It was a dreary November morning. As I sat idly on the sofa watching breakfast television, the sound of hoofs is heard out the window. I pulled the curtain to one side. A divine light immediately streamed into the room. Imagine my surprise, to see a long-white bearded courier, seated upon a Unicorn, with a small brown box under one arm.
I rushed to the door. He dismounts, and to the sound of an ethereal wave, hands me the box, with a big smile.
Yes, my MDPC-X CTX3 has finally arrived. I previously had quite a bit of fun commenting on it in this post but the hype surrounding this tool is of such magnitude, that I wasn’t happy to just look at the pictures of it. I had to have it.
First things first
In my previous post, I observed that it looked extremely similar to an IWISS SN-28B, to the extent that it appears to be a straight-out re-badge. Now that I have both of them here, let’s compare:
First of all – the frames. Aside from the colour of the circlips, handles and some differences in markings, they’re identical. It would be extraordinary if it were to be demonstrated that the CTX3 frame wasn’t manufactured by IWISS, let alone outside of China.
There are however clearly some minor differences in the die. The first thing that jumps out at me is that the anvils are slightly different.
Interesting. The insulation anvil from the CTX3 looks like it was from an SN-28B originally, but a little bit has been milled off the larger two for some reason. Perhaps this modification was made in Germany?
We have this same modification on the conductor anvil. I wonder why? The conductor die in the SN-28B tends to be too loose as it was, allowing wires to easily be pulled from the contact, where the manufacturer tools do not. Milling more off it would make this situation even worse. I’d stick with the SN-28B here if it were my money.
These are identical, except on the CTX3 the markings have been ground off, but not entirely. They’re sort-of still visible in the above shot. It looks like this was done by a butter-fingered individual, as it’s clearly been dropped on one corner in the process.
Detailed description of changes from SN-28B
Aside from cosmetic changes to the frame, the remaining changes are removal of material from the anvils, as follows:
- 0.4mm from the large insulation anvil with a 3mm end mill
- 0.2mm from the medium insulation anvil with a 2.5mm end mill
- 0.1mm the large conductor anvil with a 3mm end mill
- 0.1mm from the medium conductor anvil with a 2.5mm end mill
This must be the basis “CNC” claim of this tool. A change like this surely would be done in a CNC milling machine, but it is a very small change to make. Far from 5 axis, 3 axis, whatever – it’s just a single axis adjustment.
Re-labelling of dies
The biggest difference is in the usage of the tool. MDPC-X have re-labelled the dies, i.e. on the SN-28B, AWG 18 cable is stipulated to be used in the larger die, however on the CTX3, it’s stated that the medium die is to be used, and so on. Funnily enough, something that I used to do anyway when I was crimping these contacts with an SN-28B.
This means the CTX3 gets tighter crimps than the SN-28B would have done, if one were following the instructions, however if we do the same in the SN-28B, we get a better crimp on the conductor because no material has been removed from the conductor anvil, unfortunately doing so may create fatigue points on the the insulation crimp, hence the need to remove material from the insulation anvil.
Making your own CTX3
It appears it’d be quite easy to make the CTX3, by starting with an SN-28B, and simply filing down the medium insulation anvil with 2.5mm needle file, and the large insulation anvil with a 3mm needle file. I’d advise leaving the conductor anvils alone, as this’ll leave the result closer to Molex’s specifications.
Standards? and comparison with other tools
This tool is said to be designed according to the “MLX guidelines”. I was unable to find any document or standard with this name. I’ll have to assume that it exists, and that MLX is shorthand for Molex, and guidelines referring to how these contacts are meant to be crimped according to the manufacturer.
The problem with this assumption is that it’s intended to crimp contacts which were originally designed by other companies, that Molex have never produced. Secondly, this tool is modified for crimping sleeved cable, which is not something any manufacturer original tool can, or would ever need to do. We’re already in murky waters here.
I’ve written up a new page, where the CTX3 crimps are compared to the SN-28B, and also all of the manufacturer originals for PC modding. I’ve also tried to infer what may have been written in those “MLX guidelines”.
3 Taiwanese companies, 3 German companies
A couple of readers have pointed out this statement on MDPC-X’s website (quoted):
“The MD-CTX3 crimping tool is the result of 6 involved companies in Taiwan and Germany: 3 different companies in Taiwan are responsible for the base, 3 companies in Germany are responsible for the end product.“
IWISS themselves are based in Liushi, Wenzhou, China, and do not have any presence in Taiwan that I could find. Could it be that there’s a company in Taiwan who makes an identical tool who I’m unaware of? It would be interesting to know what the basis of this claim is.
As for the three German companies, this is probably true. I can see three things that’d need to be done in Germany:
- Milling of the original SN-28B anvils
- Laser etching of MDPC-X’s markings (I’d guess the tools are supplied unmarked from IWISS).
The MDPC-X CTX3 is mostly an IWISS SN-28B, a definitively Chinese manufactured tool. Given its price point, and the price of the tool it appears to have been derived from, I would be astonished if it were to be proven that this tool was made in Germany, as is stated by the marketer, and at the same time, questioning why. So what’s German about it then? Possibly a few minutes in a milling machine in Germany, and apparently the people selling it.
My message to them: There was no need to spin a doubtful narrative around this tool. It is slightly different from the SN-28B, as it may need to be for its intended use-case. Milling down those anvils is extra effort, and therefore extra cost, so understandably will cost a bit more, and, there has to be a bit of profit for the marketer for going to the trouble. Why not just say it? I’d not have any problem with that.
Without crimping anything with it, unfortunately it looks that its performance on the most important part – the conductor, will actually be inferior to the SN-28B, for the price, not something I’m pleased to find.