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The Lost Art of Lacing Cable (2018) (thebroadcastbridge.com)
340 points by Aromasin on Aug 1, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 153 comments

Speaking as an automotive engine mechanic, sometimes we use lacing in long-haul tractor trailers.

Wiring for sensor modules along the air-slide fifth wheel, near the attic, or especially around the air brake dryer are always laced. The reason for this is zip ties will quickly fail after freeze-thaw cycles. professional drivers in wisconsin or Minnesota cannot get stuck due to an electrical failure on the side of a remote road, as it can prove fatal.

The same goes for heat. sensors near the differential or aux transmission MUST be laced. Climates like Arizona and Texas can cause zip ties to bite into soft wire insulation or vice versa, causing the harness failures.

Then theres manufacturer recommendations. Zip tie plastic can contain additives that bugs or rodents find quite delicious, which cause nesting issues and failures. kevlar twine or lacing cord can be dipped in bitrex or other chemicals to prevent this.

I had a rodent problem in my garage where rats and mice ate through wiring in my motorcycle and garage door wires. When I had them repaired after eradicating the problem, both my motorcycle mechanic and garage door repairman said that ya the wires they are making in china are made with something especially tasty for rodents.

something especially tasty for rodents

Soy-based wiring insulation: https://www.thedrive.com/news/20878/rodents-are-feasting-on-...

LOUD Auto playing video far down on site even with Ublock.

Sorry, should have just written the words and let people find their own link. Or be a less sucky curator.

>Then theres manufacturer recommendations. Zip tie plastic can contain additives that bugs or rodents find quite delicious

Lol, what a load of BS on the part of the OEM. The soy plastics are more expensive. Your $1.99 pack of Harbor Freight nylon zip ties won't use it. OEMs (at least for smaller vehicles) have been phasing in soy based wiring insulation since the late 1990s (done at the recommendation of the EPA IIRC). This is why rodents now are more likely to chew on wires (whereas in the past they'd just make nests in dumb places). I guess they'd rather stretch the truth than say "because reasons".

Edit: looks like someone else posted a link to a story about soy wiring.

Why wouldn't zip ties be made of the same material as for lacing? (sorry if that's a stupid question)

The lacing isn't plastic, it's (as the article mentions) typically waxed linen or some other type of fiber/rope. Zip ties have to be made of a more solid material like plastic, since you need to mold in all those tiny teeth that cause the zip tie to ratchet closed. It's neat that a lot of these plastics are apparently tasty for rodents and other pests to eat though; I wonder if you could add a bitterant to combat this. But zipties will still have other issues caused by the plastic material: brittleness from UV exposure, and cracks due to freeze/thaw cycles and thermal expansion. There's other (non-plastic) alternatives to cable ties though, for example metal hose clamps. Although that might be too harsh on the cables, not to mention being conductive. It seems lacing is by far the gentlest option on the cables, and longer lasting than zip ties, at the cost of requiring more time to set up correctly.

In racing (and aviation) there's a whole art to safety wiring. Is that ever used anywhere anymore?

But why worry about the tie material when the electrical wire itself is insulated using plastic?

Here's cable lacing visible on a Mars rover:


Most everything in aviation still uses lacing (former aircraft mech). I think zip ties only started to be used (lightly) around the early 2000's.

My memory of being worried about whether a "tie-wrap gun" [1] would be flagged during x-ray of carry-ons at the airport goes back to the 80's. A tie-wrap gun is used to tighten zip ties. But that company also used followed some practice akin to combing the wires.

[1] https://www.alliedelec.com/tools/tie-wrap-guns/

I'm wondering if zip ties are used at all in a project like this one.

Leave plastic out in the sun, exposed to UV radiation: plastic degrades. Sub-zero temps? Plastic snaps. Snip the end, they leaves sharp edges. Zip ties are great for most conditions under which humans can survive. Now, NASA could have special "space zip ties" that are formulated to resist such conditions, but I would imagine they would bear little resemblance to the ones at Harbor Freight that comes in bags of 100 for $3.

For those wondering, they do make zip ties out of PEEK[1] for high temperature ranges. They are rated up to mid 200s C for temperature and cost about $1-3 per tie.

I noticed that all zip ties seem to be made out of thermoplastic polymers (most are nylon). I assume something about the manufacturing of them rules out thermoset polymers? Anyone on HN care to enlighten us?

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyether_ether_ketone

On top of that softeners in plastics can/will outgas in the low pressure environment and maybe contaminate nearby sensors or cause other unexpected things.

Probably not good for high temperatures or moisture, but I found cloth adhesive tape really handy, and it's gentle to the cables. Here's an example from a random Chinese seller I have absolutely no affilation with. Can be found by searching for "cloth adhesive tape". https://www.ebay.com/itm/143150416486

And a whole lot of kapton tape.

Hence the origin of: Crap-Tonne

Can't most of these wires be replaced by WiFi?

No; a lot of wires carry the actual power to the effector (e.g. a lam, or a motor, or a relay). WiFi, on top of being vastly more complex, has issues with electromagnetic noise, wave propagation problems, and thus delivery delays. And it needs a processor powerful enough to run all the logic with encryption on top, because you don't want strangers to talk to your devices.

A length of copper is so much more reliable.

No, even if lacing was only used for network, wireless will likely never replace some sort of wired technology.

The NASA workmanship standards include cable lacing. Look in section 9.2


Wow never thought I'd see this on HN! I paid $20k to go to tech school for aviation maintenance. After doing that for 3 years I figured it just wasn't for me and I decided to go to university for computer science.

But before my last day of being an aircraft mechanic, I "accidentally" brought home a roll of high temp (non-waxed) lacing tape because I was already in the habit of using string to tie cables together (common in aviation). Figured if I paid $20k to go to school that I better at least find some other use for it. So far it is just cable lacing. I'm the only one I know that does it instead of zip ties. All kinds of random stuff in my house and on my cars is laced. Imgur proof: https://imgur.com/a/NLrJzlj

Neat! I don't tend to lace cables regularly, but it is my preferred method of wire management for old motorcycles. I use leather lacing, and it's mainly an aesthetic thing, since zip ties look so out of place, and the leather looks great w/ cloth wiring. My only gripe is how long it takes, especially if changes need to be made in a run. Are you aware of any good techniques or instructional materials to help with lacing faster?

