In our This vs. That series, we're comparing (and contrasting) two seemingly similar products. A lot of products seem the same at first glance but can greatly affect the outcome of your next application. In this article, we'll be taking a closer look at flexible and flexing cables.
Flexible cables and flexing cables may sound like the same thing, but they're not. Confusing the two can lead to costly mistakes when selecting cable. Knowing how to differentiate between flexibility and flexing will help you can make quality cable selections that will last in your application. The terms flexibility and flex life are spattered across almost every cable spec sheet we see. Because the words sound so similar, it can be difficult to determine which you need to consider for your cable application.
Flexibility is a factor that mostly matters during installation. If a cable must be bent to follow the path of a cable set-up or be twisted to provide a more aesthetically-pleasing installation, flexibility is a major consideration. The cable cannot be too rigid or it will not work for your application. However, these applications do not require the cable to move once they are in place which means that flexing and flex life are not major factors.
Flexing cables are used in robotics, manufacturing, and other automated machinery. These cables are expected to move regularly in their applications. Sometimes these cables are even required to move constantly. This continuous bending and flexing put a lot of physical stress on the cable, making it important to choose a durable cable designed to withstand the rigors of such an application.
A cable’s ability to weather this movement is known as flex life. If an inappropriate cable is placed in a flexing application, its jacket and shielding are likely to break down quickly. This can lead to expensive replacements and money lost on unnecessary downtime.
Which One Is Best?
Consider all of the challenges of your application and all of the movements your cable will be expected to make over the course of its lifetime. If you need a cable to bend during installation only, a standard cable with a decent flexibility rating is suitable. If you are buying cable for a flex application, choose cable based on the type of movement it will be doing and how often it will be required to repeat that movement. No matter how challenging the application, you should be able to find a cable solution that meets your flexing or flexibility needs.