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July 17, 2013

3M Leverages Its Materials Science Know-how to Bring New Products to the Telecom Market

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

While 3M may be best known for office products such as the famous Post-It Note, the company does so much more, particularly on the tech front. TMC CEO Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) recently interviewed 3M engineers at the CTIA event held in May in Las Vegas. The company was showcasing a fiber and power cable management product that consists of terminals for FTTA (fiber to the antenna), weather proofing and fiber connectivity solutions.

Why “weather proofing”? Because many of 3M’s (News - Alert) products in the telecom space wind up hundreds of feet off of the ground atop towers.

At the event, the company showcased a product launched last year called a Slim Lock Closure. It’s a weatherproofing solution designed to protect the connection between the antenna and the coax cable. Since they are often used high above the ground, these weatherproofing products must be easy to use, and 3M was able to demonstrate one-handed operation for the closure.

At the CTIA (News - Alert) event, 3M launched its new tower dome terminals, and 3M Wire Applications Engineer Stephen King took a few moments to explain the unusual purpose-built dome design.

“We are trying to provide a very low-profile, low wind-resistance terminal mounted on the tower that provides both the fiber and power management,” he said. “On the power management side, we have surge protection devices, we have terminal blocks, various power connectivity devices. On the back side, you have the fiber connectivity.”

King noted that wind loading is a critical issue on top of towers, and that the dome design offers approximately 40 percent less wind load than the equivalent size rectangular box. The location of the domes also means that it’s critical that technicians not drop any loose pieces that they have to remove. In response to this need, 3M designed the dome to have no components that could be dropped. The domes can be preassembled and preconfigured on the ground before they are hoisted up, cutting out the need to do costly and awkward work on top of the tower. The technician simply snaps the tower assembly into place without a need for tools.

King credits 3M’s success in part to its wide range of products and services across multiple industries and its materials and chemical knowledge.

“We leverage everything we can from the many different materials platforms that 3M is so proficient at,” King told Tehrani. “An example of that would be the gel webbing inside the Slim Lock closure. That’s a proprietary 3M material. We are also leveraging the experiences of our commercial graphics group in camouflage and concealment. We have wraps that can hide this infrastructure equipment.”

King noted that unsightly or poorly concealed equipment can be considered “eyesores” by neighborhoods, particularly in wealthier areas, which may damage wireless penetration in those parts. Materials and technologies for concealment can help boost wireless signals in those neighborhoods.

Edited by Ryan Sartor
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