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Understanding Cable Assembly Molding
While a molded cable assembly can offer significant advantages over a similar product of a mechanical construction, the art of insert molding remains somewhat of a mystery to cable assembly consumers. While attracted by the potential for a more aesthetically pleasing product that can be sealed from the environment and rendered 'tamper proof', the complexity of the insert molding manufacturing process is often over looked.
Many cable assembly engineers who are consumers - but not producers - of molded assemblies are familiar to some degree with conventional molding. In this environment, the goal is the maximization of process speed which translates directly to bottom line financial performance. Manufacturing lot sizes are often characterized by long runs, where the same part is produced continuously over a considerable amount of time. The molding machines are usually horizontal in construction, use a closed cavity approach with auto-ejection of the finished parts, and operate at much higher injection pressures and speeds than an insert molding process. Additionally, the often uniform nature of the parts relative to wall thickness, balanced runner systems, and sufficient draft on the molded parts being produced serve to support consistent quality in the face of maximum manufacturing speed. The ability to optimize tool cooling, standardize mounting, and implement automated processes are also major differentiators between the conventional horizontal molding and vertical insert molding approaches. The result, all things equal, is a much higher production rate for finished parts in a conventional molding process.
What then are the challenges of the insert molding process used to manufacture cable assemblies, and, more importantly, how are they met by the manufacturer? At a high level there are four major areas of consideration when discussing the intricacies of insert molding. These include the operator, tooling, equipment, and the process itself. Let's examine each of these in more detail.
Operator: As with any non-automated process, it is the operator who is often the most important component of the success or failure of a manufacturing lot. This is especially true in cable assembly molding. In addition to knowing the basics of machine operation, the operator has several variables to properly monitor and control if he or she are to produce parts that meet the established design and quality guidelines. In light of some of the equipment and component variability discussed earlier, some of these operator focused considerations include...
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