The cable manufacturing process is what delivers the range of wires and cables that we rely on today for everything, from accessing the internet to automotive and aerospace design. But what is actually involved in it? This is a comprehensive overview of cable manufacturing, from design to delivery.
- Wire drawing. This is the first step in the cable manufacturing process and involves a metal wire – usually aluminium or copper – that is put through the process of wire drawing. This involves a metal rod being pulled through a series of synthetic diamond dies. As the metal is pulled through the dies, the dies gradually decrease in size. Lubrication and cooling systems ensure that the wire doesn’t overhead as it passes through the dies.
- The annealing part of the cable manufacturing process actually happens during the drawing. This is where a large amount of pressure is applied to the metal rod to produce a thinner wire.The downside of a thinner wire is that it can also be brittle and – if bent – could break easily. The solution to this is annealing, which is designed to create much more flexibility in the wire. This is achieved through heating the wire up to its recrystalisation temperature. What’s crucial at this point in the process is to avoid oxidation of the wire.
- Stranding and twisting. Cables are often made up of multiple wires that have been stranded together, as this has a number of benefits. It can, for example, improve electrical performance and tends to make cables much more flexible, which also increases durability. The twisting and stranding process is very much what it says on the tin. It involves twisting together two or more wires of the same gauge – usually using a proprietary formula to create the right twist length.
- At this point in the process we now have a soft wire that is also flexible. So, it can now be passed through an extruder, so that an outer coating can be applied. This could be plastic, or any other kind of insulating material.
- Up until this point in the design and delivery process of cable manufacturing, we have been creating the cable components but now it’s time to assemble the cable, according to the specification. Cabling happens at a cabling station and is the point at which the cable essentially becomes fit for purpose. Where the cable being created is an electrical or electronic cable, the cabling process is usually simple – to wrap one or more strands together with an interference protection layer if necessary, as well as an outer jacket. Other cables – those that are going to be buried underground for example – may need additional components at this point, such as steel armour to sustain pressure and keep pests out or an outer sheath for chemical or weather protection.
Cable manufacturing has clearly defined steps, all of which go into creating the perfect cable for the job. At GEM Cable we are AS9100D & BS EN ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001-2015 certified UK manufacturers of bespoke cable assemblies, control boxes, harnesses, wiring looms, panels, fibre optic products and total network solutions.