Raising the temperature of materials development
AEI Compounds Ltd. is at the forefront of research into plastic materials technology. From its advanced UK facility in Gravesend, Kent, the company annually produces over 9000 tonnes of specialised plastic compounds, with around 70% of this being exported to a global customer base.
Formed in 1983 as a division of AEI Cables Ltd., AEI Compounds became a TT Group plc company in March 1997, as part of the GEC Cable and Wire Group acquisition.
AEI Compounds manufactures a technically diverse range of crosslinkable polymers for use in the electrical wire and cable industry, including such applications as aerial cables using UV stabilised materials, semi-conducting materials for electrostatic screens and automotive wiring compounds. The company’s portfolio of core products also includes fire-retardant compounds, both halogenated and zero-halogen, tracking resistant compounds and extremely tough and flexible compounds for the most demanding of sheathing requirements. Significantly, AEI Compounds has also pioneered the development of ‘look-alike’ TPEs, highly effective flame-retardant materials that provide the protection of conventional thermoplastic elastomers, but at a much lower cost.
Today, AEI Compounds enjoys a commanding lead in the development of such high temperature compounds which it supplies to the electric, cable and wire industry for use in a host of insulation and sheathing applications, from under-bonnet automotive wiring, to sheathing for fibre optic cables.
Helping the world’s electrical and electronic industries to meet the challenges of new product development is a key feature of the company’s strategy. This is achieved through unrivalled on-site design, fire and materials testing facilities, which it uses to develop unique, highly specialised compounds for industry.
Experts in reaction extrusion compounding
AEI Compounds has applied its highly specialised expertise in reaction extrusion compounding to develop a wide range of cross-linkable and thermoplastics polymeric compounds that employ advanced technology to enhance thermo-mechanical properties at elevated temperatures.
This technology is especially appropriate in cable insulation and sheathing applications since it means that the operating temperatures of conductors can be raised, allowing for an increase in electric current-carrying capacity.
Leaders in safe cable insulation
The company has always been at the forefront of the development of low-hazard fire-retardant compounds that, on combustion, emit only very low levels of smoke and toxic fumes.
Increasing safety in buildings is a prime concern for architects and local authorities. AEI Compounds has worked closely with the construction industry to address these concerns and the company has played a leading role in developing an innovative halogen-free flame retardant cable insulation compound that could become a life-saving feature of public buildings.
Unlike other flame retardant sheathing materials such as PVC, this compound designated SX538, will not give off copious amounts of smoke or acidic fumes when it burns. Yet, at the same time it exhibits all the proven benefits of traditional insulation materials.
SX538, which conforms to BS 7211 and Cenelec HD22.9 S2 for building wires, answers an increasing need for safe, low-smoke and fume cable insulation for heavily trafficked areas. This was an important development in view of the fact that many victims of the King’s Cross and Düsseldorf Airport disasters are known to have died from smoke and fume inhalation, rather than from the fires themselves.
AEI’s product, which is based on the silane moisture cure technology is not process-dependent but is pre-grafted and affords a high degree of crosslinking. It is also highly cost-effective to produce in volume at to 1000 metres per minute using conventional extrusion machinery.
SX538 is also suitable for a range of other heavy industrial applications including mining and quarrying. The material possesses good abrasion resistance and excellent wet electrical properties and is available in a special grade for sheathing optical fibre cables in most hostile environments.
A flexible sheathing compound that can take the heat
AEI enjoys a commanding lead in the development of high-temperature, flame-retardant plastic materials. One of its most recent contributions to this important area is SX541, a compound specially developed for heavy industry and engineering applications. SX541 is designed to provide highly effective sheathing protection for cables in the toughest of environments.
Silane grafted, cross-linkable flame retardant and highly flexible SX541 sheathing compound offers many of the benefits of thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) but at a much lower cost. The characteristics of the compound include high flexibility – especially at low temperatures – elevated temperature stability and good abrasion resistance making it ideal for cable protection in a range of harsh environments.
SX541 can be processed in exactly the same way as non- curable TPE compounds, ensuring highly efficient extrusion at normal production rates. It is also highly versatile and may be used in other applications including injection moulding and extrusion.
The compounds SX538 and SX541 are just two examples among many which illustrate AEI Compounds ability to develop innovative compounds.
With outstanding research facilities and a forward-looking approach to materials technology, AEI Compounds Limited is setting the pace for future product development.
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