ATEX and IECEx flexible conduit systems from Kopex

In a major press launch this week, Kopex International presented their current plans and product developments for hazardous area electrical installations on process industry installations.

The Kopex Group includes the four major product trade names: Adaptaflex for flexible conduit systems in general application; Elkay for electrical switches and controls; Harnessflex for flexible conduit and fitting systems for cables in vehicle wiring harnesses; and Kopex for the higher specification, generally metallic cored conduit systems for protecting cables in hazardous areas, with the associated cable glands and thread converters.

Formed as Uni-Tubes in Slough in 1947, the company became part of Smiths Industries, presumably because of the Smiths interest in the major business area of car tubing and cable components.

The Kopex name originates from the Kopex machine, an innovative manufacturing system developed in the 1960s, which enabled production forming of convoluted tubing from a wide range of strip materials: the current main factory and HQ is in Coleshill in the Midlands.

With a management buyout earlier this year, the company focus is on the individual development of the major brand strengths, with significant investment already in 2007, and planned for 2008: the business growth potential for the Kopex approved conduit and cabling systems is seen as significant.

The Kopex Group is now the largest manufacturer of flexible conduit systems in the EU, having produced 14.5M metres in 2006.

The presentation of the current market figures (from IMS Research) for Europe was interesting, with Germany and UK taking around 20% each, and France, Italy, Benelux and the Nordic countries each taking around 10%, with Eastern Europe very low.

The latest ATEX137 requirements became an EU mandatory requirement in 2006, so that there should be a major demand growth, with the required upgrades in various countries.

This is where Kopex see a major spur to their business, and they have developed a range of 500 flexible conduit, cable gland and thread adaptor products with the necessary ATEX approvals.

Kopex were the first manufacturer to gain ATEX approvals for conduit systems in nylon and steel, first to introduce systems for both Exd and Exe requirements, with the associated adaptors and convertors, and also first to introduce an ATEX flameproof gland for Exd enclosures, compatible with the KopexLT flexible cable conduit system.

The ATEX approved systems are basically for use in Europe, to meet the EU requirements that arise from ATEX137.

There is still a lot of education needed of the users, who do not necessarily realise that the legislation applies to all plants who have areas where hazardous dusts or gases might be present: indeed some grain, food and flour mills, or plastics processors, may not have realised the hazard present in the powders on their sites.

Kopex have produced literature trying to explain the requirements, and explaining their different product ranges available with the necessary approvals for flexible conduit systems.

Outside Europe, the difficulties of the different international electrical regulations and approvals have held up the use of standard designs of plant and working practices for international companies, such as Shell, BP, Rolls Royce and Siemens.

The IECEx international approval system has been developed to make such standardisation possible, allowing one equipment approval to be acceptable to all.

With countries like Australia, USA, S Africa, China and Russia now accepting IECEx approved equipment and installations, this is becoming a world-wide reality, and Kopex has ensured that their latest products are designed to meet both the ATEX and the IECEx approval requirements.

Contracts using IECEx are already being one by Kopex in Australia, in the mining industry, and in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, where the previous dominance of US codes of practice has disappeared.

Kopex advised that the US National Electrical Code Appendix 5 has enabled the use of IECEx approved equipment in electrical installations.

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