Wire Marking

Wire Marking or Wire Tagging can be achieved using a variety of different labelling methods including heatshrink labels, two-part labels and non-shrink tubing. The use of individual ferrules is still a very common method of applying a wire ident and with any wire marking job that involves up to, say, four characters, it makes some sense to use these manual ferrules. Taking the time to turn on a computer and a printer, load them with both the relevant information and the blank labels – and then produce and apply the labels – would be more expensive and time-consuming than using the low-tech, old fashioned manual ferrule approach.

However, for more complex jobs, two-part wire marking systems are among the most common products in this sector. These systems involve users printing the label, either via a thermal printer or a plotter or inkjet, usually onto a rigid piece of plastic and then pushing this into a clear plastic tubing sleeve that has two recesses – one for the label and one for the wire. The installation of the marking label can take place before or after the sleeve is installed on the wire – and irrespective of whether or not the wire is connected.

An important benefit is that the ident (ID) can be changed without cutting off the wire. So, if this happens during the project, you can save a significant amount of time by removing the label and replacing it with another one. It takes seconds and compares favourably with the time and cost of having to cut the wire, re-label it, re-terminate it and then possibly even re-test the circuit, which would be necessary when using individual ferrules or a printed tube, such as heat-shrink or non-shrink. Projects aren’t unknown where, during construction, there are a number of changes – so a two-part system becomes attractive even though each ID involves two operations (applying the clear tube and then applying the label). However, tubing systems, whether they’re heat-shrink or non-shrink, involve only one operation – of sliding a single tube onto the cable/wire.

A key disadvantage of using most two-part wire marking systems is that the plastic on which the label is printed could be rather thick. So, the label might be difficult to fit into its recess in the clear tubing and may also be difficult to get out again. This is not the case with the Legend 2 part labelling system. The Legend® two-part labelling system uses flexible material which, with the use of a special tail, can be pulled into and out of the label recess in the clear tubing. Once the project is finished, the tail end can be removed or cut off.  However, the label can still be changed if this is necessary.

There are, of course, other approaches to wire marking – notably the heat-shrink and the non-shrink tubing approaches. Both heat-shrink and non-shrink tubing systems are similar in that they’re both tubes to which printing is applied in some form. Heat-shrink polyolefin labels can be shrunk down using a heat gun (and will, thus, grip the cable they’re labelling), while the non-shrink is usually made from pvc and is slid onto the wire. Silver Fox offers both a Premium Flattened Heatshrink and a Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH) version in the Legend™ range

Using non-shrink tubing can also be helpful in higher volume jobs particularly where there are expected to be fewer changes but where it’s important to be able to produce the relevant IDs not only cost-effectively but also in good time. The benefits of this approach include:

  • single application – only one tube is slid onto the wire, saving time, whereas by definition, with the two-part system, there are two parts and, thus, two operations
  • non-shrink tubing is a low-cost option, both compared with individual ferrules and with heat-shrink tubing
  • no heat gun permit required in hazardous areas

However, if a change is needed during construction then the two-part system has the advantage that the wire doesn’t need to be cut in order to make a change. The more changes that are necessary, the more a two-part system comes into its own.

When it comes to Legend™ Non-Shrink Tubing system, Silver Fox’s product is soft, matt and – to give the label maximum grip on the wire – oval in shape. This prevents the tubing from sliding down the wire while also allowing the user to turn and leave the message in a position for easy reading, both now and in the future. Under the Silver Fox system, when producing the ferrules, users can choose the length of label required. This can be anything from 10mm to at least 110mm. There’s no limit on the number of characters that can be included on each label.

Silver Fox’s wire marking products can all be printed using the Labacus® Innovator software on a standard office laser printer or the Fox-in-a-Box® thermal printer kit. This solution helps our customers save both time and money. We’ve invested thousands of hours, so the engineer doesn’t need to. It’s simple to use – with one printer, one ribbon and one software program. There’s no time-consuming set-up each time a label type is changed and no more wastage of labels. Just prepare the information, load the labels and print – job done!

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