Back in HS I worked line service, and I remember our mechanic being able to lace wires at least 2-3x faster than I can. Is this like welding, where it's all about time spent practicing, or are there tricks & techniques I'm unaware of?

Sure. I don't do the method were you use one continuous piece of string all the way down the bundle as you can see (which wastes string imo).

I think the instructions for doing the individual bindings was something like a "double half hitch with a lock knot" with a really long picture series of how to do that. I memorized it and could do it, but it was slow. An electrician spotted me once tying cables (slowly, and somewhat of a no-no for regular mechanics; but I didn't care) and showed me the "quick" way which is also apparently the same knot: https://imgur.com/a/TZFeBvb

Basically make a loop and feed it under the bundle. Then pull one free leg of the string through that loop partway (to make another loop in the loop). Then feed the other leg through that loop. That's the "half hitch" part of the knot which allows you to cinch down on the bundle without it loosening back. Then for the "lock knot" part, its a regular square knot which is two overhand knots that are tied right over left and then another one opposite (left over right). Once tightened it should form a small square (can't really see on my version). I only showed one overhand knot in my pictures (forgot the other one).

edit: I think the knot in question is a "clove hitch": https://imgur.com/a/9rgk9n2

People looking at that may think "it's a spool of specialist string. Maybe $20, but that's probably more like $90.


Yep, hence why I made sure to get the data sticker in the photo for the really curious. Also why I do "spot" tying instead of running the string all the way down the bundle, since that uses more string.

It's certified for high temp areas around exhaust,etc and hence non waxed (wax helps hold a knot). I normally worked on stuff outside of the fuselage which is where the more common waxed string is used. But obviously around engine areas, only certain string was certified. We also had to use high temp sting inside the leading edges of the wings (which is where a majority of all the wire is) since the bleed air ducts run through there too and cause higher temps (though not sure how high)

Aside: I work in med-tech. One of the largest complaints of doctors and nurses, especially in the ICU, is the cables and tubes. There are just SO MANY cables and tubes in a working ICU. Nurses and docs are constantly stepping on them, pulling them out, choking off blood/saline/urine/air in some tube, knocking power off of another, etc. Most of the machines can't do wireless, as some of the machines will 'jam' that particular bandwidth to operate (MRI, etc).

As this article seems to be collecting a lot of great people that know their cabling, is there anything we can do to reduce or eliminate the headaches that are cables and tubes in a panicked ICU? Anything may help, and I'd love to know some more ideas.

EDIT: One thing I've found for cable bundle twisting issues is that 'N-in-hand' braiding the cables helps relieve some of the stresses when they inevitably get twisted up. Think 30 wires/tubes all twisting about as the patient/machine is whirled about. Braiding the cables helps the wires on the outside of the bundle not twist and pull out as much as they are on the outside radius of the bundle. The braiding helps, in that over enough distance, all the wires spend equal 'time' in the inside and the outside of the cable's width.

Does anyone know of a good resource on cable/tube twisting and how to help with it?

One option, I think, is to accept that cables and tubes will be stepped on, and then attempt to mitigate pull-outs and pinches. (Which, admittedly, is close to the approach you already have.)

Longer cables and tubes would help diminish pull-outs, and could make a lot of the other suggested solutions possible too. Unfortunately the only way to achieve this is probably to call the manufacturer and pray... maybe they have longer options, or female-female adapters that can be used to connect multiple cables together?

Preventing pinches us also something the manufacturer could solve by just making the middle section of tubes—the bit on the ground—a lot heftier. But you could also DIY it by slotting on some corrugated cable conduit? It comes slit down the side, so you could maybe slot it on after cables and tubes are all set up. It would be impossible to clean, but maybe in the grand scheme of a hospital budget it could just be declared disposable?

Image if the conduit I have in mind: https://2ecffd01e1ab3e9383f0-07db7b9624bbdf022e3b5395236d5cf...

This actually seems like a really interesting problem to me.

I don't think there's one pretty solution here. You'd have to break it down a bit.

- Do the patients go to the machine, or machine to the patient? Wireless makes sense for the latter, not the former.

- What's the failure mode? An alarm/alert to the nurse station, or death? Wireless makes sense for the former, I think.

- Are there any machines at every bedside? Do all of them need to be used at once? Detachable/modular cabling might make sense here.

- Are the cables different? Or can you come up with a "standard" cable/connector for most of the gear?

The audio world solved the "cables being knocked out" problem a long time ago with locking connectors (not screw-ins, so they're still quick connect) like Speak-On and XLR. The former is much more formidable.

> The audio world solved the "cables being knocked out" problem a long time ago with locking connectors (not screw-ins, so they're still quick connect) like Speak-On and XLR. The former is much more formidable.

Audio has the advantage of both ends being heavy and solid. Attaching a line that goes into a person with stitches or a balloon (urinary catheter) is done, but what happens when those get yanked forcefully is bad.

Thanks a ton for the questions and the thoughts! It is a terribly hard problem to solve, hence the plea to others on HN.

> - Do the patients go to the machine, or machine to the patient?

In an ICU, where these problems are most acute, the machines come to the patient. You can fill a good sized room with these machines if the patient is in an especially dire state. Like, maybe 30 carts if it is really bad.

> What's the failure mode? An alarm/alert to the nurse station, or death?

It's death. Death is the failure mode. There are others, like severe organ damage, but death is one worth talking about.

> Are there any machines at every bedside? Do all of them need to be used at once?

It depends. If the patient is fairly alright, you'll have maybe a few machines for vitals and not much more. If they are not alright, then you can have a LOT of machines in the room. Though you can have machines on stand-by, if they are in there, they are being used generally.

> Are the cables different? Or can you come up with a "standard" cable/connector for most of the gear?

