/images/PowerCableUpdate.jpg/images/southwire_100x70.jpg50 Years of Innovation (1st Qtr 2000)50yrsofInovation1stQtr2000.htmThis year Southwire celebrates the big 50. And in that 50 years, many Southwire innovations have become fundamental to the business of distributing electrical power.
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50 Years of Innovation (1st Qtr 2000)

This year Southwire celebrates the big 50. And in that 50 years, many Southwire innovations have become fundamental to the business of distributing electrical power.

"Southwire's beginning was a microcosm of its future," says Winn Wise, manager of marketing for Southwire’s Wire & Cable Division. "When Roy Richards Senior couldn't get a reliable source of overhead conductor for his power-line installation business, he started making it himself. By the time he was done, Southwire had introduced a new wire-making technology to the industry."

New wire-making techniques came early

The first Southwire plant started cranking out aluminum wire for overhead conductors in 1950, with 12 employees on the payroll. By 1952, Southwire had shipped five million pounds of wire, and had doubled its plant size.

But the 1950s wire-making technology limited production. Manufacturers welded lengths of aluminum rod end-to-end, then drew them down into wire. The brittle welds often broke, causing production delays.

Looking for a better answer, Richards learned of a continuous casting and rolling process that produced weld-free lead and zinc rod. But the technology had never been used for aluminum, and the inventor was doubtful that it could be adapted.

A team of engineers, led by Southwire's chief engineer, D.B. Cofer, went to work on the problem - and solved it. They adapted the continuous-casting process to electricalgrade aluminum, and changed forever the way electrical conductors are manufactured.

By 1963, Southwire engineers had continuous-casting handling the even more challenging properties of copper, and today, more than half of the world's copper rod capacity is based on Southwire's patented SCR continuous-casting process.

Research and manufacturing facilities followed

The development continued. In 1968, Southwire engineers produced the patented TRIPLE E aluminum alloy that's used for many aluminum wire products. And in 1975, the Southwire Machinery Division was founded to manufacture wire-making equipment, SCR components and other precision machinery for companies around the world.

Facilities kept pace too, all ISO 9002- certified. In 1992, Southwire opened the D.B. Cofer Technology Center for ongoing development in wire and cable design, metallurgy, and plastics compounding. And in 1996 came the longest, fastest power cable extrusion line in the world, followed by the only facility in the U.S. for solid-dielectric extra-high-voltage cable.

Superconductors point to the future

What's next? For the last five years, Southwire has been working on another world first - superconductors. Since February, a trio of 30-meter superconducting cables have powered three of Southwire's manufacturing plants - the world's first working application of superconductors to power an industrial load.

Today, Southwire supplies wire and cable to the nation's leading utilities users and to dozens of utilities abroad. And there's more to come.

"In the next 50 years, Southwire will continue to deliver a tradition of innovation," says Wise. "Business excellence and new technologies will deliver advanced products to power cable users around the world."