Telecom Supplier Secures Large Contract with Specialty Nylon

Shielding connectors deliver higher speeds, lower costs than ever before

The Challenge

A manufacturer of high speed electronic connectors for the telecommunications industry had a chance to become a key supplier for a new, highly anticipated line of low cost computers. All it had to do was the unprecedented: Set a new industry standard for shielding from electromagnetic interference (EMI), with high-volume manufacturability, at a cost much lower than anything already available.

Traditionally, EMI shielding connectors have been made using LCP carbon fiber. Their shielding properties are excellent – higher than called for in the sourcing specifications for the new line of computers. But they’re difficult to produce, requiring manual trimming and assembly.

The manufacturer’s product development engineers set up a competition to develop a compound that would deliver on three key needs:

  • Technical Advantage: Signal dampening within the range specified, along with high heat resistance, rigidity to maintain a tight electrical connection and flexibility to allow a snap fit.
  • Cost Performance: Significant material and/or manufacturing savings compared to the current LCP carbon fiber compound.
  • Market Benefit: Enabling entry into the low-cost computer market with a competitive connector.

The Solution

Proposals came in for more than 40 formulations, though most had difficulty balancing the required properties. PolyOne’s solution was a unique nylon compound that, through a proprietary combination of materials, met all of the application’s performance requirements. 

After reviewing all of their options, the manufacturer’s product development engineers selected PolyOne to move forward with the development project based on the preliminary indications for its proposed resin as well as the company’s track record in compounding engineered materials for specialized applications.

After continued development yielded a resin with all the necessary physical properties, the manufacturer tossed in one more idea: Could it be modified further to be flame retardant? 

Teams from the two companies went back to work and, using an additive from a broad portfolio, were quickly able to achieve UL94 V-0 flammability standard.

The manufacturer and PolyOne also worked with the toolmaker, providing technical support on venting, gate placement and other design issues that impact speed and accuracy in molding operations.

The Impact

The manufacturer ultimately was selected to provide the shielding connectors for the new line of computers. As production runs ramped up, the benefits of the new material included:

  • Reduction of post-production processes
  • Shorter cycle time
  • Lower scrap rates
  • Significant overall reduction in manufacturing cost per part

When production of the connectors was subsequently expanded to a facility in Asia, the material formulation was transferred to the PolyOne compounding facility in Suzhou, China, where additional technical collaboration preceded production startup. Testing determined the compound was identical to that developed in the United States, and production metrics met targets.