A Trip to the WIRE-NUT Factory

The first thing you see upon entering the plant is a long row of injection molding machines that make the plastic outer bodies of WIRE-NUT connectors.

These engineered thermoplastic pellets are being pulled through the hose by a vacuum and fed into an injection molding machine. They will be used to produce blue twist on connectors. Winged connectors are made from a toughened co-polymer resin.

This gal operates multiple injection molding machines. As pieces are finished they are blown through the PVC pipe and into the bag hanging from the red metal frame to the left. When the bag is full it will be hauled to the assembly area.

The vertical metal plates shown here are an injection mold, the “business end” of an injection molding machine. The machine brings the molds together, injects molten plastic, the plastic cools and solidifies, the molds come apart, and the plastic pieces fall out and are blown into a bag. Click here for video.

Bodies for winged WIRE-NUT connectors are made in an injection molding machine, dropped into a hopper, and blown out through a pipe and into a bag.

These cone-shaped springs were made in another part of the factory. They will be installed in the plastic bodies shown in earlier photos and are what keep wires from coming out of the connectors.

Automated machinery installs springs in the plastic bodies. Parts of this equipment were custom-made so the folks from IDEAL would not allow me to take photos from any closer than this. I did get to see how the operation is performed and it was basically a bunch of gizmos pressing springs into plastic bodies.

This machine packs small quantities of WIRE-NUT connectors into plastic bags. Click here for video.

Larger quantities are packed in clear plastic containers. Click here for video.

The injection machines shown here are in a separate building from the others and are being used to make push-in connectors and inline connectors. Wire can be joined by stripping the ends and shoving them into the holes in the connectors. The connectors are quick and easy to use and don’t take up much space in an electrical box.

Barrels of push-in connectors after assembly. Instead of springs they contain spring-loaded metal contacts.

A collection of early twist on wire connectors is on display in the lobby entrance to the plant where WIRE-NUT connectors are made. The bodies of the earliest connectors were made from ceramic, though they are now made from various types of plastic. IDEAL bought the patent for their original connectors in 1929 from a company in Holland. Given the origin of IDEAL’s patent, it’s ironic that twist on wire connectors are not at all common in Europe. As it was explained to me, European electricians have traditionally used screw terminals.

Bonus photo: There would likely be fewer injuries on the jobsite if contractors paid as much attention to safety as do the people who run factories. I see these safety boards in almost every plant I visit.

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