Cable Glossary


Alternating Current – An electric current that continually reverses its direction giving a definite plus and minus wave form at fixed intervals.

Anneal – To subject to heat with subsequent cooling. When annealing copper; the act of softening the metal by means of heat to render it less brittle.

Anti-Oxidant – A substance which prevents or slows down oxygen decomposition of a material.

Anti-Ozonant – A substance which prevents or slows down material degradation due to ozone reaction.

Armored Cable – A cable provided with a wrapping of metal, usually steel wires, flat tapes, or interlocked tapes, primarily for the purpose of mechanical protection.

Binder – A helically applied tape or thread used for holding assembled cable components in place until additional manufacturing operations are performed.

Braid – A fibrous or metallic group of filaments interwoven in cylindrical form to form a covering over one or more wires.

Breakdown Voltage – The voltage at which the insulation between two conductors, or a conductor and ground will break down.

Building Wire – Wire used for light and power in permanent installations utilizing 600 volts or less. Usually in an enclosure and which will not be exposed to outdoor environments.

Cable Core – A cable core is the portion of an insulated cable lying under the protective covering or coverings.

Charging Current – The current produced when a d-c voltage is first applied to conductors of an unterminated cable. It is caused by the capacitive reactance of the cable, and decreases exponentially with time.

Coating – A material applied to the surface of a conductor to prevent environmental deterioration, facilitate soldering or improve electrical performance.

Cold Joint – A soldered joint made with insufficient heat.

Cold Test – Any test to determine the performance of cables during or after subjection to a specified low temperature for a specified time.

Compact Stranded Conductor – A unidirectional or conventional concentric conductor manufactured to a specified diameter, approximately 8 to 10% below the nominal diameter of a noncompact conductor of the same cross-sectional area.

Conductivity – A term used in describing the capability of a material to carry an electrical charge. Usually expressed as a percentage of copper conductivity — copper being one hundred (100%) percent. Conductivity is expressed for a standard configuration of conductor.

Conductor – A wire or combination of wires not insulated from one another, suitable for carrying an electric current.

Conductor Core – The center strand or member about which one of more layers of wires or members are laid helically to form a concentric-lay or rope-lay conductor.

Continuous Vulcanization – Simultaneous extrusion and vulcanization of wire coating materials. It is abbreviated CV.

Cord – Small, flexible insulated cable usually size l0AWG or smaller.

Core – Any portion of a cable over which some other cable component, such as a shield, jacket, sheath or armor, is applied.

Corona – A luminous discharge due to ionization of the gas surrounding a conductor around which exists a voltage gradient exceeding a certain critical value.

Corona Resistance – The time that insulation will withstand a specified level field-intensified ionization that does not result in the immediate complete breakdown of the insulation. Also called voltage endurance.

Corona Test – A test to determine the ability of a cable to withstand the formation of corona under an increasing applied voltage, and to extinguish corona when a corona-producing voltage is reduced.

Creep – The dimensional change with time of a material under load. At room temperature, it is sometimes called cold flow.

Crush Resistance Test – A test to determine the ability of a cable to resist damage from radial compression, such as might be encountered in service.

Cycle – One complete sequence of variations in an alternating current. The number of cycles occurring in one second is called the frequency.

Decibel – Unit to express differences of power level. It is used to express power loss in cables.

Density – The weight per unit volume of a substance.

Derating Factor – A factor used to reduce a current carrying capacity of a wire when used in other environments from that for which the value was established.

Dielectric breakdown – The voltage at which a dielectric material is punctured; which is divisible by thickness to give dielectric strength.

Dielectric Strength – The voltage which an insulating material can withstand before breakdown occurs, usually expressed as a voltage gradient (such as volts per mil).

Dissipation – Unusable or lost energy, as the production of unused heat in a circuit.

Drain Wire – An uninsulated wire, usually placed directly beneath and in electrical contact with a grounded shield, which is used for making ground connections.

Durometer – A measurement used to denote the hardness of a substance (usually of thermosetting and thermoplastic materials).

Elastomer – A material that at room temperature returns rapidly to approximately its initial dimensions and shape after substantial deformation by a weak stress and release of the stress.

Elongation – The fractional increase in length of a material stressed in tension.

Extrusion – The process of continuously forcing either a plastic or elastomer and a conductor or core through a die, thereby applying an insulation or jacket to the conductor or core.

