- Features | January 30, 2019
Smart Tool+ Brings Crimping Into the Digital Age
It seems so easy. You slip a seamless tube connector over the stripped end of a wire and crimp it. Like magic, an electrical connection is ready to go. No solder. No worries. Simple.
Or is it?
Crimping, done correctly and according to manufacturers’ specifications, is reliable and effective, but the process is not nearly as simple as it looks. Crimping electrical connections reliably on a mass scale actually requires a fairly sophisticated blend of mechanical engineering and electrical engineering in order to work well.
Think of it as cold welding. All of the wires in a braid or a multi-wire cable need to make solid contact with the wires next to them without deforming and, finally, must be pressed firmly enough into the connector barrel to leave no air gaps and to remain securely in place, in some cases in the face of strong pull forces. The failure to accomplish all of that — usually due to improper settings, operator error or both — can result in complete connector failure, or to increased electrical resistance and heating that can lead to eventual failure and a potential fire hazard.
Manufacturers have introduced many improvements in crimp technology since the 1930s when Thomas & Betts, now ABB Installation Products, introduced the first compressible lug to help speed the construction of the Empire State Building. Most innovations, such as Color-Keyed® lugs and hydraulic crimping tools, have centered around improving the human function of selecting proper connector sizes to match the wire gauge or the mechanical function of applying the proper pressure and torque.
In 2018, though, ABB Installation Products introduced a series of innovations that elevated crimping technology into a new age with a single tool: the Smart® Tool+.
Combining generations of in-house mechanical improvements with the cutting edge of cloud-based communications, ABB’s engineers colloborated to create a tool that is designed to solve multiple crimping needs at once: the need to confirm the proper-sized lug is being used on a given wire size; the need to produce the proper crimp dimension for the lug and wire combination, without needing to choose the proper die for the application; the need to visually inspect for quality, and the need to document the work with pen and paper.
A dieless, battery-powered hydraulic crimper capable of producing thousands of reliable, consistent crimps for multiple wire sizes with less reliance on the decision making of operators, Smart® Tool+ can scan lug characteristics automatically configure itself to deliver a solid crimp; provide crimp data confirming the quality of a finished crimp; then transfer that detailed data to a mobile app. The mobile app can then upload the data to a secure cloud environment for storage and retrieval.
The tool can be used reliably with standard Color-Keyed® lugs in the range of 3/0 AWG to 750 kcmil for copper wire and 1/0 AWG to 600 kcmil for aluminum wire, but utilizes its full capabilities when combined with ABB’s equally groundbreaking new RFID enabled Color-Keyed® lugs, which bring serialization and another level of accountability to electrical connections. The end result is time saved on the job along with a full array of automatic data collection on cr