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Del Williams


Managing Product Development Risk With DFM and Quality Partnerships

The cutting edge of machining

Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2022 - 11:03

From design to prototyping to manufacturing and scaling up, manufacturing is fraught with risk. Machining of critical parts may not be on the front burner until well into a product’s development. This isn’t in stakeholders’ best interests.

Take products with semiconductors as a component, for instance. The semiconductor components themselves must be mounted in enclosures machined from various specialty metals and alloys. The reality is that a failure in an electronic-product enclosure, or a non-semiconductor component, can be just as catastrophic as a failure of the semiconductor itself.

Given the critical nature of these components, the “cutting edge” of machining now goes far beyond having the latest CNC equipment and accessories. It also means engaging at the earliest stages of the product development process using the latest in design for manufacturing (DFM), simulation, and process verification processes prior to cutting the first part.

It’s then critically important to have flexibility and adaptability to make changes and scale production when needed. This includes the ability and commitment to inspect with the most precise tools throughout the process. The goal of this approach is to give customers the knowledge that when machining begins, the parts are going to be 100 percent right, with zero defects, the first time and every time.

Typically, when a potential customer is looking for a machine shop to make a complex electronic-device housing or part, they are looking for the latest equipment and current certifications, including ISO 9001 and AS9100. There is a tremendous benefit, however, for a customer to look beyond these prerequisites for a machine shop that will work with them, from the design phases through manufacturing, to predict and resolve failures before they happen. The ability to predict when failures could occur requires proactive communication and early engagement with an expert machine shop.

2 machinists at Halcyon machine shop
Cutting-edge parts machining means engaging at the earliest stages of the product design process.

Design for manufacturing: The ability to adapt early

A design for manufacturing process enables the machine shop to anticipate possible complications and limitations in the machining process up front.

“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. “The electronic device industry needs a cutting-edge machine shop that has both the expertise and the desire to guide their customers on how to achieve better machined products at a better price.”

This analysis and feedback are part of an ongoing manufacturing collaboration between a client and their contract machining partner well before production starts, from the inception of a project through prototyping.

Halcyon applies the DFM 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, ceramics, graft, titanium, and a variety of steels, and serves customers in the electronics, semiconductor, aerospace, home defense, automotive, and medical 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 percent right the first time, every time,” says Doan.

part being machined at Halcyon machine shop
Simulation and process verification give customers the knowledge that when machining begins, the parts are going to be 100 percent right with zero defects.

Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping removes financial and time risk by providing a cost-effective way to test a full range of designs and materials. With rapid prototyping, many iterations of a part may never make it to production, which can save companies time and money.

“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,” explains Doan. "In addition to initial prototyping, 3D printing can be used to create workholding and fixtures."

Adaptability and scalability in production

Electronic-device manufacturers’ clients operate in highly dynamic markets, and the need for changes to part specifications and the quantity of parts is high. Cutting-edge machine shops must therefore be adaptable and flexible for any design changes. They also must be capable of scaling up 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 isn’t the most important criterion,” says Doan. “Customers 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 up front

Finally, to complement the machining capabilities and nimbleness, a shop must have state-of-the art metrology equipment for advanced inspections guided by a proactive, zero-defect mindset.

“It’s not about making parts, sorting out the bad ones, and shipping the good ones,” says Doan. “You need a machine shop committed to not making bad parts at all. To produce the most precise parts, you must be able to inspect more than the finished goods. A machine shop should be inspecting in real time such things as the setups 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 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.

Forging a partnership

Companies that rely on machine shops to produce precision parts to extremely tight tolerances with consistency should look beyond the basic certifications and CNC capabilities. THey should work with shops that have the expertise to optimize the manufacturing process before any items are manufactured and adjust as needed afterward. With this level of flexibility, and by ensuring a zero-defect approach at every stage of the process, those in the electronic-device industry can proceed with certainty that the parts they are receiving are of the highest reliability and without unnecessary additional costs for their most critical applications.


About The Author

Del Williams’s picture

Del Williams

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California. He writes about business, technology, health, and educational issues, and has a master’s degree in English from California State University-Dominguez Hills.