On plenum, polymers, and knockoffs

Three interesting pieces of information related primarily to unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable recently came across my radar screen, and I'd like to share them with you.

Jun 1st, 2003

Three interesting pieces of information related primarily to unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable recently came across my radar screen, and I'd like to share them with you.

First, in a presentation at the BICSI Spring Conference held last month, Bob Jensen gave an update of activities surrounding the development of the 2005 National Electrical Code. Jensen is BICSI's representative on the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Panel 16, which develops much (but not all) of the NEC specifications dealing with telecommunications cabling.

In his presentation, Jensen explained some changes with the proposal for the inclusion of limited-combustible FHC 25/50 CMP cable (formerly known as CMP-50 cable) in the Code. The idea of specifying such a cable type into the Code has been around for a few years, and many in the industry still recognize CMP-50 cable by the name "permanent plenum"—a term that was often used to describe the construction when it was introduced.

Two bits of news related to CMP-50. First, there is no proposal currently under consideration that would require it in all plenum spaces in a building. Rather, the nomenclature being used today is "air duct cable," and the proposed application for this cable type is inside of air ducts.

The second bit of news from Jensen's discussion of plenum cabling and the NEC is that it's possible the 2005 NEC will specify a single cable type that is acceptable for use in plenum spaces, rather than including both CMP and FHC 25/50 cable types.

Obviously, much is yet to take shape with these developments. And as always, we will work to keep you aware of the upcoming Code specifications that will affect your day-to-day work.

Interesting Piece of Information #2: DuPont Fluoropolymers and AlphaGary Corporation will work together to jointly produce new fluoropolymer compounds for use in data cables. The joint development agreement was announced May 14. A release stated that an agreement between the two organizations will "combine the patented DuPont fluoropolymer technology with AlphaGary's compounding expertise." The release further cited the following markets as targets for these new compounds: European Construction Product Directive Class A and B cable, the Chinese high-performance cable market, and the North American plenum and limited-combustible air duct cable market (sound familiar?).

The gossip columnist in me feels compelled to point out that many cable manufacturers recognize DuPont and AlphaGary as "competitors," to put it mildly, in the compounding business. The teaming up of these two outfits will, I believe, prove quite interesting, particularly because the announcement of their agreement also stated that the two "hope to participate in the advancement of codes and standards for cabling products in all regions."

And finally, for Interesting Piece of Information #3, I'll go back to Bob Jensen's presentation at BICSI. He took the opportunity near the end of his presentation to depart from the NEC summary and let the audience know that, lately, a number of knockoff UTP cables have been popping up around the country. Most of this knockoff cable is made overseas, performs poorly, and is packaged in such a way that a box of it strongly resembles a box of an easily recognizable and well-known cable. Or, I should say, any number of easily recognizable and well-known cables. Several cable manufacturers have spoken up to say that knockoffs of their brands have been circulating.

Apparently, the cable jacket on these poor-performing fakes includes either the ETL or UL symbol, falsely indicating that one of the independent testing organizations has verified performance. Indicators that may aid in recognizing this cable include an abnormally low price, the feel and handling of the cable, the integrity of the box or spool, off-color conductor insulation and the performance once tested. Additionally, the jacket may not meet the requirements of flammability specified by the NEC, thereby causing a safety issue.

Jensen urged anyone who sees such a product to contact the cable manufacturer whose likeness is being used, and the independent testing organization if that organization's symbol appears on the jacket.

Of course, if any of you have already experienced this "counterfeit cable" first hand, I would be interested in hearing your experience.

Patrick McLaughlin
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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