Cables and connectors

Making the link

By Philippa Martin-King

Components such as cables and connectors are such essential elements of any electrotechnical system that we tend to take them entirely for granted. All products and systems rely heavily on wiring, relays, fuses, switches and so on in order to function smoothly. In turn, manufacturers and users of these components, sometimes so inconspicuous that they go un-noticed, rely on IEC International Standards to ensure their global safety, durability, compatibility and efficiency. The relevant standards also form the basis of all the testing and certification carried out by the third party institutions who are members of the three IEC Conformity Assessment Systems.

Fundamentally important design and installation

Much today is dependent on correctly designed and installed wiring. The work of IEC TC (Technical Committee) 20: Electric cables, is fundamental to other TCs. Indeed the TC that is responsible for International Standards used for designing, testing and making end-use recommendations for all types of cables and wiring has a Group Safety Function; many other IEC committees are therefore also reliant on its publications. Whether they are used in ships or mega offshore units, or in the thin-film gallium nitride LEDs of experimental piezoelectric materials which require miniscule zinc oxide microwires, wires and cables are essential to charging and for transporting electricity from one place or device to another.

Fire and flame propagation

IEC TC 20's work covers hazards to cables such as fire and the testing of flame propagation. That also extends to fire resistance. Its work encompasses the testing of the optical density of smoke. It also covers corrosion to cables due to reactions with surrounding chemicals or oxidation of the metals that come in contact with one another. The TC was established in 1934, and if, to begin with, its work was restricted to HV (high voltage), it quickly embraced the additional area of low voltage cables. Today, that latter group is still definitely on the increase, particularly for infrastructure demands and in areas such as superconductivity, polymer developments and EV (electric vehicle) charging, together with many others where energy efficiency is at a premium.

Joining the elements of a chain

If cables are important for transmitting and transporting electricity, so too are the connectors that join the elements of the chain together. One of these is the universal serial bus or USB that is now used globally not only as a connector, but increasingly as a means of powering up and charging all types of portable devices.

Fibre optics

Another area, covered extensively by e-tech this month, looks at the important work of IEC TC 86: Fibre optics. Optical fibres are used frequently in telecom applications and for other high-speed interconnecting communication devices. Because of the ever increasing demand for fast and efficient data transmission, both in the private and the commercial sectors, this area is continuing to develop at a tremendous rate.

Special edition for the IEC General Meeting in Melbourne

Following the November edition of e-tech, there will be another publication dealing specifically with some of the sessions and events of the yearly gathering of IEC Executives and Officers at the IEC General Meeting in Melbourne, which was organized this year by the IEC's Australian National Committee.

3/3 Philippa Martin-King, Managing Editor e-tech. 3/3 Philippa Martin-King, Managing Editor e-tech.