An Efficient, Standards-Compliant Signal Cable Distributor in Rail Infrastructure

January 25, 2021
Railway Signal Technology: Digital Engineering Provides Greater Efficiency in Signal Cable Distributor Construction

Making the development of signal cable distributors more efficient – that’s the goal of cable and telecommunications specialist Comtec. In WAGO’s Smart Designer, this international company has found a digital engineering platform that provides reliable, sustainable support for this endeavor – for example, for the rail industry, which is very standards-oriented.

The trend towards digitization can be clearly seen in the area of rail infrastructure too: Customers are demanding shorter and shorter development and delivery cycles, personalized solutions and digital data (CAE/CAD) for every component, from housings to terminal blocks. Both international and industry-specific standards need to be taken into consideration, as well as further special requirements of the specific rail network operators, which need a certificate for every component used.

Signal Technology – Here’s How WAGO Supports You


» In WAGO’s engineering platform, we found a pioneering, sophisticated solution. «

Axel Küster, Managing Director, Comtec GmbH

Make Connections – with Reliable Technology and a Solid Partnership

“Ever greater digitization and volatility in project business have made it necessary to rethink existing internal processes and reframe our thinking, as well as to find new engineering tools and implement interfaces to allow us to remain competitive on the market going forward,” says Comtec’s Managing Director Axel Küster.

Comtec GmbH, headquartered in Stuhr, near Bremen, Germany, produces and sells accessories for cable and telecommunications technology worldwide. Its customers include rail network operators and their suppliers, telecommunications companies, energy providers, electrical retailers and wholesalers, as well as many local companies involved in expanding and maintaining telecommunications networks. Besides its broad product portfolio, Comtec has also made a name for itself over the years with specialized custom solutions – including cable system distributors for signal technology equipped with WAGO rail-mount terminal blocks.

In the process, it makes sense to seize the opportunities offered by digitization and digital engineering in order to respond successfully and flexibly to customers’ needs. That requires cooperation built on trust, as Axel Küster well knows. Without reliable partners, it’s hardly even possible anymore – “but in WAGO as a partner, and its Smart Designer digital engineering platform, we found a pioneering, sophisticated solution.”


Signal Technology: Versatile Cable Distributors for the International Rail Industry

With the possibilities that digitization offers, Comtec developed a multifunctional signal cable distributor specially for the rail industry. Its sophisticated design guarantees customers maximum flexibility, regardless of the rail infrastructure application in which it’s used. “The possible rail applications are nearly infinite: From simple signal connections, to connecting switch point heating systems, to cabling for decentralized sensors,” says Axel Küster, citing just a few examples. Important: To stand up to the harsh conditions in track beds, this cable distributor was successfully tested per IPX8 and DB-certified.

“Due to our company’s international orientation and the specific national requirements on haptics that entails, it’s possible for us to produce custom colors and designs of the signal cable distributors,” notes Comtec’s Managing Director. For example, the cover and lower part can be produced in any RAL colors. “We insist on the highest level of quality and durability. The same is true of the accessories, such as up to four PG cable glands, which are also distinguished by the highest level of tested fire safety quality and a very wide attachment and clamping range.”

Digital Engineering – from Receipt of the Order, to Implementation and Documentation

For developing their signal cable distributors, Comtec uses WAGO Smart Designer. This product configurator allows a completely digital engineering process, from receipt of the order to implementation. First of all, Smart Designer allows convenient integration of existing CAE data, ensured by software tools like EPLAN und WSCAD. Secondly, this allows realistic 3D modeling of components with CAD data. “Smart Designer is a Web-based and HTML5-based tool. This ensures that the software can be used anywhere and anytime,” explains Steffen Winther, WAGO Market Manager for Cax Engineering Services. It is also possible to work on a team on different projects at the same time. “For this purpose, every single team member is assigned the right read and write rights for their specific role in the project through their email address. This eliminates the need for project-specific communication via email, since the members interact and work directly within the software through the 3D objects and circuit diagrams,” adds Axel Küster, describing an additional benefit from the user’s perspective.

Documentation with parts lists and assembly plans for preparing production documents is generated along the way. WAGO Smart Designer can also support the purchasing process, since the orders for the individual parts can be exported directly from the WAGO Smart Designer Configurator. “We also benefit from the automatic import of item numbers for individual components into the ERP system and from complete, standards-compliant PDF documentation in PDF form, for example per the DIN Railway Standards Committee (FSF),” notes Axel Küster.

» With WAGO, we get everything from one source. Not just the right products, but also the supporting engineering tools. «

Axel Küster

Flexibility and Know-How for Project Implementation

At the end of the development process, Comtec decides whether to handle the production in-house or via the WAGO Project Service. “This allows us to avoid order spikes: In high-demand periods, we just send the production order for the fully assembled rails to WAGO,” says Axel Küster. Depending on the order volume and production depth of the project, partners like Comtec can have their order in hand with five business days. “If the order will be handled by WAGO, a quote can be requested directly from WAGO Smart Designer, since it stores all the customer-specific conditions, allowing exceptionally rapid online pricing,” emphasizes Steffen Winther.

Alongside all the possibilities that digital engineering offers companies, Steffen Winther also points out one consideration: “Digitization entails a change in philosophy that has to take place within companies.” Comtec has made this philosophical change and selected WAGO as its partner. Axel Küster: “With WAGO, we get everything from one source – not just the right products, but also the supporting engineering tools. Furthermore, WAGO stands by us with technical expertise in rail industry specifications. That helps us achieve real added value for our customers.”

WAGO Products for Railway Projects – Durable, Reliable and Standards-Compliant

Digitization makes development processes more efficient. But for the implementation of railway projects, long lifespans and reliability play a significant role for the products. “It’s not unusual for the distributors to spend over 40 years on the tracks, so they have to work reliably,” says Axel Küster. He knows that there’s almost no other industry in which the environmental factors are so extensive and distinctive as signal technology. “The installations are constantly subjected to alternating temperatures and condensation, as well as vibrations and shocks caused by passing trains, over the course of years.” This is where WAGO connection technology, with its spring pressure connection technology in the form of CAGE CLAMP® and Push-in CAGE CLAMP®, really shows off all its strengths.

During the development phase, WAGO already subjects its products to the most rigorous tests in order to meet the common leading standards of the industry. For vibration and shock, that means tests per the industry-specific EN 61373 standard, but also tests per IEC/EN 60068-2-6. The resistance of the electromechanical components to condensation and corrosion is ensured through the cyclic damp heat test per IEC/EN 60068-2-30. An internal SO² test for industrial atmospheres per EN ISO 6988, IEC/EN 60068-2-42, IEC/EN 60068-2-60 is also performed. Adhering to UL 746C, the polyamides used at WAGO have a continuous operating temperature of 105 °C (221 °F) based on the relative temperature index with impact load (RTIimp). “This ensures that the necessary electrical and mechanical insulating properties are maintained with sufficient reliability over a long period of time. The short-term upper temperature limit is 200 °C (392 °F),” says WAGO Product Manager Burkhard Niemann.

In lower temperature ranges, it has been determined that no damage to the insulation material occurs during usage down to −35 °C (−31 °F). After installation and wiring, WAGO products can even be used at temperatures down to −60 °C (−76 °F). For rail applications, the carefully selected plastic of the rail-mount terminal blocks fulfills EN 45545 and is classified as a V0 material by the standard.

Text: Kilian Fröhlich, Global Key Account Manager for the Railway Industry at WAGO


» Digitization entails a change in philosophy that has to take place within companies. «

Steffen Winther, Market Management for Cax Engineering Services, WAGO

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