Panel building - The importance of identification

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For panel builders, using cable management solutions to identify wiring, terminal blocks and components is vital. Not only will clear identification aid future maintenance and reconfigurations, it will also offer reassurance to those responsible for health and safety. John McGee, product manager for identification and protection at HellermannTyton, looks at the cable identification solutions available and how panel builders can potentially save time and money

Cable management is an important part of panel building. Correct and clear identification offers a number of benefits, for both the short term and future use. Cable management technology has advanced significantly in recent years, meaning panel builders now have a wide range of differing solutions.  This ensures they can find the right solution to address a variety of issues.

Looking first at identification markers, one of the most important aspects to identify is the right material for each individual application. Markers are available to suit a range of environments and situations, such as zero halogen (HF) and limited fire hazard (LFH). Cable management products that meet HF and LFH are tested for toxic smoke generation, flammability and flame propagation to ensure that in the event of a fire, fumes from burning electrical installation are not a threat to public safety. This is crucial in enclosed environments, such as underground stations.

One identification marker solution for panel builders to consider is heatshrink sleeving. For those looking to mark a variety of cable sizes, a range of printable sleevings can be used. These significantly reduce installed costs by eliminating the need to make up legends using individual cable markers. In addition, as the tubing shrinks to fit around the cables and wires, it becomes a permanent marking. This means it cannot be moved by accident or tampered with. It is advisable for panel builders to use a product that has good resistance against solvents and chemicals, as this will ensure cables and wires remain properly identified in a range of environments, including industrial settings.

An additional benefit of heatshrink tubing is its ability to work in extreme temperatures. For example, heatshrink tubing is available that operates in temperatures of between -55 deg C up to +135 deg C, which again is ideal for arduous and unpredictable environments.

If saving time is important, it may be an idea to investigate on-site printing of identification markers.  HellermannTyton offers thermal transfer desk and benchtop printers, ensuring markers can be produced as and when required. This eliminates the need to wait for a third party to produce and ship the labels back. In addition, having access to an onsite printer means any last minute work can be completed, or changes can be accommodated at short notice. This will help to reduce waste, which will save money, as well as streamlining operations and subsequently reducing downtime.

An added benefit of these systems is other types of labels can be produced by them including terminal block identification, labels that replace engraved plates and self-laminating labels for wires that are already connected. In fact, most of the identification requirements for a panel builder could be covered with one investment.

For those who do not feel this type of investment is justifiable, the tried and tested slide on core makers can still be used. These can be bought from a variety of manufacturers, including HellermannTyton, and have individual letters and numbers on them. The markers are threaded onto wires and cables to make up a text and/or numerical legend.

Where risks are lower, or public safety is not an issue, then simple coloured cable ties may prove to be an ideal solution. In addition, this will also be a cost effective solution when high specification cable management solutions wouldn’t offer any particular benefit.

While cable management and identification solutions may not always be seen as the most important part of panel building, it would be a mistake not to consider the specification process carefully.  The best advice is to take all components into account when choosing solutions and apply to same diligence to cable management products as the larger elements. By selecting the right material and solution for each application, panel builders can be confident in their work, ensuring end-user risk is minimised and money is being spent wisely.