Teknor Apex: Low-smoke/zero-halogen conduit speeds cable installation

New technology involving Fireguard (R) Low-Smoke / Zero Halogen, or LSZH (TM), compounds enables installers of cable in municipal, public-utility, and similar projects to save time and costs by using semi-flexible plastic conduit while eliminating concerns about excessive smoke generation in fires, it was announced today at IWCS by Teknor Apex Vinyl Division (Booth 407).

Under a pending patent applied for jointly by Teknor Apex and cabling system supplier ARNCO Corporation, ARNCO has used a specially formulated Fireguard LSZH compound to develop Fiber-Guard (R) LSZH conduit, a coilable product that contains no halogens either in the base polymer or in flame retardant additives. The first application of the new conduit is in a five mile-long (8-km) project beneath the city of Chicago.

“Unlike metal conduit, which is shipped in standard 10-foot-long (3.0-m) sections and must be assembled on-site, semi-flexible plastic conduit comes in continuous coils that can be fed through the city substructure with minimal disruption of surrounding components,” said Robert Washburn, ARNCO’s vice president of R&D. “In addition, continuous conduit permits use of new fiber optic cable blowing techniques, which are precluded by the enormous number of joints required in any sizeable installation of metal conduit.”

The Chicago project involved running cable through the stations and tunnels leading into the city center on one route of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) railway system. CTA requirements call for use of low-smoke / zero-halogen coiled conduit in order to increase the visibility of exit areas in the event of a fire and to reduce the toxic effects and corrosion caused by acid gases emitted as combustion byproducts.

“Fiber-Guard LSZH conduit provides the CTA with the best of both worlds,” said
ARNCO’s Hank Hartman, director of business development. “Most importantly, it helps ensure public safety in the event of a tunnel fire. At the same time, it has contributed to the economical and on-time completion of a project that would otherwise have entailed tedious, labor-intensive ‘one-stick-at-a-time’ assembly.”

Proven Technology for Cable Compounds Is Applied to Semi-Flexible Conduit
Fireguard (R) is a Teknor Apex tradename for compounds that meet the most stringent low-flame, low-smoke requirements for wire and cable insulation and jacketing. While most Fireguard products are PVC-based, Fireguard LSZH compounds are polyolefin-based, completely halogen-free formulations. They were originally developed for insulation and jacketing of copper and fiber optic cable for communications and data transmission.

“While Fireguard LSZH compounds have been used successfully in the U.S., our main goal in developing them was to support companies that manufacture in or distribute to Europe, where smoke-toxicity restrictions are particularly stringent,” said Donald G. Ouellette, industry manager for Teknor Apex. “To transfer this technology to applications in conduit, we adapted the Fireguard LSZH formulation for use in the process of extruding tubing.”

The CTA installation is just the first of what Ouellette envisions to be numerous uses of Fireguard LSZH compounds in conduit. “We see possibilities in conduit used by natural gas distributors, cable TV companies, telecommunications providers, and electrical utilities,” Ouellette said. “Unlike traditional materials used for plastic conduit tubing, Fireguard LSZH compounds do not emit the type of combustion byproducts that have raised concerns about toxicity.”

The new Fiber-Guard LSZH conduit fits right into what ARNCO calls The System, according to the company’s Hank Hartman. “ARNCO has created a synergistic approach to the challenges of cable installation,” Hartman said. “To make installations faster, more precise, and more cost-efficient, we have developed a system of standard and custom-built conduit, couplers, cable-placing equipment, pull tapes, chemicals, and accessories for use in industries as diverse as telecommunications, data communications, cable television, and electrical utilities.”

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