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SCOPE: This document provides the reader with a rudimentary understanding of cable
conductor components and their functionality. Targeting a systems operational priorities,
one should be able to select important cable features that contribute to a cable interconnect
systems (assembly) best-fit performance attributes.

This document presents a comprehensive array of cable component options. It is not practical to encompass all possible cable component
features many of which are very application specific. Submersible Tether cables require different constructions features than an Electro
Surgical umbilical assembly.

Conductors: Select the type of wire that meets both electrical and mechanical requirements
• Coppers {OHFC Bare, Tinned, Silver }
• Cadmium Copper Alloy 162
• CS-95 (Beryllium Alloy)
• Cadmium Chromium Copper Alloy 135
• P19 & P24 Cadmium properties, “cadmium free”
• Radiopaque (LCX & Carbon Fiber)
• Tinsel wire
• MFD wires
• Thermocouple
• Litz wire

Copper: Copper has relatively high tensile strength, is easily soldered, and has good
conductivity. Other materials conductivity are rated relative to copper IACS
Though resistance of copper increases with oxidation, it is much less expensive than other precious metals i.e.
Silver which retains more conductivity when oxidized. IACS = International Annealed Copper Standard:
OHFC: oxygen free benefits = better drawing and resistance to hydrogen embrittlement than ETP copper

Aluminum: Consider where flexibility & low weight are highly desired.
Aluminum wire is used for high voltage tension wires although aluminum has only about 60 percent of the
conductivity of copper, its lightness makes long spans possible. Its relatively large diameter for a given
conductivity reduces corona. The draw back is its softness results in 33% more creep than copper wire.
Aluminum is relatively low in cost.

Copper Clad Steel: Lowest cost high-strength composite, highly resistive wire.
Copper clad steel (CCS)is available in a number of conductivity classes, 30 thru 70% relative to copper. Silver
plated or bare CCS is often used for conductors of high frequency coaxial cables where skin effect lessens the
detrimental effects of the highly resistive steel core of the wire. There are several popular higher conductive, high
strength alloys that provide similar flex life and tensile load properties.

C162 Cadmium/Copper Alloy: High strength, moderate cost, good conductivity wire
Early entrant high copper high strength alloy offers good physical properties and is less costly than other more
exotic alloys. Conductivity 80% of copper. OSHA Considers Cadmium to pose a risk to the environmental and
worker safety.
135 Chromium/Cadmium/Copper Alloy: Very high strength, high cost, good conductivity
This alloy provides exceptional strength to conductivity performance. Conductivity 90% of copper. Flex fatigue
data suggests over 25 X the flex life for a comparable copper conductor. OSHA however considers alloy
components to pose risks to environmental and worker safety.

P24 & P19 ( = environmentally friendly) Cadmium free /Copper Alloy: These cadmium free
alloys provide similar strength to conductivity performance as Alloy 135 but are void of
potentially hazardous substances per OSHA Regulations.

CS 95 Beryllium/Copper Alloy: Extremely high strength, high cost, marginally conductive wire.
This material is used where flex fatigue is more critical than conductivity. Flex fatigue data suggests over 50 X
the flex life for a comparable copper conductor.
Wire alloy comparison table (Figures based on solid 18 AWG wire)
Material DC resistance Weight Nom cost
@ 20° C LBS/MFT breaking
OHMS/MFT strength
Copper 6.39 4.92 49 lbs. Nominal
Aluminum 10.3 1.5 25 lbs. Lower
Alloy 135 7.06 4.92 70 lbs. High
Copper Clad 16.28 4.51 70 lbs. Moderate
Steel Annealed
Beryllium Very high strength alloy offers superior flex life with
Copper significant increase in DC resistance. (ask for details)
Cadmium Alternate high strength alloy offers superior flex life with
free Copper minimal increase in DC resistance. (ask for details)
Tinsel Ultra long flex life, with significant increase in DC r.
MFD * Multifilar stranded drawn wire lowers
DC r. & Increase flex life.
• MFD is a trademark of Scilogy

Conductor Mechanical vs. Electrical Property Trade-offs

When selecting the appropriate wire for the application one must consider a number of factors including; ease of assembly
(solderability) temperature survival (materials and plating), bend and flex fatigue (stranding, alloy wire size), tensile load (alloy and
wire size), system loss and voltage requirements (gauge and material type), ductility ease of motion (hardness, stranding and
material) etc.. Below are some of the most common mechanical and electrical considerations that a designer should understand
when matching the appropriate wire with the applications most critical needs.

Flex Life - (or flex fatigue life) is the number of cycles a sample can withstand when subjected to a repetitive stress or strain before
failure. Reversal of stress or strain causes micro-cracks. Continuous cycling causes the fractures to propagate to the point of failure.
Flex fatigue may be tested using different modes of cycling for axial bending, torsion, or rolling. The applied stresses may be in a
singular mode or a combined mode. ASTM B 470 specifies a standard flex test for uninsulated conductor. It is a single mode test
and basically subjects a specimen to:

• an axial bending mode

• specimen fixtured with a tensile load of approximately 1,500 psi (1.05 kg/mm2)
• axial bending cycle of +/- 60º from vertical
• flex rate of approximately 24 to 36 full cycles per minute
• specimen flexed over mandrels with a diameter of approximately 4X the specimen diameter
• cycled until complete rupture of the specimen

The major factors influencing flex life, when tested in accordance with ASTM B 470 are the tensile strength and the strand count of the
conductor. Higher tensile strength material, in general, exhibits higher flex life. Increasing the number of strands, using finer strand
diameter, will also increase the flex life of a given size conductor.

