Innovation / Custom Engineering
Keeping the Light Bulbs Burning: Investing in Innovation
Halfway through testing of the redesigned VITALink® cable in early 2014, Comtran was pretty sure they had a winner. Testing at the Underwriter’s Laboratory test site in Chicago demanded a full 120 minutes of burning at 1850°F with no loss of signal. Everyone held their breath. Would the cable’s redesigned insulation material change state in the high temperature, and protect the conductors? Would it keep the bare light bulb burning? After months of hard work, the light bulb stayed on. The threshold for UL re-certification is five successful burn tests. The VITALink® team completed seven tests on the re-engineered cable, therefore ensuring that it would pass UL approval.
In 2014 Comtran received approval on a 14 AWG Shielded 2-Hour Fire Rated CIC Cable. Then, in 2015, its 16 AWG shielded product also passed certification testing. As a result of continuous improvement, Comtran now has 12-18 AWG unshielded and 14-18 AWG shielded VITALink® cables approved and available in 2017.
Significant Innovation Investment
The fast-track VITALink® redesign project was just one in Comtran’s growing pipeline of new products. Implementing its strategic plan, the company is dedicating significant resources to innovation. “We built our reputation manufacturing top quality commodity datacom cable products,” says Joe Barry, General Manager at Comtran. “Now we’re fast becoming leaders in high performance cable, designed for the harshest conditions.” Barry also points to the in-house talent as the key to achieving company goals. “It all starts with top-notch engineers,” he says. “Our guys are amazing when it comes to finding solutions for real-time customer needs.”
The team is successful because the company is willing to invest resources. Testing on a single new product can run $30,000 – $50,000, and requires lengthy documentation. For example, they submitted a 100-page report as part of rigorous TC-7 testing of Comtran’s HUB-Link® low-smoke, zero-toxicity cable by New York City’s Transit Authority (NYCT). As a result of investment in TC-7 testing, Hub-LINK® 12-200 pair voice and data cable is approved by the NYCT for mass transit.
In-House R&D Facility
Comtran also has access to the state-of the-art Innovation and Technology Center in East Granby, CT. The 16,000 ft² facility was designed for use by the companies within the Marmon Specialty Wire & Cable Group, a Berkshire-Hathaway Company.
Marmon’s $1.2 million investment in R&D supports the new direction of Comtran and its sister companies. According to Marmon Engineered Cable Group President J. Dennis Chalk, “In 2014 new products will account for over 20 million dollars in revenue.”
Investing in innovation is the new standard at Comtran.