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WIRE AND CABLE | TECHNOLOGY


Improved fire performance, halogen-free formulations, support for higher voltages, and greater production flexibility all feature among the latest cable compound developments, reports Mark Holmes


Fire and flexibility top cable industry developments


Global polymeric material demand for insulation and jacketing of cables is forecast to realise solid if not spectacular growth rates of around 4% annually to 2023. However, a multiplicity of trends are at work driving quite different prospects depending on geography, material type and cable end-use, according to AMI Consulting’s most recent global cable sector report “Polymeric materials in the Global Cable Industry” (AMI is the publisher of Compounding World). Evolving regulations, greater concerns and differing interpretations over cable safety, development of new telecommunica- tion networks, and investment in renewable energy are just some of the factors identified as driving change. Meanwhile, globalisation, economic and political developments continue to shape the market in the background. In terms of polymer demand, one of the most significant material trends is the ongoing substitu- tion of PVC compounds by PE, XLPE (crosslinked PW) and LSF0H/HFFR (Low Smoke Flame Retardant Zero Halogen/Halogen Free Flame Retardant) compounds. The move towards non-halogenated cables began in Europe more than a decade ago in response to concerns over the toxicity of fumes in the event of a fire. It has since been adopted in many parts of Asia although not North America, where HFFR formulations account only for around a few per cent of total demand.


www.compoundingworld.com


Specific polymer demand is also influenced by the cable application. The AMI report identifies a growing need for Extra High Voltage (EHV) cables and submarine cables to carry electricity from offshore wind farms or from remote photovoltaic installations, for example, and this is fuelling greater use of XLPE compounds for insulation (although it notes that renewables investment is not expanding uniformly across all regions). The advance of fibre optic cable networks is also altering traditional demand patterns. According to kneader extruder manufacturer


Buss, the main growth area in its cable sector business at present is all types of halogen-free flame retardant (HFFR), including specialities such as highly flexible HFFR compounds with higher temperature ratings. In addition, the revision of the EU construction product regulations (CPR), with a focus on improved fire safety in particular, is likely to mean that new formulations with higher limiting oxygen index (LOI) will have to be developed. The company says it is also seeing an increasing demand for less ‘prevalent’ compounds, such as TPU or crosslinkable polyethylene (XLPE or PEX-A) for medium, high and EHV applications (insulation or semi-conductive layers) in DC and AC cables. In high and extra high voltage (HV/EHV) applica-


Main image: Halogen-free flame retardant formulations are in high demand in the cable sector, with the newly developed FR8101 jacketing PE from Borealis one of the latest examples


May 2020 | COMPOUNDING WORLD 41


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