The Wildcharger™‚ Pad, a flat, thin pad with a conductive surface, is the first of its kind to allow cordless charging of cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices. The most noticeable aspects of the pad are the shiny coated conductive strips (stainless steel with copper flash and bright nickel coating) which are as important aesthetically as they are functionally.
Because of this, Wildcharge was particular in its search for a manufacturer for the strips (AKA “swim lanes” for their resemblance to the swim lanes in an Olympic pool). Dan Hoekstra, V.P. Design & Manufacturing Engineering, had previous dealings with APS and recommended they be considered for the job.
After estimates, discussions, and prototypes, APS was chosen to stamp the swim lanes, as well as manufacture other internal components, including spring clips, coil springs, and small contacts. “We were looking for a supplier that had the right manufacturing technology for today and the future,” stated Bob Boerger, Wildcharge Director Global Manufacturing and Logistics. Wildcharge evaluated manufacturers on five major areas – proven quality, excellent references, on-time delivery record, cost-competitiveness and, most importantly, prompt responsiveness. “Atlantic Precision Spring met all five criteria,” said Boerger.
Although the final conductive strips appear bright, shiny and perfect, it wasn’t easy to get there. “This is a challenging part to manufacture,” admits Wildcharge President Itzhar Matzkevich. “Its evolution from raw material to finished product needs constant oversight and special handling.” Wildcharge supplied APS their requirement for the parts and it was up to APS to create a recipe for the production process.
APS has formulated the process of manufacturing to ensure a flawless, final product. First, all raw material is supplied with paper interleaf. The material is then sent out for a two-step plating process (nickel strike and copper with a bright nickel mirror finish), then a protective, peel-off vinyl coating is applied to protect the surface during both the stamping process and the transport to final assembly in China.
When the material arrives back at APS for stamping, it receives “white glove” treatment to prevent oil transfer from the handler to the material. Stamped pieces travel on a conveyor and down a chute where they descend into uniform stacks, ready for packaging. Wildcharge President Itzhar Matzkevich provides insight.
This is a challenging part to manufacture. Its evolution from raw material to finished product needs constant oversight and special handling.
Along the way, the ingredients for the final production “recipe” had to be tweaked in order to produce the best possible final product. For example, the vinyl coating was added after it was determined that the paper interleaf between the final stamped pieces was inconsistent in its protection. Additionally, the base material was changed from carbon steel to stainless steel to produce the best possible product.
“Throughout the project, APS offered their problem solving capabilities, technical advice and customer service skills to work with both Wildcharge, the material suppliers and platers,” stated Boerger. “They have been great about communicating production schedules, lead times and deadline status. In fact, it’s refreshing to be able to call APS with a question and we’re able to get a human on the line immediately, rather than negotiate voicemail.”
Wildcharge has what Boerger refers to as their “Supplier Sweet Spot.” “We try to find a supplier that will allow us to be in their top 10 customers. This gives us the attention we like and it allows us to work very closely with them to problem solve and try different manufacturing processes. This type of relationship has really allowed both Wildcharge and Atlantic Precision Spring to flex our creative muscles and produce the best possible product.”