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What Are the Disadvantages of Kapton Insulated Wire?

400x400_KaptonDisadvantage_2017_F16On April 3, 2017 InterConnect informed the reader about The Advantages of Kapton Wire. Today, we will present information about the Disadvantages of Kapton Insulated Wire. After years of use in many different civilian and military platforms including the F-16, UH-60, AH-1, F-15, and F-18, serious safety issues began to appear.

Once the Kapton wire was in service and started to age it was found to have very poor resistance to mechanical wear; mainly abrasion within cable harnesses due to aircraft movement and during normal maintenance. After the wire has been damaged and the brittle Kapton insulation layer is cracked, the wiring was found to be susceptible to three potential problems which appeared to be unique to polyimide (Kapton) insulated wire:

  1. Hydrolysis – a phenomenon characterized by cracking and breakdown of the insulation material through exposure to moisture; the speed of breakdown depending on both temperature and stress.
  2. Wet Arc Tracking – occurs when contaminating moisture or aircraft fluids create a short circuit between an exposed conductor and the aircraft structure or an adjacent exposed conductor at a different potential.
  3. Dry Arc Tracking – occurs in dry conditions when one or more conductors are shorted as a result of abrasion from the aircraft structure, wire to wire abrasion, and installation error or battle damage.

Either form of arc-tracking can create a very dangerous situation for any air vehicle. When arc tracking occurs it can destroy an entire wire bundle, and, since many bundles contain wiring for multiple systems, this can result in serious loss of functionality. In extreme cases entire aircraft could be lost. It was postulated by some that Swissair Flight 111 (which crashed in September 1998 killing 299 passengers and crew) was a result of an electrical fire caused by Kapton insulated wire.

Unfortunately there’s no “easy fix” other than wire replacement. In many cases complete aircraft re-wiring is the best solution, especially for older airframes where the rewiring can be accomplished as part of an upgrade and Service Life Extension (SLEP) program.
Fortunately, InterConnect has the solution with one of its various wire replacement programs. For those who need a complete aircraft rewire, standby for our upcoming eBook titled, “What Are the Ten Steps to Rewire Military Aircraft?” This eBook will be coming in June 2017. Until then, you can view a 1 minute and 48 second clip from a video that The Learning Channel created. Touch here to start the short video.

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We are the sole licensee of Lockheed Martin for F-16 electrical products. Through this agreement, we have access to Lockheed Martin’s F-16 engineering data, tooling and configuration control information. We also have a Technical Services agreement with Sikorsky for all of their aircraft. This agreement allows us to obtain their engineering data needed to rewire helicopters that Sikorsky manufactures.

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