A Cable Tie, also known as a zip tie or tie-wrap, is a type of fastener, designed for bunching electric cables or wires and to organize cables and wires, but with a wide wariety of other applications.
Cable ties are usually small plastic strips used to secure a bundle of separate wires or cables. A ratcheting system allows the ties to be tightened without causing damage to the individual wires. Cable ties are generally inexpensive, and can be ordered in various colors and sizes. Standard lengths range from 4 inches (10.16 cm) for home use to 48 inches (121.92 cm) for industrial needs. For temporary use, standard garbage bag ties with ratchet designs can often be used in their place.
Many projects involving wired components, such as stereo systems or computer installations, can quickly become unwieldy without the aid of cable ties. Wire bundles often need to be threaded through small openings – a task that becomes much easier with the wires all held together. Projects involving cables and wires can also present a tripping hazard, which could lead in turn to vital connections being pulled out of their sockets. Ties placed at regular intervals can keep stray wires out of high traffic areas.
In its most popular form, a cable tie consists of a sturdy nylon tape with an integrated gear rack, and on one end a ratchet within a small open case. Once the pointed tip of the cable tie has been pulled through the case and past the ratchet, it is prevented from being pulled back; the resulting loop may only be pulled tighter. This allows several cables to be bound together into a cable tree.
A cable tie tensioning device or tool may be used to apply a cable tie with a specific degree of tension. The tool may cut off the extra tail flush with the head in order to avoid a sharp edge which might otherwise cause injury.
Cable ties can be used as makeshift handcuffs. Specially constructed physical restraints called PlasticCuffs, based on the cable tie design, are used by police and military to restrain prisoners. Cable ties are also commonly used to prevent hubcaps (also known as wheel trims) from falling off a moving vehicle, and some are sold specifically for this purpose.
Another popular use for cable ties are identification of individual systems. An elaborate home theater system often contains wires leading to and from video, audo, and auxiliary sources. By using color-coded ties, users can easily identify which bundled wires lead to which components.
Standard cable ties do an excellent job of keeping wires bundled together, but they may not offer protection from the elements or other stresses. Instead, some technicians use a cable wrap that covers the entire bundle. This cable protection system may use Velcro technology for security or several judiciously placed ties. Individual wires are protected from excessive bending and friction, which naturally leads to a longer life and fewer repairs. Cable ties are an inexpensive solution to what can often become a very complicated problem involving tangled wiring and frayed nerves.
Cable ties were first invented by Thomas & Betts, an electrical company, in 1958 under the brand name Ty-Rap. Initially they were designed for airplane wire harnesses. The original design used a metal tooth, and these can still be obtained. Thomas & Betts and others, e.g. Panduit and Hellermann, later changed to the nylon/plastic design.
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