We’ve all been there—whether in our professional or personal lives—starting a huge project takes some major pre-project planning.
Say you’re building a home—before you start building the home there is a lot of prep that has to be done. There are the architectural specs (sq. ft. needed to house a specific number of people, number of bedroom and bathrooms, basement or no basement, rambler or multi-story, etc.), there is the physical prep work of the lot (clearing of trees, digging the hole, water and gas lines to the home, etc.), there’s hiring the right construction company to build the best home possible and much more.
Needless to say, the better the planning you have done on the frontend is the better—and ultimately quicker and cheaper—your home will be in the end.
In the corporate world, we call this process the brief. Specifically, in marketing, to knock a project brief out of the ballpark on your first shot it needs to be full of details—purpose for project, who the audience is, what collateral is desired, etc.—to ensure as little time, and therefore money, is wasted in the back and forth of detail.
With the right blueprints/home plans or a thorough brief any project will be a lot less painful, more productive and in the end, hopefully, less expensive.
Starting an interconnect project is no different.
Everyone plans tasks in different ways, but there are a handful of tried-and-tested items that will help break processes down, ensure that both the internal stakeholders and contracted engineers are clear about what the project is, what the pain-points are that should be resolved, within what price range, etc.. This eBook breaks interconnect project planning down into six key points to bring to the table before work on your project begins so to give the project the best possible chance of coming in on time and on budget.
1) Connecting Your Application and Problem
Naturally, we need to know the application for the connector, but equally as important is knowing the problem you need to solve. This will vary from company to company and application to application, so really knowing this before getting started will help the engineers know exactly what they are looking for. Other things to consider when thinking of the application are things like:
- How rigid/loose/flexible does the cabling need to be?
- What are the life expectancy and use conditions?
- Single-use disposable
- High-Cycle life (phone charger)
- If plugged in and unplugged often, you want to avoid a high exertion and extraction force
- Semi-Permanent—will only need to be changed in case of servicing
- Under the hood of a car
- In a computer
- Inside the washing machine
2) Pinpoint the Pin Number
Pretty straight-forward. Whether designing a connector with a common USB or HDMI connection or working with a high-density connector with X number of pins for a medical device, knowing your requirements beforehand will make all the difference to the engineer team working on the connector and device.
3) Adapting to Its Environment
Even connectors have to adapt to their environments. What sort of conditions will you be subjecting your connector to? How a connector is engineered is very different based on whether it’ll be used in an immaculate operating room vs under the hood of a car.
Having a one-size-fits all solution for harsh environments could be overkill because the specs of the cable might be enough to protect it on a spaceship or submarine—and is priced high to meet those needs—but all you really need is for it to survive with a child in the bathtub.
- Temperature and humidity range
- Outdoors – Ozone and UV protection
- Industrial – cleaning/chemical protection
- Medical – sterilization and sanitization
4) Power or Data?
Imagine trying to funnel copious amounts of water through a straw-sized tube. Never mind the strain on the tube caused by the amount of pressure it’d take to do something like this, ultimately the project and tube would fail.
A power connector would react the same. Having a clear picture of how much electricity is planned to pass through the connector is critical in the planning and design. Not only do you need enough cable to efficiently move the power but the correct insulation to protect the conductor is another variable to be considered. With data interconnects a similar logic applies, but, paired with a power cable, engineers would plan for the right shielding to avoid interference from the power signal. Also, knowing whether the data is an analog or digital signal is a must.
5) One Size Does Not Fit All
Like with most things of any consequence, high quality connectors will vary in size based on both the application and environment. Knowing the previous two factors, or maybe having a predetermined size you need, will cut down on the time you and the team of engineers would need to take calculating the size.
6) It Always Comes Back to Dollars and Cents
Now for the elephant in the room—but it should be expected as this elephant is invited to nearly all project planning meetings. When it comes to single-use applications cost is always an issue because the customer needs them dirt-cheap. Custom interconnect companies are commonly asked to create a very high-quality connector for next to nothing.
The assumption is that “custom” equals “more expensive.” The reality of it is, after a little extra cost upfront for engineering and tooling, in the long run a custom connector is designed and manufactured to meet a customer’s specific needs—with no unnecessary, costly additions. Whereas an off-the-shell connector will cost more in the long-run because it will be over-designed and be overkill for the customer’s purposes, the custom interconnect can actually be vastly cheaper per unit.
In the end, if you came into a project without all of these prepared, there’s no doubt that you’d still have a successful project. But like with the creative brief or a well thought out blueprint for your house, the time and money saved by putting in a little extra effort on the front-end could yields an altogether cheaper and efficient custom engineered interconnect solution.