How Additive Manufacturing Can Improve Wire Harness Assembly Listen with ReadSpeaker

How Additive Manufacturing Can Improve Wire Harness Assembly

A wire harness, also known as a cable harness or wiring assembly, is a grouping of wires, cables, or sub-assemblies designed to transmit signals or electrical power.

The processes involved in the assembly of a wire harness are mainly manual, and are sophisticated and challenging as quality, accuracy, and speed are essential. The prevalence of manual engineering methods in wiring harness manufacturing further compounds these challenges, especially as harness complexity increases.

As the production volume increases, the cost increases too with even the smallest mistakes during assembly. As such, small engineering changes can make a big difference in material cost, supply chain management, and efficiency of the manufacturing processes.

The Role of Additive Manufacturing

Based on our experience, common questions on customers’ minds include, “How expensive is the highly manual wire harness assembly process today?”, “How difficult is the wire harness fixture design process?”, “Should I manufacture in-house to reduce costs?”, and “How do I shorten time-to-part from weeks to days?”

Here is where additive manufacturing comes in to answer all those questions. The technology is readily available to help companies, large and small, to tackle new challenges in improving their wiring harness manufacturing processes.  It can print durable parts including:

  • Customized connector holders
  • Testing fixtures with inserted pogo pins
  • Routing fixtures with advanced geometries to help the assembly become faster and more effective

Here are the key ways how additive manufacturing can help to improve wire harness manufacturing.

  • Reduce lead time from computerized numerical control (CNC) machined part from between two and six weeks to a mere couple of hours
  • Typically, setting up a unique assembly board will require 100 to 200 holders, or even more depending on the complexity of the specific wire harness to be produced. As additive manufacturing can produce 200 to 350 holders per day, businesses can fulfill customers’ requirements in the shortest time frame

As wire harness production is a very manual-dependent process, any technology or design tool that can help facilitate the process is going to help reduce human error during the assembly process. This includes:

  • Color pictures can be directly printed in the part with no additional cost
  • Any QR code can be directly printed in the required part
  • Data matrix can also be enclosed for tracking and monitoring purposes on each of the assembly board
  • Additional Poka-Yoke feature, also known as mistake-proofing, will help to minimize errors or failure during the assembly process

The benefits are not limited to only the above as businesses can think about almost any different geometry design that can help generate more yield during the production process.

CNC milling is a process of subtractive technology. With this, manufacturers will want to minimize the quantity of material they remove from the part.

However, the mindset is the opposite when it comes to additive manufacturing. You design what you need and only this is printed. For example, businesses can develop parts with rounded edges to prevent wire and connector damage at no additional production cost.

Using additive manufacturing, manufacturers can locally produce the required part to simplify the supply chain, avoid disruption to the process, and minimize waste.

Reducing dependencies on external supply chains can save up to three weeks of production time. Cost reduction can range between 20 to 75 precent as well depending on the platform of printer you use.

A large spare parts inventory is the norm to help safeguard against extended downtime. However, inventory requires space, cost, and can deteriorate or become obsolete over time.

With additive manufacturing, there is no longer the need to keep parts and repair stocks. You can easily print a broken holder on-demand, on your own, and without relying on an external provider. The storeroom no longer needs to stock unnecessary parts and slow-moving items.

According to HP’s Sustainable Impact Report, additive manufacturing offers enormous potential for the circular economy in terms of expanding product life, reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, and avoiding the impacts associated with transportation and inventory of raw materials and finished goods.

Take HP’s PA11 3D printing material as an example; it is a bio-derived powder with exceptionally high toughness. It is a plant-based material and can be recycled at the end of its life. It can then be grinded, pelletized, and be reused in other injection processes.

The increasing reliance on additive manufacturing technologies is transforming the wire harness assembly industry both globally and in Asia.  At DKSH, we are bringing the latest technologies and integrated solutions in additive manufacturing to solve your current production problems and at the same time anticipating for future enhancement.

One of the solutions to help businesses reduce the cost of wire harness assembly and shorten production lead times is the HP multi-jet fusion printer technology. It can produce new geometries to quicken the assembly process and make it more effective. 

Reach out to us if you want to learn how you can benefit from using these solutions.


Roman Ratayczak

About the author

Roman Ratayczak is the General Manager, Business Line Precision Machinery, Business Unit Technology, DKSH. He oversees global business development and has spent over 13 years developing and growing business in different markets in Korea and Thailand. Roman has vast experiences in the automotive business in Europe.