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Individual Quality Control is Now Feasible for Cable Manufacturers
Jessica Hopkins

Cable manufacturers produce thousands of cables per day, each containing numerous components that are often assembled on a production or assembly line. Parts are often assembled by hand in these settings because of the intricacy and precision required to produce the advanced cables we see today. With so many variables involved, ensuring a perfect, quality cable each time is close to impossible. Cable testing methods currently used by cable manufacturers may not be adequate for these circumstances. Here, we’ll go into what these methods are and why performing these may leave open opportunity for bad cables to make their way to market.

Is Design Validation and Statistical Process Control Enough?

In the cable manufacturing industry, many companies have established their own methods of testing their cables, which frequently include design validation and statistical process control. While these methods are adequate, they generally fail to address the abundance of potential negligence that takes place within production.

Design validation is a commonly performed by cable manufacturers to verify that the cables they produce align with the standard’s organization criteria of a passing cable; common organizations that mandate such standards include USB-IF, HDMI.org, and Apple’s MFi program. To get certified as a compliant manufacturer, each standard’s organization must perform an evaluation that consists of reviewing their manufacturing process and the finished product. Specifically, design validation consists of reviewing the theoretical implementation and performing small batch testing. Cable manufacturers will submit a theoretical “blueprint” of the cable and manufacturing process to the standard’s organization. Here, the standard’s organization will review the cable connector, type of wire, the cable length, and other cable features.

Cable manufacturers will also submit a small batch of cables for the standard’s organizations to review. Because only a batch of cables are reviewed, cable manufacturers are able to select the best and most fitting cables to be evaluated, sometimes submitting a batch of pricey cable prototypes specifically made to meet the requirements. While this process is good at verifying the overall cable design and catching any design errors, this neglects to realize that the actual implementation of the manufacturing process and design can alter during mass-scale production. Even still, once these cables are approved by the standard’s organization, manufacturers are able to place the compliance logo on their products.

Cable manufacturers have established cost-effective ways to perform their cable testing. Rather than individually testing each cable that comes off the production line, which can be exceptionally costly, cable manufacturers will perform statistical process control. Statistical process control is a method that analyzes a randomly selected batch of cables and determines the statistical validity of all cables being produced. While this is an acceptable method in measuring and controlling quality in the manufacturing process, it does not capture an affirmative pass or fail assessment on each cable, meaning there is opportunity for noncompliant and unsafe cables to make their way through.

lightning micro-b and type-c cables Image by Tomek from Pixabay

Individual Quality Control is Now Feasible with the Advanced Cable Tester v2

While performing design validation or statistical process control is sufficient in determining the validity of cables, it is often not enough to ensure 100% of cables being manufactured and sold to consumers are safe and reliable. Much of the time, unavoidable variables affect the manufacturing process, so it’s very possible that a bad cable will slip by every so often. This can open the door to potential consequences that can potentially cause serious ramifications for companies. The only way to ensure that each cable is inspected is by performing individual quality control. However, individually testing each cable on the production line has been thought to be a time consuming and costly process, which is why manufacturers have adopted these alternative methods of verifying their cables. Now, with the Advanced Cable Tester v2, these are no longer obstacles that manufacturers face. It’s now possible to perform individual quality control on all cables at a fraction of the cost and time it would take using alternative solutions.

Individual quality control is the best line of defense to ensure each and every cable is made with utmost quality and is safe to use by the general public. The Advanced Cable Tester v2 allows testers to perform real-time quality control by testing the cable at each phase of the manufacturing process to minimize failures. Upon any failures, our set of comprehensive tests detects where the damage has taken place within the cable.

While some companies do perform similar types of individual quality control, it is often performed at a surface level, meaning they check to see if the cable operates as intended, but no further investigation of the underlying data is performed. Testing at the surface level doesn’t capture crucial information including the time taken to relay info, whether the circuitry is aligned correctly, or how much power is being supplied over the power and ground pins.

Total Phase’s Advanced Cable Tester v2 provides unparalleled, comprehensive testing on a variety of cables types including USB, Lightning, and Video (for a complete listing of our supported cables please click here.) Our tester is optimized for laboratory and production line settings, provides rapid testing in as little as a couple seconds, and allows a variety of skill sets to operate with our easy pass/fail confirmation screen. The Advanced Cable Tester v2 performs 100% complete coverage testing on all our supported cables, including continuity testing, DCR/IR Drop testing, E-Marker verification, and signal integrity testing. For MFi Lightning specific cables, our tester also ensures proper operation of the Lightning plug.

Specifically, the Advanced Cable Tester v2 performing the following tests:

  • Continuity/Shorts/Opens testing
  • DCR measurement for all wires except high-speed data lines
  • DCR measurement for all power and ground pins for USB Type-C
  • USB Type-C E-Marker verification for USB Type-C full-featured cables
  • Lightning plug power-up/function (Apple MFi Lightning Cables)*
  • Over-voltage protection (Apple MFi Lightning Cables)*
  • Voltage recovery testing (Apple MFi Lightning Cables)*
  • Quiescent current consumption (Apple MFi Lightning Cables)*
  • Signal integrity testing of data lines at up to 12.8 Gbps per channel

In the past, individual cable testing has been known to be very costly to implement and maintain, but now, it is feasible with the Advanced Cable Tester v2. Total Phase has even gotten the cost down to testing each cable on a mass scale to just 2 cents per cable, offering an affordable tool that manufacturers can fit within their current operations. To learn more about the cost savings and benefits of using the Advanced Cable Tester v2, please visit our blog, “Cost Savings and Benefits of Cable Testing with the Advanced Cable Tester v2”.

Want to learn more? Get more information about our Advanced Cable Tester v2 by contacting sales@totalphase.com.