Tag Archives: machined components and quality injection-molded parts

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.

Machining Precision Parts Requires Impeccable Attention to Detail

Ultimately, success in machining requires a team of highly proficient machine operators, tool makers, designers, engineers, project managers, technicians, and operations managers all working together to continuously achieve high quality products consistently. While CNC machines may do the tough work of cutting hard metals to tight tolerances, these tools are only as good as the team of dedicated professionals that drive performance and results. Attention to detail is everyone’s job.

Harbec’s roots in CNC machining run deep. Founded in 1977 as a general-purpose machine shop, Harbec initially specialized in the quick-turnaround of difficult to make parts. Today we operate over 40 vertical mills, horizontal lathes, and 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’s CNC Machining Solutions are built upon four decades of experience. Three primary values of Harbec’s CNC Machining include: Accuracy/Quality, Speed, and Knowledge/Expertise. Harbec’s CNC Machining group has the knowledge and expertise to produce difficult, highly complex, and tight tolerance parts. With a strong project management discipline and proactive communications with customers, Harbec works hard to make sure customer requirements are always understood. Harbec actively uses its manufacturing knowledge for customers’ benefits.  Whether it is one part or mid-volume production parts, Harbec’s experienced team always strives for delivering the highest quality part, quickly.

A commitment to continuously improve operational excellence through innovation while providing manufacturing solutions for customers is a necessity in today’s ever changing world. Recently our CNC Machining has expanded,  particularly to serve the needs of medical device customers. Harbec is investing in facility modifications, new equipment (CNC machines), and continuous training of its employees at all job functions to ensure a high level of quality and attention to detail is carried through to the customer.

Harbec has 21 dedicated inspectors and engineers that work collaboratively within every business group, manufacturing process, and individual within the company so that customers continuously receive the level of service they have come to expect. For example, some of our medical customers require 100% inspection of their parts on all dimensions with tolerances of +/- .001. Our knowledgeable staff have written and executed Installation Qualification (IQ), Operational Qualification (OQ), and Performance Qualification (PQs) for these customers. Harbec also implements specific process inspections, tools and technologies,  through an integrated team dedicated to quality. Tools including microscopic deburring and  a vision system/CMM are used in combination as part of a robust inspection program.

In addition, Harbec continues to actively pursue certification toward the ISO 13485 Medical Device standard, a customer-facing and internal goal to demonstrate our commitment to deliver the finest parts to our valued customers.

So You Need Custom Injection Molded Parts Yesterday…

In our last blog we focused on speed-to-market solutions in prototypes and production machining. We also referenced a Quick Manufacturing Solutions (QMS) process for “managing the queue”, as a means of saving time and resources from design through production and part delivery.

This “one-stop” approach to development of precision molds and tools and production injection molding is highly valued. Our QMS process does not stop at model making and rapid prototyping. We help “manage the queue” with value-added materials selection and sourcing, design for manufacturing, secondary operations, and logistics support services. With a focus on customer solutions Harbec is always looking to improve our equipment, capabilities, and ability to provide tightly tolerance precision parts with 100% on-time delivery.

If you require mold making and production our proprietary QMS methods will provide rapid tooling which also reduces the time for mold making and the cycle time in production. This will save valuable time resulting in a reduction in total life-cycle manufacturing costs for the part. The QMS process enables our customers to be more agile and achieve their speed-to-market objectives.

A flexible approach to mold making leads master toolmakers to be experts in the use of cutting edge process equipment as they continually develop their craftsmanship and know-how to construct conventional steel molds or aluminum bridge tools. This deep cross-functional expertise required of toolmakers plus flexibility in design, equipment capabilities, materials, and skills allows for the best value molds and tools in the quickest amount of time.

Focusing on improving time to market needs and having awareness that most product life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter is critical.  To address both of these trends Harbec has developed what we call “hybrid” tooling solutions.  The hybrid solution balances strong structural steel with easily machined, very thermally conductive and extremely strong aluminum alloys designed specifically for production injection molds.  This combination gives an advantage on lead-time while also offering a tremendous advantage for reducing costs for the mold and parts due to improved cycle times.  Harbec has been working with a variety of aluminum alloys for more than 15 years and we are experts at providing affordable solutions, within a very short lead-time, combined with outstanding quality.

Approximately 60% of our production molds are made from aluminum. Aluminum has been a choice for many customers as it offers benefits for reducing the time to contrast the mold to the cycle time within the injection molding machine (aluminum has superior thermal conductivity which give us 25-40% faster molding cycles). In fact, aluminum molds can be achieved, on average, for half the machining costs of steel molds. Further, aluminum molds can be completed in two to four weeks instead of 10-14 weeks which is customary with steel. Additionally, the tolerances and molding quality of the same plastics are equal with aluminum as with steel. 

Advantages of Aluminum

Material Cost Lead Time Rated Cycles
QC10Aluminum Lowest 2–5 weeks 25,000 – +100,000¹
P20Tool Steel Midpoint 6–8 weeks +500,000
H13Tool Steel Highest 8–13 weeks +1,000,000

¹Rated Cycles – determined by:  part geometry; texturing; shut-offs; draft; material abrasiveness.

The art of planning and proactive project management are essential to success. Integrated teams provide customers with the best talent and know-how for their challenges.  To achieve short lead times Harbec uses only six mold-block sizes which can accommodate most any mold design and configuration our diversity of customers have required over the years. Those blocks are pre-machined and stored them for quick access. Having an inventory of materials like this can save critical minutes, hours, and days during a project. It is this kind of thinking and pre-planning that earns new business, and trusted partnerships in the manufacture of precision tools and molds and custom injection molded parts.

We frequently receive quotes for conventional and bridge tooling with very short lead times. Harbec understands the speed of business is dynamic and requires partners that can provide fast turn-around not just on quotes, but also on finished product. Contact us today to discover the power difference Harbec can make to your custom molds and injection molded parts.

Harbec Continues To Set Itself Apart From The Competition

Harbec Inc. was established in 1977 by Bob Bechtold, who saw a void in the market for a Contract Precision Manufacturer that applied innovative manufacturing technology and offered engineering support to its customers.  This vision made Harbec an early adopter of CNC machining and CAD/CAM software, and drove its expansion into all-electric injection molding, aluminum mold fabrication, and additive manufacturing.

At Harbec our pioneering technologies have allowed us to offer the best and most modern capabilities to our customers. We strive daily to improve and enhance the qualities that set us apart from our competitors.  Some of these qualities are:

  1. Problem Solving:  We pride ourselves on finding solutions to our customer’s problems.  We are constantly analyzing new technologies, materials and processes to make our work better.
  2. Manufacturing Expertise:  After 35 years of business as a Contract Precision Manufacturer, we have the manufacturing skill and experience to be the ideal partner for our engineering clients.
  3. Knowledgeable Technical Sales Team:  Our sales team is known for being the “Go to for answers Team.” They are quick, ready to help and very knowledgeable experts in their field.
  4. Thought Leadership:  We focus on being a leader in innovation and process improvements.  On innovation, we remain up-to-date on new trends and technologies that will improve our processes and services.  As well, we were pioneers in sustainable manufacturing with a goal of being carbon neutral by the end of 2013 and water neutral by 2014.

We make sure to have the best balance of price, quality, delivery and service. Trust us, if it’s being done we are doing it and if it’s not, we plan to be the first.  For more information about Harbec please visit our website.  We can also be reached via email info@harbec.com.