Factory automation fosters flexible cable

DN Staff

November 18, 1996

4 Min Read
Factory automation fosters flexible cable

Fairfield, NJ--There's no argument. Customer's likeOlflex(R)-190 multiconductor control cable. UL approved and CSA certified, Olflex-190 stands up to mineral oils, synthetic oils, and water-based coolants--which means excellent performance in harsh industrial environments like assembly lines and CNC machining centers. Conductor sizes range from 20 AWG through 2 AWG.

However, as PCs populate the factory floor, those same customers want a similar, but smaller computer cable. Hence, the Unitronic(R)-190 and Unitronic(R)-190CY. Available from 22 to 28 gauge, the new cable offers the same features as the Olflex-190, with a double shield for applications where electrical interference may distort signal transmission, or where EMI emissions need to be suppressed.

Similarly, the new Olflex(R)-490 series flexible control cable, good for machining and grinding operations, offers the same features as the Olflex-490 CP series, with one exception: a copper braid protects the cable from electrical magnetic interference (EMI).

It is these factors--the ever-expanding factory automation market, and a rapid response to that market's needs--that largely account for the exceptional growth at Olflex Wire & Cable. Over each of the last three years, revenues have increased by an average of 30%, claims company spokesperson Harry Pizutelli.

Automation within the auto industry generates a huge demand for flexible cable, explains Executive Vice President John Ciccone, who also notes that "30 to 35% of our total sales comes from this sector."

But Ciccone is quick to add that other industries are following suit. Machine tool builders, paper and pulp plants, textile mills, the packaging business...increasingly, all involve automation and robots. "It's only when you begin to appreciate the extent of automation within these industries," Ciccone says, "that you can explain the growth at Olflex."

Solutions, solutions. Factory automation also opens doors to other cable markets. Because new cutting machines in the packaging industry operate faster than ever, they require special lubricants--some of which eat through the jackets of traditional control cable.

Olflex Director of Operations Ed Rice points out that the development of new compounds to resist oils and lubricants "contributes to our expanding product line." As an example, Rice points to National Machinery, a manufacturer of grinding machines. With the introduction of Olflex-190, the company overcame a problem of failure due to harsh cutting oils.

Applications involving extreme torsion and bending also contribute to the company's product line. For example, SONY Manufacturing Corp., San Diego, CA, uses equipment that continuously rotates and twists during automated production of television components. Power and control cables installed on the original equipment, the company reports, failed on a regular and frequent basis.

The solution to these troubles involved two separate products. Specification of the first product, Olflex FD(R) cables, satisfied the high-flex requirements of cable-carrier installations on SONY's traversing machine components. Application of the second product, Olflex-Robot 900 cable, handles the torsional stresses created by the SONY facility's many rotating robot arms. Good for millions of cycles, this cable also transmits control signals and power supply to welding robots and rotary tables.

Additionally, because system intelligence can "move with the machine," field bus cables require flexibility. That's why Olflex Wire & Cable recently introduced its Unitronic-BUS FD. Compatible with CAN, MeBus, LON, Andere, and DeviceNet systems, the new cable transmits data at a rate of 1 Mbit/sec for system lengths of 400m, and offers a minimum bending radius of 5 inches for continuous flexing applications.

International markets. "A lot of bus equipment is sold from Europe into the U.S.," notes Ciccone. "By offering a cable for it we can capture a significant percentage of an expanding market." Ciccone adds that because Olflex cable is CSA certified, as well as UL approved, it also meets the needs of the export market. "OEM companies that are shipping their equipment into Europe need European-approved and European-sized cables," he says.

In keeping with this international marketing philosophy, Olflex--in a joint venture with sister company Contact Electronics--has opened a warehouse/distribution center in Guadalajara, Mexico. The new facility houses the entire Olflex product line and operates as a hub from which all Latin American orders are processed.

"It's funny," says Ciccone. "At the end of World War II, Olflex founder Oscar Lapp started a business to help rebuild Europe's industrial base and emerging auto industry. Back then, the company could barely keep up with demand for its multi-wire control cables." Forty years later, Ciccone notes, the North American Division is experiencing similar growth--once again spearheaded by the auto industry and factory automation.

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