Rapid prototyping is about finding answers quickly, but the ways and means of getting to the right solution can vary widely. In this case, Sinteris’ customer was primarily interested in seeing how powder metal components would function in a new transmission design. Given Sinteris’ deep expertise in developing effective material and processing solutions, Sinteris was well-suited for their powder metal prototype project. What made this one particularly challenging was the customer’s deadline.
“We had a fairly tight window to generate a significant number of PM components,” says Sinteris president Phil Goodwin. They were large, complex, and in some cases quite thin, which makes them more difficult to work with.”
Special circumstances sometimes call for creative thinking. In this case, Sinteris chose to mobilize a group of its specialized suppliers rather than do the prototyping in-house.
“When you do prototyping, you don’t necessarily have to have off-tool samples. You can make slugs, press the parts, then machine them. And that’s what we did. We contacted several different prototyping shops for machining.We could have done some of the machining in-house, but we chose to manage the outside suppliers that we had – that’s a combination of tool shops and specialty shops – because of their expertise and because they could dedicate time and equipment to it.
"We would make the slugs with our powder – not here, but pressed on a very large tonnage press that’s designed for just making slugs. We’d bring the slugs here, sinter them in the conditions which we would use for our process, then ship the slugs to those people with prints and manage that process. We turned around the entire process in eight weeks. And met the objectives of our customer.”
To assess the performance of their PM component designs, it made sense for Sinteris’ customer to work with powder metal experts. As Phil Goodwin explains, it made sense for Sinteris to outsource key elements of the project to their own supply chain – for exactly the same reason.
“These powder metal prototype builds are critical to the customer in terms of getting to market and getting ready for the final build. What was unique or special about what we did, I think, was our responsiveness. We didn’t dither. We turned around quotation and actual production very quickly.
“We did it by dedicating someone to the process. And having someone manage that process, we were able to get the powder in, get the slugs made, and get prototypes done by using a variety of shops – not just limiting it to one shop, which would have delayed the process.
“We also got the most cost-effective method – by quoting multiple houses and then settling on the ones that we felt had the best quality and the best turnaround. Had we done it, or had we used just one shop do it, lead times would have been longer. So we managed it. We have our own expertise in dealing with that material, so when they had a problem we could send our guys and make recommendations in terms of inserts, speeds and feeds, and what have you. We took it from prototype to finished product, basically from the customer’s concept. The next step will be production, and that’s our next goal.”
Sinteris specializes in adapting powder metal materials and manufacturing methods that meet and exceed customer expectations. To discuss your prototyping needs and how we can help, contact Phil Goodwin or Rick Armstrong, or email us at email@example.com.