Again, it depends. Some companies will standardize their cables and tubes, but they tend to not do so across companies. Also, cable and tube diameter is pretty much set by the need. Airways need laminar flow, so they tend to be larger, blood is more viscous, so it needs less than an airway, but it's still got to have some girth. Electrical can be very small, but if you need to deliver a lot of amps, then the cables grow. I'm sure you could come up with the optimal size across a lot of different applications and get a list of all the possible sizes, but that matrix would be very large all the same and might as well be continious.

> The audio world solved the "cables being knocked out" problem a long time ago with locking connectors (not screw-ins, so they're still quick connect)...

Yeah, there are a lot of quick connects out there, but the issue is that you have a patient that is in ICU psychosis trying to break out, or a panicked parent thrashing about, or a doc trying to lurch for the right tools or get to the patient. In these types of situations, you have to plan for the totally crazy events, not the calmer ones. Like, imagine trying to do audio mixing in the middle of the mosh pit. You're trying to plan for that event.

This might be a "problem where every instance is bespoke". Another would be nuclear a weapon detonation or a major hurricane. You can plan for it and run simulations all you want, but your resource constraints aren't known until after the event.

ICU rooms contain patients teetering at the edge of death, who might take months to heal or die. They might be "almost out" and suddenly crash into a totally different crisis than the one they were wired up for an hour ago (cardiac patient has a stroke, stroke patient has an MI, bariatric surgery patient throws a pulmonary embolus, etc). Ventilation, gastric tube, rectal tube, urinary catheter, 10 central venous drips, an arterial line, and a 5-lead EKG and pulse ox, all on in a patient who's on a pneumatic mattress that is constantly rocking the patient to prevent bedsores, is not uncommon.

And there are three vendors attached to every device. For example, Masimo has the pulse ox device, but the leads are from Cardinal Health under license (no doubt produced under subcontract in China, with soy-based insulation) and the sensor sticker is held on with a second layer of generic silk tape because that's what the nurse had at the time.

If you really wanted to do this, you'd have to have the entire suite designed by a single engineering firm with an obsessive focus on supply chain management. You'd need the Boeing or Airbus of ICUs. But doctors are generally convinced they don't need engineers, so good luck with that.

ICU is not trivial as everything is done quickly.

At first thought, overhead cable gantries would be the best as you could quickly toss the cable/tube into it, but then the area around the patent would have tubes getting in the way, so some thought would have to be put into how the cables come out of the gantries.

Other techniques such as pre-laid cable guards could work (a smaller version of the things cables go through to temporarily cross a road), but those people would still be tripping on, laying a cable or tube would be disruptive and they would be annoying to keep clean.

Thanks for the input!

Yeah, overhead cables aren't the best, as a lot of the time, the length of the tubes and cables aren't long enought to do that. Also, yes, you'll end up with a 'beaded curtain' of tubes and stuff going into the patient.

The idea of having everything routed under and then up to the bedside is not bad, though cable length is still an issue.

It is a hard problem for sure.

In an ideal world, the sizes of medical equipment be standardized, and have bays in the bed that they plug into, with the bed providing power. This would keep the tube and cable lengths short, and you could have a guard around the bed to keep people from accidentally leaning on the tubes or pulling them out. The control consoles would have to be external to the module though, as you don't want visiting kids (or knees) pushing shinny buttons under grandmas bed. Having the control panels be remote would help reduce the number of people needed to be next to the person, giving the people who are directly operating on the patient more room. This would also make patent transport easier, as you would no longer need a army of people to help move all the equipment keeping the patient alive or the possible errors that can be introduced by disconnecting and reconnecting the equipment.

It kind of sounds like they need a raised floor. Cabling bundles can be fed into ports in the floor tiles and run the length of rooms without being exposed in a way that people would trip on them.

Thanks for the input! That's a pretty good idea!

The main issue is that you don't have the time to pull up the flooring and then run the lines. You get the machines into the room and then into the patient ASAP, as they tend to be some of the only things keeping them alive. Think a machine that replaces heart-beat function and that you will have a hard time disconnecting.

Maybe a foam pool noodle split longitudinal. You can feed in tubes/cables in the split after being hooked up, when you have time. Should protect the tubes/cables and be light weight and cheap. Cut to desired length. Put some Velcro straps at the ends of noodle to secure them in a position along the tubes.

This is what I put around the lines of my sailboat.

Or, for a pre-split alternative, foam water pipe insulation: https://www.homedepot.com/p/M-D-Building-Products-1-in-x-72-...

Bad idea in search of good idea, start with power, some sort of bumper car style power distribution system. You could do something similar to the newer floor pick up system, where the ceiling has a fine grid of + and - terminal rails, and the carts have hookups designed to always be touching at least 1 of each polarity, and then normalize the power.

Raised floors would be hard to keep clean in a hospital.

MR tech here. Newer MR safe power injectors and patient monitoring systems are wireless, which is very handy. They can be controlled from outside the room. I don’t know how they work, but I’ve assumed that they are avoiding particular frequencies. The downside is the batteries, which seem particularly short lived.

I gotta ask, why are you on HN? I know I'm a bit of a rare bird here, so it's always interesting to see what brought others like me to HN.

Interesting stories and news coverage mainly. The commentary on tech news is hard to beat. I also work in a minor role in a radiology IT department and some of the coverage here is very relatable.

Thanks! That's mostly me as well. The commentary here is very good generally. You've seen the bestComments section of the site before I assume? It's a good clearinghouse of HN's community: https://news.ycombinator.com/bestcomments

Waxed string is still used by purists in the telecom industry, particularly for attaching -48vdc cabling to overhead ladder racks. Velcro is catching up rapidly.

There's a bellcore standard for waxed string diameter and tensile strength...

Bell document from 1984: https://fulltrackproductions.com/service%20bulletins/Complet...


I know a number of people who will have a much lower opinion of you if you bust out a big bag of white zipties and then proceed to install them, and cut off the tails improperly (those things are SHARP).

Zipties are entirely banned from some major ISP pops that have large amounts of very critical , relatively fragile 2mm jacket singlemode fiber patch cables.

For those that are interested in this, you must checkout:


Our techs love to cinch down the zip ties as hard as they can, I've seen a lot of bruised insulation. Also, the fat end of the zip tie is annoying when you pull a harness through a wireway.

