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Flexible Wires To Flex or to Hi-Flex?

Posted May 27 2012 1:59pm

Flexible wire and cable can have more than one meaning depending on who you ask. To some, very flexible wire can mean able to withstand repetitive flexing while to others it describes the limpness of the wire or cable. When describing a "super flexible wire" to your wire and cable manufacturer be sure to be clear on which you need either hi-flex or limpness. Is there a difference? There is a difference between the two types of wire and cable which begins with the conductor stranding and material.

High flex cycles and repetitive flex wire and cables are specialized for these types of applications. Whether you are working with acustom wire and cable manufactureror buying commodity robotic cables, special attention should be taken with regards to the conductor stranding and material. Specifying a high strand count alloy conductor in your wire and cable design is key to the longevity of the cable. Lower strand count conductors such as a typical 19 strand will not last long in a hi-flex environment, as the individual strands break due to the stress and fatigue, the weaker and less conductive the conductor will become until it inevitably fails. High strand conductors can be constructed in a way that the stress of flexing is absorbed by the large number of fine strands and having a few strands break will not affect the conductivity as would in a 7 or 19 strand construction. The use of high strength alloys is recommended for hi flex life. They offer high breaking strength and greater flex life with only a small increase in DC resistance. Cadmium-chromium copper, cadmium copper, chromium copper, and zirconium copper are most frequently used. View our conductor stranding page for types of conductor configurations available and our wire gauge table for stranding options.

A wire and cable company will usually offer hi-flex and repetitive flexing applications can be found in:

  • Robotic and automation
  • Medical and surgical hand pieces
  • Sensors and instrumentation
  • Aerospace

Flexible wire and cable in terms of limpness also requires high strand conductors but may not require the use of alloy materials depending on the application. Descriptions of this type of wire include:

  • Ultra flexible wire
  • Noodle wire, noodle like
  • Hi flex
  • Limp wire

The other key to flexible wire is the insulation or jacket material choice. There are many flexible materials depending on your requirements. The most flexible insulation material is silicone rubber, but depending on your application it may not be right for you. When discussing your flexible wire requirements with a wire and cable company be as descriptive as possible and discuss the application in order to narrow down your material choices. Flexible wires are available in most gauges. The wire pictured here is a 1050 strand 6 AWG and is extremely flexible and quite limp. Custom wire and cable manufacturers usually stock high strand conductors for flexible and hi-flex wire applications.

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