Mechanical engineers at PennEngineering in Danboro, PA, buy new laptop computers, flat screen TVs, video game players and a myriad of other products and then take them apart â just like they did when they were kids.
"We're looking for ways to reduce costs or improve value," says Leon M. Attarian, director of marketing for the mechanical fastening company. "We're looking for opportunities to reduce the number of fasteners, and reduce assembly time."
The program even has a name: Cost Savings Investigation (CSI).
Recent visits with major fastening technology companies reveal a trend toward more value engineering that focuses on opportunities to improve mechanical assembly. The big savings aren't in piece-part costs but rather in reduction of manual labor and improvement in product integrity. Often new functionality is built into fastening systems, such as electronics, or improved heat-dissipation capabilities.
"We started doing the product tear downs on our own because we wanted to get some momentum going," says Brian G. Bentrim, manager of global new product development at PennEngineering. "Part of the problem is that the assembly technology is the last phase of design, and doesn't get the attention it deserves." CSI is now a service that PennEngineering offers current or prospective customers.
One of the products to emerge from CSI is a mini clinching tack pin that can be used to replace 56 M1.2 screws that hold a keyboard assembly in place in the frame. "Use of the mini clinching tack pin in this application would eliminate the need to tap the 56 holes, and simplify the assembly process since the pins are pressed in and do not require rotation for installation," says Jay McKenna, global product manager for PennEngineering. "The installation force of the tack pin is only 75 lb. This coupled with the fact that very little metal is displaced during the installation make this ideal for use in this application," he says. The expected maximum pull-out force for one tack pin is 45 lb.
One of the big new value pushes at Southco, based in Concordville, PA, is mechatronics, the incorporation of electronic functionality into mechanical assemblies.
"We are a company of mechanical engineers who have looked at how we can integrate electronic systems," says Steve Spatig, business development manager for electronic access solutions at Southco. "We started with electronic glove box latches
One of the big factors in many markets, particularly medical is determining who has access to prescription drugs or medical devices. A company operating a server center may want to know who entered and left, and at what times. "Most of our customers are like Soutcho," says Spartig. "They have been traditionally mechanical and are transitioning to electronic."
One new product is an R4-EM electronic rotary latch, which combines electronic access control with an all-metal rotary latch design in a compact, integrated package. Easy push-to-close operation and electronic actuation simplify access across a wide variety of applications, such as electronic enclosures and display cases. A gear-motor drive distinguishes the R4-EM latch from solenoid-driven electromechanical latches, providing lower power requirements, higher load capability and a better feel to latch operation. Microprocessor control accepts a variety of access signals for versatile application options.
Continuing the theme of value through improved fastening technology, Dirak introduced a compression latch that offers a compression range of up to 12 mm. The compression range can be modified depending on the length of the cam. Standard cam heights are 22 and 28 mm with other cams available. Use of a planetary gear for actuation provides significant compression at very low torque while ensuring strength and durability.