Category Archives: material selection

From Difficult to Differentiated: Creating Customer Solutions for Hard to Manufacture Materials

For many industries, high-intensity and high-value jobs require precision instruments that are made from high-performance materials. The medical, aerospace, defense, energy, and transportation industries are a few of the sectors that design and manufacture their parts, products, and integrated systems with materials such as titanium, magnesium, carbon steel, and others because of the unique performance properties these materials provide.

There are many challenges in using high-performance materials that add complexity and difficulty to the design and manufacture of high-performance products. For example:

  • Material Cost – High-performance materials typically have higher costs. As such, it is important that the use of these materials be optimized in all phases of the material life-cycle: design, manufacture, use, and end-of-life disposition. There are ways to reduce material waste in manufacturing by looking at a diversity of options for part design, manufacturing technique/process, and other factors. Check out HARBEC’s Sustainable Design Guide as an example of how design can impact the more efficient utilization of high-value materials.
  • Material Availability – The availability of high-performance materials can also be a challenge. Many high-performance materials are mined from specific regions of the world. The availability of materials is impacted by economic, geographic, supply, demand, regulatory, environmental, and other factors. The availability of materials also impacts its price, supply, and use.
  • Material Tracking and Regulatory Compliance – Understanding point of origin and supply chain relationships for materials has become a business necessity. Accounting (traceability) for ‘conflict minerals’ within the supply chain has, since Congress approved the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, been a requirement for U.S. based manufacturers. Check with your suppliers to see if they have a Conflict Minerals policy in place, like this example from HARBEC.
  • Manufacturing Capability – The use of high-performance materials requires high-performance manufacturing capabilities that either reside in-house or among suppliers. The handling and manufacturing of high-performance materials can require specialized equipment, certifications, technical know-how, and process sophistication. Hard to machine metals, for example, require machine operators and toolmakers that have built, through years of experience, insight and knowledge of how materials perform  under a diversity of manufacturing operations.
  • Material Handling –Some high-performance materials are also a challenge to work with because they require special handling requirements. The safe and environmentally responsible storage, handling, and disposal of materials can add cost, time, and complexity to already tight time schedules. As such, it pays to work with material handlers, suppliers, and manufacturers that are experienced in the specific material handling requirements. Often there are very specific and specialized regulatory, environmental, safety, recycling, and disposal requirements for high-performance materials.
HARBECsample_parts

HARBEC sample parts injection molded in a variety of engineering resins and metal.

Although there are challenges in working with high-performance materials, the benefits are tremendous. High-performance materials can differentiate products in their weight, design, performance, tolerance holding, utility, and sustainability. By working with material vendors and manufacturing partners that have depth of knowledge, experience, and capability, you can hedge yourself on any downside “difficulties,” and optimize your potential to “differentiate” your high-performance product.

Since 1977 HARBEC has earned a reputation and grown its business by solving tough manufacturing challenges. HARBEC’s origins stem from working with difficult to machine and mold materials. With nearly four decades of experience, HARBEC is well positioned to take on the most challenging of materials. HARBEC regularly machines magnesium, titanium, and hardened steels to very tight tolerances for a diversity of customers spanning aerospace, defense, medical, and research organizations.

HARBEC operates over 44 vertical mills, 6 horizontal lathes, and multiple EDM centers on three shifts, producing small to medium volumes of high precision parts for customers worldwide.  Our team readily works with customers to improve the manufacturability of prototypes and production parts, always striving for the best balance of function, cost and delivery. HARBEC has dedicated milling centers for difficult to machine metals such as titanium with a .01” diameter end mill.

HARBEC has earned a reputation as a custom injection molder and custom CNC machining company because it does not shy away from challenging materials, complex part geometries, tight tolerances, or demanding schedules. HARBEC works hard to support its customers by providing strategy and insight from its four decades of know-how and experience, to create custom solutions that often exceed time, cost, and performance requirements. HARBEC prides itself on being an extension of its customer’s teams, working with its own in-house engineers, tool makers, and machinists to provide exemplary levels of service and detail to every job, every customer, and every day.

Materials Selection and Management Solutions

The development and commercialization of sustainable products can be realized by integrating a framework of sustainability across the following high-level product development steps:

  • Customer Needs Assessment
  • Sustainable Product Design Principles
  • Materials Selection
  • Sustainable Manufacturing
  • Product Packaging
  • Product Use
  • End-of-Life Product Disposition

product stweardship

No two products are exactly the same. All of the steps noted are important to producing a high-quality product. The right selection and efficient management of materials is essential to providing custom engineered product solutions to customers. The materials used in the manufacturing process, and as embedded in the final physical form define the ultimate price, performance, quality, longevity, and sustainability of  a product.

 

Harbec works to provide solutions to customers to achieve sustainable product innovation and commercialization goals. For example, Harbec’s Sustainable Design Guide is a useful reference for understanding key principles of sustainable engineering to incorporate into the design of new products. In addition, as a manufacturer of custom tightly toleranced parts, Harbec differentiates itself by offering materials solutions to its customers. Harbec has developed an expertise of materials and internal controls and processes that support the wise and efficient use and management of materials.

 

As a result, Harbec’s materials solutions integrate intimate knowledge of materials with customer needs and goals across the entire materials value-chain: product design, materials selection, custom manufacturing, materials management, and product use-phase, end-use, and life-cycle considerations for managing product stewardship requirements.

 

Advancements in materials science research are contributing to the availability of new commercially available materials that provide unique properties. Increasingly, Harbec is being asked by customers about biopolymer options for injection molding, particularly as a means to support their goals for sustainable product innovation, and in advance of new product labeling requirements. As companies increase competition related to sustainable products, materials from bio-based origins, including biopolymers, are being looked to as possible solutions. In response, Harbec has updated its online Biopolymer Information Center as a resource to learn about the diverse range of options for molding biopolymers. The website also identifies a sample of the biopolymers Harbec has had experience molding for a diversity of customers and toward their specifications for high quality tightly toleranced parts.

 

This month Harbec has also launched its Biopolymer Partners Program. Through the Biopolymer Partners Program Harbec is working to connect the dots between sustainable design and manufacturing and materials development and management. Harbec is working with customers who are looking for unique bio-based polymer solutions which can enable their products to reduce or eliminate petroleum-and-carbon based feedstocks within their product portfolio. Harbec is also working with a diversity of biopolymer and bio-origin polymer companies to sample, validate, and assess the vitality of their material within the production parameters and tolerances demanded by customers.

 

To round out its total solutions offering for customers choosing to design, prototype, and manufacture sustainable products, Harbec offers carbon-neutrality at no additional cost. Since 2013 Harbec has been a carbon-neutral manufacturing facility. Harbec’s investment in operational excellence, adoption and certification of  ISO 50001/SEP, on-site renewable and combined heat and power (CHP) energy solutions, and integration of sustainable manufacturing tools, systems, and processes allows us to be a high-value partner for the manufacture of sustainable products.