ASTM D3638 - 12

    Standard Test Method for Comparative Tracking Index of Electrical Insulating Materials

    Active Standard ASTM D3638 | Developed by Subcommittee: D09.12

    Book of Standards Volume: 10.02


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    Significance and Use

    Electrical equipment can fail as a result of electrical tracking of insulating material that is exposed to various contaminating environments and surface conditions. There are a number of ASTM and other tests designed to quantify behavior of materials, especially at relatively high voltages. This method is an accelerated test which at relatively low test voltages, provides a comparison of the performance of insulating materials under wet and contaminated conditions. The comparative tracking index is not related directly to the suitable operating voltage in service.

    When organic electrical insulating materials are subjected to conduction currents between electrodes on their surfaces, many minute tree-like carbonaceous paths or tracks are developed near the electrodes. These tracks are oriented randomly, but generally propagate between the electrodes under the influence of the applied potential difference. Eventually a series of tracks spans the electrode gap, and failure occurs by shorting of the electrodes.

    The conditions specified herein are intended, as in other tracking test methods, to produce a condition conducive to the formation of surface discharges and possible subsequent tracking. Test conditions are chosen to reproducibly and conveniently accelerate a process; for this reason, they rarely reproduce the varied conditions found in actual service. Therefore, while tracking tests serve to differentiate materials under given conditions, results of tracking tests cannot be used to infer either direct or comparative service behavior of an application design. Rather, tracking test results provide a tool for judging the suitability of materials for a given application. The suitability can only be verified through testing the design in actual end use or under conditions which simulate end use as closely as possible.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This test method evaluates in a short period of time the low-voltage (up to 600 V) track resistance or comparative tracking index (CTI) of materials in the presence of aqueous contaminants.

    1.2 The values stated in metric (SI) units are to be regarded as standard. The inch-pound equivalents of the metric units are approximate.

    1.3 This standard is technically equivalent to the version of IEC Publication 112 cited in 2.2. However, the 2007 version of IEC 60112 Fourth Edition yields numerical CTI values that are very likely to differ significantly from this standard.

    1.4 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety problems, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ASTM Standards

    D1711 Terminology Relating to Electrical Insulation

    D6054 Practice for Conditioning Electrical Insulating Materials for Testing


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 29.035.01 (Insulating materials in general)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code


    DOI: 10.1520/D3638-12

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