Posted by: Steve Lampen on April 26, 2012
You know what they say: When the curtain goes up and all the actors are in place and know their lines, whatever happened before that is of no consequence. It sure went that way for our test at NAB of our new super-strong Belden 1776, a revolutionary new microphone cable. In fact, we bought all the parts for the test before any cable was produced!
When we ran some cable in our factory in Richmond, Indiana we immediately air freighted the first 250 ft. to Kiesub Electronics in Las Vegas. They cut it into 50 ft. lengths and put XLRs on each end. They also put two Kellems grips on each cable to allow it to be hung with weight on it. Upon arriving in Las Vegas, we picked up the cables, a metal hanging chair and 900 lbs. of bricks. We brought with us a hanging scale that was good to 5,000 lbs. from Dynamic Scales and a hoisting chain that was also good for 5,000 lbs. from Sliver State in Las Vegas.
We had the Las Vegas Convention Center crew hang the chain from the 35-foot-tall ceiling and then we attached the hanging scale (strain gage) to the chain. The scale had a remote readout, which we attached to the display, so everyone could read the weight on the cable (See the photo above). It also had a "hold" feature which would show the maximum weight even after the cable broke. We then attached a Kellems grip from our first test cable and on the next Kellems grip we hung a metal hanging chair we bought online. We're still amazed that the chair came through in perfect shape!
Behind all this was a display with 500 plastic name-tag holders. We had numbered cards with four fillable lines to represent the four tests we would do at the show at noon each day. A photo of the display board is shown on the left.
Meanwhile, in the Belden Engineering Center, we tested five pieces of Belden 1776 for tension in the lab. The average of all five tests was 429 lbs., so we were confident that we had the world's strongest microphone cable. But then we hit a snag. When I sat in the chair at the show site, the Kellems grip broke! Now I could probably lose some weight, but I definitely don't weigh 500 lbs., the rated maximum of these Kellems grips.
We removed the grips and started the demo by just tying the cable in a knot on the chain and on the scale above. As you probably know, those knots were the weak link. They are instantly the failure point, just based on bend radius alone.
And sure enough, when we ran the first test live on Monday, putting each of the 3 lb. bricks in the chair until the cable broke; it failed right at the knot when it reached 306 lbs. Not too shabby, of course, but a far cry from the 429 lbs. we saw in the lab.
To remedy this situation, the engineer who developed Belden 1776, Dave DeSmidt and I spent that afternoon and the next morning working up an alternative method to hold the cable. What we ended up with was two trailer hitch tie-downs, those things truckers use to hold down the load. You can pull a cable one way through it, but it has a ratchet going the other way and locks in place. We used the rope which came with them as a safety harness, attached loosely to the chair, so we wouldn't throw 300 lbs of bricks at our customers. Bodily harm to our valued customers is always bad for business! The second live test on Tuesday was 314 lbs., just a bit better. These trailer hitches have teeth that cut into the cable and you could see the pattern in the failed cable.
In between tests, we had Renee Staul, our product specials that did the development and marketing for this cable and Jessie Carmona, our international sales engineer, sit in the chain enticing passersby to come and guess the weight that would stop the cable from working. And I want to recognize these two and extend a huge thank you for their hard work. It is not easy to sit and talk for hours on end!
As they approached for a closer look, customers would have their badge scanned. Then, they would pick a number and write their name on the back. We wanted to make sure there was only one person per number per day.
Winners were awarded with one of four new iPads. Another special thank you goes out to Melissa Knapp for helping with the tough task of buying iPads that you don't get to keep for yourself! The winner of the last iPad is shown to the right.
Our third test was 282 lbs. Then we realized that just sitting in the chair, while not enough to break the cable, would certainly put some strain at one point inside the two hitches and that became the failure point. So for the last test on the last day, we moved the cable in each trailer hitch just an inch or two, moving it to a "fresh" piece of cable. The last result was an encouraging 360 lbs.
We're already working on better ways to hold the cable if and when we do this test again. And the best part of all this hard work was winning a TV Technology "Star" award (Thank you TV Technology!). Check out the photo of the award at the beginning of this article. The second 250 ft. of Belden 1776 is already in the hands of a certain British rock star that breaks a mic cable every night. We can't wait to hear his evaluation! More on that later...
If you'd like a short sample of Belden 1776 or our new product bulletin, just call Customer Service at 1-800-235-3361 (1-800-BELDEN-1). You may also download a copy of the product bulletin here.