12/1/1993 – The Systems and Support Engineering Group at Digital Equipment Corporation is a computer support organization charged with the task of adding product enhancements to components and computer systems to increase their operating efficiency. Intensive engineering inspection and research continues long after DEC’s products are released to the marketplace and these efforts provide continuous upgrades for the family of small, midrange and large size computer systems.

A case in point was DEC’s use of nylon caterpillar grommets, which were secured to metal edgings by an adhesive. The grommets protected both wires and cable from direct contact with metal and the possibility of resulting wear and electrical shorts.

However, as environmental concerns deepened and housekeeping problems remained, DEC Support engineers sought an alternative to the application of the adhesives. In 1986 – as part of their cable management program, the SASE Group tested the use of a more versatile polymer coated stainless steel grommet manufactured by Device Technologies, Inc. of Framingham, Massachusetts.

They were very pleased with their performance. The replacement snap-on grommet securely attaches to any two-axis metal contour without need for toxic adhesives. In tests conducted by SASE personnel, the Spring-Fast® caterpillar grommets showed a secure holding capability and passed all shake and vibration tests. The Composite Grommet Edging provides a durable, nonconductive surface that not only assures electrical insulation to the cables but also substantially reduces the possibility of abrasive wear. They serve not only as straightedge dressings but their built-in flexibility makes them easily adaptable to a wide range of contours – i.e., sharp inside and outside corners, radiused corners or irregular shaped holes.

The available grommet sizes fit metal thicknesses from .033 inches (0.84 mm) to .128 inches (3.2 mm), the most commonly chosen for cabinet and metal chassis structures. Although DEC typically uses specified factory cut grommet lengths for most installations, model shops prefer reel lengths.

Assembly is quickened too, since installation requires only a few seconds. “Although the initial cost of the polymer coated stainless steel grommets are higher than the nylon grommet,” says Larry Mazzone, a SASE mechanical engineer, “their multiple benefits add up to a bottom-line savings of about 50% over the old system.”

The flexibility of the Snap-On configuration has also provided production management the option of installing the new grommets pretty much any time they feel is most opportune depending on the details of the assembly. Overall, SASE personnel have implemented a revised cable management system which has provided Digital with a host of benefits and moved the firm one step further along in their continuing product improvement efforts.