Every electrical project ends with the connection. That’s why successful electrical contractors pay close attention to high quality and efficient preparation of these end points. In the last twenty years, conduit cutters and crimper manufacturers invested millions in research to develop systematic upgrades to manual cutting and crimping tools.
Engineering that supports cable termination evolved from the combination of conduit cutters, wrenches and lugs to an efficient systematic approach combining efficiency, quality and safety. Contractors looking for competitive advantages should upgrade to conduit cutters, and crimpers that do the job right and protect workers’ health, but also offer a verifiable approach to quality and process improvement. Conduit cutting and crimping may appear to be unimportant, but when performed inefficiently, the results have devastating consequences.
Highly reliable cable termination (regardless of cable type) is one of the electrical industry’s greatest points of emphasis. Studies have determined the conditions most commonly contributing to wire termination failures. They include:
- Poor mechanical clamping of the conductor that causes thermal cycling and increased junction surface heating.
- Chemical corrosion or oxidation of the termination conduction surfaces.
- Conductor creep from connector due to cable flexing, vibration, mechanical stress or metal cold‐flow like in some aluminum conductor connections.
- Poor field workmanship involving frayed or uneven cuts that result in lost wire strands or stranding not inserted into the connector body, improper crimping of connectors and poor verification of proper crimping.
Bringing Sensing Technology To Conduit Cutters & Crimpers
Workers that prepare cable terminations today already benefit from better tool design and improved crimping devices, but new sensing technologies are now bringing added efficiency and quality to the process too.
One sensing technology shortens the ram’s positioning operation. Take Greenlee’s Retraction Stop Repeat (RSR) as an example. This innovative tool allows the operator to partially retract the ram on a series of similar crimps. Its sensor controls the ram’s retraction to that preset position for subsequent crimps. Another option is the Automatic Retraction Stop (ARS). Conduit tool sensors can be set to retract the ram just enough to get ready for the next cycle. These improvements are saving operators time on each crimp.
Another sensing technology for conduit cutting tools monitors crimping pressure. IntelliCRIMP™, from Greenleee, is a revolutionary new option for their line of battery powered crimping tools. The sensor helps operators achieve a crimp that meets manufacturer’s standards every time. Tools equipped with this Intelligent Crimping System Technology have a pressure sensor that monitors the crimping force of each installation. If the operator doesn’t apply the force required by the crimp manufacturer’s specification, the tool emits a visual and audible alert so the error can be quickly corrected before moving on to the next connection.
Focusing On Quality Control
Sensing innovations can really help contractors focus on high quality work. They’ll get important performance data that helps them track performance and productivity.
A field data collection system developed by Greenlee is a good example of this. It delivers a detailed work history of the crimping operations performed during the day. Superintendents can download the data and create standard reports on operator performance during the shift. The data that can be collected on each crimp includes the maximum PSI of the force applied, number of cuts or crimps plus tool performance as determined by battery output.
Greenlee’s Gator Eye gives project managers a great way to monitor overall jobsite priorities and use its reporting capabilities to keep up with inventory. It also features tool diagnostics so they can set and view recommended maintenance intervals.
Increasing Productivity With Greenlee Ergonomics
Workers performing common tasks with non-ergonomic tools can be expensive. Independent research studies point to ergonomic injuries as the most common type of injuries requiring days away from work. Some studies report the total average cost of repetitive motion injuries at $100,397 per injury requiring days away from work. The non-direct costs are typically larger and are driven by days away from work. [Ref: Waehrer G, et al. “Costs of Occupational Injuries in Construction in the United States”, Accident Analysis Previous to 2007 November ; 39(6): 1258-1266].
OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Occupational Safety and Health recently released a document supporting the need for greater awareness of the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. It lists several risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders of the hands and wrists.
There are two key factors to watch out for with conduit cutting tools and crimpers:
Force is the amount of effort it takes to do an activity or work. Pushing, pulling and gripping a tool are examples of activities that require operators to exert force or muscle effort. The tool’s grip makes a difference in the amount needed. The more time wrists are bent while working and exerting muscle effort, the greater the risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder. And a handle with a small diameter is hard to hold and requires more force.
Repetitive work that includes doing the same motions over and over again puts stress on muscles, tendons and joints. Crimping and cutting, especially for large projects, can be very repetitive. Workers also exert muscle effort when staying in one position for a period of time. The more force exerted, the greater the stress on the body.
Using More Ergonomic Tools
Cutting and crimping tool manufacturers are taking OSHA suggestions to heart by redesigning tools to minimize unhealthy exposures. Designs feature forward handle positions to improve tool balance and exert less force on the operator’s wrist and arm in most positions.
Most tools now include a one-trigger control. The operator can easily select the proper tool function while shifting position or employing a second hand. And these tools feature over-molded tacky grip areas that make gripping the tool easier and more comfortable. Tool engineers also addressed trigger position to create easier finger access.
These ergonomic designs decrease muscle fatigue and improve productivity and quality of work. And just as importantly, field studies are shining a light on the potential worker safety benefits of using ergonomically designed conduit benders, cutters and crimpers.
Recently, Greenlee partnered with premier engineering and scientific leaders at Iowa State University’s ATHENA lab to perform ergonomic testing. The study included metabolic testing and oxygen usage (VO2) to measure how much energy a tool uses. This means that higher VO2 equals more fatigue and strain for users of these tools. This muscle strain and fatigue increases injury risks too.
They focused their studies on workers that benefited from these ergonomic features. The four tool types represented were: EK425LX/EK628LX 6-ton crimper, EK1240LX 12-ton crimper, ESG45LX- ACSR Cutter and the ESC35LX Cu/Al Cable Cutter. These studies provided documentation that an investment in ergonomically designed cutters and crimpers increases worker safety and productivity.
Whenever using cutters and crimpers, be sure to wear the appropriate personal protection equipment.
Extending Cutting And Crimping Blade Life
While technology is turning the tasks of cutting and crimping into high-tech procedures, one practical aspect of cutting is still an important operational consideration. Too many workers still fail to protect the most important part of the cutting tool – its blade. The simple answer is to just choose the proper tool for the job. For cutters, use the tool model designed for the cable it will cut. For most options, matching blades to cut either copper or steel cable is simple and yields productive results and better quality work.