Crimping wires as part of the wire harness manufacturing process may seem like a no-brainer step where any crimp will do. However, we’ll show how this seemingly simple process can absolutely make or break your project and the best methods used by the best manufacturers in the business to ensure a perfect crimp, every time.
What Separates Custom Wire Harness Manufacturers’ Crimping Methods
At its most basic, crimping is simply the joining of wires to some form of fitting. The fittings help the wires connect to other components of the wiring harness assembly or to other wires themselves. The crimp is actually deforming the connector so that the components stick together. There are crimping hand tools, semi-automated tools, and fully automated crimping machines that our team uses with our custom wire harness projects.
What separates custom wire harness manufacturers is the quality of the crimp. This may not seem like an exact science when we’re deforming components to make them stay together; however, crimping needs to be exact to an incredibly precise level in order to ensure the cables’ transmission of data, power, or signal isn’t degraded.
How to Test Crimps for Quality
Quality testing is performed in a variety of ways and should be present throughout the manufacturing process and is something we take really seriously at Meridian. We’re really proud and humbled to continue to maintain our ISO 9001 certification. This certification is geared specifically at rating a manufacturer’s commitment to quality by grading both the quality assurance/quality control program itself and of the continued commitment towards improving this process. This level of commitment is what truly sets apart a quality crimp and a quality product.
A few of the different ways that we look to test crimp-quality include:
- Crimp Force
- Crimp Height and Width
- Crimp Pull-Out Force
- Crimp Strip Length
Running through these tests, sophisticated testing equipment is required to ensure the validity of the test data. To detect minute defects, you need a machine capable of tiny measurements. With our fully automated crimp terminal machine, there is a built-in crimp force monitor which is super sensitive in order to spot even the tiniest error in a crimp.
Top Tips for a Perfect Crimp in Wiring Harnesses
Whether your princess involves the best hand tools for crimping all the way to a fully automated crimping machine, engineers still need to be involved throughout the process in order to ensure strict adherence to the specifications of the project. Here, we’ve highlighted several areas we pay special attention to while crimping wire harness components in order to create the perfect solution to our client’s unique needs.
1. Making Sure the Wire’s Insulation is All the Way Inside the Crimp Tab
On a crimp, the tab is what holds a wire tight and makes sure that the wire itself is fully covered. With a stripped wire, there absolutely has to be enough wire for the crimp tab to be completely covering the wire. The tab helps create a firm grip on the wire and also can grab a bit on the wire’s insulation to really secure the connection. With unstripped wires, we use crimp tabs that can make direct contact with the wire. This really is the preferred route since it saves time and is equally effective while maintaining the integrity of the wire.
The engineering that goes into this step is with the end-use of the user in mind. Our engineers design and test our product to withstand the type of variables the system is likely to face. Typically our tests run to the extreme side with things like water spray, salt exposure, extreme temps, and bending/stretching. We do this to make sure we know for a fact that a product works exactly as it’s supposed to when it rolls off the final assembly line and before it ever ships to our clients.
2. Ensuring the Wire Itself is Free of Defects Before Crimping
When you start comparing your crimp options, you really should start with the wire itself. We use UL-certified wires with known specifications so that our engineers can perfectly map out how the final product will perform under a given set of circumstances. Using a quality, proven product from the start is what helps ensure a wiring harness can be counted on to perform as intended. You can have the finest crimp in the world, but if the wires themselves are flawed, the final product will be less than stellar.
3. How to Check Connectors to Make Sure the Wire is Fully Retained
Any sort of loose connection is going to be the biggest degrader for the wiring to transmit its supply of power, data, or signal. As a wire is having it’s terminals connected, there are several checks along the way that can help ensure a quality wire retention.
4. Looking Closely at Crimp Indentations
Wiring harnesses provide the wire management infrastructure needed in today’s sophisticated electronics. Crimp indentations help with the wire management plan, as well as the overall presentation. Proper alignment is also integral for ensuring a crimping tab is making good contact and actively gripping the wire. With several different kinds of crimping profiles out there, the proper indentation, done to the precise angles required, is what ensures the integrity of the connection.
5. Watch for Tears, Pulls, or Other Defects in the Insulation
Another way we pay incredibly close attention to quality is through the use of a micrograph. This sensitive equipment takes a cross section of a crimped terminal and analyzes it literally under a powerful microscope. When we polish and/or use methods like electrolyte staining, our quality assurance team is able to spot even the smallest of defects in the insulation and other integral components. This level of quality is what helps our clients know they can depend on the product they receive. With many of our wiring harnesses being used in medical, military, industrial control, and telecommunications, we know our products are simply too vital to ever allow a premature failure.
6. Ensure Crimp Tabs Don’t Damage the Wire Insulation
While we’ve shown that using insulation inside the crimp tab can benefit the integrity of the connection, as with our last tip, the engineers need to make sure that there is no further damage done to the wire insulation. It can be very easy to inadvertently damage the delicate components within a wiring harness, which is why it’s so crucial to have continuous checks throughout the process.
When a crimping tool is being used, especially with hand-tools, there needs to be an exact exertion of force to properly grip the wire but not to damage the insulation. The same principle applies during all phases of the manufacturing process. If there’s defects in the insulation, there’s a good chance for damage and/or degradation of the harness prematurely.
7. Inspecting the Final Product
Any form of wire separation, damage to wires, damage to insulation, or abnormalities present within the many different terminals, connectors, wires, or any other component is simply not tolerated from a quality custom wire harness manufacturer.
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing quality because it’s that crucial for success in everything we do here at Meridian. As we’ve stated, when your products are being used to help our men and women in uniform, our doctors on the frontline of the medical field, or the vital communications equipment we all rely on to stay connected, you tend to take ensuring quality seriously. One of the biggest advantages we bring to our clients was the advent and ongoing use of our Advanced Life Testing Lab. This state of the art testing facility allows our engineers to subject a product to the harshest conditions imaginable to measure just how far these products will go for our clients/ When we’ve reached the best combination of different components to reach a desired outcome, we move forward in the manufacturing process.
Quality control continues even through the final production run as each and every product we produce is tested before it ships so that when our clients receive the product they can have peace of mind knowing the integrity, safety, and functionality has been tested and retested.
Getting the Best Crimp for Your Custom Wiring Harness
Crimping wires might seem straightforward but lower tier manufacturers simply aren’t able to offer the level of sophistication in equipment or expertise to ensure that the crimp is performing flawlessly. At Meridian, we pride ourselves on being custom wire harness manufacturers. By designing over 70% of the assemblies and harnesses we produce, we’ve built up an incredible knowledge and capability base. In fact we have over 5,000 existing tools, connections, and components that allow our design team to be able to produce the perfect solution, on-time and on-budget.
When you’re ready for a whole new experience working with a custom harness manufacturer, please call on our team of cable and wire harness professionals.