Labels and ID's and Markers, Oh My

BY: Shane Weaver

As CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, found out when it had to identify and remove 9,000 obsolete cables in order to upgrade…it's important to label your cables. If you take the extra care to get this out of the way before you install them, you'll save yourself a ton of headache in the future when you need to come in and do maintenance or removal. Trying to figure out which cable goes where in a complex set-up can be a nightmare, but thankfully it's one that's pretty easily avoided…just identify them beforehand. There are a number of different labels and markers used for different conduits, be they cables, wires, pipes, etc. Let's take a look-see at the variety of available labeling products out there.

Examples of Wire Tag ID Markers

Cable Identification Tags

A cable ID tag typically consists of a tie that loops around cables (or cable bundles) with a tag on the end that serves to identify what it's wrapped around. There are many pre-printed varieties, or blank options such as Kableflags that let you write in whatever type of label you wish. These tags are useful because they allow for an easily readable, highly visible flat surface to clearly show the ID. On the other hand, a possible drawback is that in tight spaces, a tag that hangs off of cabling or bundles can take up room and be cumbersome. There are several varieties of tags, some with hook and loop closures, and others like Unitags that can be rotated 360 degrees for even more convenient identification. Tags are found just about everywhere, from the networking and electrical fields to home use in entertainments systems and home theaters.

Plastic Wire Markers and Tapes

Wire Markers

Wire markers typically wrap around the cable and feature an identifying mark, usually a number or a color, so you can easily ID a cable at a glance. By using numbers and/or colors, the labeling process is simplified, as it can be difficult to read longer text around the surface of a thin wire. A wire marker might be a tape that uses adhesive to wrap around the individual cable, or it may be a plastic expandable ring that clips around the circumference. Wire markers are used to ID a single cable, and aren't large enough to accommodate bundles.

Heat Shrink Wire Labels with Heat Gun

Heat Shrink Labels

If you need a wrap-around label in an environment where an adhesive label with the potential to peel is absolutely not an option, a heat shrink label may be your best bet. These labels are sleeves that fit around cables, then shrink to conform to the size and shape of the cable via application of heat. This creates a snugly fit label around wires and cables that won't peel or slip off, and can be used in a wide variety of environmental conditions. There are military grade heat shrink labels designed for radiation exposure, thermal aging, and more. So, for an application that needs to be long-lasting and stand up to tough environmental conditions, heat shrink may be preferable to typical adhesive wire markers.

Examples of Pipe Markers ? Strap, Adhesive and Fastener

Pipe Markers

Much like identifying cables, it's important to properly mark pipes to ensure that things like contents, flow direction and more are evident and visible. There are a few different types of markers to identify pipes, including fastening systems that strap, snap or mount a label on the pipe, or adhesive markers that stick directly to pipes. A mounting clip straps onto the pipe and keeps your label separate and away from the pipe, in case the contents within or the pipe surface could affect the label. A strap-on system attaches the marker without using adhesives, so that it can be secured to a textured or oily surface. For simpler applications, adhesive pipe markers or banding tape may suffice.


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