Chicago, IL —Many design engineers spend more time than ever before working with their companies' production engineers, but they can get a fresh perspective from outside manufacturers.
That's the opinion of Quality Control Corp., a contract manufacturer based in the north Chicago suburb of Harwood Heights. Because QCC does little design work—except for its Qualiseal division that makes mechanical seals—it can concentrate on finding the best manufacturing techniques for customers.
QCC makes fluid power components for such firms as Parker Hannifin and Rexroth. For Snap-On Tools and Ingersoll-Rand, it produces rotors, housings, and air motor packages for pneumatic tools. Other target applications: parts and assemblies for fuel systems and telecommunications equipment.
Company President Greg Willard points out that many design engineers are doing a good job consolidating parts and simplifying designs, but could make further gains in designing for manufacturing by learning more about developments in castings, forgings, and powdered metals. "By designing parts that can be produced to near net shape, you can save your company a lot of money on machining and finishing work," says Willard. By shifting to a near-net-shape process, one customer saved 21 miles of drilling previously required on bar stock.
Willard adds that design engineers should also investigate new coatings, as well as heat and surface treatments that can extend component life and add new properties, such as greater lubricity.
QCC often helps customers locate niche manufacturers. "I recently made 20 phone calls before I found just the right company to do a special forging," notes Brian Angioletti, national sales manager.
Angioletti cites these key factors in determining the best manufacturing process for a design: production volume, part size, degree of precision required, and type of material. A very positive trend, he says, is the ability of manufacturers of near-net-shape parts to handle smaller production quantities. Today's sophisticated machine tools also can handle a greater variety of production chores.
Whatever the process selected, Willard adds that "we do the best job when we can interface with the design engineer at the earliest possible time."