What is the Max Size of a Wire Bundle?
By Anthony Masotto
National Sales Manager
One-Pull Wire and Cable Solutions
As a manufacturer of custom cable assemblies, electrical contractors and electricians will ask us “what’s the largest bundled cable reel you manufacture?”
Though we’d like to say the sky is the limit, there is a maximum size. There are three main limiting factors:
1) Bundling wire equipment has a maximum OD size
The take up is limited to the size of reel it can handle (currently 68 inch reels). The reel and equipment itself can only support so much weight. Our take up can pull a maximum of 3,200 pounds. This means that even if the reel can support 4,500 pounds it would not be possible to respool the cable onto the reel with the current equipment because the power needed to pull that much weight exceeds the physical capabilities of the equipment.
2) Cable Bundles Eventually Become Less Bendable
Wire and cable bundles begin to lose their flexibility once the number of conductors exceeds certain limits. These limitations can be extended by moving from a straight configuration to a spiral configuration, and by changing the wire type to greater stranding counts (from solid to stranded being the most noticeable), but eventually the maximum number for all cables will be reached.
3) Ability to Transport the Wire Bundle on the Job Site
Even if the OEM could manufacture a 20,000-pound wire bundle on a 500-inch reel, the end user (typically an electrician, mechanical engineer, lead technician, etc…) must have the ability to move the reel around the job site and set it up for use. To this end, most requests ask for reel sizes that fit on their job site and are light enough to be rolled by hand or moved with a simple pallet jack or hand cart.
This last point is important. Say an electrical contractor working on a solar farm project orders 30 reels of PV wire, each one containing 80 conductors in a staggered configuration assembly. For a wire bundle to be useable, the electrical contractor needs to be able to unload the reels off the truck and then move them to the specific installation site.
If the reel is so large that the electrical contractor’s team can’t maneuver the bundle around the site, then the reel is essentially unusable. Our flexibility and 3,200-pound limit mean that contractors, if prepared, won’t ever have trouble unloading the reel itself.
Different wire types have their own wire bundle limitations as well. For example, with data cables, such as Cat5 and Cat6, the bundle sizes are generally determined by the port count of patch panels which are either 12, 24, and 48 port panels. Furthermore, certain wire types have a maximum cable count per bundle based on the engineering test specifications that electrical contractors must adhere to when they design and select their custom cable assemblies.
To summarize, wire bundles must be portable enough so that an electrical contractor can transport them around the job site. The manufacturer’s cable bundle size limitations are determined by the practical needs of the electrical contractor’s team.
Curious to learn more about the specific size of a wire bundle for a project? Send us your question and we will get you an answer.