Offering assemblies for diverse applications from telecommunications to aerospace, Carr Manufacturing Company is a woman-owned corporation providing custom assembly solutions since 2006. Our two ISO certified production facilities in Southern California and Northern Mexico allow us to manufacture your box builds at competitive prices and a variety of production volumes. No matter what unique specifications you’re looking for in your custom box build, we have the experience and the capacity to get it done.
At the most basic level, a box build consists of electrical components contained in some form of enclosure. Although this setup seems simple, there are several common issues that arise when assembling a box build.
What Are the Most Common Issues with Box Build Assemblies?
Issues with these assemblies can come up unexpectedly during any stage of the production process, but a few of the most common problems include:
#1 The Source of the Enclosure
One of the first steps of box build assembly is sourcing an enclosure with the right price point, durability, texture, and any other material properties that might be important for your particular application (i.e., waterproofing, heat tolerance, etc.). The two main options are designing a custom enclosure or selecting an off-the-shelf option.
Off-the-shelf options have lower unit prices and minimum order requirements, but they will also limit custom functionality. When choosing premade box builds for an intense usage environment, you’ll need to soak test and/or stress screen the product. Custom box builds, on the other hand, require less testing since they will be built for your unique needs; however, they come at a higher price point and take more time to source.
#2 Poor Documentation
Whether you choose an off-the-shelf solution or design your own custom assembly, you must double-check that all of the appropriate documentation is in place. A detailed written history of all CAD drawings, versions, tolerances, and BOMs will make it easier to backtrack in the process when issues arise. Additionally, documentation about the box build’s components and assembly techniques will drastically simplify the maintenance and repair process.
#3 Inadequate Testing Procedures
Proper testing for box build assembly includes robust examination of both the enclosure and the Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). Soak testing and stress screening, as mentioned before, are common techniques for testing an entire box build’s fitness for the desired environment.
Soak testing determines the software’s performance when placed under an intense data load, while stress screening takes this a bit further by pushing the product to its breaking point to determine where failures may occur. These tests, as well as PCB-specific tests like boundary scans, in-circuit tests (ICTs), and flying probes, are essential for ensuring the real-world viability of your product.
Besides these three major issues, there are other common problems that may impact the success of your box builds. One crucial consideration is selecting the best box build assembly company. Production volume, past experience, technical capabilities, and included services are all things to consider when outsourcing a box build. Here at Carr Manufacturing Company, we check all of those boxes with almost two decades of experience in system design, sub-level product assembly, testing, and more.
Consider also the Bill of Materials (BOM) for your project. The BOM is particularly important when outsourcing to a box build assembly provider, and it provides a detailed description of the components, materials, and parts required to build your product. This helps your partners find the appropriate products for manufacturing, and it also gives your team a clear sense of the cost, space, and sourcing requirements for your build.
Learn More About Our Box Build Assembly Services
Robust testing, thorough documentation, the proper partner, and a detailed BOM are crucial to the success of your finished product, whether you’re working with an off-the-shelf enclosure or a custom component. Carr Manufacturing Company’s diverse array of ahead-of-the-curve custom box build assembly services will help you make the right decisions at each of these common pain points, ensuring the most durable, high-quality, and well-tested product possible, no matter the application. For more information about our custom box build services, view the industries we work with or contact us for a quote today.
Many industry professionals use the terms “cable assembly” and “wire harness” interchangeably. However, while these components may have similar basic functions, they are distinct products designed for different environments and each require their own methods of troubleshooting.
Wire harnesses consist of multiple wires or cables contained within a simple exterior sheath. The sheath is typically made from thermoplastic or thermoset, which provides a small degree of environmental protection to the conductors. However, since these assemblies generally serve as a low-cost organization solution for electrical systems, it usually does not provide a significant amount of protection against strong damaging forces like friction and temperature fluctuations. As a result, wire harnesses are often not suitable for use in demanding environments.
Similar to wire harnesses, cable assemblies consist of multiple wires or cables covered by an exterior sheath. However, the sheath is made from more heavy-duty materials, such as thermoplastic rubber, shrink-wrapped thermoplastic, or vinyl. This rugged construction enables it to withstand extreme environmental conditions, which helps keep the conductors safe from abrasion, compression, friction, heat, moisture, and other potentially damaging forces.
While wire harnesses and cable assemblies are engineered for different applications, both play a critical role in electrical and electronic devices and systems. However, both can experience various issues that stop them from working as intended or as expected. Below, we highlight some of the most common problems that occur in cable assemblies and wire harnesses and how to avoid or resolve them in this convenient troubleshooting guide.
Common Problems in Cable Assemblies and Wire Harnesses
Problems may arise in cable assemblies and wire harnesses that affect their performance. Developing an understanding (and eventual troubleshooting) of these problems—including what causes them, what signs they exhibit, and how to avoid/resolve them—is essential to preventing expensive repair or replacement issues down the line.
