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Understanding the Metal Manufacturing Processes

 

Regardless of many companies ignoring the risks involved with off shoring and manufacturing metal components overseas, metal manufacturing has remained strong in Australia. A healthy contract metal manufacturing industry is both possible and essential in this country. Keeping a sharp focus into the future ensures the continual improvement of manufacturing processes and production speeds.

Understanding these metal manufacturing processes assists Australian manufacturers with their designs, feasibility and in scheduling the time-frame necessary for the production of their custom metal products.

Turnkey manufacturing companies offer the entire production process of a component. From the initial design, production of the metal parts, finishing, assembly or packaging and finally delivery to site or a warehouse facility. This helps to reduce external dealings and freight times. Some of the manufacturing processes companies should have an understanding of include:

Metal Cutting:

Metal cutting processes are varied and can include some forms of tooling. Large quantities of intricate parts from sheet metal usually require laser cutting or water jet cutting. The laser cutting process allows for close tolerances and increased accuracy. As well as the computerized software working to increase efficiency and improve material yields. Other metal cutting methods include; guillotining, sawing, cropping or plasma cutting.

Metal Bending, Forming & Folding:

Folding methods use unique tooling such as press brakes to create U bends, V bends and custom forms as well as simple 90° folds. Metal bending and forming applications call for extreme precision and consistency. Metal manufacturers use their experience in the field to ensure your components are bent or formed using the most effective method for the particular application.

Metal Joining: (Welding & Assembly)

Often, one single component cannot produce a final metal product. Some form of welding process of assembly must occur to bring two or more pieces together to complete the product. Different welding techniques will be performed depending on the materials used as well as the functional and aesthetic aspects of the design. Also most contract manufacturing companies will have a component assembly division working in conjunction with their welding. Metal parts can be assembled together using a variety of methods including; rivets, bolts and nuts. Alternatively the packing of parts according to the necessary requirements is also an option.

Metal Finishing & Coating:

Once a metal part has undergone the manufacturing process, it may need further surface finishing. The metal finishing method will depend on the final function of the product, including the expected life-cycle and visual aspects of the design. Some metal coating options would include; spin or hot dip galvanizing, powder coating or zinc plating. Metal manufacturers will be able to assist with the design requirements for the various coating methods as well as the best surface treating method for the application.

There are a number of other stages a metal component may need before it is a fully workable product. The above sets out the main processes required. Understanding the procedures consequently assists Australian manufacturers in their decision to outsource. Ultimately influencing the design and feasibility of their components.

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Determining the blank length of bent metal components

 

Sheet metal forming processes are when we apply force to a piece of sheet metal to modify its geometry rather than remove any material.
Metal bending is a forming process used by contract metal manufacturers. A force is applied to a sheet metal blank, therefore, causing it to bend at an angle and form a required shape.
When a flat metal component is bent, the outside surface of the sheet will undergo tension and stretches to a greater length. The inside portion experiences compression and consequently will shorten in length. The boundary line inside the sheet metal, which is not affected by either tension or compression forces is known as the neutral axis. The length of this line remains constant.
The location of the neutral axis varies according to the material grade and thickness. The K-factor is the ratio of the neutral axis offset (t) and the material thickness (MT)

KF = t/MT

The only accurate way to determine the K-factor is to bend a sample piece of steel and calculate the bend allowance. The bend allowance is the length of the neutral axis between the bend lines. Or the arc length of the bend. As a result, this figure tells us how much we need to add or remove to the leg lengths to determine the accurate blank size.

However, for general fabricated brackets and non critical components the figures in the below table can be used to determine the K-factor. Hence calculating the correct blank length of your metal components.

Radius Soft/Aluminum Medium/Mild Steel Hard/Stainless Steel
Air Bending
 0-MT 0.33 0.38 0.40
MT-3 x MT 0.40 0.43 0.45
>3 x MT 0.50 0.50 0.50
Bottom Bending
 0-MT 0.42 0.44 0.46
MT-3 x MT 0.46 0.47 0.48
>3 x MT 0.50 0.50 0.50
Coining
0-MT 0.38 0.41 0.44
MT-3 x MT 0.44 0.46 0.47
>3 x MT 0.50 0.50 0.50

To use this table and calculate the Bend Allowance, use the formula below:

BA =π(R+KT) A/180

Where:

BA = Bend Allowance

R = Inside bend radius

K = K-factor (as above table)

T = Material thickness

A = Bend angle

Finally, you can now determine the correct length of the sheet metal blank by:

L = A + B + BA

Swift Metal Services. Bending and Forming

Points to consider in the design of bent metal brackets and components:
  1. The ideal inner radius should be at least equal to the material thickness of the part.
  2. If possible, keep the bend radius consistent, to reduce extra set-up times & added cost.
  3. The flange width should always be at least 4 x MT + bend radius. This helps to prevent distortion and also preserves the tooling quality.
  4. Holes and slots should be at least 3 x MT + bend radius from the bend.

View details on our component design services.

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Contract Metal Manufacturing – Breaking Down the RFQ Process

 

You are a manufacturer in Australia. You need to have a number of metal components manufactured to complete your products. Does your in-house manufacturing centre actually have the capacity and facilities to produce these parts efficiently and according to the required quality standard? You will need to outsource this work. But can you find a contract manufacturer that you can trust to produce your components quickly and according to the most effective production methods?

Choosing a contract manufacturing company can be challenging. Any element of your supply chain is a reflection on your company, so you need to make sure that any relationship you enter into adds value to your operations. To help you with this, we have compiled a list of critical features to look for in the perfect contract manufacturing company.

Now that you have selected a list of companies to contact, you still need some important information from them. You are already time poor so you want the RFQ process to be quick and straightforward so you can compare them and move forward with your requirements. Every potential supplier must have a detailed understanding of what you will require of them.

Prepare a standard RFQ template:

Let the vendors know the purpose of the RFQ and the final application of the metal part. Describe your company and provide any background information. Advise your quantity requirements, are you interested in seeing the pricing for more than one quantity break? Often the cost per unit will vary significantly between 500 or 1000 pieces; there can be considerable savings to be made with a larger quantity of components.

Drawings and quality:

Provide clear detailed drawings ensuring they include all dimensions, tolerances and materials as well as the required finish. If you are unsure of the best material or finish needed for your part, most metal manufacturing companies employ design specialists who will be able to assist you with the most effective material or surface finishing for your product. Furthermore, mark critical dimensions on your drawings to ensure the supplier can meet the requirement. This in turn guarantees the quality of your final product.

Shipping and Delivery:

Advise the potential suppliers of your required delivery location and packing requirements. A lot of metal manufacturing companies offer a turnkey process meaning they will offer the entire production process through to finishing and assembly, in addition to specialized packaging of the parts. Sometimes you may need split deliveries of parts. If the supplier is aware of this at the quoting stage he will be able to quote accordingly.

Time-frame:

Advise the deadline for price submission as well as your required delivery date. The metal manufacturing supplier will then be able to determine if they can meet your lead-time with their current production level and the resources they have available.

Finally, you receive your responses and make your decision. Remember that you have just begun a relationship with an important supplier. You will need to cultivate this and keep an open and honest communication pipeline. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your contract manufacturing company is vital. They will become the strongest link in your supply chain. The solution to your in-house manufacturing problem.

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