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Interview - Eric Wieland of ITC (Instant Tool-Less Connectors)
Eric Wieland has 15 years of experience in installation and installation management, and has held such positions as director of In-Home Services for Tweeter in Chicago. Over the course of his career, Wieland has developed a great understanding of what works in the field and what doesn’t. As brand manager of ITC, he applies this knowledge to help make the lives of installers and their companies easier and more profitable.
What's the difference between a regular connector on the market and an Instant Tool-less Connector?
The most important difference is the “tool-less” aspect. The majority of connectors on the market are either crimp or compression based. Both of these termination methods require one tool to strip the cable and another to attach the connector. With a tool-less connector, you strip the wire, and simply push the connector onto the cable for a quick and secure connection.
There are so many connectors on the market. Why introduce yet another?
One of the most important things to an integrator, or to any business for that matter, is the cost to complete a project as it affects the margin of profit. One cost that is monitored closely is labor. Anything that can make the job go faster, or the work more reliable, will always be important. The tool-less system not only saves time on the job site by reducing labor hours, but also provides an extremely reliable connection which reduces return trips for service.
What's Torsional Strain Relief and why should I care?
Torsional strain relief is a term used to describe the ITC connector’s unique ability to rotate on the cable, and it is important for a number of reasons. If the connector cannot rotate, as is the case with crimped or compressed cables, wire management becomes an issue, making it extremely difficult to achieve a clean look in the cabinet. More importantly, a twist in the cable often results, which puts torque on the connection and can affect performance by changing the impedance of the cable.
What is the difference between compression and crimp connection?
When installers make a crimp connection, a crimping tool is used with a die that shapes the metal around the cable into a hexagon pattern. In compression connections, a tool, often with interchangeable dies, compresses the connector together, resulting in circular compression around the circumference of the cable.
What quick tips can you offer so I don't end up with a maze of wires behind my electronic gear?
In addition to the benefit of Torsional Strain Relief, the best way to get a clean look is to plan, with an emphasis on determining the optimal lengths of cable needed to get the job done. If you use too little, you might not be able to make the connection, and if you use what is just enough to reach, it can make servicing the system extremely difficult. If you use too much, you could end up with big coils of wire that you have to fit in a small space. The aesthetic benefits of using a tool-less connector are that you can use a specific, customized cable length from component to component without any excess and then utilize Torsional Strain Relief to make everything look extremely clean.
Is there a rule of thumb when it comes to how much money to allocate to cables and connectors compared to the cost of the equipment I am connecting?
There is no set ratio between money spent on cables, connectors, and equipment established. Even the customer with an inexpensive system will only get the maximum performance capability out of it through the use of high-quality signal transmission. Customers can realize a significant improvement in audio/video performance with even a very modest investment in better cable. As home theater systems increase in cost and complexity, it is natural that the quality of signal connection be commensurate with the overall quality of the system.
Do you think HDMI is going to become the de facto standard for connecting A/V equipment in the future?
The industry is definitely moving in that direction, but there have been some roadblocks. The biggest problems have revolved around compatibility issues with components and confusion over HDMI versions and the real-world, meaningful capability of HDMI cables. As an integrator, you often carry the responsibility of future-proofing the wiring in the customers’ home to the extent that it’s both reasonable and possible. Especially at longer lengths, when you choose an HDMI cable, you must be certain that the cable is properly rated to handle the application.
Do you think HDMI is the best solution?
HDMI is certainly convenient to transmit digital audio and video over a single cable. Besides the issues already mentioned, perhaps the biggest obstacles in the installation world are the uncertainty and cost involved in running HDMI over long lengths. The cable itself requires highly precise manufacturing methods and offers little or no margin of error. This kind of ultra-precise manufacturing is not inexpensive. Buying cheap, poorly made HDMI cables can be an invitation for trouble and understanding what you’re buying is paramount.
Instant Tool-less Connectors are quick and easy to install
STRIP cable and remove jacket.
PREP by pulling back braid.
PUSH cable into plug until it stops.