Common Cable Assembly Issues
Some of the most common problems that occur in cable assemblies include:
- Inappropriate cable selection — The cables or wires chosen for a cable assembly should be appropriate for the application and/or environment. Otherwise, they may misperform, underperform, or fail during operation. For example, the cables and wires should be durable enough to withstand a reasonable amount of force within the given application and environment. If they are too weak, they may lose connection or break. A pull test helps determine and/or verify the strength of an assembly.
- Incorrect installation — The cables, wires, and other assembly components must be installed properly. If they are installed incorrectly, they can sustain damage that affects their performance. For example, if the technician sets the die incorrectly, it can cause imbalanced pressure, which can lead to a poor crimp and cause deterioration over time. If the technician sloppily solders the connection, they can leave behind buildup that can interfere with connectivity.
- Improper testing — After a cable component is assembled, it should undergo testing to ensure everything was connected correctly and is working properly. Improper testing can lead to missed assembly issues that can cause bigger problems in the future.
- Micro-fretting — Oxidation can form when certain metals are in contact, particularly tin and lead. Intact plating can prevent issues in low-voltage applications.
Common Wire Harness Issues
Some of the most common problems that occur in wire harnesses include:
- Incorrect wire preparation — The wire preparation stage includes selecting the wire, cutting it to the right length, and stripping its ends. While this can be done manually or automatically, errors (human or machine) can occur that lead to incorrectly prepared components.
- Improper layout — After the wires are fully prepped, they must be properly arranged to fit into the harness. Form boards can help identify issues like missing or misplaced wires.
- Inadequate labeling — Improper labeling frequently occurs with mass-produced harnesses. Producing sample labels with the work order can help prevent this issue.
- Crimping and/or soldering defects — Both improper crimping and soldering can lead to circuit issues. That’s why it is important to use the right equipment and technique for the assembly process.
- Wrong or missing components — A side effect of rushed production is quality issues, such as forgotten wires or incorrect hardware. Both can lead to wire harness failure during operation. Double-checking the assembly documentation can help avoid these problems.
- Inappropriate wire tying technique — The final assembly step is tying the wires. If the manufacturer ties the wires too tightly, they can damage them. If they tie the wires too loosely, the assembly may fall apart.
Intermittent Errors in Cable Assemblies and Wire Harnesses
In cable assemblies and wire harnesses, issues can be constant or intermittent. Constant issues are noticeable at all times. Intermittent issues are noticeable sometimes. The latter are much harder to detect and resolve.
Three of the most common errors in cable assemblies and wire harnesses are opens, shorts, and miswires. As intermittent issues, they can have a number of causes, such as:
- Bad setup: the value is set such that it allows the cable to only pass intermittently
- Weak contact: the contact was moved before the solder set, resulting in a weakened contact
- Improperly seated pin: the pin is not seated correctly in the connector
- Damaged housing/insulation: the wires or housing are damaged
- Worn contacts: the contacts on the interface cables are worn
- Dirty contacts: the contacts have residue buildup
Common Testing Procedures for Cable Assemblies and Wire Harnesses
Despite the best efforts of the manufacturer, issues and errors can still occur in cable assemblies and wire harnesses. That’s why testing the components after they’ve been built is important in an effort for proper troubleshooting. The procedures verify that they are assembled properly and working correctly. Some of the commonly performed tests include mechanical testing, environmental testing, electrical testing, visual testing, and signal integrity testing.
Mechanical tests assess the mechanical properties of the cable assembly or wire harness, determining whether or not they can meet the application requirements. Typical properties tested include elongation, flexibility, tensile strength, crush resistance, impact resistance, and cycles to failure.
Environmental tests assess where the cable assembly or wire harness can withstand the environmental conditions with the application. Some of the conditions often evaluated during production or troubleshooting include humidity, salt spray, temperature, and vibration.
Electrical tests assess the electrical performance of the cable assembly or wire harness, verifying whether or not they are configured properly and performing correctly. The three things to test for are open wires, incorrect wiring, and shorting risk. The easiest way to check for all three issues is by connecting the assembly to an electrical fixture.
Visual tests assess whether or not all components are present in the cable assembly or wire harness and if they are in good condition. Some of the things to check when performing visual tests are:
- The wires/cables for the gauge, the placement, and potential damage
- The connectors/terminals for the proper types
- The labeling for accuracy and placement
It is also important to test the dimensions to ensure the assembly is up to spec.
Signal Integrity Testing
Signal integrity tests assess the strength of the signals the cable assembly or wire harness can carry. Some of the elements they look at include signal error and crosstalk. They also check whether the signal strength can be maintained with the integration of connectors, filters, or splices.
Quality Cable Assembly and Wire Harness Solutions at Carr Manufacturing
Many problems may arise in cable assemblies and wire harnesses. While having a personal understanding of each of their causes is essential for troubleshooting, partnering with an experienced cable assembly and wire harness manufacturer can facilitate the resolution process.
For a partner you can trust for all of your custom cable assembly and wire harness needs, turn to the experts at Carr Manufacturing! We have extensive experience designing and delivering high-quality, competitively priced custom wire and cable assemblies for various industries and applications. To learn more about our capabilities or for assistance in troubleshooting your product, check out our project gallery or contact us today.