can adequately protect critical wiring against the conditions and environmental factors in which it is applied. Although in some cases there may be some specialist requirements that demand a more bespoke system, there are common cable protection characteristics that often need to be considered:

  • Antimicrobial protection – Although typically used in food and beverage, medical and chemical applications to prevent contamination, antimicrobial cable protection may become increasingly essential in a post-COVID world. These systems are designed to prevent bacterial growth, protect against chemical substances and defend electrical wiring from intense cleaning. At ABB Adaptaflex, our team has collaborated with technology partner BioCote® to deliver a solution to market that integrates antimicrobial protection into flexible liquid tight conduit that protects complex equipment with sensitive electrical wiring systems. You can read more on this solution here.
  • Extreme temperature resistance – In certain environments, cables can be exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures which can cause critical damage if there is no suitable protection. This has also become increasingly prevalent in the automotive industry where required reductions to emission levels, along with changes to engine design to improve safety, efficiency and reduce noise, have resulted in higher engine temperatures. Without a complete and effective solution to protect the wiring and connectors in these newer engines, wiring systems can be compromised, and vehicle productivity can be jeopardized. At ABB Harnessflex, our team set out to deliver such a solution, developing their innovative TempGuard system. The TempGuard range of high temperature conduits and fittings have been designed and tested to operate at temperatures up to 200°C, offering greater protection for critical wiring in extreme temperatures. You can read more about this solution here.
  • Corrosive & harsh environment protection – For any demanding environment where cables will be put under any kind of intense strain, it is important to consider a system that will keep wiring safe and avoid rapid wear-and-tear. Flexible cable protection systems are ideal for this, as they are not only highly durable but also known for helping to prevent cable abrasion. Through using a flexible cable protection system, unreliable connections, costly downtime and equipment issues can be easily avoided, as well as using certain systems engineered to repel water, caustic chemicals and other causes of corrosion.
  • Liquid ingress protection – In any application where cables are exposed to water or other liquids, such as through routine cleaning and washing, ingress protection is essential. There are varying levels of ingress protection available and the level required will again be dependent on the application. The best systems for ingress protection will have an IP68-69 rating which means it has been tested to full submersion. However, it is again important to consider that these approvals are often based on usage of a certain combination of conduits and fittings together.
  • Low fire hazard – In the interest of public safety, it is crucial that the risks associated with electrical fires are kept minimized. To ensure the necessary regulations are adhered to and the safeguarding of human life is prioritized, cable protection solutions that reduce flammability, toxic gas and smoke generation are often preferred in many construction applications, including areas such as elevator shafts. In these applications, metallic conduits are also often preferred for the additional mechanical protection they offer. Considering this, the ABB Adaptaflex range of liquidtight metallic conduit systems is the ideal choice, having recently passed NFPA 130 tests for Surface Flammability, Smoke Generation Rate and Toxic Gas Generation. By meeting this standard, this ensures these systems meet the highest level of fire safety worldwide. You can read more about this solution here.
  • Explosion proof – Anti-flammable and explosion proof systems will commonly be found in hazardous areas in industries such as oil and gas, food and beverage and chemical and pharmaceutical. In these environments, directives are put in place to help eliminate or control risks from dangerous substances and to classify areas where explosive atmospheres may occur, so cable protection systems that meet these regulations are required. ABB Kopex-Ex cable protection systems and EX cable glands have been specifically designed to provide the optimal safe solution for protecting cables in these hazardous areas. ABB Kopex-Ex solutions include metallic and nylon flexible conduits and fittings meeting the strictest worldwide standards for use in explosive hazardous atmospheres including ATEX/IECEx, UL/CSA and EAC Ex. You can read more about this solution here.
  • Multilayer conduits – In rail applications, such as roof installations, inter-carriage jumper cables, undercarriage and bogies, conduits with multiple, different colored layers are often required. This is due to rail applications such as those listed increasing conduit exposure to potential water contamination and natural wear and tear. Therefore, by choosing a multilayer conduit the additional layer offers added security for cables whilst also providing a handy indicator for when the conduit should be replaced. ABB PMA has always emphasized the importance of offering a complete cable protection system for external rail applications. The ABB PMA range of Multilayer conduits range feature an inner and outer layer, delivering improved safety and performance in common rail applications. These conduits combine perfectly with the state of the art PMAFIX Pro fitting series, offering an enhanced performance level that also meets global fire safety certification to EN45545-2 HL2 and NFPA 130 standard. You can read more about this solution here.

Quality = performance

Finally, besides getting the right materials for the right application, it is important to ensure that any installed cable protection system meets recognized product standards. Each industry will have their own set of standards that ensure quality, safety and best practices. By choosing a system that meets the highest possible standards in the sector, it can be ensured that the conduit and fittings for that system have undergone extensive testing in simulated real-life conditions. In addition to standards such as ATEX/IECEx, UL/CSA and NFPA 130 mentioned above for explosion and fire protection, EN45545 is required for rail applications, with IEC 61386 setting the standards for conduit systems. The BSI Kitemark is another highly recognized quality mark that confirms a conduit system has been thoroughly tested to meet a recognized industry standard. It’s a mark that manufacturers use to demonstrate safety, reliability and quality, and we are pleased to say that ABB Adaptaflex and ABB Kopex have now held this prestigious BSI Kitemark for 24 years. In today’s modern world where electrical wiring powers so many aspects of our daily lives, it is critical to ensure the best possible protection is installed. By selecting an integrated cable protection system that is up to standard and defends effectively against the elements it is likely to encounter, time and costs can be saved. Not only that, but transport can be kept moving, factories can continue to produce and many other businesses and essential services can continue to run safely and uninterrupted.

For more information:

ABB Flexible Cable Protection Systems

Nylon cable protection systems for Transport & Rail from PMA

Metallic & non-metallic cable protection systems for industrial applications from Adaptaflex 

Flexible cable protection systems for Automotive from Harnessflex 

Flexible cable protection systems for Construction from Kopex 

Metallic & non-metallic cable protection systems for Hazardous locations from Kopex-Ex

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About the author

Ricardo Portillo

Ricardo is the Product Manager for ABB’s Electrification Installation products. ABB develops solutions which can be broken down into three key areas – support, protect and connect. Protection of people, as well as business-critical equipment, resources and processes, is at the core of all the products and services delivered by the Installation Products brand portfolio. Ricardo has over 20 years experience in the electrical and electronic industry, with roles ranging from production and sales to product management. He transforms customer needs into valuable solutions by aligning ABB's products and solution capabilities while collaborating with knowledgeable colleagues around the world. He is always thrilled to contribute to the future of ABB.
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