Cable Selection for RS-422 and RS

Cable Selection for RS-422 and RS
"...intermittent problems caused by marginal cable
can be very difficult to troubleshoot."
Technical Article #11
Page 1/1
Making sense of the specifications
Selecting data cable for an RS-422 or RS-485 system isn’t
difficult, but often gets lost in the shuffle of larger system issues.
Care should be taken, however, because intermittent problems
caused by marginal cable can be very difficult to troubleshoot.
Beyond the obvious traits such as number of conductors
and wire gauge, cable specifications include a handful of less
intuitive terms.
Characteristic Impedance (Ohms): A value based
on the inherent conductance, resistance, capacitance
and inductance of a cable that represents the
impedance of an infinitely long cable. When the cable
is cut to any length and terminated with this
Characteristic Impedance, measurements of the cable
will be identical to values obtained from the infinite
length cable. That is to say that the termination of the
cable with this impedance gives the cable the
appearance of being infinite length, allowing no
reflections of the transmitted signal. If termination is
required in a system, the termination impedance value
should match the Characteristic Impedance of the
Shunt Capacitance (pF/ft): The amount of equivalent
capacitive load of the cable, typically listed in a per
foot basis. One of the factors limiting total cable length
is the capacitive load. Systems with long lengths benefit
from using low capacitance cable.
Propagation velocity (% of c): The speed at which
an electrical signal travels in the cable. The value given
typically must be multiplied by the speed of light (c) to
obtain units of meters per second. For example, a cable
that lists a propagation velocity of 78% gives a velocity
of 0.78 × 300 × 106 = 234 × 106 meters per second.
Plenum cable
Plenum rated cable is fire resistant and less toxic when
burning than non-plenum rated cable. Check building and
fire codes for requirements. Plenum cable is generally more
expensive due to the sheathing material used.
The RS-422 specification recommends 24AWG twisted
pair cable with a shunt capacitance of 16 pF per foot and
100 ohm characteristic impedance. While the RS-485
specification does not specify cabling, these recommendations
should be used for RS-485 systems as well.
It can be difficult to quantify whether shielding is required
in a particular system or not, until problems arise. We
recommend erring on the safe side and using shielded cable.
Shielded cable is only slightly more expensive than unshielded.
There are many cables available meeting the
recommendations of RS-422 and RS-485, made specifically
for that application. Another choice is the same cable
commonly used in the twisted pair Ethernet cabling. This
cable, commonly referred to as Category 5 cable, is defined
by the EIA/TIA/ANSI 568 specification. The extremely
high volume of Category 5 cable used makes it widely
available and very inexpensive, often less than half the price
of specialty RS-422/485 cabling. The cable has a maximum
capacitance of 17 pF/ft (14.5 pF typical) and characteristic
impedance of 100 ohms.
Category 5 cable is available as shielded twisted pair
(STP) as well as unshielded twisted pair (UTP) and generally
exceeds the recommendations for RS-422 making it an
excellent choice for RS-422 and RS-485 systems.
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