One of the cheapest components on any car – the connector which provides the interface between glass mounted systems such as heating elements and antennas and the vehicle’s electrical supply – has the capability to cost the glass supplier massive compensation charges if it fails. And yet this tiny component is a source of significant failure rates largely because the process used to install it often involves ill-trained operators and human error.
There is a way round the dilemma, as Antaya Technologies, the US company which holds more than 80% of the US glass connector market, has discovered. The secret lies in automating the soldering process – Antaya produces a range of resistance-soldering equipment which takes the human factor out of the process. These are used extensively by US glass and vehicle makers but are only just becoming recognised in Europe.
“The connectors we sell have a typical face value of as little as 10p each”, says Stephen Antaya, vice president for sales of the family-founded business. “But if they fail on the line then ‘fines’ on the glass supplier can spiral to dizzy heights – the going rate is GBP10,000 per minute of stoppage in one UK-based OEM’s factory.
“Failure rates as high as 30 parts per million are frequent in the glass suppliers when the soldering process does not work. But – on a GBP30 component – this is not that significant. It’s when these components are being fitted into the vehicle that things can mount up quickly”, said Antaya who claims zero defects is the norm for his connectors fitted by his equipment.
Line-side failures are commonplace when conventional non-automated soldering methods are used because faulty soldering can lead to the connector ‘falling off’ the glass or –worse – impacting on the glass itself to such an extent that it fractures.
European glass makers, urged on by their OEM clients, are only slowly recognising the strength of Antaya’s approach – where it supplies both the connectors and the machinery necessary to apply them consistently and safely to the glass. At present the supplier has around 10% of the European market for glass connectors but is working hard to demonstrate the benefits of its approach. Typical investment level for the installation equipment is just GBP6,500.
Antaya said its equipment is the standard choice in North American plants; and is now gaining ground in Europe with customers already signed up including: Saint-Gobain, Guardian, Frans Maas, Magna Donnelly, Fritz. AGC, Recticel Wincap, Filec, ITS Fabry, SVE, Dura and Rio Glass.
“So it is not just the vehicle makers that are urging the glass industry to recognise the benefits of our process technology – the glass industry value added facilities have been quick to recognise the benefits and are choosing us as the preferred part and process solution. Along with the preferred process soldering equipment we supply technically advanced on glass components,” added Antaya.