Still, this seems way too laborious unless you're building some aerospace thing.

Ban nylon ties and get the Velcro ones. They’re as fast as using nylon ties, are reusable, and are soft and wide enough to save the insulation.

I was going to say "found the Velcro employee"-- excuse me, I meant "employee of the company Velcro BVBA"-- but surely a Velcro employee would know that Velcro BVBA makes Velcro-branded hook-and-loop-fastener cable management products.

I was just poking fun at Velcro's absurdity. I in no way endorse their view of their branding. I just saw someone say Velcro and I never have had an opportunity to share that lovely page. Seemed tangentially relevant.

Examples of alternatives to trademarked names:

* "Velcro" -> "hook and loop"

* "Kleenex" -> "tissue paper"

* "Dumpster" -> "garbage bin"

* "Frisbee" -> "flying disc"

Wait, dumpster is trademarked? I've never heard of this before, but according to [0] it is definitely a generic trademark. Although this may be a great example of why VELCRO(R) is fighting a losing battle. At this point, it may be too late to change the average consumer's habits, as VELCRO(R) is in almost the same situation. Perhaps if they had started this campaign when the patent expired and generic alternatives appeared, but it's probably too little, too late at this point.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumpster

Sure. Famous inventor, George Roby Dempster. The Dempster Dumpmaster was the truck built to go with the Dempster Dumpster, using a hydraulic fork system that picks up the Dumpster and empties it into the truck. Dempster invented that, and sold garbage trucks and compatible containers. Once the patents expired, it's was a de-facto standard.

A "dumpster" is thus historically a container that can be emptied by a standard front fork loading garbage truck. Long containers that are towed onto a tilt-bed truck are something else, usually debris boxes. But they now tend to be called "roll-on dumpsters".

> Long containers that are towed onto a tilt-bed truck are something else, usually debris boxes. But they now tend to be called "roll-on dumpsters".

Isn't that also called a skip? The wiki page for trash skips says that the term is more of a British/Australian/New Zealand english thing[1], but I've definitely heard people call them skips in the US.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skip_(container)

IMO all of these are too generic and should loose trademark status (without a specific additional context phrase such as X BRAND indicating it's actually the brand and not the type of product).

I never knew "Dumpster" was one. Actually makes a lot of sense when I think about it. Thanks!

But do you endorse a company's right to meet their legal obligations to protect their brand?

Nintendo had a similar campaign decades ago: https://i.redd.it/20vipleteraz.jpg

This is a case of 'genericisation'.

A Very Short Introduction” of a man in 1990 who filed for a trademark on his red, white and blue assortment of “Stealth Condoms”, with the tag-phrase “They’ll never see you coming.” Northrop, the maker of the B-2 “stealth bomber”, sued to stop him, claiming that the man had purloined and even harmed the reputation of their trademark. He went bust.


This is wild. It's perfectly logical what they're doing but I'm used to seeing this kinda thing after the trademark has lapsed (Kleenex, Xerox, etc). But to see a company release a pretty funny youtube video begging you to say their name less, well, it's just a weird thing to see.

I don't think trademarks can lapse in the US and many other countries (copyright can; which is a huge debate in an of itself: see Disney).

I actually use "tissue" and "copy", but those kinda make sense. Personally I hate it when people keep saying "I Googled..." because it reminds me of this bullshit search engine monoculture we have right now (I try to use DuckDuckGo more, but I miss the days of Yahoo, Lycos, Hotbot, Dogpile, Excite and how they all give you DIFFERENT results!)

Velcro though ... totally didn't even realize it was a brand until like just now .. and I'm still going to use it generically, because it should just be at this point. :-P

I don't think trademarks can lapse

I think the original poster meant "genericized" instead of "lapsed". But Velcro is clearly already genericized, as you note.

No, "velcro" is genericized. The capitalized word "Velcro" is still a trademark.

As such, you can buy "Velcro [BVBA] velcro", or you can call 3M's hook-and-loop fasteners "3M velcro". 3M, naturally, avoids using the term "velcro" in its packaging and marketing, and would never use "Velcro", because even though they could, because the term is genericized, it would still be free advertising for a competitor.

The capitalized word "Velcro" is still a trademark.

Capitalization has no bearing on word marks (in the US, at least. I can't speak for other countries). "Velcro", "VELCRO", "velcro" are all the same thing as far as the trademark office is concerned. And yes, there are still active trademarks for the word "VELCRO", but it has still been unquestionably genericized.

I think there's mismatch here between you and the parent in that, yes the "VELCRO" trademark is genericised in public use but _officially_ the trademarks are still registered and valid so in law they are not [yet] genericised.

In the UK I can go in to shops the length of the country and ask for velcro and get "hook and eye" or "fabric fastener", is a completely generic term now, just no one wants to fight it in court.

* UK trademark record, https://trademarks.ipo.gov.uk/ipo-tmcase/page/Results/4/EU00...

The rules of English grammar supersede those of the trademark office. If it's not a proper noun, and not the first word in a sentence, don't capitalize it.

As an example of all-caps trademark, LEGO bricks. Like velcro, LEGO is a portmanteau. Velcro is velour-crochet, and LEGO is leg-godt ("play good"). And like velcro before it, LEGO is now fighting genericization.

If they lose the struggle, kids will play with legos instead of LEGO bricks. They might be legos made by Lego then, but LEGO would be the trademark. It might not be relevant to the word mark, but the image mark is stylized in all caps.

This is nitpicky, but I am sharing some of my experience from writing software that produces brand reports for trademark lawyers. The USPTO might not be case-sensitive, but some of the lawyers are very case-oversensitive, so our software had to take that into account. I still have trouble using a trademark as a noun or verb.

> I don't think trademarks can lapse in the US

You can lose your trademark protection if the term becomes genericized and you fail to police its use. It's exceedingly rare for this to happen, the law isn't clear-cut, and different courts have ruled differently in similar cases, but it is technically possible. Velcro doesn't have to rabidly attack everyone trying to genericize its brand, and so long as they are still using it themselves and making some occasional effort to legally defend it, they're fine. But if other brands started calling their products "velcro" in the generic sense, and Velcro ignored it for a decade or more, they could in fact lose the trademark entirely.

