Providing prototyping and production services for demanding industries, such as aerospace and defense, requires a bit more capability and attention to detail from service providers than with the usual customer. Such industries require that parts be 100% right, with zero defects, the first time, every time.
To meet these demands, service providers often use a Design for Manufacturing process to anticipate complications and limitations that can occur in the machining process that might not deliver the required results.
“With Design for Manufacturing, the goal is to make the product manufacturable in an efficient and cost-effective way and that starts with reviewing the parts and discussing the specifications openly,” says Tony Doan, CEO of San Jose, California-based Halcyon Manufacturing, an advanced ITAR Registered and AS9100/ISO9001- Certified manufacturing shop for complex parts serving Greater Silicon Valley.
Halcyon applies the Design for Manufacturing protocol across a wide spectrum of metal machining from bar grade 6061 aluminum, brass, copper, titanium, stainless steel, and plastics. The company also works with quartz, ceramic, graft, titanium, and a variety of steels and serves customers in the aerospace, home defense, automotive, medical, and semiconductor sectors.
“When you can use the latest simulation and process verification technologies prior to cutting the first chip of metal or plastic, then when you start manufacturing, you know that the parts are going to be 100% right the first time, every time,” says Doan.
Many might think that rapid prototyping is primarily for use during the design process. But used before initial production, rapid prototyping removes financial and time risk by providing a cost-effective way to test a range of designs and materials on the CAD-designed part. Many iterations of a part may never make it to production, but in the end that can save aerospace and defense contractors time and money.
Explains Doan, “If we understand how the part needs to function, we can 3D print the item in plastic, run it through a few tests, and then proceed – rather than rush to machine parts out of expensive material in the prototype phase.”
In addition to initial prototyping, once the part is finalized, 3D printing proves useful in creating the necessary workholding and fixtures for the final part.
By the numbers
Service providers should be able to handle multiple design changes and be able to scale production to “lights out” manufacturing if needed without compromising the accuracy of the machining.
“While capacity is certainly important, the overall size of a machine shop is not the most important criterion,” says Doan. “Aerospace and defense companies certainly need manufacturing scale, but they also require adaptability as complex manufacturing designs evolve and change. For a machine shop to be an effective partner, they need to be nimble.”
Inspecting quality upfront
Finally, a shop should have state-of-the-art metrology equipment for advanced inspections guided by a proactive zero-defect mindset.
“It’s not about making parts and sorting out the bad ones and shipping the good ones,” says Doan. “You need a machine shop committed to not making the bad parts at all.”
“To produce the most precise parts, you must be able to inspect more than the finished goods,” he adds. “A machine shop should be inspecting in real-time such things as the set-ups and the speed throughout the process which enables data to be captured for statistical predictive process control.”
At Halcyon, automated coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) perform process inspections and produce first article reports. Halcyon also uses a digital multimeter (DMM) with scanning capability that can take thousands of data points during a scan of a complex curved surface. This results in very precise and accurate repeatable product evaluations.
Look beyond the basics of certifications and machining capabilities when qualifying a shop for prototyping or production needs. Examine whether the shop can optimize the manufacturing process through flexibility, and ensure a zero-defect approach at every stage of the process.