Jan 19, 2022
The author describes why metal stamping has grown so popular in the electronics industry. Uses vary from millions of battery contacts for electronic key fobs to a heat sink for a car's infotainment unit. (getty images)
Metal stamping is a fabrication process that involves using dies and presses to form the material into desired shapes. It’s a commonly utilized practice at companies that make electronic components. Here are some of the many reasons for its popularity in such applications.
Today’s society features an ever-growing number of consumer electronics. Whether those products are smart home devices or video game consoles, most include parts that are or could be made with stamping processes.
A Grandview Research report found that the global market for this fabrication approach exceeded $200 billion in 2020. However, the analysts expect a 3.8% compound annual growth rate from 2021-2025.
One suggested reason for the upcoming growth is the popularity of smartphones in so many regions of the world. The authors clarified that stamping plays a key role in components like antennas, as well as the phone’s frame and camera lens holders. The report also mentions how electronics used in the aerospace industry are often shaped with stamping.
In the automotive industry, the North American and European regions are among the areas most likely to see sustained growth over the forecast period, according to Grandview. Since many vital car parts have electronics in them, including spanning headlights and steering wheels, it makes sense why manufacturers will contribute to global stamping growth.
The versatility of this manufacturing process is undoubtedly a factor that will help it remain popular for the foreseeable future. Besides matching the needs of current products, it will encourage pioneering makers to think outside the box with bold innovations.
Another notable advantage is the flexibility to meet precise client needs. CEP Technologies handles metal stamping on carbon, stainless steel, aluminum and copper. Many of its electronic components go to the automotive industry. Some of those products must maintain a ±1/4 degree on a bend. The company stamps more than half a billion parts every year, despite having less than 75 employees.
The company’s president, Ken Kaufmann Jr., said CEP Technologies did not always have a significant segment of its business devoted to electronic components. However, that’s changing, especially with the transition to electric vehicles.
“We currently make a heat sink that is assembled on an infotainment unit that provides in-car Wi-Fi,” he said. “Our most recent project is a stamped component for switches in large-truck applications.” As cars evolve he expects the electrical componentry segment of CEP to grow.They will require battery contacts, shielding products, press-fit pins and customized precision metal stampings.
CEP is currently making a battery contact for a multinational OEM’s key fobs and a set of components for another automaker’s door-entry systems. “Keyless ignition systems that allow you to start your car from a distance just by pressing a button on your key fob are sensor-driven and need contacts and precision metal stampings in different forms,” he noted. “For one current project, we produce approximately 3.5 million units annually for door-entry systems.”
The assortment of projects helps illustrate how metal stamping is often a viable solution for projects that must adhere to exact specifications. That’s especially true if a client opts for custom metal stamping. Catalog parts come in predetermined shapes and sizes. However, custom-made parts can meet highly specific tolerances that standard versions may not.
Stamping also allows clients to order large batches of metal components and feel confident they will all show high quality levels. That’s even true for oddly shaped or complex parts. Progressive stamping is often chosen for its repeatability. It involves the component passing through various stations, with each one making a change to the piece, such as by adding another punch or cut in the material. This is an efficient and low-waste option.
It’s also worthwhile when making complicated pieces, such as parts for printed circuit boards.
Automation is another possibility often prioritized by companies making those components. One such organization can make up to 15 types of products each day, giving clients plenty of options.
One machine that supports automated stamping operations has a tool summary screen that shows users a complete programmed setup of machinery on one screen. It also collects data about efficiency and product bottlenecks, letting production managers address problems promptly. This automation solution reportedly could bring up to a 70% reduction in downtime for the machines connected to it.
There are also opportunities to produce several stamped parts simultaneously without losing the desired repeatability. That’s true regardless of whether automation factors into the process very much or at all. It’s also helpful that the stamping process is relatively simple for people who have the necessary training, at least compared to other metal fabrication methods. This aspect contributes to low error rates.
These three benefits show why many people choose stamping to fabricate electronic components. The associated efficiency makes it a good choice for large production runs where the goal is to get the pieces manufactured as soon as possible to keep customers happy.
However, it may not be the best option for smaller production runs. That’s because there are costs and time associated with the machine setup and dies. On the other hand, this method becomes very cost-effective for clients who need large part volumes. It’s also easy to plan future production runs after the first one because there’s no need to continually account for the tooling and setup costs.
All fabrication methods have attached pros and cons. Stamping is often the best way to create metal electronic components for the reasons above and others. Since that’s not true in every case, it’s necessary to think about a project’s goals and how readily stamping could help meet them. Plus, decision-makers should weigh factors like time and costs before going with this production option. Thinking over things carefully allows people to have optimal outcomes that support their bottom lines.