Crimping is the act of using a tool to deform metal or other material in order to seal a joint or fastener. Tools designed specifically for crimping, alternatively called crimpers or crimping pliers, are available in a number of sizes and designs. There are a number of differences in function and purpose that need be navigated in selecting the proper crimper for a job. The electrical and communications industries comprise a majority of crimping operations due to the high number of connectors used on wires.
Examples of applications requiring crimping include coax cable connector assemblies, bullets, and wired mesh connections. Essentially, the crimpers are used to clamp metal to a substrate and, when enough pressure is exerted, deform the metal to a point where it is securely fastened.
The types of differences in crimpers include the size or sizes of the crimping jaws, the hand grip, the material of the crimpers as well as pressure capabilities. Additionally, some crimpers are multipurpose tools that have additional features such as cutters and wire shredders, features that complement the usual applications needing crimping. While most crimpers are manual tools, hydraulic crimpers exist for users who need extra force or who perform many crimps a day.
Crimping to Wires
Because many crimping applications involve the crimping of metal connectors to wire, such as coax connector assemblies, crimpers are usually rated based on the American wire gauge. This is a rating of standardized wire diameters used to determine wire sizes. The AWG rates wires with an ascending numerical system, where the higher the rating, the smaller the wire diameter. Very large wire diameters are expressed as series of zeroes, such as 0000, and the gauge goes up to 50, a very small wire. Crimpers designed with a distinct crimped shape in mind are called “died crimpers” because they employ pre-determined die sizes in their jaws. Crimpers are often designed for a range of different wire sizes, encompassing four to eight different sizes to make the crimper more applicable to various projects. Some more complex crimpers can handle more than ten gauge sizes. It is important to find a crimper that handles the appropriate wire gauges needed.
Dieless crimpers are much more common and are intended for general use crimping actions because they have no pre-determined shape.
Because handheld crimpers are common, it is important to find crimpers with ergonomic, soft handle designs, especially when a job requires numerous crimping operations. Additionally, crimping operations can require a lot of pressure. If a hard metal like steel is being crimped, it is important to find a crimper with steel handles, otherwise they might snap during operation. Plastic crimper handles are fine for lower level operations involving softer metals or plastic crimping jobs.
Some crimpers are spring-loaded. This is only necessary for crimping operations that are numerous in number and require little preparation, because the spring is designed to speed up performance. A crimping job that needs precision and focus and involves multiple parts does not require a spring-loaded crimper, although a spring-loaded crimper can easily be used.
Extra Pressure for Crimping Applications
For jobs that require a lot of pressure and precision, a ratchet crimper can be helpful. The ratchet allows the jaws of the crimper to be placed with more accuracy and limits the possibility of human error when compressing the teeth. Datacom operations might require a ratchet crimper because these operations may involve the crimping of a connector across a number of wires rather than a single wire. For simple single-wire crimping jobs, a standard crimp joint is perfectly acceptable.
Hydraulic crimpers are available for heavier jobs involving metals that are harder to deform or for jobs that involve a lot of crimping operations. Because crimping requires pressure, repeating the action many times can cause hand stress and discomfort, which can even lead to serious injury if ignored. A hydraulic crimper acts as a press to crimp quickly, efficiently and mechanically, and requires little human effort. However, compared to manual crimpers, hydraulic crimpers are exponentially more expensive, and are generally recommended only for jobs in which an excess of 200 crimps are performed a day. Hydraulic crimpers can be either hand-hydraulic or remote-hydraulic. Battery actuated crimpers are also available, providing a wide range of pressures at a reduced price from hydraulic crimpers.
Alternative Crimper Styles
Alternative crimpers include the hammer-style crimper. This is not a hand-held device, but actually resembles a microscope stand. The metal and substrate are placed on a small stand at the base of the crimper, just below a large cylinder that dips down and springs up to perform the crimping action. These crimpers are much more durable than hand-held crimpers because they can exert much more pressure, and as such are not recommended for small, delicate jobs, because they can break substrates. Hammer-style crimpers are available in both manual and hydraulic versions.
Many common crimping operations have standardized crimping sizes and crimping tools to match. If a connector for a wire has a standardized size, it might and often does have a standardized crimping tool to match it. In fact, many industry professionals have noted the trend towards specialized crimping tools due to an increase in quality a dedicated tool offers over a multipurpose tool.