In the context of the rail industry there can be serious consequences where power or data is disrupted. This can range from disruption of services to injury to individuals. In addition, components such as cables can be subject to some incredibly harsh conditions as part of rail infrastructure, including immersion as a result of flooding and problems that can arise with loose connectors due to the impact of constant vibration. That’s why cable protection, and securing the interface with equipment, is so crucial – and why cable assembly is so vital to the rail industry.
The necessity of cable assembly in the rail industry
A combination of advances in technology and engineering has enabled cable assemblies to evolve to keep up with the demands of the rail industry. Adherence to global standards as well as regular auditing of suppliers ensures that cable assemblies meet certain conditions and are appropriate for use in the environments that are common in rail. These are some of the most important characteristics that cable assembly in the rail industry needs to have:
- Tensile strength. This is the maximum stress that the materials in cable assemblies can deal with in terms of being pulled or stretched before they will break. Superior tensile strength is a must – in an environment where there is a great deal of motion, vibration and pulling, high levels of tensile strength will ensure that the integrity of the system is maintained.
- Flame retardance. Cable assemblies for the rail industry require flame-retardant materials that will help to avoid, or slow down, the spread of fire. The higher the Limiting Oxygen Index rating a material has, the greater its capacity for flame retardance.
- Low fire hazard properties. From the cables themselves to connectors and conduits, every element of cable assemblies must ensure that they won’t pose an extra risk, such as releasing toxic chemicals when burned. There are many different ways that tests can be carried out to ensure low fire hazard properties, including burning under controlled conditions to analyse smoke. It’s worth noting that halogen-based products tend to give off very toxic fumes and create thick smoke.
- Vibration and shock resistance. Where cable assemblies are being used in moving railway cars they are going to be subjected to constant vibration and movement. Anti-vibration performance and compliance with specific standards for railway rolling stock will be essential to ensure cable assemblies are fit for purpose. Additional tests may be necessary where systems are going to be in constant motion.
- Ingress protection. This type of protection becomes incredibly important where systems containing cable assemblies are being submerged in water – for example, where there is a flooding situation. Flooding is one of the biggest threats to electrical systems, which is why ingress protection is so essential to ensure continuity of supply, performance and safety. The higher the ingress rating, the more protection is being offered.
Cable assemblies are an essential part of the rail industry and their effectiveness is crucial to keeping safety and performance standards high.