When a custom interconnect solution is required, partnering with a distributor can facilitate the process from early design stages through final delivery.
There is an abundance of off-the-shelf products available for connector and cable harness assembly applications; but where do design engineers turn when they need something custom-engineered for harsh or other unique environments?
“Connectors and cables are often an afterthought in design,” says John Rozanski, director of sales – North America, PEI-Genesis. “It’s sometimes difficult for the design engineer at an OEM to choose what’s going to work best for their application. We like to work with them from the beginning to help find the best solution – one that will save them time and money.”
Design engineers should look for a partner that has both a breadth of technology at their fingertips and in-house engineering experts who can either recommend or build the right parts for the right applications – especially when it comes to harsh environments.
A little over a year ago, PEI-Genesis worked on a rail transit project that required durability so that the connectors and cables could withstand extreme temperatures and high vibration. Additionally, there was a challenge with the interface. Since the application required the same connector to be used multiple times, the customer wanted a way to prompt its operators to easily – and quickly – mate the right connector with the right cable. Finally, the team had a demanding time crunch in which to get the project completed.
According to Robert Haluska, Engineered Solutions Group – North America, PEI-Genesis, the distributor’s team met with the customer, gathered information, and got to work on the design. “We delivered a design solution that color-coded the parts to ensure the right mating. We were then able to move quickly from design to sample to prototype to production, collaborating with the customer every step of the way.”
“If a customer goes straight to an interconnect manufacturer first, all they may get is what’s in its product catalog,” adds Rozanski. “It’s helpful to work with a distributor that has a deep knowledge of offerings from franchised manufacturers and can also collaborate with the customer’s engineers on custom, quick-turn solutions.”
A distributor’s engineers should become an integral part of a customer’s new product development team, meeting in person or via phone or video conference to collaborate fully on a solution from design to delivery. They act as trusted advisors to guide the customer team toward the design that will be the best fit for a project, and sometimes they are called on when other suppliers can’t deliver to the timetable or the budget.
According to Rozanski, one customer needed a custom connector for military vehicles that could withstand blasts and other harsh environmental concerns. The customer couldn’t find a solution that would go through the vehicle’s thick armor plating and couldn’t find a manufacturer that could provide it in a short period of time.
“Many companies wanted 20 or even 26 weeks to produce what the customer needed,” says Haluska. “We were able to provide samples within several days, and had working, through-bulkhead adaptors for prototype testing in only a few weeks.”
Production of this custom application was ultimately installed on thousands of mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles.
What else should design engineers and OEMs keep in mind when they’re searching for a custom interconnect solution?
“Many engineers with design challenges just Google for parts to fit their requirements,” says Haluska. “They sometimes pick one part from one company and another part from another company, hoping they will work; what they find costs 10 times more than it should because they don’t know what’s really available; or things just don’t work when they test them.”
A final thought to keep in mind: Manufacturers often put items in their catalogs that don’t exist, hoping that a customer will want it and they can produce it, according to Rozanski. “PEI has facilities and field personnel in many parts of the world. We know what is readily available, what needs to be custom-built, what will work, and what is going to be the best quality and value for each customer and project.”