Edit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_and_genericize...

>and you fail to police its use //

I think you're wrong here.

Genericisation isn't a function of your policing of your mark.

The only other way to lose a mark is not pay your fees, you can police it as loosely as you like.

What being heavy handed does is increase damages and inhibit allowed usage that a company is not in control of.

I think this is one of the greatest misunderstandings about RTMs.

(I'm only really familiar with the USA and UK IP laws, know something of European and EU regulations, not much beyond that.)

Ah, thanks for mentioning it's a funny video. With just the link posted, it just looks like a typical "say it our way so we don't lose the trademark" thing like [1]. It makes a big difference in the decision to click on it.

[1] https://www.lego.com/en-us/legal/notices-and-policies/fair-p...

> If the LEGO trademark is used at all, it should always be used as an adjective, not as a noun. For example, say “MODELS BUILT OF LEGO BRICKS”. Never say “MODELS BUILT OF LEGOs”.

I'm assuming my down votes are for the link being off-topic. Just wanted to apologize if I annoyed some people with it. I thought it would be fun to share it since Velcro doesn't come up very often in online discussions.

It's alright. One of the things that separates discussion on HN from other sites is that we like to try to stay on-topic. In the past I've witnessed many articles on Slashdot go from discussing the article with the first two or three comments to somehow having a 100-comment discussion of the merits of Open Source and Linux. This would happen even on discussions of some new science or new widget. Inevitably there would be some derogatory comment about Microsoft in there regardless of the content of the original article.

As a consequence I try to avoid mentioning things that will go in a political direction, like Trademark, Copyright, etc. as these terms tend to be very charged for certain people. Once you bring it up people will dogpile the discussion and eventually your article on the Lost Art of Lacing Cable is full of comments about how Trademarks are stupid and Copyright is Copywrong.

It's not really about relevance, but rather that the main focus of the comment is something that invites a lot of political discussion with very little substance.

Innocent though it might have been, we were discussing tying cables together, someone dared to mention the word "Velcro", and out comes Captain Pedantic to remind us that it is a trademarked term. Hey, we were trying to discuss cables, not trademark law. You also don't know that parent wasn't specifically calling out the Velcro brand: "buy the Velcro ties, not the shitty off-brand, Velcro; I used the word for a reason."

That's my guess, I don't necessarily hold that view. But it did drag the conversation in a vastly different direction. :-)

He capitalized it, showing it as a proper adjective. That's pretty good casual trademark use in my book. :-)

I really like genericized trademarks - fun to look over lists like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_and_genericize...

The problem is when the either the brand becomes so dominant ("Kleenex(tm) facial tissues") or the item really lacks an easy, generic noun (Velcro(tm) "hook-and-loop-fasteners". Yeah.)

Escalator(tm) ... motorized staircase?

Trampoline(tm) ... spring jumping pads? Oh, "Rebound tumbler".

Dry Ice(tm) ... solid carbon dioxide?

Dumpster (tm - who knew?) ... large dump-able garbage bins? Bet they really don't like Dumpster(tm)-diving or Dumpster(tm)-fires.

And patents exacerbate this "problem" behavior, because for for the life of the patent (17+ years) the product class is uniquely associated with the brand, so there's no need for anyone to use a generic term (Velcro(tm), Aspirin(tm) acetylsalicylic acid, Xerox(tm) photo-copies).

So the lesson is, when you create your innovative new product, don't just give it a catchy name, also give it a catchy descriptive name, and make sure you promote both.

The capital V was just iOS auto-correct.

This is genius.

If you don't enforce a trademark you can loose it. So this is probably helping protect their trademark.

And this also draws attention -- in a potentially viral way -- to their brand and the fact that velcro is distinct from and perhaps better than "hook and loop".

Amusing, but we all know that's just lip service to show that they are trying to defend there trademark. Google had the same thing a few years back.

Not just lip service, they come right out and say it:

    Us lawyers have to protect our people. Using the VELCRO® trademark properly allows us to protect the integrity of the VELCRO® Brand and our trademark rights, and protect consumers from purchasing products incorrectly identified as VELCRO® Brand products. It’s, you know, the right thing to do

Velcro Velcro Velcro Velcro

They should be using cable tie guns set to the right tension. They usually come with a sheet that tells you which tension setting to use based on cable tie model. If you are doing the same installs each time, it's a better idea to use a gun set to the right tension to avoid damaging the internals. The guns also cut off the extra bit too so it's a one shot action rather than pulling it through and then finding clippers.

If this is IT, I used this hook and loop tape that you would came on large spools that you cut to length. You always got the exact length of tape you needed and there were never any parts to get caught. It was also reusable which was nice when you had to add an extra cable to the bundle.

Zip tie guns can help solve that problem- it's pretty easy to get about the right tension, and then lock it down to that. I use one, and haven't dinked a single cable since I got mine set up properly.

They're a bit expensive, but well worth it, especially if you're doing something that's likely to be near-permanent.

Cable lacing is also nice if you have custom PSU cables for your PC, so you can make your cable runs perfect.

This or similar type of lacing is practicioned in some Bondage suspensions. The end knots may differ, but the way to secure the loose end to the hanging support ropes is often done this way because it is fast and allows a gradual release, which is important to stay in control and not be surprised.

Please, if you want to try suspensions, practice first, and read up about rope techniques and medical topics, like nerve positions, nerve function testing, and nerve damage.

Thanks for sharing, I've always thought cable lacing is one of the most beautiful ways of doing permanent installs.

We still use lacing cord for most of our aircraft harnesses. Nobody but the engineers and technicians ever get to see it, which is a shame because it really does look beautiful.

My favorite was the massive wire harnesses spiral wrapped in teflon, looked so good. It always reminded me of bonsai wire-wrapping for some reason.

pictures, please!

Here is an example: https://starkaerospace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Wire-H...

