A critical but sometimes overlooked component, cables come in a variety of customized versions to meet specific application requirements. Cable properties such as the number of solid conductors or wire strands for transmitting power to motors as well as feedback to and from controllers and sensors are an example of what designers must consider when selecting a cable for an application.
In motion control applications, cables typically have to handle tight bending radii, abrasion, flexing, and possibly even torsional motion. On the other hand, cables for VFDs must minimize EMI effects and other sources of electromagnetic noise. Another consideration is the cable jacket material that protects conductors and insulation from harsh environments where exposure to chemicals and oil can damage the cable and interfere with signal transmission. Special varieties are available for use with mobile machinery or machine tools or even welding applications, which may require a flame-retardant material.
Often enough, cables used in the flexing and rotating applications in motion control require high tensile strength and resistance to abrasion and flammability. They’re most often manufactured using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyethylene (CPE), polyurethane (PUR) and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE).
From this wide array of choices, cable manufacturers can aide designers in selecting the right cable for their applications in several ways, through hands on design assistance but also increasingly via online tools that offer engineering assistance such as product selectors and even design tools. Case in point; Zuken’s E3.series software is being used by UK-based Electroflight to design an all-electric aircraft for the ACCEL All-Electric Flight Research Initiative.
Electroflight is using E3.series to design, build, test and commercialize an all-electric aircraft – all within a 24-month timeframe – as part of the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) research initiative. ACCEL involves a consortium of partners which aims to address the technical challenges associated with all-electric flight, to develop a more robust supply chain and ultimately contribute to cleaner, greener flight.
“With such a compressed timeframe for the ACCEL aerospace initiative, speed is everything,” says Stjohn Youngman, Electroflight’s Programme Manager. “E3.series was selected because of its ease-of-use, flexibility, and output capability for all data needed to manufacture wiring harnesses, including bills of materials.”
E3.series is already a common design tool in the aerospace industry, but also in the motorsport industry, where it helps meet racing deadlines. Electroflight plans to take advantage of E3.series’ aerospace/motorsport synergies as it will use System 25 mil-spec motorsport connectors and harness construction techniques on the ACCEL aircraft.
Youngman adds: “We’re at the start of an extremely ambitious R&D project. To get from concept to commercial offering in just two years is unheard of in the aerospace industry. Our learning curve has to be incredibly fast.”
Optimization will be key for many aspects of the design of the ACCEL aircraft. This is because for all-electric flight, it’s necessary to tackle the twin challenges of energy storage capacity and powertrain performance. To keep the weight of the aircraft down, Electroflight will be trying to keep cable runs as short as possible – through the smart placement of sources, switches and loads. In this respect, E3.series’ ability to integrate well with leading MCAD tools is an added benefit.