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Behind the Scenes with Siemon's R&D Lab

Every day Siemon ships thousands of connectors for use around the globe. It is imperative that they not only provide superior performance but also serve customers with years of reliable service under various environmental conditions. Who ensures Siemon customers will enjoy years of trouble-free, high bandwidth application performance?

At The Siemon Company, this is the work of the Research & Development Laboratory. Staffed with a dedicated group of highly skilled engineers, designers, and technicians, the Siemon lab is one of the world's foremost research and development centers for structured cabling systems. In fact, on a revenue-to-investment ratio, The Siemon Company invests more in R&D than either Hewlett Packard or IBM.

New Product Development
New product development at The Siemon Company is a collaborative effort. Cross-functional teams work together to deliver innovative high quality products in a timely fashion. The R&D Lab is a key part of the process, providing prototypes, design verification/validation, and product design assistance, which help turn product concepts into reality.

A critical step early in the development process is rapid prototyping. One way the R&D Lab supports this step is by creating rapid prototypes using stereolithography. The "stereolith" machine uses a laser to "paint" two-dimensional cross-sections of the part on the surface of a photo-sensitive resin. The prototype is formed by building successive layers of resin in increments of 0.1mm. The design team uses these product models to evaluate form, fit, and function. Modifications can be made quickly, saving time, effort, and money… and ultimately helping to bring better products to market faster.

The Siemon R&D Lab is a driving force behind Siemon's reputation for technology leadership. To deliver the next generation performance of our category 6 products, Siemon jacks use a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) to deliver consistently superior transmission performance. Siemon test engineers and designers are highly skilled in contact geometry and inductive and capacitive coupling of mated connectors. They use these skills to create and refine designs until the jack performance exceeds all standards specifications.

The Siemon R&D Lab includes a specialized fiber team that helps develop and refine product performance and processes. These engineers and technicians are experts in developing polishing and termination procedures for fiber optic connectors. Instruments such as interferometers are used to evaluate products before and after various environmental stress sequences.

New Product Validation
Once the product team has a final product design, working prototypes are built and the Siemon lab begins its next round of testing. No Siemon product is released until it has passed a full battery of product validation tests. The R&D Lab develops, designs, and implements this rigorous testing program. Product performance is evaluated with a bank of test equipment, including network analyzers, insertion loss meters, time domain reflectometers, interferometers, protocol analyzers, and other sophisticated instrumentation.

A single copper jack undergoes almost 200 tests just to validate transmission performance, including insertion loss, NEXT, FEXT, balance and return loss of all pairs, in each direction, in both differential and common modes, and using two different test plugs for each pair combination.

However, transmission performance is only half of the story. The R&D Lab also conducts extensive testing to simulate worst case environmental conditions and accelerated aging. Copper and fiber components are subjected to a series of tests that measure performance under various conditions, such as extreme temperature, humidity, vibration, shock, and water immersion. These tests ensure that the products will be reliable in the field - not just under ideal lab conditions.

"The key to assuring reliability in the field," according to Dan Mullin Siemon's R&D Lab Manager, "is developing appropriate environmental and mechanical tests that simulate real world product use. Compliance to international standards requirements is just the minimum testing we do here at The Siemon Company."

It is this discipline of aggressive validation testing that has helped Siemon establish and maintain its reputation for unsurpassed performance and quality.

Manufacturing Process Validation
After a new product design has successfully completed verification testing, it is then considered ready for manufacturing implementation. The processes (i.e., tools and equipment) used to manufacture the products must then be validated to ensure that the end-products satisfy Siemon's stringent requirements for form, fit and function. Working with Siemon's manufacturing and quality engineers, the R&D Lab helps develop test methods, fixtures, and manufacturing processes. Any ongoing refinements to product design or manufacturing operations are also subjected to rigorous qualification testing.

The R&D Lab also supports the quality control process through routine assurance testing of printed circuit boards, cables, fiber and copper connectors, and other critical components. Quality control audits performed by the R&D Lab ensures that consistently high quality products are being supplied to Siemon's customers.

Standards Support
In order to drive product development in the right direction, an understanding of customer expectations and industry trends is a necessity. The Siemon R&D Lab engineers are not just followers of the industry standards — they are pioneers. Since Siemon believes that market acceptance of any new technology depends to a large degree on standardization, we openly share our R&D testing methodologies and measurement techniques with others in the industry — with the intent of encouraging a means of verifying pending standards requirements and performance claims for products throughout the world.

Siemon has distinguished itself in this regard by providing contributions that have been incorporated into virtually every structured cabling standard that has ever been published. Many Siemon engineers are members of the world's industry standards groups including the TIA/EIA, IEEE, ISO, and IEC, and participate on the development committees that contribute valuable input to the creation of new standards.

One example of this is the R&D Lab's involvement in the development of category 6 specifications. The Siemon Company was the first company to design and manufacture a complete system that performs to the pending category 6 requirements. The standards did not exist at that time, but the R&D engineers worked to create products that reached transmission speeds never before seen in the industry. Through constant research, development, and testing, Siemon provided the standards committee with information not only on the performance that was possible with category 6, but also on highly accurate, repeatable testing methodologies that could measure compliance to component and channel performance specifications.

The Siemon R&D Lab has also been responsible for other significant standards contributions, including transfer impedance testing, de-embedded test plug range, common mode termination testing, and more. This research benefits the entire industry by addressing interoperability and backward compatibility of components and systems.

Safety Support/Third Party Testing
Last, but certainly not least, the Siemon R&D Lab is responsible for ensuring that all products can be used safely. The R&D Lab works closely with third-party organizations, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), to have products independently tested and listed for safety.

Using leading-edge technology, engineering expertise, and a professional drive to push the limits of product performance and reliablilty, R&D Lab members work together to design and test Siemon products and processes. Their contributions to standards development have helped expand the performance and reliablility of today's cabling systems, thereby increasing the capability and longevity of the network cabling investment.

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