A leading independent provider of testing services and equipment contacted Epec with a request to build a custom, ruggedized, network interface box. They provided a prototype unit for us to reproduce, along with a dimensional schematic and bill of materials (BOM).
The box build assembly is used to link four video cameras with a computer network. The cameras are used to record laboratory crash tests that the company performs. Crash tests often result in flying debris, there is a high chance that fragments may hit one of the cameras with such force that the camera is thrown and drags the interface box along with it. This demanded the requirement for a highly rugged enclosure to house the internal electronics.
Inside the box, there is a commercial four-port network switch to provide the network/computer interface. An AC to DC power supply provides power for the network switch as well as the video cameras. All of these connections for the video camera and network cables are made through military connectors mounted in the lid of a 14 gauge steel enclosure. The wiring in the customer's prototype sample was also in need of some better organization in order to make the inside of the unit easily accessible in the event a repair was required.
The challenges here for Epec was to produce a high quality, reliable interface box unit that would be subjected to potentially a physically harsh environment. It was also our challenge to make a highly re-producible box build, with a consistent assembly process from unit to unit.
Our engineering team worked closely with the customer defining the material requirements for the interface box build. All the components and materials included in the BOM were reviewed for possible alternatives that would improve either the assembly process or the quality of the end product. As a result, we were able to provide a number of low-cost improvements. For instance, the original sample unit had the indicator LEDs in the lid of the enclosure mounted directly into holes and epoxied in place. We recommended the use of a black polypropylene mounting clip to install the LEDs in the enclosure lid, which provided multiple improvements. The mounting clip offered physical protection for the LED as it utilized a recessed installation rather than the bare LED sticking completely up out of the enclosure. The black clip also surrounded the LED with a dark contrast that improved the visibility of the LED which was a specific improvement required by the customer.
Epec's cable and wire harness expertise paid dividends in the cable assembly portion of this box build. Our cable assembly team was able to produce a product that was improved both functionally and ascetically. Allowing easier access to the components in the enclosure was accomplished by improving the routing and dress of the many wires and cables inside the assembly. This also created a much cleaner look for the interior of the final box build assembly.
As a result, Epec was able to take the customer's rough prototype and quickly manufacture multiple equivalent, polished assemblies that should prove to be more rugged and reliable. All of the improvements that were implemented by Epec's engineering team came without additional cost to the customer and we were still able to meet their aggressive delivery requirement. Our highly skilled team was able to perform the task of replicating a complete interface box build with minimal documentation beyond the sample prototype unit provided by the customer.