Competition is the only way to get prices down for the consumer. In this case it was quite dramatic. The sad part is, one of your first sales will be to your competitor and they will soon have a competing tech. A sad, but true, state of affairs I have dealt with personally. Even if you patent it, it doesn't matter.
Continuing to innovate is the only way to exist in the industry.
1) Our competition was already tooled-up with a significant European investment in automation equipment locking them into their current design concept; unless, they again stepped-up to retooling the product. A 2.5 to 3.0MM $US retooling would be difficult, if not impossible for them to cost justify in this market which had far east competition eroding margins.
2) Many of the elements of how the ribs were designed were open sided features to latch the center conductor so the "air dielectric", if even recognized, would likely be viewed by competitors reverse-engineering our product as seredipity; rather than, intentional microwave-frequency electrical design optimization. Often these air pockets in the insulator were designed to be more open where center OD to outer ID was tight, which reduced the electrical impedance mismatch. But those "core-out sections" looked like convenient coring to reduce plastic use and reduce thicker walls that could increase mold warp or cooling cycle time. this air gap is not unususal in many PCB header connectors that just stabliize the pin at the PCB and where it mates to the other connector with open air between pin and outside conductor. This was just more unique to be able to mechanically stabilize the cable connector and use air gap techniques.
Product life cycles of most electronic connectors continues to shorten to where competition just missed this window, and needed to compete on the next big project. This unique center terminal latching approach, for better mechanical AND electrical performance, did have patents applied for, but that company moved away from that business market segment as not aligned with their core business and abandoned the application. That's OK, I have a number of other patents. (Did I say I also got out of that business commodity market with eroding margins.)
I also got the satisfaction of defining a very elegant design solution that got successfully commercialized for several years due to the highest electrical performance AND the lowest manufacturing cost due to the design. (As competition shifted from Europe to the Far East, our assembly was moved from mainland USA to Puerto Rico and even with burdened labor rates higher than the Far East, we were competititive with higher margins, but that's another whole story.)
I agree, James. Patents can be worked around. Even so, the cell phone legal wars indicate that many patents not only have some real strength, they also have value. These tech companies will pay billions to buy a company just for its patents. Samsung just paid a billion (it could go as high as $3 billion) for violating Apple's patents.
Yes, Obviously we were very happy with being able to meet that aggressive cost reduction target. One small, but potentially confusing, typographical error on the article. The 4th paragraph refers to $1 on the dieclectric where I was referring to the Dielectric constant of air as 1.0 (vacuum is exactly 1.00000, but air is very close) and air is of course free (unless filtered, dried, compressed, underwater, or in space).
That was my goal. Tap into that excellent high frequency dielectric constant performance for free, or as close as we could achieve and make the structure mechanically stable.
The end of the article was particularily interesting to me. Any product improvement that makes the core pins bigger and easier to process is a big win for process engineers everywhere. Good job on the solution.
I enjoyed this hands-on article about the real nitty gritty of solving design and production problems. It's this sort of clever engineering that will help keep US companies competitive in the world market. Thanks.
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