The black ties is the lacing cord. Sometimes its just small pieces that bundle the wire every few inches, sometimes its a long continuous piece that is looped at those intervals. The black nylon overbraid is for any wiring harness that is exposed or handled routinely. They typically don't use it on anything that gets tucked away. Also notice the heavy harness supports on those connectors. This is thick gauge cable and a lot of it. Large aerospace companies have shops and techs dedicated to making these all day long.

Unfortunately the factory floor has a no camera policy, so I'm not able to share. I'd be hoarding the karma in /r/cableporn otherwise.

My dad worked for Western Electric (part of AT&T) and he showed me how to do this when we were wiring a model train layout.

Worked at a company where the old school cable runners would still use wax string to lace the cables...

That was until the heat from the exhaust from the servers started to melt the wax and it became a really nasty sticky mess.

For stage rigging, the "method of choice"? Never seen it.

It "lasts longer than cable ties"? Not sure if they mean zip ties, velcro, tie line, etc, but I've never seen any of these fail due to age.

It "does not create obstructions along the length of the cable"? We use e-tape.

Rigging isn't generally about electrics, anyway. I wonder if that's a typo.

As someone who managed a department that looked after stage/film/tv electrical rigging and distribution/cable/breaker-box rental equipment for five years or so I will be happy to agree with you in that the modern technique seems to not be elegant tying with cord, but "gaffer the shit out of it and yer good, bud". (Had to clean a lot of that crap up!)

Then again, those were the cases largely in temporary rigging. The gaffer tape will dry out after a while and fail. Very rarely sold equipment to permanent installs.

I use pipe cleaners as my cable ties. Color coded, soft and flexible, strong, easy to remove, doesn't hurt your fingers.

Here's[0] the last one I did, reddit's last datacenter before we moved to EC2.

[0] https://i.imgur.com/DlaX4.png

A telephone technician that I worked with warned me against using these, saying that they are "lightning magnets." I don't know if this is true or not, would love to hear from someone else.

Very cool. I love the color-coding idea. Speaking of alternative materials, the article notes "traditionally made of waxed linen", so I wonder how dental floss would work for small home projects (like under my home-workstation desk).

Dental floss is too small. It would cut the sheath of the cable.

I cut my teeth as a teenager on an electronics assembly line by wiring up cable harnesses for marine operations, and the first 50 I made (out of about 1,000) were all rejected because I couldn't get the lacing right.

Spent a week learning to do it properly, and can still do it in my sleep. Its a very easy skill you'll never forget once you get it done (and approved on the production line..)

IMHO, the wax string in my toolbox is among the most important of devices, since it keeps things very neat and tidy.

To the point I find myself now as a grey-beard, teaching the kids how to do it.

I've had to redo too much cabling with office rearrangements to ever want to lace cables. Velcro all the way for me.

Good also for lacing a rolled pork belly for chashu for ramen noodles. (The end knots can be simpler.)

The internet loves to jack it to cable lacing but if it were really a silver bullet then you'd see it more. It's fine for holding wires together and being light weight but does little to protect wires from abrasion. There's a reason every modern wiring harness that isn't going into (or near) space uses split or expanding loom secured at the ends or spiral loom (not sure what the real name for that stuff is). Not to mention that cable lacing is slower and more expensive and easier to screw up than wire loom.

Cable lacing has its uses but those uses are nowhere near as common as the internet would have you believe.

And before you ask, I feel similarly about the western union splice. It's an outdated relic from a time when man hours were cheap and materials were expensive. They are very rare today for a reason.

And yes, I know this will be a very unpopular option here. Most people who understands the nuance of the trade-offs of various ways of securing wires are smart enough to avoid commenting in here. Obviously I am not that smart.

There's certainly a time and place for it though still. Certainly in the aerospace industry, cable lacing is a very important part of the harness making process. When trying to be compliant to safety measures (like incredibly low or high temperature points, flammability, or vibration) heatshrink/conduit/tape often fails spec and the only alternative is good old fashioned wires and lacing.

Cable lacing is used in aerospace because it's lighter and they use such generous safety margins for preventing abrasion and securing wires that the issues with the cable cutting the insulation or abrasion that make loom the obvious choice are non-issues and aircraft, it's easier to inspect cables that are laces (vs ones in a loom) and spending a few grand to save a few pounds is justifiable in that context.

Temperature/environmental concerns are basically irrelevant because loom can be made out of the same or similar materials as the wire insulation. I know I've seen braided loom in small aircraft. I can't remember where though.

Cable lacing is usually the right tool for aerospace. It is not the solution to every problem like the internet thinks it is.

This is why I'm glad I shared this article, because it's the one thing on HN I'm qualified to give an opinion on - making harnesses is my job! The wire insulation is an extruded polymer, not a heat shrink, so we can't use the same material as nice as that would be.

We had an issue with Airbus a few months ago where their own approved heat-shrink actually failed the flammability new testing (it smokes profusely...) We can now only use it in 50mm increments for protecting wire bundles from potential high abrasion sections (around connecters, through holes, grommets etc.) The weight aspect has never been discussed. It's so insubstantial that it's not even accounted for on our units. Occasionally we'll use shielded round-it for high voltage cables to prevent arcing, or sensitive data cables to prevent noise, but below that round-it is still wire and lacing cord. It's simply the most practical assembly method. The same applies to freighter ship looms too; lacing is not just relevant the aerospace industry!

Installation in buildings. Try pulling a bundle of CAT6 cables from a comms closet with huge plastic blocks from zipties jutting out every other foot through 10-50 feet of drywall and/or drop ceiling. Loom doesn't even warrant a sarcastic comment in that context. The biggest advantage is of course the string takes the brunt of the stretch stress.

I'm not gonna go lace up a DC but it's still useful enough that every hardware store around carries rolls of twine right next to the cable spools and zip ties.

Industrial use - zip ties inside a control cabinet are incredibly rare if you ignore the tiny zip ties used to fix cable name plates. Slotted cable ducts everywhere. Transition to outside world using control cable, bundling stuff is rare, if necessary, it'll be a wire loom, cables being loose in the loom, no zip ties. It's way more common in machines to have a cable duct go to an energy chain which fixes each cable individually in every segment.

