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Precision metal fabrication basics

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 | Paul Patterson
Categories : Design

Metalworking - in a lot of ways - is a discipline that is highly dependent on juggling stark contrasts. Many of its essential processes have to be conducted at blisteringly hot temperatures, in the hundreds and sometimes thousands of degrees Celsius, In the case of metals used to build microelectronic components, these levels of heat reflect the environments in which they often operate.

At the same time, all of the metallurgical operations involved in the fabrication of these components have to be carried out with considerable delicacy and meticulous attention to detail. Precision metal fabrication cannot be tarnished by any mistakes, or the products that come out of it might not function as effectively as they should - which, in turn, could compromise the operations of vital systems in the aerospace, communications, defense, energy and medical sectors.

Precision metal fabrication

Fabrication basics

There are a fair number of processes that are uniform in metal fabrication even if you are not operating at the level of delicacy necessary for the formation of cover assemblies, solder preforms, connectors and other critical microelectronic components. For example, you are always going to need to work with a number of reliable presses, whether you will ultimately be working with massive quantities of sheet metal or tiny work pieces that are mere fractions of an inch or centimeter in length and width. (To accommodate the vast scale at which AMETEK must operate when crafting bulk orders for clients, our Coining brand, which focuses on metal fabrication, has more than 100 presses on site at its Montvale, New Jersey production facility.)

Rolling technology is used to achieve the required thickness. Using presses, raw base metals, and alloys are pressed, annealed, bent or otherwise altered according to the specifications of the components or devices being fabricated. Then, it becomes necessary to cut, drill, shear or stamp away excess metal so the parts hold true to blueprints of their desired shapes. Sometimes the extra metal has a useful purpose – to be utilized as recyclate in making a new batch of metal.  If not recycled, the metal may be sent for precious metal refining.  When neither recycling or refining is an option the leftover metal will be discarded.


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The human factor

It's hard to deny that there are certain advantages facilitated by the proliferation of automation throughout many different corners of the manufacturing sector, including the fabrication of metal components, whether it's the fairly well-known CNC and CAD/CAM or more advanced artificial intelligence. Currently, though, the level of exactitude required for precision component fabrication means that experienced human fabricators need to be in full control of the presses used to make preforms, cover assemblies and other package components.

Anyone skeptical about automation's shortcomings in this regard must simply consider how skilled this trade really is: According to the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, an individual training to be a precision metal fabrication expert must undergo 4,000 hours of on-the-job training. This includes 1,100 hours on general metalworking best practices alone, along with a great deal of training on the engine lathe (800 hours) and the punch press and press brake (500 hours apiece).

Engineers and fabricators at Coining closely collaborate - blending old-fashioned manufacturing expertise with advanced analysis via ICP, DSC, XRF and SEM techniques - to ensure that our precision metalworking operations go off without a hitch. Our commitment to quality and reliability holds true no matter what customers need from us, be it cover assemblies made of high-echelon gold tin alloy or cold-rolled steel washers and frames.

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