The History of REELEX Packaging
Basis on the Battlefield
The REELEX coiling concept was first unveiled in World War II as a means for rapidly deploying cable in the battlefield. However, because the concept was still in development by the end of World War II, REELEX was not adopted before the war ended. During the 1960s and 1970s, REELEX was again reviewed by the military for special projects and was approached to develop tangle, twist and rotation-free dispensing technologies for various communications projects including improved ways to deploy communications cable in the battlefield.
Developed for Combat
One of these projects involved a specialized reusable backpack in which a REELEX coil of Twin Axial cable could be placed and dispensed quickly without twists or tangles. These backpacks could contain up to 500 meters of communications cables and would allow infantrymen to rapidly deploy cables across the battlefield even when in the prone position. The REELEX field pack underwent trials, but was largely made irrelevant by the replacement of traditional wire transmissions with radio and other communications technologies. As a result, the project was dropped despite extensive research and development.
Other military projects included a system of deploying fiber optics for remotely-operated vehicles, a torpedo-wire dispensing system and other more “sensitive” projects. However, while most military applications were not adopted, the backpack project and others eventually led the company to accumulate extensive knowledge about coil winding machinery, wire and cable, as well as packaging. Leveraging this knowledge, the company decided to pursue the civilian market. New coiling machines aimed at the growing wire and cable industry were developed and presented to various cable manufacturers as an alternative to spools and reels.
Deploying Connectivity in the Information Age
In 1973, Belden became the first cable manufacturer to sign a license agreement and the first to purchase a REELEX machine. With the growth of international telecommunications infrastructure, wire manufacturers began receiving demands from their customers for the new “tangle-free package”. Building on this end-user demand, REELEX continued to gain market acceptance in the US and Canada as the preferred cable package for small telephone and electronic cables, coaxial, data, and alarm and security cable.
Today, there are over 100 licensees operating in over 140 manufacturing plants worldwide, and REELEX has become the standard package for most telecommunications cable constructions as well as several other types of wire, cable and fiber optic products.