The History of REELEX Packaging

The Story

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.

One of these projects invovled 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 civillian 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.

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.

Timeline

1945

WWII Origins

Walter Taylor (1905-1965), the original inventor of the REELEX wind, first conceived of the idea as an improved way for combat troops to lay field telephone wire.

As a soldier advanced, the wire would dispense from a figure-eight coil in a canvas container attached to his belt. The figure-eight coil would payout without tangles or twisting yet leave the soldier’s hands free to carry a rifle.

Connectors were designed so that another coil carried by another soldier could be readily added to the communication line as needed.

While the results of a 1945 field demonstration were favorable, the Signal Corp did not buy the idea, in part because they were already committed to an alternate solution of putting opposite twist into the cable while winding, and in part because Taylor did not have the machinery to produce coils in quantity.

1953

The First Coiling Machine

With backing from James W. Newman and Carl M. Loeb as investors, Walter Taylor develops and patents a practical way for a machine to distribute the crossovers of the figure-eight around the circumference of the wind; thus creating a cylindrically-shaped coil.

See Taylor's Original Patent Here

This machine was highly complex, as it mechanically adjusted the winds of the coil so as to leave a radial hole in the wall of the coil. This ability formed the foundation of the REELEX package, as it easily allowed the inside end of the coil to dispense without tangles, twists or snags.

The cylindrical shape of the figure-eight coil also allowed for easy packaging and a relatively dense wind which could compete with spools, reels and traditional coils.

1957

Windings Incorporated

With patent in hand, Taylor starts up a new company through which he could sell his technology. He calls this new company “Windings Incorporated”.

1958

REELEX is Born

With his new company now up and running, Walter Taylor decides to trademark his new coil winding technology using the trade name “REELEX”.
In order to create a sustainable business model from which to grow the company, it is decided to sell the technology using a licensing method.

Through the signing of a license agreement, customers would be able to purchase coiling machines at cost, and pay a yearly royalty fee for use of the technology. This method would insure a steady stream of income from which REELEX technology could be further supported, marketed and developed.

Today, customers utilizing REELEX coiling technology are known as “Licensees”.

1963

Military Projects

With the ability to reliably wind coils now available, the United States Army again contacts Windings to develop a tangle and twist-free battlefield cable dispensing system.

1968

The Battlefield Pack

Windings develops a REELEX coil of Twin Axial cable that can be placed into a specially-designed “field pack”.

These backpacks contain up to 500 meters (1,640 feet) of communications cables and allow infantrymen to rapidly deploy cables across the battlefield even when in the prone position.

These packs undergo trials at Picatinny Arsenal, but are largely made irrelevant as radio technology replaces deployed cables for battlefield communications. As a result, the program is dropped.

1970

Concept Development

The Company gains valuable experience in REELEX coil winding through the successful completion of contract jobs for the Federal Government, General Electric and AT&T, each of which is highly specialized and non-recurring.

1972

Concentration on Wire and Cable

The Company undertakes projects and develops concepts to prove the value of REELEX for textiles, rope, steel wire, tapes, and tubing. However, it is determined that Windings should concentrate its efforts on the insulated wire and cable market.

The company develops the REELEX box concept and begins pitching the idea to cable manufacturers.

The new package undergoes market trials which result in exceptional responses from end-users. Several cable manufacturers are interested in the technology, but most are reluctant to be the first to take the chance on the new tangle-free box.

1973

The First REELEX Licensee

Belden becomes the first licensee to take a chance on the REELEX concept and orders the first REELEX coiling machine. They market the technology using the trade name "Unreel".

Because many end-users are unfamiliar with the technology, Belden pushes the concept by stocking a month's worth of inventory in REELEX ("Unreel") boxes instead of spools. When customers order cable, they are met with either a three week lead time for spools, or only a few days for the new tangle-free package. The end-users take the chance on the new package, and quickly discover the advantages of the new technology.

Orders for the new package quickly surpass orders for spools, and REELEX soon becomes the standard put up for several cabling products.

Over several years, REELEX boxes begin flooding the market, and end-users begin to demand the new package from their other suppliers.

Windings begins receiving orders for more coiling machines, and more manufacturers become licensees.

1980's

REELEX Takes Off

As the “tangle-free box” becomes more readily available, more end-users began demanding the package.

Manufacturers like Cerro, Amphenol, Steveco, Columbia, Western Electric and AT&T begin to market REELEX under their own trade names including “EZ-Pull”, “Easiuse” , “EZ-Out”, “Time Saver”, "Cable Caddy" and more.

1990's

The Information Age

As computer networking becomes more common and the demand for information technology expands, REELEX becomes the package of choice for deploying LAN and Broadband cables like Category 5e, Category 6 and Coaxial Cables.

1999

REELEX II Debuts

To improve payout of newer high-performance Category 5e Cables, REELEX II is created.

This new package features a much larger payout hole woven into the coil resulting in a larger bend radius during payout. A larger, single-piece payout tube is also developed.

Today this tube is also available in paper fiber, making REELEX the most environmentally-friendly disposable package currently available.

2000s

Machinery Developments

As the growth in information infrastructure increases, REELEX responds with high-speed coiling machines powered by microprocessor controllers featuring greater speed, reliability and customization.

2001

The D-2000

The first D-2000 is delivered to Acome in Romagny, France.

Developed as a completely automated packaging machine, the D-2000 completes coiling, tube insertion, boxing and gluing tasks without the intervention of an operator.

Today, 7 of the world’s largest wire and cable manufacturers operate 22 D-2000s globally.

2007

REELEX Packaging Solutions, Inc.

To illustrate a renewed focus and commitment to REELEX technology, the Company changes its name from Windings, Inc. to REELEX Packaging Solutions, Inc.

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 and cable products.