A cable tie.
It’s such a simple, humble device, we tend to think of it as something that has been around since the dawn of time, like the wheel.
In fact, the cable tie we know today is very much a product of our modern technological age. It was born 60 years ago as a light, quick and reliable way to tie electrical cables together in airplanes – Ty-Rap®, a feat of practical engineering from Thomas & Betts, a member of the ABB group.
Since then, it has been rethought, re-engineered, repurposed and rethought again. Including different sizes, materials and uses, ABB alone carries more than 250 different varieties of Ty-Rap along with a few hundred more accessories, and its uses are limited only by the boundaries of human ingenuity.
Ty-Rap sits on the surface of Mars. It rests in the engine compartments of million-dollar race cars and cross-country rally buggies. It holds cable in broiling solar power farms, acid-washed chemical plants and salt-sprayed oil rigs. And we have taught a robot to use it. In short, a form of Ty-Rap has been developed to handle some of the most rugged and high-tech conditions imaginable on planet Earth and in the solar system around us.
Or, you can use it to build a park bench. Your choice.
Here’s a brief look at how Ty-Rap came to be, and how it has been re-engineered for multiple uses:
Invention. The idea for Ty-Rap was first conceived in 1956 when Thomas & Betts engineer Maurus C. Logan noticed workers in a Boeing airplane plant laboriously tying electrical cables into the fuselage with waxed string. His experimental prototypes quickly evolved into the nylon strip with a metal tang in its head that gives Ty-Rap its Grip of Steel® today. Thomas & Betts applied for its first Ty-Rap patent in 1958.
Space. As the space race progressed, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, needed equipment that would not emit gasses, even in the frigid temperatures, intense radiation and vacuum of space. Gasses can interfere with the sensitive instruments that satellites and other space vehicles use to analyze extraterrestrial atmospheres, among other things. Basic Ty-Rap is made of nylon – a wonderful material on Earth, but one that would give up multiple gasses and dry out quickly in space. The answer: Ty-Rap made with ETFE, a sophisticated fluoropolymer related to Teflon™. The new ties rest on the surface of Mars with NASA’s Martian rover. Due to their almost bullet-proof resistance to heat, cold, radiation, flames and other hazards, they are also popular with high-end race car builders and others who need to protect highly expensive parts from the elements.