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Professional English

Cambridge English for

Engineering

UNIT 3

CASE STUDY
Reinventing the cable tie

Part 1

In pairs, look at the picture on the right


and answer the following questions.
1 What do you think it is?
2 What is it used for?

Part 2

The cable tie first emerged over


half a century ago. An application to
patent the design was submitted by
the French company Socit Parisienne
de Constructions Electro-Mcaniques
(SOPACEM) in September 1956. Imagine that you and your
partner are engineers at SOPACEM. In pairs, prepare a short
talk suitable for a conference or trade fair to present your invention.
Discuss the following points.
l

potential applications (assemblies in which cable ties can be used)

how a cable tie works (shapes, features and how it fits together)

advantages compared with other fastening methods

The following sections from Cambridge English for Engineering may be useful.
Unit 1 Describing technical functions and applications (pages 6 and 7)
Unit 1 Emphasizing technical advantages (pages 10 and 11)
Unit 3 Describing component shapes and features (pages 22 and 23)
Unit 3 Explaining jointing and fixing techniques (pages 26 and 27)
Unit 3 Describing positions of assembled components (pages 28 and 29)

Part 3

Fast-forward to the present day. With your partner, come up with some criticisms of the
1956 nylon cable tie design. In your opinion, what are its disadvantages notably from a
21st Century perspective? Make notes and prepare to sum up your thoughts.

Part 4

Look at the manufacturers webpage about a new cable fastening device the rapstrap.
Compare its criticisms of the nylon cable tie with those you came up with in Part 3. How does
the rapstrap solve these problems?

Part 5

Read the webpage about how rapstraps work. Underline the key information in the text and
make notes to prepare a short explanation of how the fasteners work.

Cambridge English for Engineering Cambridge University Press 2009


www.cambridge.org/elt/englishforengineering

Photocopiable

UNIT 3 Case study: Reinventing the cable tie

Part 6

The inventor of the rapstrap, Andy Harsley, appeared on the BBC TV programme,
Dragons Den a show on which entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to
investors in order to raise finance. Mr Harsleys pitch was successful, and he
attracted investment from multimillionaires Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan.
Imagine you and your partner are going to appear on Dragons Den. Prepare and
practice a short pitch for the rapstrap idea (Andy Harsleys talk lasted 1 minute
30 seconds). Your pitch should include the following points.
l

criticisms of nylon cable ties

an explanation of how the rapstrap works

an outline of the advantages of the rapstrap

Cambridge English for Engineering Cambridge University Press 2009


www.cambridge.org/elt/englishforengineering

Photocopiable

Unit 3 Case study: Reinventing the cable tie Teachers notes

Unit 3 Case study: Reinventing the cable tie


Teachers notes
Part 1

Ask students to look at the picture and discuss the questions in pairs.

Suggested answers
1 Its a cable tie
2 Cable ties are made of nylon, and used for fastening bundles of cables together,
or for fastening cables to other things, such as motorcycle frames, car chassis,
or cable trays that is long, narrow, flat metal plates with raised edges on
which bundles of cables are laid inside buildings. Non-engineering uses include
horticultural applications, for example fastening plants and trees to wooden stakes.

Extension activity

Ask students to try and explain how cable ties work. You could bring some cable
ties into the class to help with this. Next, ask students to read the Wikipedia
page on cable ties and compare it with their explanations. Discuss the meaning
of the following words using the words in brackets to help you.
sturdy

(strong)

tape

(narrow strip)

gear rack

(teeth)

ratchet (mechanism that will move along a gear rack in one direction only,
will lock if pushed in the other direction)
case (a box which surrounds/contains something, for example a case
around a mechanism)
bound together

(bind/fasten/tie)

cable tree

(group/bundle of cables)

tensioning device (tool for applying tension / pulling tight)

Part 2

Students discuss the points in pairs and prepare a short talk, consolidating what
has been said in part 1 into a shorter explanation. Divide the class into two
groups and ask a pair from each group to give their talk.

Part 3

Students discuss the question in pairs and make notes. Each pair then feeds back
their suggestions to the group.

Part 4

Students read rapstrap in a nutshell and compare the criticisms outlined with
their own ideas in Part 2. Each pair then feeds back their suggestions to the
group.

Part 5

Students read so how does it work? underlining the key words and making notes.
Students prepare a short talk in pairs. Divide the class into two groups and ask a
pair from each group to give their talk.

Cambridge English for Engineering Cambridge University Press 2009


www.cambridge.org/elt/englishforengineering

Photocopiable

Unit 3 Case study: Reinventing the cable tie Teachers notes

Part 6

Students read the information about Dragons Den and Andy Harsley. You might
need to explain the concept of Dragons Den if students are unfamiliar with the
programme. Students prepare a short pitch for the rapstrap idea. Ask one or two
pairs to give their pitch to the rest of the group. If its possible to show video, you
could follow up by showing the actual pitch given by Andy Harsley on Dragons
Den from YouTube. Finish with an open discussion of students views on the
rapstrap. How good do they think the idea is? What are its downsides? To what
extent is it likely to compete with the traditional cable tie design?

Cambridge English for Engineering Cambridge University Press 2009


www.cambridge.org/elt/englishforengineering

Photocopiable

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