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Improved technology enables fast cutting, clean stripping and simple blade changeover for various size wires.

Without a sculptor, a piece of clay or marble can never reach its full artistic potential. Rotary, V and die blades in automatic cutting and stripping machines serve a similar role to help conductive wire and cable achieve its full electric potential as part of a harness. 

Within one or two seconds, these blades precisely cut each wire or cable to a predetermined length and remove its insulation to expose one or more inner conductors. The wires or cables are then manually or automatically crimped by terminal crimping machine before being brought to the assembly workstation, where assemblers use boards to carefully build each harness. 

At Gruber Communications, based in Phoenix, workers assemble lots of cable harnesses for use in data centers every day. The company’s priority since day one has been to produce high-quality cables—and make sure that no cable conductor, or high voltage cable machine is ever nicked or blemished during wire cutting and stripping machine's processing. 

For more than a decade, Gruber workers used separate pneumatic machines to cut and strip each cable. Eventually, though, CEO Pete Gruber grew tired of the constant maintenance on the machines’ check valves and cylinders. This led him to purchase the all-electric EcoStrip 9300 cut and strip machine in 1998. 

Made by Schleuniger AG of Switzerland, the machine’s reliability and infrequent need for parts has enabled Gruber to substantially increase its cable harness production over the past 18 years. In fact, this machine continues to precisely cut and strip cables after more than 6 million runs. 

Being able to run reliably for nearly 20 years and cut and strip millions of cables or wires is quite common for today’s automatic machines. There are two reasons for this, say suppliers. First is stateof- the art blade technology, which enables fast cutting, clean stripping and simple blade changeover for various size wires. Equally important are operators who understand, implement and optimize each machine’s cutting and stripping capabilities. 

FROM SIMPLE TO PROGRAMMABLE 

More than 90 years ago, Haaken Olsen—an up-andcoming engineer at Artos Engineering Co.—noticed an increased usage of insulated copper wire in automobiles, appliances and radios. He also saw assembly workers manually measuring wire to predetermined lengths, cutting it and removing the insulation from both wire ends. 

Believing manufacturers would be interested in buying an automated machine that could perform this work faster, better and more cost-effectively, Olsen went about developing one. In 1926, Artos introduced the CS-1, the first-ever automatic CAS machine. Olsen vowed to sell at least a dozen, but things went much better than planned. A new industry was born, and Artos alone has sold nearly 100,000 wire processing machines over the past nine decades. 

“Cutting and wire stripping machine machines from the 1920s to the 1950s featured mechanical designs,” explains John Olsen II, president of Artos since 2005 and great-grandson of Haaken. “Typically, three pair of fixed-position blades were used to cut and strip the wire. All setup changes were done mechanically by adjusting cams and moving blade spacers.” 

More-advanced electropneumatic CAS machines appeared in the 1960s and 1970s, allowing for push-button control of feeding lengths. Since then, according to Olsen, CAS machines have evolved in three areas to become much more efficient. 

One is the improved operator interface, which increases the machine’s capability to process small batch sizes and provides full integration with a marking system (laser, inkjet, hotstamp) or slitting device. Another is the use of servomotors for all wire movements to increase processing precision and speed. The third is faster machine changeover by using quick-change guides and blades, and technology like the Artos Sencor system to automate wire setup. 

Semi- and fully automatic CAS machines come in three sizes: benchtop, midsize and large. A benchtop model is best for low-volume and prototyping applications. It usually requires little setup, plugs into a standard 110- volt outlet, and is simple to operate (push buttons, small display, limited programming). 

Despite being an entry-level machine, the benchtop EcoStrip 9380 from Schleuniger can process single wires from 30 to 8 AWG and two wires (up to 0.12-inch diameter) in parallel. It is operated via S. ON software on a 5.7- inch color touch screen, and features the company’s Bricks electronic platform for precise wire feeding by using automatic wire prefeeder. An optional belt feeding system can be set for normal, roller or short mode processing. 

FEWER CHALLENGES THAN BEFORE 

“In the 1950s, the average harness in an American car contained fewer than 50 wires,” notes Rob Boyd, senior product manager at Schleuniger. “Today’s car features many harnesses that have hundreds of wires of varying gauges and lengths. As a result, harness makers need versatile automatic cutting machine and stripping machines to meet this challenge.” 

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