In this interview, Mike Geiger, the Director of Sales at Ulbrich Shaped Wire, talks to AZoM about the benefits shaped wire offers stamped part manufacturing.
To begin, can you give us an introduction into stamped parts?
I'd be glad to! Stamping, or pressing, typically involves continuously running flat metal in coil form through a tool and die. The output of that process results in a stamped product manufactured to the specification needed for the part. Some manufacturers also utilize blanks for their production, which are also used for individual stamping.
A stamping press is designed specifically for stamping metal parts out of raw material, and upon running material, a tool and die will form the metal into a specified shape. Several types of stamping techniques may be used to achieve an end product, including punching, blanking, bending, coining, and more. Each of these processes can be effective in arriving at the desired shape, and there are different cost variables involved with each.
How does starting with a shaped wire product differ from the above, and how can it be used as a supplement to stamped parts?
Glad you asked! At Ulbrich Shaped Wire, we produce a shaped material manufactured into its final profile by rolling round wire flat and then shaping the material by pulling or pushing the material through steel rolls. Shaped Wire can supplement the stamping process by pre-rolling in features to the material that cannot be stamped in. This is a tremendous benefit to stampers!
Using a pre-formed profile allows the stamper to start with a near-net shape, potentially replacing some initial stamping or forming steps. The elimination of these steps could increase overall production yield by reducing processing time, tooling costs, and scrap. An example would be rounded sides or bladed and razor-like edges.
Image Credit: ULBIRCH
What benefits does shaped wire offer to stamped part manufacturing?
More and more manufacturers are focusing on reducing scrap from production. This is not only beneficial to the environment and the manufacturer's bottom line, but customers also see a reduction in cost and turnaround time, making the manufacturer more competitive. As many stamping processes are multi-step, progressive processes, less scrap is typically produced since a shaped wire product may eliminate certain stages or steps that may otherwise be necessary.
Generally, using a Shaped Wire product can provide tighter tolerances over the alternative, which might help eliminate these when using regular flat material. This is possible through our capabilities to pre-shape material.
Another benefit that the ability to pre-shape wire presents is in reducing costs due to the potentially high expense of tooling/dies. Quite often, tooling is the costliest part of the stamping process, outside of a press's initial cost. The dies must be acquired, and if there is a custom aspect to them, the time it takes to have them manufactured translates into even more cost. As we all know, time is money in the manufacturing world. Suppose a pre-shaped product might afford the manufacturer the chance to eliminate the need to buy tooling while also reducing the number of potential die changes that must be made. In that case, there is an added cost reduction benefit to be had.
Image Credit: ULBIRCH
Can you tell us about Ulbrich Shaped Wire (USW) and the different types you provide?
I'm incredibly proud of the fact that Ulbrich Shaped Wire has become synonymous with metallurgical and technical excellence. It's a core part of who we are and something we have always hung our hat on, in addition to our broad product offering and robust supply line. This enables us to leverage a wide selection of alloys in our wire rolling mills, which furthers our rapid prototyping and custom wire profiling capabilities to develop superior wire for customers whether they require a standard or custom cross-section. We work with 300 series and 400 series stainless steels, Titanium, and Hi-temperature Nickel Alloys. Overall, Ulbrich has worked with more than 165 alloys through the years. Some of the basic profiles that we provide are half rounds with special corner radii, bladed or razor-edged flats, wedge wire and Kamm profiles, and many other custom profile products.
Image Credit: ULBIRCH
How does USW contribute to process improvement that benefits multiple stamping operations?
USW can provide material that may offer a stamper the opportunity to eliminate the need for tooling steps by getting the material closer to the final stamped part outcome. By minimizing the amount of setup time due to the number of tooling changes, there is an improvement in process time and cost reduction. Additionally, we can add features to the profile that cannot be achieved during the stamping process. Some of these features might include rounded sections, bladed edges, or unique dimensional requirements. One of our most powerful capabilities is our ability to partner with our customers in order to understand their operations and material needs completely, which enables us to collaborate on the design of the wire material's profile to meet their needs and optimize their production processes.
