Tag Archives: manufacturing expertise

Creating a More Sustainable World in 3D

Do you see your world in 3D…Where the dimensions of economy (profit), environment (planet), and society (people) are equally considered in the realization of your manufactured product? Traditional approaches to manufacturing have relied far too heavily on resource intensive processes that don’t always balance the needs of society with the profit goals of the enterprise or the environmental protection that is required for the earth to maintain a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.

Manufacturing enterprises have become substantially more resource efficient and operationally intelligent in the past Century. Compared to the way Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing can enable, there hasn’t been as dramatic an opportunity for industry to realize transformational shifts in resource utilization, since the invention of the steam engine.

Additive manufacturing (AM) takes advantage of various processes used to make three-dimensional objects in which successive layers of materials are laid down under computer control. The objects can be of almost any shape or geometry, and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source. AM technologies and processes are now used in a wide-range of industries and to design, engineer, and manufacture higher-performance products. AM technologies and approaches include stereolighography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Recent advances in topology optimization can, when blended with AM, provide the means for producing a new generation of engineered parts and products. A few  years ago, AM and 3D printing were widely viewed as prototype-exclusive tools due to their relative high cost, limited material and finishing capabilities.

Definition:
TOPOLOGY:  the way in which consistent parts are interrelated or arranged.

Today, AM and 3D printing tools and equipment can, when integrated with software for topology optimization, revolutionize the way in which products are designed, prototyped, and manufactured. AM and 3D printing provide unparalleled opportunities and freedom to product designers. AM and 3D printing are near a convergence point in assimilating a suite of software, materials, techniques, and finishing options that can springboard this novel technology into the forefront of sustainable product design and manufacturing.

As AM and 3D printing integrate science and technology into superior manufacturing capabilities, the only limiting factor will be our imagination. AM and 3D printing allow for the design, development, and manufacturing of more complex shapes and topographies which result in customized products at faster manufacturing cycle times.

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The flexible design and production freedom of AM can enable sustainable design and manufacture of products. AM offers a new way to achieve competitive advantages in product design and manufacturing by addressing:

  • Design freedom – Due to the wide-ranging potential of AM technologies, design opportunities are limited only by one’s imagination. Traditional manufacturing methods play a large role in the range of options that can be achieved for product designers. In the old world of manufacturing, equipment and machines drove design and product realization based upon the capabilities of the manufacturing equipment. In contrast, the AM world liberates design and provides the means to manufacture parts that would never have been conceivable (at least cost-effectively) with traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Part optimization – AM can, when aligned with the right software, design tools, and material selections, allow designers to achieve optimum part design and performance according to characteristics and requirements that they establish. If a designer wants to optimize their part for materials utilization, production speed, or a variety of other factors related to topology, they can now do so. The latest capabilities of AM and 3D printing provide designers with tools and capabilities that can result in higher performance parts that use less material, energy, and natural resources to develop, manufacture, and use.
  • Materials availability and scarcity – As a manufacturing process, AM only uses the material(s) necessary to realize the part geometry, scale, and size specified by digital design files. Because AM processes grow a shape by depositing layer upon layer of material, this approach is significantly less material intensive than other manufacturing approaches. An example would be the design and development of an injection mold using AM (growing the injection mold with only the right amount of material necessary) versus traditional methods of CNC machining (extracting material from a large block).
  • Process and energy efficiency – When used as an integrated component of a “total manufacturing solution,” AM can be instrumental in reducing total energy consumption per part. For example, the potential of AM can allow for the development of custom injection molds/tools that more efficiently direct water or other forms of cooling to the mold, therefore reducing the time it takes to injection mold and cool a part. This achieves lower total energy for injection molders, and in addition, faster cycle times. AM can be a stand-alone manufacturing process/tool, or strategically included into a total manufacturing solution that helps manufacturers deliver high quality and performance products at every stage of the product life-cycle: design, prototype, tool making, production, and so on.
  • De-materialization of products –AM offers potential to redesign existing or new parts that perform the same or better function, and which use less material. AM parts can be designed to be lighter weight, stronger, and with greater utility than parts manufactured from other processes. As such, AM parts are becoming a preferred solution for the medical device, transportation, aerospace, and defense industries as an opportunity to integrate stronger, lighter, and longer-lasting parts into their products. These industries are attracted by many benefits of AM, however the option to dematerialize a part can have dramatic impact on total product weight, energy use, performance and longevity. For example, in the aerospace industry, companies like GE, Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin seek to reduce the weight of aircraft to achieve fuel savings, higher performance (faster aircraft), lower weight and more space. The result is a next generation of aircraft that can carry more people and cargo, longer distances, at faster speed, while using less fuel, materials, and resources.
  • Speed-to-market – With AM you can produce a part in hours, not the days or even weeks that may be required with other manufacturing methods. As a result, AM has become the process of choice for many design companies who want quick turn-around on precision prototypes at reasonable cost. In the consumer product sector, the life-cycle of many products is becoming shorter and shorter, in part because of ongoing advances in electronics and technology which make products obsolete in 18-to-24 month business cycles. As a result, many consumer product companies want a more flexible manufacturing opportunity, which balances speed-to-market with shorter-run manufacturing cycles. AM provides this kind of opportunity to cost-effectively bring new products to market quickly, and also enable a manufacturing volume that aligns with the fickleness of the marketplace.

AM delivers the means for designers, manufacturers, and society to visualize, advance, and accelerate the realization of manufactured products across three dimensions (people, planet, and profit). As shown in the visual, the opportunity and scale of sustainability potential and impacts is magnified as AM and 3D printing are used from the onset, and across the product development life-cycle.

 

Do you see your world in 3D

 

Ultimately, the use of AM results in competitive advantages related to operational efficiency (i.e., achieving lower cost of manufactured goods) and development of products that achieve a differentiated and sustainable product performance advantage (i.e., products that are stronger, faster, lighter, use less energy, use less materials, etc.). Finally, the unique capabilities of AM can support a circular economy, one which is restorative, less depletive, and leverages the elegant capabilities of AM to support or enable sustainable design, sustainable manufacturing, sustainable product realization, and product remanufacturing.

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.

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.