Electrical Contracting News (ECN) November 2016 - Page 64

FEATURE CABLE MANAGEMENT 3D printing Cable management now comes in a wide array of styles, sizes, colours, materials and finishes. Deeper containment can carry higher category data cabling. And because sharp bends can ‘pinch’ data cabling, affecting its performance, trunking systems with radius controlled bends are an ideal choice. Better socket outlet access overcomes the need to pass through internal walls, minimising the risk of creating sharp bends, and open backed data socket plates create gentler access for cables to data socket outlets. New demands In addition to delivering containment systems to satisfy the demands of greater cable volumes and sophistication of data cabling, there is demand for trunking to do more than just carry cables. Our Bio solutions answered a need for infection control in healthcare environments and installations with high traffic, for example schools and other public areas. Aesthetics have also driven innovation, a good example being curved trunking which supports cleaning regimes and avoids the trunking being used as a shelf – a real bonus in design led projects. This summer we launched Sterling Curve (an evolution of our Sterling range, which gives users a gently contoured cable containment system that looks great, is easy to clean and impossible to clutter) and Sterling Curve Bio. We’ve also worked with clients who required hinged PowerPoles that fed power and data to island locations and folded into the ceiling when not in use; a university lab using laser beams that specified matt black trunking to safely ‘absorb’ rather than reflect stray beams and a leading high street retailer that needed a specially designed wall unit to simultaneously charge large numbers of walkie talkies. Without innovation – and quite literally ‘3D printing is now an integral part of product development.’ thinking outside the box – none of these solutions would have been possible. Regulatory changes have also had an impact, for example Amendments to BS7671:2008 of the Wiring Regulations (Amendment 3) require cabling above escape routes to be supported by fire resistant fastenings and fixings to prevent collapse in extreme heat. Marshall-Tufflex launched spring loaded Firefly clips to fit on the inside/outside of our mini/maxi trunking and conduit, holding cables secure in the event of a fire, ensuring escape routes remain free and accessible should fire break out. The clips are fire resistant above 1,000°C for up to 120 minutes, far exceeding the requirements of 45 minutes at 930°C. Integral to our product development is 3D printing, which has paid huge dividends in being able to quickly and more easily develop new products. We started by using a third party 3D printing provider, sending our prototype designs to it. However, it soon became clear that this technology had a huge amount to offer and a feasibility study confirmed that investing in our own, on site, 3D printer was financially prudent and removed any risk associated with sending intellectual property off site. The printer, based at our R&D department, is now used for the majority of new product development. Through talking to customers and market research, Marshall-Tufflex identified the need for a hard-wearing, lightweight and larger capacity aluminium profile having already achieved success with its Elegance 110 Aluminium, a small dado trunking profile. Our 3D printer was used to ‘scale up’ this smaller profile to quickly and cost effectively test the feasibility of the idea, leading to the launch of Elegance 170 Aluminium, a 170mm x 55mm Category 6/6a/7 and Part M compliant profile that can be a single, double or triple compartment thanks to its ‘C’ type section with a single cover. It has also proved a great asset when showing students around our Hastings manufacturing plant as part of our drive to encourage more young people to consider engineering as a career. Students were tasked with designing a 3D item for printing, with the winning two designs turned into 3D models virtually before the students’ eyes. 3D printing is enabling us to fully utilise our dedicated in-house design team and technical experts to continually push the boundaries of product design, react quickly to changing market demands and work with customers to develop specific solutions for their projects; 3D printing allows us to produce examples of products, rather than just drawings, allowing clients to test them in conjunction with existing ranges. In short 3D printing is now an integral part of our product development. If required we can take a product idea, design it in-house with our CAD engineers and have a 3D production-grade ABS prototype in a day or less, enabling us to quickly evaluate the design and agree on any changes or improvements that need making. It allows us to develop and test a far wider range of product ideas and then cherry pick the best. The MarshallTufflex research and development team has worked closely with the industry to innovate solutions to meet shifting demands. 64 | November 2016 63-64 Cable Management – MT.indd 64 10/10/2016 16:54