Can you tell us about how shapes allow stampers to start from a material profile?
Starting with a "near net" shape may allow stampers to remove early press operations necessary when starting with a flat blank. Reducing the number of stamping operations may reduce processing time, tooling costs, and scrap.
Image Credit: ULBIRCH
How does USW reduce scrap, and what is the importance behind this?
We start with a round wire product that progresses through the wire shaping process, where it is drawn down to what we require as our starting size. The drawing process elongates the wire and leaves an extremely low percentage of product leftover as scrap. This wire is then used to begin our rolling and shaping process. Fortunately, the overall scrap levels remain low, and this savings is essential as it helps provide our customers with the most competitive pricing we can offer. By combining this process with what a shaped or profiled product can offer, the stamper receives raw material that positions them very competitively once they begin running their jobs. This same benefit is afforded to our customers. When it hits their shop floor, the shape being near-net allows them to avoid the scrap that would otherwise be produced by performing the operations to achieve the shape they need to start their manufacturing. This can be incredibly advantageous from a scrap prevention perspective but also has advantages in production speed.
Image Credit: ULBIRCH
When it comes to developing products at USW, what are some of the critical steps taken to arrive at a product the customer will realize benefits from?
At Ulbrich Shaped Wire, we constantly analyze our operations and offerings in a never-ending quest to optimize what we do and innovate. We are extraordinarily data-driven and continually learning and iterating on the things we do and the products we sell.
On the customer side, developing a process that will provide a customer with value-added raw material begins with initial inquiry and investigation. Working together with our team of experts, Ulbrich Shaped Wire often takes concepts provided by our customers and works with them in a highly collaborative way to arrive at an outcome that will provide cost savings.
Technical conversations are very common as we ultimately want to provide a functional profile and saves costs for our customers. These conversations surround the determination of alloys, material properties, tolerances, and individual needs. We take extra care to review any specifications with our customers and our best-in-class engineering and metallurgy teams to ensure quality and compliance. Upon agreement, a technical drawing is provided for approval to make sure that it meets our customer's needs. We also have a team of product managers available at all times throughout the development process for additional commercial support. Once we have ensured that we are aligned with our customers on the concept and material needs, we will produce the final profile.
How does shaped profile wire minimize costly machining?
It's all about maximizing yield and reducing scrap. I mean that by rolling the material to shape rather than removing material, we can take full advantage of the entire metal wire material. When machining metal products, there is ultimately a lot of material lost in the process. Unlike machining, when shaping wire to a specific profile, the process is essentially "squeezing" (and elongating) the material through a group of steel rolls/dies. The amount of material you started with is preserved. Since coils can potentially weigh a thousand pounds, the possibility of eliminating countless hours of machining time due to a near-net-shape result is very real.
Can you give us some real-life examples/applications of USW?
One good example of what we can provide includes blade products for specific applications. We have one customer initially using a flat strip product and needed to add processing to skive the edges. In contrast, we have been able to supply them with a shaped profile, allowing them to eliminate the additional edging operations. This was a boon to their entire manufacturing operation as it saved them a ton of time and money.
Where can readers find more information?
More information can be found at our website www.ulbrich.com
About Ulbrich Shaped Wire
Ulbrich Shaped Wire specializes in the manufacture of custom-made shapes and flats for a wide variety of industries. Depending on the profile's complexity, shapes are provided in net or near-net suitable for stamping, coining, forming, or machining. All tooling is custom manufactured in-house by our state-of-the-art New England tooling center. We also offer metallurgical and engineering support for all customers. Ulbrich Shaped Wire supplies a wide range of alloys, including advanced nickel alloys such as Inconel, Monel, and Stainless Steel, which can be provided as a flat coiled wire product.
About Mike Geiger
Mike Geiger is Director of Sales for Ulbrich Shaped Wire in Wallingford, Ct. Mike has over 33 years of experience in the metals industry, having served in several consultative, technical, sales, and management positions. He has worked extensively with a wide range of customers in markets including aerospace, medical, oil & gas, metalworking, industrial, consumer, and more.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals, Inc..
For more information on this source, please visit Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals, Inc.
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