Shine on!

experts-Steve-Bailey


By Steve Bailey

Heat-treating has been around so long many think of it as just another routine step in manufacturing. Manufacturers look for competitive prices, quick turn around and quality. But there are hidden costs and risk when heat-treating isn’t done right.

As an example, ABC Manufacturing has a batch of bright, shiny parts that are machined to key specifications and needs to be heat-treated. They want to ensure the parts will still be shiny after heat-treating. At this point they have invested in purchasing raw material, assessing vendors, machining processes and shipping. These are sunk costs that will not be recovered if something goes wrong in heat-treating.

When steel is heated to a fragile molten stage between 1400 to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit a lot of things can go wrong. Here is how to make sure the outcome is bright, right, and shiny:

  1. Review input. Check the part configuration, quality, and composition of the part to be treated to ensure treating will be successful.
  2. Review specifications. Look up the type of steel to determine temperature, cooling speed and type of furnace that will deliver best output.
  3. Identify appropriate furnace. Qualtek has several vacuum furnaces and controlled atmosphere furnaces. The size and type of material determines which furnace we use for a job.
  4. Check the efficiency and vacuum of equipment. Qualtek’s investment in new equipment delivers 100% controlled atmosphere. The better the vacuum is maintained in the furnace atmosphere the better we can protect parts from oxidation, scaling and discoloration.
  5. Report any problems before treating. After checking the part quality, composition, expected outcomes, and heating and cooling specifications, if there are concerns about meeting requirements our experts discuss options with clients before treatment.
  6. Consider the total cost of quality when comparing heat-treat bids. If a batch of parts is lost due to poor quality heat-treating you end up losing money. Quality is not always more expensive – just more careful. Working with knowledgeable experts can save you money.

Our clients trust Qualtek for tough or tricky jobs as well as routine jobs because we apply our expertise and quality control to make sure they get the best value. If you have tricky or routine heat-treat questions, please contact us at 719-598-3394.

Building Value Through Supply Chain

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By Don Sherrill

It is exciting to build and launch a new or improved product. As drawings are developed, companies define what they want parts to do, how they function, budget parameters, and the quality standards necessary. Partnering with manufacturers in the supply chain early on can add long-term value in ways you may not have considered.

Match function and process. Discussing your vision for form and function with your supply chain partner adds value by tapping into their expertise in manufacturing processes. If you have a problem or question, manufacturing partners may suggest materials, processes, or design adjustments that deliver parts that function the way you need more efficiently.

Holistic view. Design engineers may focus on individual manufacturing steps and look for different vendors to meet defined stamping requirements, heat treat specifications and finishing standards. Metal manufacturers that provide vertical integration – all those manufacturing services in one location – analyze all steps from start to finish. They add value by managing production in one place efficiently and effectively to meet the quality standards you define.

Inventory management. A surprising value from manufacturing partners can be optimizing your inventory. Manufacturers that provide a single service (i.e. stamping) will likely produce in large runs to achieve your target price. That volume of product adds to your inventory. However, by partnering with a manufacturer that offers all steps of the manufacturing process from one company (i.e. stamping, heat treating, finishing) you can obtain just the right amount of completed parts to match your needs. You don’t have to stockpile partially completed parts in inventory to save costs and just-in-time production balances costs with revenue. By maintaining little to no inventory, design changes are less costly because transition to a new version will not create a large volume of scrapped parts.

Partnering with trusted manufacturers that understand your products and problems and provide integrated services that meet your supply and quality standards can deliver real value to your bottom line.

Anodize with Communication and Craftsmanship

experts-andre-papineau


By Andre Papineau

The first step in anodizing aluminum that is often overlooked is communicating the objective for the part. What does the part do; why is anodize required; are there areas that are critical to the function of the final part; is a certain anodize type important? Talking over these objectives will help refine the anodizing process and cost estimates.

Careful planning also requires clear and concise drawings. The more complicated the part, the greater the importance of clear drawings. When drawings or plans indicate exactly where anodize areas should be masked there is less confusion about the time it will take to prepare the part. The better drawings communicate your intentions, the more precise cost estimates can be.

Masking can often be a very laborious and time consuming job and can represent more than 70% of anodize costs. When Qualtek receives a quote request, at least three sets of eyes review the drawings. Sometimes we have the part in hand and can match drawings to the part and identify any questions about the process. The more information we have, the more accurately we can estimate the time it will take to complete the masking and anodizing process.

Once the plans are reviewed and quotes approved, anodizing the part according to the plans takes true craftsmanship. Qualtek’s expert finishing team applies plugs, tape, or paint to precisely match drawings. Their craftsmanship earned Qualtek the nickname of “Best Anodizer in Colorado”.

The key to getting high quality, anodize parts at the best price requires communication of objectives, clear drawings, and expert craftsmanship. For questions about anodizing or any of our finishing process, please contact me at (719) 598-3394.

Really, Really Right

Mike Williams

By Mike Williams

Most Tool and Die folks know about Wire EDM. But do you know when it is right for YOU?

  • Wire EDM is precise. When you need tolerance to be within 0.0001″, Wire EDM can get you there.
  • Wire EDM can create tight inside radius. When your part requires a feature that is simply too detailed for conventional lathe or mill machining, Wire EDM can deliver an inside radius of .005″.
  • Wire EDM can create an ultra-fine finish. When you need a finish that meets  32-surface-finishcriteria, Wire EDM can finish it.

