Waste not, want not: precision cold forming versus conventional machining

copper machining

Waste not, want not: precision cold forming versus conventional machining

In a previous post we discovered how the growth in electrical vehicle sales is ramping up demand for, and inevitably the cost of, copper.

Creating finished parts from this metal is exercising the minds of production engineers who need to find alternatives to conventional CNC machining, which, while being a modern wonder of high-volume component manufacturing, is a potentially wasteful process.

Precision cold forming is a straightforward alternative to CNC machining that is waste-free. Using a punch and die at high pressure and under ambient temperature conditions, it can create a part that precisely matches the shape of the tooling while achieving micron-levels of accuracy quickly, consistently and repeatedly.

The extrusion nature of the cold forming process ensures that the grain structure of the metal follows the contours along the length of the die to maintain its tensile strength. Moreover, the internal surfaces of the part develop a highly polished appearance that is unlikely to require additional finishing, helping to reduce both cost and manufacturing time.

Production techniques aside, part design will always play an important role in determining the cost and complexity of the manufacturing process, and thinking carefully about how a part will be engineered from the early stages of the product development cycle will reap its rewards.

Considerations might include reducing the number of component parts and the complexity of production stages; selecting alternative materials – perhaps to avoid rising metal costs or uncertainty of supply; adopting computer based design tools that eliminate physical prototyping and testing; or partnering with specialised suppliers that have the knowledge and experience to optimise production operations.

Engineers might not have control over the vagaries of commodity markets, but they can determine how a part is designed and ultimately manufactured in ways that counter the effects of uncertain and ever changing global economic conditions. Precision cold forming is one step in that direction.