There are decidedly many steps that comprise getting a cable assembly from concept into production. At Meridian, we design over 70% of the products we manufacture which gives our team an edge when we’re solving the types of complex problems our clients bring our way every day.
Today’s spotlight is pointed squarely at the process of cable assembly manufacturing. We’ll cover how our brilliant cable and wire engineers bring our clients’ designs to life and what it takes to go from a digital blueprint all the way to volume manufacturing.
Laying the Framework: Cable Assembly Design 101
Whenever we start to get the cable assembly specifications from the client, our team can immediately set to work designing the perfect solution. The design phase is a crucial first step in the process and allows our team the ability to test multiple iterations of a product in a virtual environment. Utilizing sophisticated design software, our cable assembly engineers create the blueprint for the final design.
Systems will be tested to make sure the assembly can withstand the rigors of its intended environment – all within complex simulations that greatly reduce the man hours needed to produce a given result. Even during the design phase, our engineers will be hard at work testing the design before ever moving forward in the process. It is indeed very rare for a product to move from the design phase to volume manufacturing without first going through a prototyping phase.
Why Use Prototyping in Cable Assembly Production?
Prototyping is taking the digital design our engineers have developed and physically bringing all the pieces together to see how they’ll perform in the real world. As with the design phase, when prototyping we can test several different versions simultaneously to see which product performs most efficiently. Aside from performance and integrity of product, prototyping also gives our team a chance to see how the supply chain will respond to the needs of the project.
We strive to be a lean manufacturer, adhering to Kanban principles of waste elimination in the manufacturing process, as well as just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing which helps reduce time in production runs. Both of these principles are front and center during prototyping where our team can test how one set of products comes together versus sourcing a different way. Focusing on reducing waste at every step of the manufacturing process is one way we help ensure our projects are delivered on-time and on-budget.
A Closer Look at Short Run Manufacturing
At Meridian, we get all kinds of orders from all kinds of industries. From military applications, to medical technology, telecommunications, and more, our cable assemblies help provide the data, signal, and/or power needed to run today’s advanced technologies. When a client needs a relatively small batch, such as with a sample production, we’re able to accommodate with a short run manufacturing process. Short run production also typically involves having at least one factor in the manufacturing process that’s fixed.
Soldering During a Manual Termination
Manual termination is often used during the short run manufacturing process in order to meet the requirements of our clients both in terms of how many products are being created and how quickly they need to receive them. Decreasing lead times is something our project managers are incredibly skilled at and manual termination using soldering is just one tool in their tool belt to do just that.
With advanced technology and an incredibly skilled workforce, we are able to meet even the most precise soldering specifications to within .015.
Moving Into Cable Assembly Manufacturing
Through every stage of cable assembly manufacturing, we strive to engineer in as much value as possible. Value is achieved when you have an extremely high quality product that our clients know they can depend on.
There are many “off-the-shelf” cable assemblies out there, but these don’t always provide the exact solution our clients need nor are they usually engineered to the same level of quality as what is received with a UL-approved manufacturing facility like Meridian. We’re proud to be UL approved and can also work with our clients to get their products certified through most industry certification agencies.
Starting Off Right with Custom Cable Extrusion
When it comes to building high-quality cable assemblies, extrusion is a crucial piece of the manufacturing process. Extrusion is the process of manufacturing a cable assembly’s cross sections. These cross sections must be absolutely uniform in order for the system to perform at its best. Meridian’s extruder machines look something like a giant screw with a large hopper. The “screw” has a heated barrel where the material of choice from the hopper is combined and melted down so it can then be forced into a reusable metal die. With sophisticated equipment and very capable cable assembly engineers, we’re able to extrude conductors from 34 gauge all the way up to 12 gauge.
A conductor is the basic building block of any assembly and gets stranded based on the needs of the project. After, we can insulate, fill, wrap, and shield depending on the environment the cable assembly will be used in.
What is Insert Molding and Overmolding in Cable Assemblies?
Insert molding is a process we’ve completed many times which leads to a significant improvement in the strength and resiliency of a cable assembly. Insert molding involves applying an engineered plastic such as PVC or TPEE to cover the component and provide better protection.
Overmolding connections can provide many different industry-specific advancements. For example, with medical devices, a silicone overmolding can be used to provide increased chemical resistance and tensile strength. Overmolding improves the overall quality of the assembly and also increases the limits for what is possible in medical device technology.
Custom colors in overmolding help us be able to match our overmolded components to just about any color our client desires. For aesthetics, we can match a specific color of equipment or can help provide a color-coded overmold that makes the assembly easier to integrate. Custom designs like the name of a product or a corporate logo can also be placed on overmolds through our extensive tooling inventory.
High-Tech Ultrasonic Plastic Welding
Ultrasonic may conjure up images of your toothbrush but it’s just the word to describe the use of high-frequency vibration. In cable assembly manufacturing, ultrasonic welding is used to precisely seal components together in an extremely fast manner. Ultrasonic plastic welding produces a clean, strong connection point that makes the assembly all the more durable.
Test, Test, Repeat
One of the most important aspects to the entire cable assembly manufacturing process is the testing that is layered in from the very beginning. Our quality assurance team makes sure mistakes are prevented and the quality of process and product are both consistently high.
- Analyzing Cable Assemblies for Signal Integrity
For each and every assembly that rolls off the production line, many rounds of testing will have already taken place. Even so, we test each product before shipping to ensure the integrity and functionality of the assembly. Signal integrity analysis helps our engineers look for things like opens or shorts, the correct pin-out, and also tests the integrity of the shielding.
- Utilizing Automated Testing Machines
Meridian utilizes highly-sophisticated, automated Cirrus testing units to ensure each product meets the high standards needed to complete its function. These testing units are able to spot even the smallest defects in the majority of cable assemblies produced. However, there are situations where a completely custom cable assembly requires a custom testing unit. In these cases, our expansive tooling inventory comes in handy.
- Testing for the Environment with Our Advanced Life Testing Lab
Testing cable assemblies would be useless if they are never subjected to the types of real world conditions they’ll be facing in their given systems. That’s why we created our very own Advanced Life Testing Lab. Here, our quality assurance engineers set to work putting cable assemblies through their paces, while being hit with all manner of environmental variables like extreme temperatures and moisture.
Getting it There: Maintaining Efficient Logistics
Leveraging two, wholly-owned manufacturing facilities in the US and in China, Meridian is able to efficiently manage a global supply chain. This means our assemblies get where they need to go, exactly when they need to get there. Completing cable assemblies on-time and on-budget requires key planning from design all the way through delivery.
Starting a New Custom Cable Project
Moving forward with a custom cable manufacturer requires a lot of trust. Customers trust that the cable manufacturer has the tools and capabilities to produce a solution that fits and that can be depended on. Our team becomes a trusted partner in the success of each and every project we undertake. From the first design consultation through volume manufacturing, the Meridian team ensures we meet or exceed all project milestones.
To get your custom assembly project started, contact us now through our online form. You can also reach us by calling 1-877-806-8667 or email us at email@example.com.