Fibrous Filler – A material used to fill interstices in cables made from fibers, such as jute, polypropylene, cotton, glass, etc.

Film – Thin, plastic sheeting having nominal thickness usually not greater than 0.010 inch.

Flex Life – The number of bends or twists, of specified type, that a cable will withstand before failure.

Ground – A conducting connection, intentional or accidental, between an electric circuit or equipment and the earth or some conducting body serving in place of the earth.

Ground Potential – Zero potential with respect to the ground or earth.

Heat Endurance – The time of heat aging that a material can withstand before failing a specific physical or electrical test.

Heat Resistance – Ability of a substance to maintain physical and chemical identity and chemical identity and electrical integrity under specified temperature conditions.

Helix – A spiral winding.

Hertz – (Abbrev. H) A term rapidly replacing cycles-per-second as an indication of frequency.

High Voltage Time Test – A high-voltage time test is an accelerated life test on a cable sample in which voltage is the factor increased.

Hygroscopic – Attracting or absorbing moisture from the ambient atmosphere.

Jumper – A short length of conductor used to make a connection between terminals, around a break in a circuit, or around an instrument.

Marker Tape – A narrow strip of fabric, paper or plastic laid longitudinally within a cable; it bears printed information such as the specification to which the cable was made and the name of the cable’s manufacturer.

Marker Threads – Colored strings laid parallel and adjacent to the strands of an insulated conductor to reveal information such as the conductor’s manufacturer, the specification to which it was made, or its thermal capability.

Messenger Wire – A metallic supporting member either solid or stranded which may also perform the function of a conductor.

Migration – The loss of plasticizer from a plastic, usually due to heat or aging. It is undesirable since it will make the plastic hard and brittle. It is also called leaching.

Mil – Unit of measure equal to 1/1000 of an inch.

Neoprene – Trade name for polychloroprene, used for jacketing (See Polychloroprene).

Nominal – Name or identifying value of a measurable property by which a conductor or component or property of a conductor is identified, and to which tolerances are applied.

Plastic – Any solid material employing organic matter of a high molecular weight as a principal constituent, which can be shaped by heat and pressure during manufacturing or processing into a finished article.

Plasticizer – A substance incorporated into a material to increase its workability or flexibility.

Plating – Any thin metallic coating applied over a metallic substratum.

Polyester – A resin generally used as a thin film in tape form.

Polyethylene – A thermoplastic material composed of polymers of ethylene.

Polymer – A material formed by the chemical combination of monomers having either the same or different chemical composition.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – A thermoplastic material composed of polymers of vinyl chloride, which may be rigid or elastomeric, depending on specific formulation.

Quad – A structural unit employed in cables, consisting of four separately insulated conductors twisted together.

Resistance – Property of a conductor that opposed the current flow produced by a given difference of potential. The ohm is the practical unit of resistance.

Semi-conductor – A solid material characterized by comparatively high resistivities.

Serve – Any helical wrapping applied over a wire or cable core. It may consist of wires, fibers, yarns or tapes.

Served Wire Shield – A barrier to the passage of interference formed by a helical wrapping of wires over a cable core. It is also called spiral shield.

Strand Lay – The distance of advance of one strand of a spirally stranded conductor, in one turn, measured axially.

Stress Cone – A conical section built up of insulating tapes or a pennant to relieve the stress at the terminal end of the cable.

Tear Strength – The force required to initiate or continue a rip in a jacket or other insulation under specified conditions.

Temperature Rating – The maximum temperature at which a given insulation or jacket may be safely maintained during continuous use, without incurring any thermally-induced deterioration.

Tensile Strength – The longitudinal stress required to break a specimen of prescribed dimension divided by the original cross-sectional area at the point of rupture (usually expressed in pounds per square inch).

Thermal Conductivity – Ability of material to conduct heat.

Tolerance – A specified allowance for error from a standard or given dimension, weight or property.

Triplex – Three single conductors twisted together, usually three single conductor cables twisted without over-all covering. Do not use for three conductors laid parallel on a reel.

Ultra Violet Degradation – The degradation caused by long time exposure of a material to sunlight or other ultraviolet rays containing radiation.

Wire Gage – Any of several standard systems for designating wire sizes. As an example, see American Wire Gage.

Yield Strength – The lowest stress at which a material undergoes plastic deformation. Below this stress, the material is elastic; above it, viscous.