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Custom Magnetic Component Buyer’s Guide

You have a product. You identified a need, conceived and designed a solution, and now you want to progress to full scale manufacturing. But did you leave enough time for the proper design, testing, and manufacture of your custom magnetic component?

Selecting the correct magnetic components for your products can be challenging, especially for engineers without a wealth of magnetic design experience. There are innumerable variables that go into designing custom transformers and custom inductors — it can be difficult to know how to spec out custom magnetics to achieve precisely what you need, namely which specifications your chosen magnetics manufacturer needs to know.

Another challenge is their production cycle timeframe — the design, testing, and manufacture of a custom magnetic component can take anywhere from 4 to 12 months, longer than what is generally assumed.

To ease this process, Triad Magnetics has assembled a buyer’s guide for custom magnetics.

Supplier Selection

The first step in the customization process is to select a magnetics supplier or manufacturer, which requires an honest evaluation of your magnetics needs.

Standard Products

Not every application is as unique as may first be thought. Your product may be new, but does it share similarities — in purpose, operation, or expected use scenarios — with other existing products?

If so, your magnetics manufacturer or supplier may already have a component that will fit your specific need or be able to adapt it to fit your application with only minor modifications, as opposed to complete customization. Be sure to have a thorough understanding of a supplier’s full range of standard offerings before considering customization.

Product/Capability Relevance

When you determine that a custom magnetic component will be your best option, make sure to select a supplier or manufacturer that specializes in the type of magnetics that you need. For example, if you need a custom common mode inductor, a manufacturer that specializes in only wall plug in transformers is probably not the right choice.

In fact, a manufacturer or supplier that maintains a variety of specialties and capabilities is generally recommended. Not only does such a supplier have a broader knowledge base from which to draw, but they’ll be more likely to adapt and grow with your product as your design changes and grows.

Manufacturing Capability

Selecting a manufacturer whose production capabilities are in line with your requirements is important. Is the manufacturer interested in your relatively low volume production quantity?  Or does the manufacturer have the ability and capacity to support your high volume requirements?  Does the manufacturer have multiple manufacturing sites, reducing your risk of an unexpected production delay?  Can the manufacturer easily support your production logistics: location, delivery frequency and shipping?

Specification Requirements

Once you have selected the ideal supplier — one with a range of expertise, capabilities to match, valuable service offerings, and a reputation for quality — you can begin the process of designing your custom magnetics with the supplier.

Minimum Technical Requirements

Any custom magnetics supplier or manufacturer that you work with will have a list of basic specifications that they will need from you. This list will be more or less the same from every reputable custom magnetics manufacturer, so it is important to have the specifications ready to go before making contact.

Required technical specifications will include:

  • Input voltage(s) and frequency(s) — The design of any custom Power Transformer starts with this specification.
  • Output voltage(s) — Equally as important as the input voltage of the power source is the output requirement.
  • Output power/current — Include this specification for each secondary in your anticipated design, if there is more than one.
  • Mechanical dimensions — The space allotted to the magnetic component has a great bearing on its design and what is achievable.
  • Mounting method — The type of mounting required dictates, to an extent, how a custom magnetic component can be designed. Options include standard PCB mounts (through hole and SMD) and various Chassis mount configurations.
  • Electrical connection method — Equally important to the overall component design as mounting method: pins, leads, quick disconnect terminals, bus bars, wiring harnesses, and so on. 

Additional Specification Requirements

In addition to these important technical specifications, a quality custom magnetics manufacturer will ask you for a number of other pieces of information: 

  • Expected annual quantity — The number of parts you anticipate ordering on a yearly basis.
  • Expected timeframe — When you need production to begin and delivery to occur.
  • Precise application — Knowing exactly what a magnetic component is used to power, and exactly how that product will be put to use, is invaluable knowledge for designing a custom magnetic component to seamlessly meet your needs.
  • Expected environmental aspects — Environmental considerations, like a moisture-heavy environment, operating temperature range, and so on, are also invaluable design variables.
  • Safety agency requirements — Different applications and even different countries of operation impose various safety requirements on magnetic components.
  • Budget — There is often more than one way to approach a magnetic component design, sometimes many approaches. Knowing budget constraints ahead of time will help the manufacturer to narrow down design options and make cost vs. performance decisions. 

These particular design considerations, because of their non-technical nature, are often overlooked. The fact of the matter is that they are every bit as essential as technical specifications.

Annual quantity and required lead times help a magnetics manufacturer determine whether they have the capacity to fulfill your order. They also help them determine design — if your product run is small, for example, a custom transformer or custom inductor can be designed to include handworking processes that would not be options for medium or large runs.

Environmental conditions and your product’s precise application are also very important for custom magnetics design. With a complete knowledge of what your product is, its purpose, what precise components the magnetics are powering, and where and how it is being used, your magnetics supplier can make recommendations that can ease production, lower your manufacturing costs, and even increase your product’s efficiency and reliability.

That said, do not overstate environmental aspects of your application. Over-specifying conditions — increasing those values past the actual conditional values when you specify a magnetic component — will only add unnecessary costs to your component.

If you are concerned about the safety of your intellectual property, request a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Any reputable custom magnetics manufacturer would gladly sign one — in fact, they appreciate the same level of protection for their work as you do. Mutual NDAs protect all parties and are often the ideal agreement.

Custom Magnetics from Triad Magnetics

There are many variables that go into the design of a high quality custom magnetic component, from considerations you should be taking while selecting a manufacturer or supplier to the technical specifications and additional product requirements that you should have prepared for them.

To get the highest quality custom magnetics you can — components that are designed to fit all of your requirements perfectly while reducing cost and minimizing production time — you should seek out a reputable supplier or manufacturer who will truly partner with you.

Triad Magnetics, founded in 1943, has spent the past 70+ years building a stellar reputation for excellent magnetic components and unparalleled customer service.

Triad engineers complete a multi-year in-house training program and continue to further their knowledge of magnetics through on-going professional development. Triad Magnetics’ design engineers have more than 80 years of combined experience in magnetics and make themselves fully available, working directly with you throughout the magnetics production lifecycle to ensure designs are true to their original intentions.

Contact Triad Magnetics today to discuss your custom magnetics needs and discover the benefits of choosing us as your magnetics partner.

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