Tag Archives: new innovation and technology

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.
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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.

The Vital Role of American Manufacturing

For the first time in years, there seems to be a lot of attention on American manufacturing—its comeback, its importance, and its value. Reshoring is bringing business and jobs back to America, and U.S. consumers are making the conscious choice to buy American. With the upcoming American Made Matters Day® on November 19, we can all do our part to further the cause and support the industry and our economy.DSC_0107-1

The idea of having a homegrown economy that can support the goods that exist here is an important part of our country’s past, present, and future success—it’s a sustainable endeavor.  Our economy grew out of an era of industrialization, bringing us a great deal of new innovation and technology that helped spearhead the manufacturing sector in the U.S., and also afforded us the opportunity to invest in the sciences and technology. As a result, new skills and capabilities were created in the workforce, which in turn reinforces domestic employment and entrepreneurship.  Vibrant economies have to be built upon a balance of goods and services. For the U.S. economy to continue regaining ground and once again  thrive, manufacturing needs to be a substantial piece of America’s financial pie.

For a variety of reasons there now seems to be a growing disconnect between those who have been in the manufacturing industry for their careers and those who are dismissing it as a career or just breaking into it. As a national priority, we need to find a way to make manufacturing more appealing to the younger generations; we need to reinforce training the next generation and getting them excited about producing high quality, regionally produced, and sustainable goods and services; simply put, we need to  take charge of reinventing manufacturing with the goal of bringing it back to America as a driving force to revitalize and reshape our economy and our future.

While outsourcing isn’t happening at the pace or persistence as it once was, it’s still occurring. Part of rebalancing the economy and adding value in new jobs is looking at the outsourcing equation and questioning how efficient that is. , With a population of 7billion and climbing our earth has limited resources and the cost and supply pressures are being felt in a global economy. While outsourcing may have made economic sense at one time, today we are realizing there are a great deal of inefficiencies, waste, and financial loss. As a result many businesses are focusing their efforts on creating a more sustainable economy. Having American made products is an economic motivator that helps support the economic security of the future and helps empower our youth into high impact and high value careers. From a personal point of view,  we at Harbec do business globally and domestically, but we are very interested in U.S. based manufacturing—developing new technology to become more efficient while having a regional aspect to our work, and helping America to reinvent the notion of manufacturing as a key aspect of its economy.

Want to know more about how Harbec and others are working toward reinventing America’s industrial future through sustainable manufacturing? Check out the exclusive three-part Manufacturing Sustainability series on ThomasNet. The series focuses on the market drivers shaping the future of manufacturing, how small manufacturers like us have created lasting value from investment in sustainability, and how organizations can maximize their impact and return-on-sustainability by investing in, and integrating, people and innovation.