ICT Fixtures Made of Wood?

We finally got fed up with the warehouse full of old fixtures that we have to keep track of, allocate space for, and protect from dust and moisture.  This led us to create a modular ICT fixture so that the large chassis could be reused by inserting a cassette instead of making a whole new fixture.  The “brains” of the test fixture are mostly in the companion product, the Production Line Tool (PLT) and whatever it cannot handle is put into the cassette design.

Prior to this, we outsourced the construction of all of our ICT fixtures.  In Shenzhen there are a lot of little shops specializing in this custom tester work.  It’s one of the many compelling reasons that Shenzhen is a great place for making electronics.  We essentially gave the vendor a board, told them what we wanted tested, and they made it.  When it didn’t quite work, the vendor would come and fix it or take it back to the workshop for rework.

When we decided to bring a more systems-level approach to this we bought the same material as our vendors used, which happened to be Bakelite.  Then we learned Bakelite often has asbestos and we searched for alternatives.  We settled on the ever-present ABS plastic since it is self-extinguishing, safe, affordable, and easy for our Axiom CNC router to cut.  In black, it looks almost the same as the Bakelite.

Now we are making semi-disposable cassettes with a printed circuit board (PCB), pogo pins, and a sheet of ABS.  When the design is revised, the cassette becomes obsolete and is discarded.  We’re glad that it’s only a cassette instead of a complete desktop fixture, but we would like to do better.  What if the pogo pins could be removed?  What if the PCB could be recycled for copper?  And finally, what if the ABS could be replaced with compostable wood?  The hole pattern and the board outline in the ‘nest’ is what changes in each design.  It doesn’t seem practical to use a material that is remelted back into a reusable sheet, so if we must scrap it, the best path would be composting.  In San Francisco, Recology will accept untreated wood and sawdust in the green bins.  We could replace our capture bag of ABS (which goes to landfill) with sawdust.  It sounds wonderful!

But would customers think it’s strange to get a test fixture made of wood?  Let’s find out!


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