William Wantz, General Manager
"Innovation is the unrelenting drive to break the status quo and develop anew where few have dared to go.”
In the same vein, most success stories hinge on innovation, whereby super creative people dare to go beyond the tried and tested approaches to carving their path. Similar is the story of Spira Manufacturing Corporation, founded by George Kunkel—an expert EMC designer, educator, and businessman. As an EMI/EMC design engineer, Kunkel did more than peddle his ideas to translate them to effective and efficient outcomes. Frustrated with the problems he encountered with EMI gaskets commercially available for EMI/RFI shielding applications, Kunkel laid the cornerstone of Spira Manufacturing Corporation to address a long-standing challenge pertaining to aerospace applications. Founded in 1978, Spira has evolved by leaps and bounds to empower its customers with EMI and RFI shielding gaskets originally resulting from Kunkel’s innovation and expertise. Over the past 40+ years Spira has grown to include a team of talented, dedicated individuals who delight in surpassing their customers’ needs.
Spira specializes in offering the finest and most reliable EMI/ RFI gaskets and honeycomb filters on the market at competitive prices. “We are one of the very few manufacturers in the world of the patented spiral EMI gasket, along with a host of other EMI shielding products,” says Wantz, who started his career as a Mechanical Engineer and has grown into the role of General Manager at Spira Manufacturing Corporation. The company’s honeycomb filters employ a patented “blending” process, which eliminates the variation in shielding levels found in other shielded honeycomb filters. The blending process can increase the shielding of a panel from 20 dB to 80 dB, which is an increase of a million times in effectiveness.
Powered by the belief that innovation by design solves EMI problems, Spira is singularly focused on solving EMI problems optimally at the design level, which, in turn, eliminates costly testing failures and retrofit. For starters, the company helps clients address the corrosion control issue. Corrosion creates not only expensive maintenance issues but also causes significant quality degradation over time. Spira works closely with their customers to choose solutions that avoid the costly issue of corrosion. The company has been designing EMI gaskets with corrosion control in mind for decades. Wantz shares that Spira has been called upon to replace other EMI gaskets that resulted in corrosion in the field. “In 2016 the cost of corrosion to the Department of Defense (DoD) was $20 billion.
A DoD report cited that 70 percent of sustainment costs are locked in by initial design. That’s why Spira focuses on solving the problem at the design level and working in partnership with its customers to find the right EMI gasket from the start,” he explains. Besides, the company also acknowledges that with longer-lasting platforms and reduced budgets in all sectors, quality parts that work and last for as long as the system in service with little maintenance are imperative.
At the core, Spira’s solutions have been specifically designed and developed to meet the need for extremely lightweight and high levels of EMI shielding in aerospace applications. Spira’s EMI gaskets are manufactured from various metal substrates with various options for plating so that both cost-effectiveness and high shielding can be prioritized, as needed. All Spira’s products are designed using a unique patented spiral EMI gasket. “We attach it to a host of carriers to meet various needs. Only a small percentage of total product volume is materials, which allows us to use the very best quality materials, but still keeps cost down,” says Wantz. The superior design of the solutions is what sets Spira gaskets apart from the competition. Spira gaskets do not incorporate bent fingers with the potential to fatigue and break, rubbing surfaces creating dust, breakdown of foam, inconsistent particle-filled materials, or elastic deformation. As a result, gaskets are designed for longevity and ease of maintenance.
When asked about the differentiating factors that give Spira an edge in the market, Wantz’ answer is clear: “We build quality into our machinery and processes. Our quality percentage is extraordinary at 99.85 percent,” he adds. With over four decades of rich industry experience, Spira holds a strong position in the market for delivering unmatched standards of quality and reliability, built to meet the requirements for the life of a system. Spira has always prided itself on quality and customizing its products to meet the needs of the design engineering community. The company offers both off-the-shelf solutions and a wide range of custom parts in both groove and surface-mounted EMI gasket configurations. Essentially, Spira utilizes Transfer Impedance testing, which provides a 120 dB differential between the worst and the best gaskets on the market, which is a thousand-billion times difference. Shielding effectiveness (the industry standard) testing can only demonstrate a 30 dB difference, which is only a thousand times differential. Transfer Impedance testing allows Spira to help customers choose the correct product for their needs. Apart from high-end customization, Spira’s uniqueness also stems from the reliability of its products. “Spiral fills in the cracks and when designed properly it doesn’t take a compression set. It can last 15-20 years, the life of the system,” adds Wantz.
The company’s commitment to quality is demonstrated through its ISO-9001 and AS9100 certifications. The company partners with its customers to find solutions that enable compliance from inception. Wantz informs, “We are registered through QMI-SAI Global, and ANAB accredited. Spira products also meet requirements of ITAR, RoHS, DFAR, FCC, EC, HIRF, TEMPEST, and others.”
A Testimony of Excellence
Putting theory to practice demonstrates many examples wherein Spira equipped its clients with unique solutions. Wantz cites the example of 140 dB of isolation in a piece of popular test equipment using a cast groove design. The groove design from Spira allowed the customer to create an elegant design from an installation and maintenance standpoint because the spiral EMI gasket snaps into the pre-cast groove. It avoids the need for replacement and, when appropriately designed, lasts the life of the system. In yet another impressive feat, the company enabled the complete replacement of all copper finger style gaskets at a DOD testing facility to reduce the amount of beryllium copper dust in the air created by the wearing and rubbing of the original gaskets.
Recently, Spira expanded its manufacturing capabilities, significantly increasing its ability to serve an expanded customer base. Moving forward, the company intends to continue expanding and streamlining its production systems, continuing to reduce lead times. “In the coming years we intend to offer full component service so that we have the ability to supply the chassis with the gasket not just the gasket,” concludes Wantz.