Lacing looks cool but in 99 % of applications bundling cables is not just not necessary, but would be counterproductive.

Also PVC cable jackets especially for industrial cabling have come quite a long way since the 60s in terms of mechanical, chemical and UV resistance. The PVC sheath of an industrial cable is a couple cuts above the material used in the H03VV of the average desk lamp.

OT: the fullscreen modal on pageload made me want to bounce immediately. But, in good faith, I tried to register. It took like 10 minutes, because required fields (Industry, Company Name, Job Title) automatically cleared in the case of a form submission failure, "Other" categories broke the form, and the user is required to sign up for at least one category of bulk mail, told it's "optional", and given the frequency options "daily", "weekly", or "monthly". If no categories are checked the form submission fails and the form clears half of the fields. The password field gets reset but still appears to be filled, so if the user submits an otherwise correct form the second time the same fields clear again.

A new visitor is visually assaulted before even seeing the linked article (e.g. evaluating your site). The prospective user is then lied to and punished for attempting to register, and the site is shown to be shoddily constructed.

Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s like they expect people to not use the call to action and just close the modal. Then why even show it?

I learned cable lacing in aviation maintenance school when I was burned out on tech. It has a lot of advantages (less abrasion, plastic flow, plastic waste, etc then zip ties). With a bit of practice it can be faster too. I still use it in personal projects, at work not so much: wouldn't want to confuse my coworkers to much ;)

More detail on a couple of sewing methods, the Kansas City stitch and the Chicago stitch


Anyone know why the "WRONG" example in this diagram is bad?


I think it's a knotting thing, the A knots will slip as you try to hold it fast - the knot will move down the page initially. The way the cord presses the earlier piece down in B means the knot won't move [so easily] as you hold it under tension.

Don't they both press down though? One presses down on the loop ends (A), the other presses down on the strand between loops (B). The more I try to figure out why B would be better, the more it feels like pressing down on the loops would be better (ensuring more of the loop is in contact with the thing being wrapped).

e.g. https://www.dropbox.com/s/ghu5f8m1nsu7kve/wrapping.jpg

Exaggerated, sure, but still feels odd.

No, the A knot has the down-the-cable runs overlapping the around-the-cable loops. Which means if one of the down-the-cable runs lets go, it loses tension on the next. In B, since the around-the-cable loops are overlapping the down-the-cable, if tension is lost at one end there is less tension lost at the next step. The friction in A when the end is loose is much less than the friction in B, due to the entry point in B being under pressure of the loop around the cable.

Aaaah, yea, that does make sense. The loop pinches both ends, so a loose end doesn't matter as much. Sorta requires the knot to be pressed against something, but that's probably frequent enough in practice / can be designed for (e.g. a knot that's bigger than the gap between things it's wrapping).


A marline hitch vs. a half hitch: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hitch_knots

Letting me know I’m almost out of free articles before even letting me see my first one is rather pointless. How I hate overlays!

(I love “behind the overlay” on desktop browsers. Overlays are so much more annoying on mobile.)

I didn't know about this at all! Why is it not done anymore?

For telephone exchanges "Plastic flow" was the reason we were given - if you lace plastic cables and the lace is too tight then the plastic will flow and may expose the wires / cause internal shorts etc. Also lacing can increase cross talk (because the wires run beside each other for long distances).

Cable lacing was used in old "step by step" telephone exchanges which used cotton wrapped wires. When the new fangled cross bar exchanges came in, PVC insulation was the cable of choice, this suffered from plastic flow. The recommended way to run cables was just throw them in the cable trough (the steel shelves running above the equipment, which were also good for the occasional nap). They were looking at many years of installation, I imagine cable ties cause the same problem, but installations probably don't last as long now days, and the cables aren't twisted pair. Source: Ex telephone exchange tech.

Thanks for the insight! I wonder if ability to resist creep[0] has ever been much of a goal when formulating wire insulation. Or is this "plastic flow" a different phenomenon than creep? For installations that are intended to be long-term (inside walls, buried under ground or concrete, etc.), it seems like the failure mode you describe would be really annoying to fix.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creep_(deformation)

Most cables had "spare pairs" in case problems occurred. In a hundred pair cable, there'd be 10 unused for example, and if a short / open developed somewhere then you'd use a spare pair. I remember there was a procedure for replacing a cable in a form (the tied set of cables), but not something I ever did, they were in the process of phasing out lacing when I started and I only did it for a few years, there were these new things called "microprocessors" which seemed interesting.

> ... (the steel shelves running above the equipment, which were also good for the occasional nap).

You've just given me a fun idea for the office. :)

It was not unknown after a long lunch to find a tech having a little nap. I can't imagine that happening these days, there'd be forms to fill out, meetings with HR....

It is still done on aircraft (where vibration and consequence of failure is higher).

It's not done much in industry because it's slower than zip ties or velcro wraps (which also require essential zero skill).

Likely same reason as many, many other things: the modern 'automated' version (tie wraps usually) is easier, cheaper, faster. And has the standard consequences which unfortunately get ignored: requires close to no skill, plastic, seldom reusable, probably won't get recycled and ends up as waste eventually. Lacing has some of those disadvantages as well though.

One big problem with lacing is that it's one long string of knots instead of many individual tie points. You can always cut a zip tie and replace it with another. For lacing that was cut in the middle fixing is a slightly more involved process. So unless it's a final install it could bring some headaches. It's very unforgiving if you realize you got something wrong.

With regards to the material used, I have never used or seen waxed linen cord. It was always purely synthetic (plastics) possibly due to cost, availability, or performance.

> For lacing that was cut in the middle fixing is a slightly more involved process.

Only if you are speed lacing and do not knot the intermediate restraints. If there is any chance that you will need to break apart mid line you add a stable knot at each intermediate and can simply break between any tie.

True and this may help if you just want to detach 1m of cable from one end (perhaps to route it another way). But replacing one cable in such a bunch is either a nightmare or a serious time sink, depending on how you look at it.

