European Wire Harness Manufacturing Conference Highlights What’s Next in the Wire Harness Industry

On 3 and 4 October, 45 European IPC members and PCB professionals convened in Paris, France to attend the first IPC European Wire Harness Manufacturing Conference. During this unique conference, a great line-up of speakers and networking events were offered to participants. Speakers highlighted the significant role of wire harness manufacturers in today’s electronics manufacturing marketplace and how important is to be ready for the future of this industry.

IPC Vice President David Bergman and WHMA President Rick Bromm opened the conference by stating the essential role that IPC A-620, Requirements and Acceptance for Cable and Wire Harness Assemblies, plays within the electronics industry.

Well regarded Industry experts covered various key thematic including:

Debbie Wade (ART, a UK-based IPC training center) presented a session on “WHMA/IPC-A-620 Wire Harness Standard/Certification/Validation Developed by Industry for Industry.”  As the only universally recognized wire harness and cable assembly workmanship standard, IPC/WHMA-A-620C currently allows companies to train their employees and provide knowledge of wire harness quality acceptability as well as programs to enable companies to validate that they are skilled and capable to manufacture to the standard. Debbie introduced the standard and the supporting programs.

Rick Bromm (Altex & WHMA President) presented a session on “Implementing the A620 Global Workmanship Standard to Achieve Operational Excellence, Differentiate and Grow Your Company.” He highlighted the fast-growing importance of wire-harness in the integration of electronic systems within automotive, aerospace and industrial applications and pointed out a whole range of technical challenges within the industry. Rick specified cases studies from companies that achieved business success with IPC/WHMA-A-620C by enhancing processes, personnel effectiveness, customer satisfaction and quality management.

Jean-Francois Mahe (Selha Group) presented “DfX for Wire Harness Manufacturing in MCO Industry” and explained the whole range of possible analysis  that DFM, DFT, DFP,  brings industrial experience to R&D designers for product optimization.

Bernard Sallagoity (French IPC Training Center Institut de Soudure) presented a practical demonstration of wire harness workmanship for 6 cabling operations to meet IPC-A-620C requirements. His practical demonstration highlighted best practices versus common mistakes, selecting standard operations and checking A-620C conformity. Demonstration covered each typical step of the wiring assembly process and included preparation of wires, assembly of wires to a connector by soldering, contact crimping, splicing, coax connector right angle assembly and self-sealing heat shrinkable setting.

Bob Willis (Bob Willis Consulting) presented “Quality Control Requirements in Cable Preparation and Interconnection.”  When millions of compression joints are produced every year and used in many high reliability applications like automotive, aircraft, transport and space applications, care in the preparation and achieving the correct standards set out by IPC, WHMA, NASA, Ministry of Defence and other international groups is vital. The variety of connection techniques used along with diversity in inspection and process monitoring methods to maintain and improve existing processes. connector combinations and tooling maintenance) lead to failures related to poor design, weak training, lack of calibration or counterfeit materials.

Dr. Soumaya SALLEM (WiN MS) presented “Soft Defects Detection and Localization on Wire Harness and Connectors by Reflectometry.”  Embedded systems’ wire harness reliability becomes a crucial issue. It is therefore necessary to have a powerful multi-channel system for monitoring the state of wire harness and connectors to ensure preventive maintenance, detect cable aging and emerging defects (soft defects, damaged insulation or corroded connector) early, before they become hard defect and cause irreversible damages. This prognosis permits to reduce repair costs and offers a better maintenance management. In contrast to hard defects (such as short and open circuit), soft and intermittent defects correspond to small and brief variations of characteristic impedance. And, they evoke more difficulties to be detected and located.  Reflectometry diagnosis system allows to perform rapid detection and accurate localization for soft faults. The MCTDR (multi-carrier time domain reflectometry) technology is able to identify and characterize the defect by analyzing reflected signals and provide efficient spectrum control. It’s possible to determine the severity of the deterioration, and estimate the remaining life of the wire harness to plan its repair or replacement and this technology can be used for embedded and real-time monitoring or for troubleshooting.

Euidok Ryu (Doosan Electro-Materials) presented a session on High Thermal Resistance FFC Technology for Automotive Applications.” Within the automotive industry, new trends in autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and connected cars (involving more software and electronic components) the role of wires (which used to be confined to power and signaling) is now much more diversified and highly integrated. With more functions to handle, automotive wire harnesses currently are increasing volume and weight of product. Lighter and simpler wires (FFC) are raised as substitutes for wire harnesses for higher reliability such as thermal resistance, (vehicle interior are demanding thermal resistance around 125°C and components of the engine room are requiring thermal resistance around 150°C). Whereas, there is a limit to extending polyester material application, mainly used for FFC with low heat-resistant temperature (UL Rating 105°C) and typical tendecy to hydrolysis under high-humidity and high-temperature conditios.  To overcome this problem, the hydrothermal degradation characteristics can be solved by constructing a Crosslinking type Resin system and introducing Graft-polyester which could withstand the process temperature of 260°C. This product was first certified as a Coating Type FFC to rating 125°C and 150°C by UL.

Marta Gonzalez Martinez (Celestica Spain) presented a session on “Wire Harness Manufacturing, How to Develop a Process.”  Wire harness and cable assembly process could be an easy or complex process depending on its own definition and the tooling chosen. To obtain a repetitive and efficient process that assure IPC/WHMA-A-620 quality requirements is essential to establish clearly which are the key parameters and tools adequated to the type of cables or harnesses to be produced. Therefore, prior to start manufacturing, an initial process information is required while others parameters are obtained during first batch building. All this information and parameters are the key to obtain a robust process. This presentation will provide an overview of processes and tools requirements to manufacture the most common cable and harness in industry.