Cable reels are functional objects designed to wind and unwind, hold and store different kinds of electrical cables. Electrical cables, conductors that transmit either electrical signals, optical signals or electric power, are made up of a core, twisted wire strands that protect the core and insulating material that covers both the core and strands. Cylindrical, drum-shaped and spool-like, cable reels are usually made from plywood, wood, plastic or steel, depending on their application. Cable reel applications reside mostly in the industrial and manufacturing industries, where they keep cables both up off the ground and away from other hazards, like environmental wear and tear. During transport, they protect cable from tangling, breakage and cutting. Also, they can be found on roadways across the United States, storing cables that will eventually connect the country. They are integral to the function of systems and equipment such as: aerial work platforms, conveyor systems, forestry equipment, forklifts, garage doors, hoists, light towers, material handling systems, a variety of overhead crane designs, robotic welding cells and theatrical and stage sets.
In addition to their primary functions, cable reels often find themselves living new, repurposed lives after their retirement. One of the biggest current trends in home and restaurant furniture is the repurposing of industrial equipment like cable reels, especially wooden cable reels. In a house or at a cafe, they can serve as chairs, end tables, bookshelves and anything else a person can imagine.
There are many different kinds of cable reels. They are primarily grouped according to the size of cables that they can hold, though the name of an individual reel does not necessarily reflect this. Plywood reels, for example, which are made either from poplar ply or bitch, are considered appropriate only for lighter loads. These inexpensive cable reels are very common for the storing of cables as they wait for transportation or utilization. Heavy duty steel reels, on the other hand, can be used with heavier and larger loads, because they are designed to have extra strength. Also, unlike plywood reels, which may be thrown away or recycled after only one or a few uses, heavy duty steel reels can be used over and over again. Cable reels can be further divided by whether they have automatic/mechanical or manual retraction features. Automatic, or automated retraction reels retract cable automatically, with the help of a hydraulic, electric or pneumatic motor. Manual retraction cable reels enact retraction only by the engagement of a hand-turned crank. Some cable reels are powered by a third type of retraction, the spring-based retraction method. In this case, the cable is retracted via the force of an internal spring.
Cable reels are also categorized by which one of the five different basic reel configurations they follow. They may possibly be: collapsible, live connection, reel and cable assembly, portable or storage reel cable reels. Collapsible cable reels, just as their name suggests, can fold flat, a feature that makes them easy to store. Next, live connection cable reels are named such because they allow cables to transmit power while they are still attached to the reel. While convenient, they are generally expensive and may likely be quite heavy. Reel and cable assembly cable reels are made up of a variety of parts and optional accessories, including a reel, a wire and other items. Meanwhile, portable cable reels are designed for easy movement; they can be transported by hand using an attached handle. Finally, storage reel cable reels are made for storage and storage alone. In fact, storage reels cannot be used unless the cable is unwound.
As mentioned before, the main materials by which cable reels are fabricated include steel, plastic, plywood and wood. Steel and steel alloys are known for strength, durability and corrosion resistance. Consequently, steel or stainless steel are usually chosen to fabricate cable reels that will be put to work with heavy duty industrial applications. However, they are quite versatile and may also be used with light applications. Plastic cable reels are not usually used with heavy duty applications, however, having emerged as an environmentally friendly alternative to other materials, they are quite popular for use with lighter loads. Plastic cable reels become doubly green when they are made from recycled plastics, rather than newly formed plastics. Plywood cable reels are an inexpensive alternative to wooden cable reels and their lifespans are very short. However, they are strong and lightweight, and used extensively by commercial electricians and builders. Wooden cable reels, which are also recyclable, are available in three major makes: export, steel-tyred and one-way drums. Export reels are designed for trips abroad; steel-tyred reels are made for multiple uses and one-way drums are designed for a single trip.
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