Zip ties are cheaper and faster, velcro might not be cheaper but still faster and a lot more flexible. This being said if I want to send a rover to Mars (so definitely a final install) I will not use zip ties :).

Why is it a negative consequence that the replacement requires no skill? Turning on a light switch requires far less skill than trimming wicks for oil lamps, but I'd consider that a feature not a bug.

Creating a wiring loom is a skilled task. If you keep those same skilled workers and make part of the job easier that's probably a good thing.

What sometimes happens is that a PHB will see the switch away from lacing and to cable ties and think that the rest of the job is now lower skilled, and they put lower skilled workers on that job. This is bad, because wiring looms are tedious to inspect and test, and we now need better inspection and test to compensate for the lower skilled staff.

Also, because cable tying tends to be done with a hand tool (reproducable tension, uniform cuts, speed of assembly etc) there's a small risk of repetitive strain. I used to use this tool, and it was okay if I was doing the entire loom, but it sucked if I had a big pile of other people's looms and all I was doing was adding cable ties. https://uk.farnell.com/duratool/d03033/cable-tie-gun-stainle...

Panduit has an even nicer, more ergonomic one- I use a Panduit GTS at work, and I love it.

That panduit does look lovely.

Here's a link to one model: https://uk.farnell.com/panduit/gts-e/tool-cable-tie-installa...

Good hand tools are always worth the money.

It's a bit double. On one side: yes it's obviously better, faster, if anyone can do it. On the other hand learning a skill is valueable as well.

A person can learn another (likely more valuable) skill in the time that they would have had to take to learn to lace cables.

Labor is expensive, materials are cheap. Cable lacing doesn't protect the wire from abrasion like wire loom does.

For bigger bundles of wires there's also the "plasic flow" (basically the weight of the bundle causing the cable to cut the insulation) issue another commentor mentioned that loom is basically immune to.

The comments below the article outline a few reasons. Overcompression of the cables, difficulty making changes later, etc.

Cable ties and velcro wraps seem to make more sense.

Cable ties can cause friction issues over time. They are all but banned from Airbus and Boeing aircraft unless you have some sort of silicone tape or fabric round-it beneath for protection, at which point it's easier for most engineers to just design it with lacing cord.

“Zip tie” cable ties aren’t only the ones that risk overcompression but also have a big “box” that juts proud from the bundle which can interfere with threading, moving other things around it, can snag on things passing by, etc.

And people in a hurry with dull tools inevitably cut off the tail of the zip tie less than flush, and at a 45 degree angle. Those things will gouge up the back of your hands and forearms and draw blood. They're not only a hazard to humans but also to other fragile cable jacket that might run up against it during installation.

Zip ties are totally banned from the fiber meet me rooms at many major internet traffic exchange points.

Not sure why you're getting down voted. As part of our stand procedure we have to file down zip ties because it caused too many issues with damaging cables - and having been sliced while inspecting a unit, the fact they are now all nice and smooth is fine by me.

to answer your question, because. because they can and because it's easier than actually engaging with content you disagree with.

The comments mention overcompression as a problem of zipties, not cable lacing.

Thanks for the reminder. I have a sprawling mess in my basement and have only done wire lacing once (it's trivial to do well, a little harder to do obnoxiously well) and had forgotten about lacing them -- it's perfect!

I used to work in Telecom and I remember when I first saw a monstrosity of laced wiring. This was at a (staffed) phone switch (raised floor, all hardware and technicians) so there was an amazing amount of wiring and I recall admiring the cleanliness of everything (there's a point at which the various colors of running wire, perfectly laced, is a very interesting piece of modern art). The wires weren't done by an amateur; each cable was lined up -- it looked as though there was a harness specifically designed for the bundles of wires that placed them perfectly parallel (or perpendicular when one ran off of the bundle).

I made an off-hand remark about how long it must have taken to do all of that and was informed from the ops guy that they had just completed it last month. Prior, it had been partially laced, partially tied and generally "clean-but-haphazard", however, the switch had just brought in a new manager and somewhere between his first and second day he went on tear through the switch and demanded it be corrected on the short-order. So over about 8 months, every run was separated and laced[0]. Frankly, I would have been proud if any of my personal equipment were as well maintained as the "before" pictures, but the difference after lacing made the "before" look like spaghetti by comparison.

The benefits are huge, though, for anyone who has encountered a run of wire with heavy-duty zip-ties and a misplaced set of clippers[1]. You can lace wires about as fast as a zip-tie if you're only aiming for "good enough", but you can rip through and redo laced wires with a car key or something that is far less likely to slice a wire.

[0] ...according to the tech, "Twice"; they really didn't like the new manager. I've never seen a lace job this excellent -- it wasn't a bundle of clean wires, it was a perfect rectangle of multiple laced wires laced together with each loop/knot hit with a low-temp heat gun to strengthen the knot (which -- while I can't speak to how much value it really adds strength-wise, it had the effect of making the looped/knotted spots look really straight and clean.

[1] I must own thirty pairs of clippers of various sizes/shapes purchased for the sole purpose of cutting zip ties. I'm sure they're all in a container ... somewhere ... all together. I don't think I've ever had one available to me when I actually need it.

Classic butcher knot, now i'm hungry for roast beef tenderloin. Thanks OP.


But is there ever any reason for doing this today, over zip ties or velcro ties?

I'm guessing no?

Depends how safety conscious you are looking to be. Freighter shipping, military installations, and aerospace often still use lacing cord because it causes less abrasion, or zip ties and velcro ties won't pass flammability/vibration/temperature/[insert] testing.

The photos instantly reminded me of trussing a roast. Very similar.

A significant part of my life is cable management. Velcro brand cable ties are the way to go. Zip ties are banned from my networks.

They don’t cut into the cables, you can add cables later, they’re very strong. You can chain them together as your bundle size increases. I keep a spare roll in my briefcase.

I really like the rolls of hook and loop where you cut the tie to length. You can make massive bundles or just small ones and never waste it. Bonus is that they are reusable. I've used reusable zip-ties before, they are a massive pain to remove when breaking down equipment.

Looking forward to the second part, lamenting how kids today down crimp their oown patch cables

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