What’s Insulated Wire?

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Insulated wire protects against electric shock, increases efficiency and prevents corrosion. Manufacturers use various materials and color codes for specific applications. Extrusion processes apply coatings to metal conductors.

Insulated wire is wire covered with a layer of insulating material to provide protection which will increase safety and efficiency. In addition to insulating individual wires, companies can also individually insulate wires in a single bundled cable for the delivery of more complex electrical signals. Telephone lines, for example, require multiple wires, which need individual insulation to function properly. Numerous manufacturers produce insulating wire products, including custom products for specific applications that may require unique components.

A variety of materials can be used for cable insulation, with polymers being particularly popular. Paper, glass braid and synthetic materials are also available for various applications. The type of insulation determines the working range of the wire; some insulators have very high heat and cold tolerances, for example, while others do not. Insulation can also limit the strength of the current carried by the wire, which is also determined by the width and material of the wire, along with a few other factors.

One reason to use insulated wire is to prevent electric shock. If a wire is exposed, people and animals that come into contact with it can be shocked. Exposure can also predispose wiring to shorts and other problems. Splashing water on the wire, for example, can act as a conductor and create an electrical fire or other problem. The insulation also reduces losses and increases operating efficiency, as well as protecting the wire from corrosion.

Insulated cable manufacturers are allowed to color code their products. Colors can provide information about the situations for which the cable is rated and can also be useful for complex wiring applications where technicians want to be able to trace different wires. You can follow the color codes to connect the cables to the correct connectors, which can be useful in installation and maintenance tasks. Some may be striped or otherwise patterned as well as colored.

Typically, insulated wire is made through extrusion processes. These start with the production of wire from the highest quality metal conductors, followed by another pass through an extruder to apply a coating such as a polymer sheath. Quality control may include detailed inspections to check for problems such as cracked or incompletely applied coatings, which could cause problems while the wire is in use. The finished wire can be wound onto large spools for distribution, with industrial customers receiving full spools for their use, while other customers can purchase pre-cut lengths through hardware stores and electrical suppliers.

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