When precision, tight inside radius, or ultra-fine finish is important for your conductive material part, Wire EDM might be your best solution. Unfortunately, we sometimes see drawings where the specified machining process cannot deliver the tolerance required and problems develop. Don’t get yourself in a tight spot. Talk to us when you are planning the part for recommendations.

One more thing you might not know about Wire EDM — Qualtek does it! If you work with Qualtek for Stamping, Tool & Die, Heat Treating, or Finishing, you may not realize Wire EDM is one of our specialties. Contact me for any questions you have on Wire EDM.

Not Too Much, Not Too Little, Heat Treat Just Right

experts-Matt-Seebeck
by Matt Seebeck

Heat-treating is part of a multi-step manufacturing process to get just the right shape, thickness, and hardness for your metal part. Some people use a rough rule of thumb of adding 20 thousandths (0.020”) on each side of the part for intermediate processing. Depending on variables such as material type, part size, and final application, that may be too much or too little. A part may grow or shrink during the heat treat process and this too can affect material usage. So how much intermediary volume should you allow?

We’ll answer your question with questions: What do you want to achieve? What other machining operations are required? What material are you using? Each material has a unique set of properties, which influence the heat treatment process. Tell us why you need to use that material and we can help you determine how much waste to allow for. Alternatively, we can recommend a different material that may achieve your goals.

Whether annealing a drill bit to increase its ductility or carburizing a part so that the outer layer is strong enough to withstand repeated use, we love working with machinists during the design phase, to help them meet the needs of their clients. Whatever your project, a quick call to Qualtek will help you determine specifications that save waste and increase efficiency.

Collaborating for Efficiency

Mike Williams
By Mike Williams

As professional engineers, our clients design parts to function in a certain way or meet a specific need. In a typical development step, we receive final designs that include detailed specifications about how the part should be produced and request costs to deliver the product as stated.

While our client-partner engineers are experts in function, we work with manufacturing tools and metal materials every day. Our experts often see opportunities for efficiency or cost savings if the part were produced in a slightly different way than specified. As an example, the specifications may define multiple stamping and forming steps that we know can be accomplished by a different single process.

Let’s talk! Rather than going back to the drawing board to improve efficient production of a part, a better option is to talk to us very early in your design phase. Tell us what you are trying to achieve, why you need a certain material or how you want the part to function. You know your product requirements. We know metal manufacturing.

Bringing our expertise together at the beginning of your design process helps develop a part that is extremely efficient to produce. We are happy to share ideas but you always make the call. Together we meet the needs of your customers.

Amazing Deep-Draw Parts

Jason Kroening
By Jason Kroening

“Wow – you can DO that?” is a comment I hear frequently when someone sees the deep-drawn cans we produce. People are amazed that we take a flat piece of steel and reverse double draw it in one operation to 10” deep and then re-draw it in another die to make a part that is 4” in diameter and 12” deep.

According to typical die-making principles, if someone needed a three-dimensional cylinder or can-shaped part that was 12” tall, they would need to use four or five dies or die stations so the material could be gradually shaped to the desired dimensions.

Of course, building all those dies increases tooling costs and using them adds time to the production cycle. At Qualtek, we use a hydraulic press with programmable cylinders that can produce a deep drawn part in just two stations instead of possibly five or six.

When is deep draw stamping right for your project? It depends on a few things:

  • What are the dimensions you need?
  • What type of material are you using? (Deep draw works for stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and cold-rolled steel but is not limited to those materials.)
  • How thick is the material?

When we work with a client at the design phase of a part we offer suggestions about the best processes that deliver the dimensions and quality but still save money and time. Deep draw stamping is not right for every project but we can tell you when it is a great option to consider. We’ve been building metal parts for over 50 years and love to share what we’ve learned to help our clients.

What Does It Cost To Anodize A Part?

Willie Alexander
By Willie Alexander

The simple answer is “it depends”. But there are three key factors that affect anodizing costs.

 1.  Coating Thickness

If no specific thickness is required for the coating type it is considered “basic” and is the least expensive.

Controlling precise coating thickness affects cost. If coating thickness specifications include upper and lower limits, the narrower the range, the higher cost. As an example, +/- .001” is less expensive than the tighter range of +/- .0001”.

Maximum coating thicknesses may also cost more because they take longer to produce.

2.  Racking

Racking is critical to quality. Qualtek uses aluminum or commercially pure titanium racks to make electrical contact. If the job does not specify racking requirements, we utilize the most cost-effective method to gain the highest yield. Particular racking requirements may limit the number of parts processed at one time and the cost per part may go up.

The size and shape of a part also affects the quantity per run, which affects cost. When the shape of a product part is unique, Qualtek can build custom racks to maximize part runs but that may impact cost.

The number of parts processed at one time is affected by power supply limitations. Anodizing is performed at ~15 or ~30 amps per square foot (ASF). Therefore, there is a maximum surface area able to be processed in each run.

3.  Extras

Customers often require additional tasks to augment the anodizing process. When parts need simple or complex masking or if holes need to be plugged, those services add labor and time. While those services add value, they also increase the total cost of anodizing the part.

The cost of anodizing aluminum parts depends on the thickness of the coating, the size and shape of the part, and extra services desired.

I Hope to Encourage More Women to Enter the Field of Manufacturing

My interest in manufacturing processes began at age 10 when I accompanied my father at the family printing business. During the past 25 years I have focused on shaping organizational structure and culture, and implementing process control as I worked through customer service, sales, quality control and operations management roles. I enjoy problem solving with clients facing metal manufacturing challenges while creating innovative solutions.