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NFPA 79 Standard Update: When to Use AWM Cables

All industrial machines and equipment have special requirements for their electrical systems. In order to standardize these requirements and also keep up with any changes, the National Fire and Protection Agency developed the NFPA 79 – Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery. The standard provides guidance on how a machine’s electrical system should be designed, as well as ways to keep machine operators safe.

If you are one of the many machine designers who need to follow the NFPA standard, you’re often left with limited options for applications that require continuous-flex cables. But, there’s good news: NFPA 79 has been revised and the 2012 edition permits the use of certain AWM cables, many of which can be used for high-flex applications.

Chainflex® continuous-flex cables with UL AWM 1.1 chainflex® continuous-flex cables now comply with all AWM requirements outlined in the NFPA 79 standard.

An AWM cable is defined by Underwriters Laboratories® (UL) as appliance wire material. These wire types cover a wide range of cable constructions across many industries and applications. Many continuous-flex cables are made in accordance with the UL AWM standard and, during the past decade, the use of AWM cables has been a highly debated topic. The NFPA 79 2007 edition prohibited their use, even though these types of cables have been used in the industry for many years.

After a number of proposals from the technical committee charged with developing the standards, Section 12 of the NFPA 79 standard – “Conductors, Cables and Flexible Cables”, was revised. The addition of AWM cables to the standard provides a wider range for cable conductor cross-sections, the number of conductors, and cable constructions specifically designed for continuous flexing. For example, many of igus®’ chainflex® continuous-flex cables now comply with all AWM requirements outlined in the NFPA 79 standard. The revision broadens the available options for continuous-flex cables and makes your job a little easier.

The NFPA 79 standard outlines the requirements that AWM cables have to comply with. The following summarizes some of the main requirements.

  • The standard allows AWM cables when the cable has been identified for use with the approved equipment and is used in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions. For example, many of igus®’ customers use chainflex® cables because they are specifically designed for continuous-flex applications and many have the UL AWM mark.
  • The NFPA 79 standard defines some of the cable construction requirements for AWM cables, including the minimum conductor strand count, flame resistance and wall thickness.
  • The standard also requires the cable adhere to all the requirements of the respective UL AWM style page.

UL continuous flex cables 1.2 Most of igus®' chainflex® continuous-flex cables have the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) mark.

If you are required to follow the NFPA 79 standard, chainflex® continuous-flex cables with UL AWM are a good choice. They not only meet all the requirements of the standard, but also deliver optimal performance in demanding, flexing applications on all types of automated machinery.

What do you think about the revised NFPA 79 standard? Do you think it has the potential to make your job easier? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts so e-mail me at

A Note on Underwriters Laboratories:

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is the most widely accepted and best-known test organization in the USA. The institute regularly publishes safety standards and verifies marketing claims.

At igus, we have a UL-verified 36-month cable guarantee and total of 1,044 out of over 1,350 of our chainflex® cables comply to a classic UL standard for wire and cable approval.

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For further questions or product information, please contact:

Don Nester

Chainflex® Product Manager


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