Cabling for your onboard electronics network is not a trivial matter. You’re laying the core infrastructure for communication of critical navigational and device data. The last thing you want to have to do is replace these regularly because of wear in the harsh marine environment. As an absolute minimum, any cables and connectors used should be NMEA 2000 approved. We highly recommend avoiding anything which has not been tested and approved by the NMEA. The NMEA has a rigid test procedure for all cables and connectors, ensuring that they can withstand certain conditions and are safe to use whilst not interfering with your network.
When we set out to create our range of NMEA 2000 approved cables and connectors, we had two words that everything kept coming back to: Reliability and Robustness. We understand the tough environment that N2K equipment finds itself in, and we’ve spent a lot of time researching how we can build products that can withstand those conditions. Aside from the obvious challenge of water and sea spray, there are other things to consider too. For example, boats vibrate a lot when on the water which, for things that are screwed or twisted together, is bad news. Vibration can cause things to become loose. Combine this with the strain and weight of connected instruments and the constant shock of impact on the water, and you soon create an environment which is pretty tough and will likely cause damage to cheap cables and accessories.
Not all cables and connectors are created equally
One key differentiator with Actisense cables and connectors compared to most others available on the market is the use of metal threads and collars on the M12 connectors. Metal is considerably more durable than plastic and can withstand a lot more abuse. Plastic connectors are often cross-threaded or have the thread stripped off where people have forced them together without checking the position of the key on the M12 connector. This simply isn’t possible by hand with metal threads.
There are some other metal-ended cables on the market, although not all are created the same. Many fall victim to “white rust” or “white corrosion.” This typically occurs on metals such as zinc, aluminium, or magnesium when they are exposed to water or moisture for extended periods. White rust is a form of corrosion that results from the formation of a white, powdery substance on the metal surface due to chemical reactions between the metal and its environment. It can weaken the metal over time if not addressed.
By contrast, the screw caps on Actisense products are made of nickel-plated brass, ideal for specifically protecting against corrosion. The metals used in the connectors have been specifically chosen so they are highly resistant to corrosion from salt water too. This ultimately means that, over time, as plastic connectors become brittle from changing conditions, cold to hot, wet to dry etc., the metal connectors will not suffer the same fate. So yes, whilst some metal is more susceptible to corrosion from salt water than its plastic counterpart, chances are the metal connectors and your network will be overhauled or replaced before they fail.
Give me strength!
Let’s also discuss cable strength. Our cable has been tested to be stronger and far more malleable – with a much better response to being bent – than other cheaper alternatives. We have seen cheap cable break internally or crack the outer jacket if bent over the maximum recommended bend radius. Actisense cable is capable of withstanding this and can be bent a considerable amount over the MBR without any damage.
Away from the cables, our range of T-pieces and other connectors (4-way Tees, Self-contained Boat Networks [SBN-1 and SBN-2]) have also been designed with both strength and ergonomics in mind. Notably, the T-Pieces use 2 mounting screw holes instead of one centralized hole. The reason for this is to spread the weight of connected cables to reduce strain in one particular point, but also to help with vibration and impact resistance. Our connectors are also notably thicker than others on the market, but this isn’t just to make them stronger or heavier.
When mounting connectors to flat surfaces such as bulkheads, a common problem is that you now can’t get your fingers around the bottom of the T-Piece to screw the drop cable in, making you take the T-Piece off the bulkhead so you can then attach the cables. Thanks to Actisense connectors being thicker, it means they stick out further from the bulkhead, allowing enough space to attach drop and backbone cables in situ. For installers, this is preferred as it’s much more installer-friendly, saving them time.
Fit and forget
We know that connected devices onboard can be costly. The last thing we want is for the network connecting them to suffer unnecessary failure. We believe that cable and connector infrastructure products should be robust and reliable enough to be fitted and forgotten. In over 10 years of selling Actisense A2K range of products – hundreds of thousands of units – the return rate is under 0.002%. The products have a full 3-year guarantee, but in truth, you can have confidence that once you’ve installed an Actisense cable or connector, it will last significantly longer than that.
Discover the Actisense range of NMEA 2000 cables and connectors.