Cost. Performance. Efficiency. All terms that are thrown around by those looking to perfect their metal manufacturing process. Yet we could give you so many case studies of companies stuck in the past with a wasteful, overwrought process.
Enter powder metal. Below are three cases where powder metallurgy’s flexibility and creativity turned a product around:
Ways to Turn a Metal Manufacturing Process Around With Powder Metal
1. Buying Lots of Metal & Machining It? Bad Idea
An industrial cooling solutions company purchased blocks of material and machined it all down. Everything the company used was machined parts, which is very expensive. Why? Waste.
Starting off with a slab of raw metal and removing what you don’t need through machine operations is one way to reach the final shape you want. But it’s certainly not the most efficient way.
Specific to this example, you can imagine trying to make a gear for a fan with a hole through the center. How are you going to efficiently remove all of that material to get that final shape? By shaving 60% of the material. That 60% cannot be reused.
Using powder metal instead lets you form a net shape as you wish, with minimal material waste.
The cooling company’s inefficiency spread to lead times, too. Paring that material down is simply a longer process than using powder metal. And if you’re doing these secondary processes on separate machines, you’ll consistently have workflow issues. With powder metallurgy, you just put the “batter” right in and bake your creation.
2. A Single-Part Solution to a Complex Problem
Brazing a stainless steel component onto a stainless tube may have looked odd, but it provided a unique solution.
An auto company’s goal was to create a system that could help a vehicle meet strict California emission requirements from the time the engine started until the catalytic converter kicked in. The existing technology was such that the vehicle’s emissions would exceed California’s limits during those first few minutes.
How did Horizon even go about making that? You could certainly weld it, but …
It started out as a simple, little flange part that ultimately needed to be connected to a stainless steel tube. Horizon’s initial role in the project was simply to discuss the flange. But instead, a powder metal innovation was born.
The vehicles had a compressor that would pump air into the exhaust valve as a way to dilute the pollution coming out of the exhaust pipe. We were able to provide a solution to make the flange part of the tube, and supply that all as one part rather than a convoluted assembly.
The result was a bizarre-looking part that no one else would even dream of doing. But it worked -- and allowed the automaker to meet state regulations for years.
The solution simplified the buyer’s supply chain, significantly reducing cost. This case study also illustrates the flexibility of powder metal not only as a standalone solution, but also as a combination material.
3. An All-in-1 Operation
A household name in tools needed a gear for a concrete hammer drill.
The component wasn’t practical at first, but choosing powder metal made all the difference.
The OEM originally scheduled this part as a two-piece assembly -- but with powder metal you could design it as a single piece. The 20-degree helical gear and the ratchet gear could be made all at once through advances in unique materials and processing methods.
This component is representative of the innovations powder metal can offer.
Is Your Product Reaching Its Potential?
Using powder metal to do things differently and think outside the box can drastically change your …
- Supply chain
… for the better. If you have a current or in-development product you think could be optimized with powder metallurgy (vs. laminations in particular), have your design team brush up on the basics of powder metallurgy or feel free to get in touch with us.