Lay length has an effect on flex life, and shortening the lay length will increase flex life slightly. Conductor construction (with the same
number of strands) e.g. true concentric, unilay, etc. will also influence flex life, however the effects of these attributes are less significant
than the material’s tensile strength, elongation and strand count.

Flex life results are not “exact” as the range of results within a test group, between test groups and between test apparatus often produces a
large standard deviation. Hence there are no standard values to use for comparison.

PERCON® is a registered trademark of Fisk Alloy Wire, Inc.

Tensile & Breaking Strength: Tensile tests are conducted to determine the tensile strength/break strength and elongation
of a conductor. These properties depend on the alloy and temper as well as the size of the conductor being tested.

Effect of Conductor Size: Tensile strength is a material property that is independent of geometry and dimensions. A
material’s tensile strength is dependent upon the temper of the sample being tested.

Break strength is defined as the maximum load the sample can sustain before rupture. It is dependent upon the material, its temper
and the cross-sectional area of the specimen. Larger conductors of the same material and temper will have higher break strengths.
Break strength is a definitive measured property which does not require any calculation.

Elongation can be affected by conductor size and specimen gage length. Normally, elongation for a material is dependent upon its
temper, however, finer diameter conductor strands with the same temper will have lower elongation. Decreasing the specimen
length will increase the apparent elongation.

Conductor Elongation: Tensile and elongation are measures of a material’s temper and are usually specified in conductor
requirements for most materials other than pure copper. Copper, considered the standard conductor material, has been well
characterized throughout its many years of use. Its tensile characteristics are well documented and understood. Present
specifications (ASTM, NEMA, etc.) require only the use of elongation as the measure of copper’s temper in its final conductor
form. Procurement specifications for materials other than copper should contain requirements for tensile strength or break strength
and/or elongation. * Flex life and Tensile strength descriptions compliments of Fisk Alloy Wire Inc.


One of the primary goals in the development of rubber or plastic compounds for cable insulation and jackets is to obtain physical
and electrical characteristics that are stable at elevated temperatures in either wet or dry environments. From an engineering and
design viewpoint high temperature resistance is highly desirable and increases product safety factor. The keynote here is, insulation
stability during current surges and other extremes. A strong consideration should be a footnote that appears in ICEA Standards
covering emergency overload ratings - "Operation at these emergency overload temperatures shall not exceed 100 hrs. per year.
Such 100-hr. overload periods shall not exceed five."

Regrettable research performed to develop materials with excellent thermal stability appears to have been turned slightly out of
focus and some questionable conclusions reached because of this distortion. Because of commercial expediency, some suppliers
promote temperature ratings to shear "gimmick" status with considerable appeal to consumers and, in a sense, turned the cable
business into a temperature race. One sound method for placing operating temperature back into proper perspective is to bring into
sharp focus a very fundamental fact of electrical engineering - "Hot conductor costs money!" As the current load increases on a
given conductor size, the following phenomena occurs:

1. The conductor resistance increases.

2. The conductor increases in temperature; becomes an electric furnace.
3. Voltage drop increases and makes the conductor less efficient.
4. The degradation of insulations and coverings is accelerated.

Voltage Drop & Current Capacity Calculations

What is voltage drop, and how can I calculate it for my application?

Answer: In many cases (especially with low voltage lighting), the output voltage from the power supply must be much
higher than the lamp(s) voltage. The reason for this is that a significant amount of power is lost due to the electrical
resistance of the power cable.

The voltage drop over a length of cable can be calculated by using the formula, V = IR, where V is the voltage drop, I is
the current draw of the light in amps, and R is the total electrical resistance of the power cable in ohms. The current draw
of a particular lamp can be calculated if the wattage and voltage of the lamp are known. The current draw is equal to the
lamp wattage divided by the lamp voltage, or, amps = watts/volts.

For example, referring to the table of electrical resistances of various wire gauges listed below, we can calculate the
voltage required to operate a 24 volt-300 watt light at 24 volts over 250 feet of 16 gauge cable. The current draw, I, of a 24
volt-300 watt lamp operating at 24 volts is 300 watts/24 volts = 12.5 amps. The resistance of 16 gauge wire is
approximately 4 ohms/1000 feet. Since the total path of the circuit is from the power supply to the light and back to the
power supply, the total resistance of the cable is twice the length of the cable times the linear resistance, or for this
example, R = (2 x 250 ft) x (4 ohms/1000 ft) = 2.0 ohms. Since V = IR, the voltage drop, V is equal to 12.5 amps x 2.0
ohms = 25 volts. This means that 25 volts is lost due to resistance and so the power supply will need to provide at least
49 volts to power this 24 volt-300 watt light over a 250-foot cable!
Determine wire gauge & insulation type for a systems current (amperage) requirements

