--Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.
At the recent TIA wiring seminar in Tucson, AZ, Danield J. Kennefick, a product line manager for DuPont Fluoroproducts (Wilmington, DE), said that temporary relief was in sight for the shortage of fluorinated ethylene propylene, or FEP, but that over the long term the problem was likely to continue. FEP is used in the insulation of Category 5 plenum cable to help it meet the fire requirements in the National Electrical Code.
Kennefick outlined DuPont`s extensive expansion plans to meet the increased demand for Category 5 plenum cable. "In phase one, running into 1996, we are increasing FEP production by 40%," he said. "In phase two, which will be completed by the end of 1997, we will expand our capacity by 75%."
For the present, the shortage is being met by substituting Category 5 unshielded twisted-pair plenum cables using other flame-retardant materials. Also, bigger cables are being replaced by smaller ones, and non-plenum solutions, such as zone wiring and fiber to the desk, are growing in popularity. (FEP is not used in optical fiber cables.)
Kennefick predicted that, if the demand for Category 5 UTP continues to grow at 35% to 50% a year, there will be some relief for the FEP shortage in early 1996, but the supply will tighten again later in the year. "We could move back to an all-FEP market in 1997," he added, "and 25-pair power-sum cable could also be available that year.
"If demand continues to grow, though," he cautioned, the temporary relief experienced early next year will not last."