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Cables & Connectors a history and re vie w of shielded cabl es

A short history and review of shielded


cables
Effective shielding prevents interference from entering or emanating from
a cable.

Don Dodge subjected to the high flexing conditions of a


Calmont Wire and Cable, Inc. telephone cord, tinsel wire could be replaced
Santa Ana, CA by simple strands of wire.

HISTORY TODAY

I
n the late 1800s, as the use of electricity The purpose of a shield is to prevent inter-
was first being used for communications, ference from entering or emanating from
interference reared its ugly head. The im- a cable. The three types of interference
perative for some form of mitigation became are: radio frequency interference (RFI),
apparent. The first attempts involved wire electromagnetic interference (EMI), and
spacing. Bare wires on wooden poles were electromagnetic pulse (EMP). RFI was the
simply spaced farther apart to reduce inter- earliest type of interference that engineers
ference. When the wires entered buildings had to deal with. Early radio signals easily
and were forced closer to each other, twist- found their way into devices. Coaxial cables
ing the pair was the preferred technique for and shielded twisted pairs using copper
reducing interference. Look at early pictures eliminated most of this type of interference.
of New York City; the sky is dark with thou- Today, EMI has become more problem-
sands of wires for telegraph and telephone atic because of high power transmission
wires. Then radio came along, and radio lines; higher magnetic fields, such as MRI
broadcasts could be heard coming from the machines in hospitals; and other high power
telephone wires. The need for shields became applications. Copper may not offer much re-
a problem begging for a solution. sistance to higher magnetic fields; therefore,
Wrapping the cable with grounding wires the use of magnetic materials such as high
(a simple served shield), worked for fixed in- permeable irons may be required.
stallations; but when the cable was subjected EMP is produced by the detonation of
to flexing, the wrapped wires separated and nuclear devices. When the hydrogen bombs
interference returned. were tested in the 1950s at Bimini Atoll in
Enter the braider. Braiders were invented the South Pacific, circuit breakers at power
in the mid-1800’s to manufacture shoe stations in Hawaii were tripped by the EMP
laces and other textile items. Tinsel wire, wave from the detonation. Critical military
a flattened wire wrapped around a cotton and civilian circuits must be protected from
or flax yarn, was used for the epaulettes on an EMP condition. These shields require the
military uniforms. Early telephone engineers use of both high and low permeable materi-
discovered that this was a great, very flexible als to reduce the effect of an EMP.
conductor for telephone earpiece cords. The
tinsel wire could also be braided over the TYPES OF SHIELDS
conductors in the earpiece cords to reduce The simplest type of shield in use today is
radio interference. When the cable was not a plated plastic film (aluminized Mylar)

2  interference technology emc DIRECTORY & design guide 2009

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dodge Cables & Connectors

wrapped around a cable or twisted pair. shields are: copper, tin-plated copper, nier. A Denier is the weight in grams of
A drain wire contacts the foil along the silver-plated copper, nickel-plated cop- 9,000 yards of the yarn. Often you may
cable to maintain a low resistance. For per, high and low permeable irons, car- see the length as meters, which is not
increased shield effectiveness, a loose bon fibers, tinsel wire and aluminum. the unit Mr. Denier defined. The reason
braid may be placed over the tape. Many The choice of materials for the for the mismatch of units is that in the
CATV cables use this technique. This shield and the choice of insulation and early textile mills, gram scales were
method works well as long as the cables conductor materials depend upon the used for small weights. The common
are flexed only during installation and environmental conditions to which the linear quantity was 9,000 yards. Calcu-
maintenance. A served shield offers cable will be subjected. lators did not exist in the mid-1800’s so
higher shielding effectiveness than the Mr. Denier chose his unit to use readily
film shield (Figure 1). It can be used Calculating the shield coverage available units, i.e., grams and yards.
when the cable is subjected to moder- and braid angle Shield effectiveness is expressed
ate flexing. Simple formulas can be used to calcu- in decibels or dB. For a single copper
When the cable is subjected to flex- late shield coverage and braid angle. shield, the value is around 40 dB for
ing, a braid shield becomes the best The shield should consist of a woven 85% coverage and only climbs to 45 dB
choice (Figure 2). By choosing the right braid using strand material specified for 90% coverage. By using two copper
wire size, the braid offers the best shield in the cable specification. Coverage shields, the value rises to around 60 dB.
method. should not be less than 85% for most To go higher in effectiveness requires
Calculating the size of the shield ma- cables, but may be increased to 90%. the use of high and low permeable
terial used to be a chore. The formulas The angle of the braid with the axis of irons.
for calculating the braid construction the cable should lie between 20º and
form an Eigen value problem, for which 40º for diameters up to .600 inch (15.2 Conclusion
is there is no finite answer to the calcu- mm). For diameters larger than .600 Cable shields have come a long way
lation. Early engineers created tables of inch (15.2 mm), the braid angle may be since the inceptions of radio and tele-
shield constructions and used them as greater than 40º. Percent coverage, K, phones. Today with the wide range
a guide to designing the braid. Today and angle of braid, a, should be calcu- of transmitters from cellphones, AM
computers can quickly make the cal- lated as follows: and FM radios, high definition TV,
culation. The formulas can be found in and a multitude of other consumer
K = (2F - F2) x 100
cable design handbooks and military electronics, it is important to consider
F = NPd/Sin a
specifications. the proper shields for any new cable.
a = Tan -1 (2π(D +2d) P/C)
The materials commonly used for Shielding of the cases for a device is a
where
reason for another article.
F = Fill or space factor
K = Percent coverage
For more information on shields see:
N = Number of wires per carrier
MIL-DTL-27500
P = Picks per inch of cable length
Rome Wire and Cable Handbook
d = Diameter of individual braid wire
Wire Association Electrical Wire Handbook.
in inches
a = Angle of braid with axis of cable
Don Dodge has been with Calmont Wire and
D = Diameter of cable under the
Cable for 28 years, starting as Chief Engineer and
shield in inches
is now the Vice President of Research. Don started
C = Number of carriers
in the wire and cable industry after leaving the
Figure 1. A served shield. Army in 1969, first as Quality Control Labora-
Braiders tory Supervisor at Pacific Electricord, then moved
The vocabulary for the braider to Quality Control Manager, and finally as Chief
comes from the early textile industry. A Engineer.He was Chairman of the Flexible Cords
bobbin is the small spool that holds the Technical Committee of NEMA and Chairman
number of wires needed. The number of of the US Delegation for IEC SC20B for Wires
carriers is the count of the bobbin hold- and Cables. He was involved with ribbon cable
ers on the braider; common numbers while at T&B Ansley. He has designed many
are 12, 16, 24, 36, 48 and 96. Ends are ultra-flexible cables for Military, Medical and
the number of strands of wire wound Aerospace applications. Don holds a Bachelors
on a bobbin. Pick is the number of times degree in Physics and a Masters degree in Busi-
that the wires coming from a bobbin ness Administration.
occur in one inch.
When using yarn for the braid, an-
Figure 2. A braided shield. other common unit for the yarn is De-

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