Current carrying capacity (ampactiy) is the maximum Table 1

amount of current an insulated conductor can carry
without heating beyond a safe limit. Major influences
1. Conductor material. Ampacity is affected by
conductivity. Thus the ampacity of aluminum is
approximately .80 that of the same size copper
2. Ambient Temperature. The higher the surrounding
temperature, the less hear required to exceed the
maximum allowable temperature.
3. Insulation Type. The degree to which heat is
conducted thru the insulation.
4. Installation Method. In air, conduit, duct, tray or
direct burial. Bundling, stacking and spacing all
affect heat dissipation.
5. Installation Environment. Heat dissipation by
conduction, convection, forced air flow, air
conditioning etc.
6. Number of conductors. Single conductors have a
higher ampacity rating than equivalent size
conductors bundled in a cable.
7. Amperage. Heat increase is not linear; it varies as
the square of the applied current.
These many factors make it impossible to construct a
simple charts for ampacity. Table 1 merely show the
approximate amperage which will raise the
temperature of a single conductor in free air from a
30°C ambient to the temperature rating of several
commonly used insulations. It therefore be used only
a guide to establish current carrying capability of
insulated wire and cables.

Practical Example: System Maximum Current = 6.5 amps.

Cable = 10 conductor bundle in ambient temperature

Choice #1 22 AWG 80 Deg PVC insulation: Table states 8 amps for 22 awg @ 80°C , but when derated for
bundle size the actual = 5.6 maps which is insufficient. 22 awg = 8 Amps X 0.7 correction factor = 5.6 amps.

Alternate #1 20 awg 80 deg PVC insulation: Table states 10 amps for 20 awg @ 80°C, when derated for bundle
size the actual = 7 which is sufficient for the application. 20 awg = 10 Amps X 0.7 correction factor = 7 amps.

Alternate #2 22 awg 125 deg XLPE insulation: Table states 11 amps for 22 awg @ 125°C, when derated for
bundle size the actual = 7.7 maps also sufficient for the application. 20 awg = 10 Amps X 0.7 correction factor = 7

The designer then can choose to increase wire gauge i.e. 20 AWG using the 80 degree PVC or stay with the 22
AWG wire but switch to the higher temperature rated cross link polyethylene insulation which will tolerate the
increase heat generate by the smaller gauge wire. A system designer should always factor in safety margins
when choosing the appropriate wire size and insulation material for the application.
Disclaimer These ratings and correction factors are in accordance with NEC code but do not represent the complete code; nor are all
possible factors that could affect the current carrying capacity of an insulated wire accounted for as is possible in each unique application.

Sources for ampacity date: Tensolite 2nd edition product handbook / Eng. Pocket reference Sequoi Publishing inc. / Brand-Rex EC1-81 /
NEC-1971, Article 310
Plating of Conductors
Time, Temperature & oxygen will cause the formation of copper oxide on the copper
wire surface. Plating the wire will mitigate oxidation however tradeoffs must be
considered. Refer to the table when considering which plating, if any is appropriate for
your application.

Plating performance and trade offs

Plating type Thickness Benefits disadvantages
Silver 40 µ inch good solderabity High cost
resistance unchanged
high temperature rated 200
Tined copper 40 µ inch Improves solderability & low increases
cost resistance
Overcoat ≥ 40 µ inch Improves solderability & > > resistance, not
tinned copper cost than tinned flexible
Top coated ≥ 40 µ inch Improves solderability & >cost > resistance, better
than tinned < than Overcoat flexibility than
Nickel 50 µ inch High Temperature operation Less wetting
250°C, less wicking

Stranding Selection Considerations

Single strand:

Common multiple strand constructions 7 thru 26 strand:

High strand count >26:

Wire rope > 100:


Strand Construction
Bunch: !
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True Concentric: *

Unilay: ! #
# +

Rope stranding: ,*-. #

Other Special function wire constructions
Tinsel Wire:
/ 0#
# #
# # #

Litz Wire: 0 *! /
/ 0 #

/ / 0

/ 1

Magnet Wire2 3 3
1 *
4 #
4 0 5 4 #
! 6

3 ! 3
$%) ! ''%!

Resistance Wire:

Thermocouple Wire2*thermocouple consists of a pair of dissimilar wires joined at one end. Selected wires
with different known thermoelectric properties will produce a useful electrical signal that varies with the
temperature difference in a predictable way. Thermocouple materials are produced, tested and sold in 3 tolerance
grades, called standard, special & extension which are intended to ensure interchangeability of thermocouple
sensors without special calibration testing reported to the user. The usual goals in picking a thermocouple type
are to provide an adequate measurement over the longest possible life, and at the lowest cost.

Multi Filament Drawn (MFD®) Composite Wire: *

/ 4 #
# 1 !

78 7 7! 7 ! *-. * - .
9 * 9 * + + 76* 7
* 6 *
*! International Annealed 9 ! 9 * 6 *
Copper Standard ! ! 6
Metric Conductors Table
! " #