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What is a Wire Trough?

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  • Written By: Paul Scott
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2016
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A wire trough is a device designed to route, protect, and organize cables or wires in domestic, office, or industrial environments. Wire troughs may be box section molded plastic strips an inch or so (about 5 cm) square to large concrete trenches several feet (approximately O.6 m) in width and depth. Also known as cable racks, cable trays, or trunking, these systems are available in a huge range of designs and materials. Wire troughs may follow open design patterns or have integral lids which clip onto the trough to keep the cables or wires out of sight and protected. Most wire trough designs are available in various lengths as modular systems which may be cut to size on site and include a wide range of accessories.

A quick look behind the average home computer desk or entertainment center usually reveals a rather daunting tangle of printer cables, speaker wires, and power leads. Not only is this spaghetti-like mass an eyesore but also poses several safety hazards and can negatively affect system performance. Apart from the obvious tumble of monitors, keyboards, and printers if someone trips headlong over the wiring, there are also the potential electric shock and fire hazards associated with open cabling. The often shocking gastronomic delights open wiring represents to rodents is another issue. Data and power cables bundled together may also have a serious negative effect on the performance of some equipment.

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A wire trough can solve all of these problems by offering a neat and often enclosed path for the cables. These wire trough systems generally consist of box or tray shaped lengths of plastic, steel, or aluminum designed to keep wiring and cables out of sight in an orderly, safe fashion. Troughs for light commercial or domestic use are generally equipped with snap-on lids which keep the wiring enclosed and exclude dust and the attentions of any marauding mice. These systems are usually available in standard lengths which may be cut to size during installation and frequently include accessories such as socket outlet inserts, bends, and decorative end caps. The troughs are also available as multi-compartment systems to separate sensitive data cables from interference-causing power leads.

If the PC station spaghetti junction is bad news, the average production plant is an absolute wiring nightmare. Industrial installations often include thousands of electrical points and their associated wiring, and it is essential to efficiently manage these masses of cables. Industrial wire trough types are more functional than decorative and generally consist of expanded metal, wire mesh or stainless steel strip sections. These troughs are generally left open unless exposed to a hazardous or corrosive atmosphere. Typically far larger than household trunking, a commercial wire trough may accommodate several hundred large high tension cables in a neat and logical manner.

This serves the additional purpose of making it easy for electricians to trace cables through the installation, an essential part of fault finding in those environments. Substations often have concrete trenches running under the switch gear to accommodate the cabling. These megawire trough variants are often large enough to walk around in, although they serve the same basic purpose as the spaghetti-busting home variety.

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