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Background AEI are a major manufacturer of industrial, heavy duty, speciality cables. They already supply the road and rail tunnelling industry with cables. In 2006, AEI had an idea that if they could offer an emergency lighting product, this would complement their existing cable business and lead to increased sales. It was true that some of AEI’s competitors already offered tunnel emergency lighting solutions, but AEI were sure that their Tunneltec concept was better. It offered significant advantages in installed cost and a simplified specification process, and would therefore be very attractive to the industry.

Challenge The main problem was that AEI’s engineers were finding it very difficult to get the Tunneltec connector right. The emergency lights must not go out during a tunnel-fire evacuation.

The key challenges that made this project unusual were the combination of on-site installation, electrical safety, fire resistance and fire-hose water resistance. SA was invited to turn AEI’s rough concept models into a practical production proposition.

Solution SA questioned much of the basic thinking behind the failed attempts and basically started again from scratch. Innovations were introduced in several (confidential) areas. These released the potential of the basic concept and made a workable solution practical.

AEI development engineers supported our work by developing the specially shaped, heavy-duty cable that enables the whole system to work. We also designed special installation jigs and other accessories to ensure that the system could be installed to the high safety standards demanded by the international tunnelling industry, and could be used by contractors who had only basic electrical installation skills.

Deliverables SA provided AEI with a system that meets all the test criteria. It is easy to install. It is robust. It is fire and water resistant. It meets the cost targets. We delivered several sets of SLA and hand-made parts to validate the design. On top of that we provided fully detailed CAD data for AEI to make production ready tooling.

Results This innovative, cost effective, safety critical product has a really bright future in tunnel lighting.