The 8th AMI international conference on Cables was the most successful event ever. The venue at the Maritim Hotel in Cologne was packed out, despite a move this year to an even larger conference hall. Kerry Satterthwaite (AMI Consulting) gave an excellent overview of the European cable industry. Restructuring in the European cables extrusion industry has paid off - 2007 saw a dramatic improvement in profits.
A primary focus of the conference was flame retardant performance under the new European Construction Products Directive (CPD). Wire and cable is now considered a building material under EU law. This new legislation classifies cables by their fire safety performance and the testing protocols are still being worked out as described by Terry Journeaux of Prysmian Cables & Systems. The challenge is to develop repeatable and reproducible standards so that accredited laboratories all give the same fire classification for the same cables. He detailed the European reaction to fire classification of cables under the CPD in 2008.
Many kilometres of cable are used in modern buildings and cars and as electrical failure can be a common cause of ignition, cable fire performance and flame retardancy is critical. Dr Andreas Bacher of Wacker Chemie gave an overview of new silicones for wire and cable, including highlights of their superior heat resistance. He commented on the synergistic effect of flame retardants, a topic also addressed by James Innes, president of Flame Retardants Associates of the USA. Ingo Heim of Albemarle Corporation has also been carrying out fire testing - on a variety of new ATH grades under development by Albemarle. His presentation included exciting live flame propagation videos.
Dr Rainer Sauerwein (Nabaltec) went on to examine trends in new metal hydrate flame retardants for high process temperatures. Materials differ in different global regions and include optimised metal hydrate blends. The paper examined potential future trends in flame retardants for cable applications. Lubrizol has new TPU materials for cables - Nico Rems described how the company is working on flame retardant TPUs with balanced properties.
New materials for cables were introduced at the conference including high performance polymers for the cables industry (Evonik Degussa), co-polyester resins for demanding cable applications (DSM Engineering Plastics), and recyclable polypropylene wire for automotive applications (Dr Lee, LS Cable Ltd of Korea). Dow Wire & Cable is working on innovative new polyolefin compounds to meet the needs of the international cables industry. Innovation challenges in the wire and cable market were discussed by Robert Tarimo, Market Manager from Dow Europe in Switzerland.
Dr Susanna Lieber of the Melos/Borealis team talked about the design of bedding compounds, which lie between the insulating compound and the cable sheath. Compatibility is important and factors such as plasticizer migration have been studied as it can have a major effect on long-term performance. She went on to describe how advanced bedding compound design can improve flame retardancy and also save money.
Dr Gunter Beyer of Kabelwerk Eupen has been working on nanocomposite flame retardants for the cable industry. In his +30 years' experience, layered double hydroxides have a major synergistic effect with halogen and non-halogen flame retardants. They appear to act by altering the degradation pathway and imparting barrier properties. Daniel Calveras of General Cable, one of the world's largest cable extrusion companies, followed up by describing General Cable's use of nanofillers in high performance medium voltage power cables.