Nexans make cables – automation cables

Nexans make cables, electric cables, Euro 5bn worth in 2009. Of these, 2.5bn are for electricity infrastructure – power, railways etc, but 1bn are Automation cables – for oil, gas, petrochem, wind turbines, photo-voltaics, aeronautics, automotive and true automation – robots and handling machines. A typical contract is the Frame Agreement with BP, to supply their deepwater umbilical projects in the Gulf of Mexico – delivering power and communications to 5000 ft below the sea surface. Nexans are the cables that enable undersea control of robots, and video feeds to the surface. Nexans claim to be #1 in automation cables – maybe the name Alcatel would be more familiar: that company became Nexans in 2000.

There are no standards for automation cables, the industry moves too fast. Nexans maintain their position by working to develop and test custom cables to meet their client’s specs. But the robot market hit a crisis in 2009 – with production almost halved from 2008, when 113,000 robots were produced. Interestingly, in this market, Japan leads the way with 295 robot type units sold per 10,000 workers, and Singapore, Korea and Germany follow in second place with around 160 units. The US market was particularly low in 2008, mainly based on recession in the automotive industry, at 80 units, and Europe in general averaged 50 units.  But these are robot user figures, for Nexans the relevant robot and machine tool manufacturers are concentrated in Germany and Italy, with 33% of the world market, followed by Japan with 19%: USA is down at 4% of the market. Sales of the robot producers are not expected to recover to these 2008 levels till around 2012.

Nexans have now rebranded their automation cables as Motionline, anticipating a major turnaround in their market – which is mainly with the German and Italian robot and machine builders.

At the First Friday Club presentation in London this month, Giuseppe Di Lorenzo, Commercial Director for Automation, commented that any standards for automation cable would “Impose a constraint on the development of automation cable systems”, and implied that it might slow things down so much that the competitors might be able to catch up! Currently the cables can achieve a bend radius of 7x the OD and can be supplied with a defined “No Failure” life expectancy. Nexans have produced a video to show their extensive testing facilities for cables in repeated automation movement applications, see http://www.nexans.com/eservice/Corporate-en/navigateref_236084/Testing_the_cables_under_real_life_conditions.html

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