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The History of Free Form Fabrication and the Application of Rapid Prototyping in Minneapolis, MN

October 14th, 2016 · No Comments

During the late 60s through to the early 70s, University of Rochester engineering professor Herbert Voelcker began research that would take him on a journey to change the engineering world forever. His work with computer-controlled machines and tools and his development of a theory and algorithm for three-dimensional modeling changed the way engineering and manufacturing is accomplished today. Thanks to the work of Voelcker and other engineering giants over the past forty years, our own engineers and technicians at Thomas Engineering Company are able to provide expert precision metal stamping and rapid prototyping in Minneapolis, MN.

Herbert Voelcker’s research in the late 60s marked the beginning of free form fabrication, or what is now an umbrella term for methods of rapid prototyping such as additive manufacturing, computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), and 3D printing. Our engineers are able to use today’s technology with CAD/CAM systems to provide our customers with the rapid prototyping necessary to produce the parts they need.

Voelcker started with the creation of mathematical formulas and algorithms that would provide the base for today’s 3D imaging technology. From the 70s to the 80s, Voelcker’s work changed the way engineers designed a part. In 1987, Carl Deckard at the University of Texas developed a way to use Voelcker’s design methods paired with a new, additive way of manufacturing the physical part. By providing a way of adding a material in layers instead of subtracting layers from a larger piece of material, Deckard gave the engineers of today the beginnings of true rapid prototyping.

While many other engineers have helped to develop Voelcker’s design theories and Deckard’s manufacturing theories, their research has been an invaluable step in improving engineering industries across the globe. Without their innovative work, the high-accuracy computer-aided design and manufacturing systems we use at TEC today would not be possible.

Check out this article for a more in-depth look at the development of rapid prototyping.

For more information about how we use rapid prototyping during the precision metal stamping process in Minneapolis, MN, contact Thomas Engineering Company today at (763) 533-1501.

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The Difference in Excellence with Punching and Cutting with Precision Metal Stamping in Minneapolis, MN

October 9th, 2016 · No Comments

There are many commonalities in the techniques and equipment used in the metal stamping industry across the globe. This can make it difficult to pinpoint where differences in quality mark some companies as better suited to produce a part than others. At Thomas Engineering Company, we are committed to performing precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN, with an effort to apply excellence in method to all steps of the production process.

Even universal operations performed in all types of metal stamping can vary in quality. For example, punching and cutting procedures are some of the most basic operations, yet they still require considerable understanding of the materials, high quality equipment, and a very calculated approach to the process.

Cutting and punching are necessary for the production of virtually every part and are performed daily on TEC’s production floors. Because these operations demand an immense force, the equipment and metal blank being cut absorb high shock with each cut or punch. Combatting the problems that can arise with the stress of this extreme force is where TEC excellence comes into play.

Our engineers are well-versed in applications of cutting and punching that will meet the requirements to cut without over-shocking the punch, die, or press, and the material itself. This creates a stronger part in the long run that will not crack, warp, or experience other forms of undue failure.

There are some common problems associated with cutting and punching operations if the application is miscalculated in any way:

Without adequate cutting clearance, the metal under the pressure of a cut can be forced away from the punch before the cut line is fully met, causing a material collapse after the punch is pulled away.

The cutting clearance should also be altered depending on the shape of the cut. For example, a square cut will place pressure on the punch and metal in different spots than a round cut.

The cutting clearance will also change with differences in material composition and properties.

The difference between TEC and other metal stamping companies is the mark of high quality and excellence. To find out more about cutting, punching, and other operations in precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN, contact Thomas Engineering Company at (763) 533-1501.

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Advantages of In-Die Tapping with Precision Metal Stamping in Minneapolis, MN

October 2nd, 2016 · 1 Comment

Metal stamping operations across the globe are largely universal, and in most cases, the common procedures in the manufacturing process are the best choices in terms of efficiency, cost, and accuracy. However, there are times when choosing one specific method of performing an operation over another can change the results in all aspects of production. At Thomas Engineering Company, we have over 50 years of experience with changing technologies, stamping operations, and materials, giving us the mastery to provide expert precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN.

An example of two metal stamping methods that are often disputed in the industry are different techniques of accomplishing tapping. Tapping creates threads in a part that makes up the female half of a male/female system. For example, the nut in a nut and bolt system. The two disputed methods of tapping are in-die tapping and off-line tapping.

Off-line tapping, or tapping in an additional operation with a secondary tapping die unit, is the traditional method of tapping. While this method is beneficial for highly complex or unusual parts, it inevitably adds time to the stamping process. Secondary tapping units are also only built to tap a specific part, and building a secondary tapping die to accommodate a new part adds cost and even more time to the process.

In-die tapping combines the stamping and tapping process into one. While this requires a new unit that accommodates both tapping and stamping as well as the training for and understanding of in-die tapping, the end results of an in-die tapping system will benefit the stamping company and the clients in several ways.

Advantages of in-die tapping affect the production cost and timeline of the stamping process, decreasing both and creating a highly efficient, streamlined operation. Similarly, in-die tapping also reduces the labor requirements needed to complete an order, which in turn allows an increased production rate for orders of all sizes. In many cases, in-die tapping can also improve part quality overall because it allows for higher thread quality and tapping precision.

While Thomas Engineering Company makes full use of in-die tapping in most cases for its numerous advantages, we also provide off-line tapping when its necessary to the production of any specific part. For more information about precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN, contact us at (763) 533-1501 today.

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Stainless Steel and Precision Metal Stamping in Minneapolis, MN: The Perfect Ingredients for Quality Medical Parts

September 26th, 2016 · No Comments

The metal stamping industry has grown so exponentially over the past century that it now produces a significant number of parts in a wide range of industrial markets, from automotive to microelectronics and everything in between. The rapid advancements in stamping technology and design systems within the past 30 years has opened markets further to the production of precision-based metal stamped parts. At Thomas Engineering Company, we use today’s imaging and stamping technology to produce quality parts with precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN.

Our precision stamping capabilities allow our engineers and technicians to produce parts for the electronics, automotive, and medical industries. With our high precision abilities, we can use stainless steel to manufacture parts of optimal quality specific to the medical industry.

Stainless Steel

At TEC, parts made for the medical industry are stamped almost exclusively using stainless steel. For medical instruments in particular, stainless steel is the perfect material for its combination of several properties. Its strength and resistance to corrosion allows tools stamped with stainless steel to remain durable throughout medical procedures and exposure to frequent sterilization.

The surface of stainless steel also resists biological reactions, making it an optimal material to endure exposure to infections, viruses, and other biological matter.

TEC Precision

Medical instruments for surgery and other procedures must be able to be used in situations where exactness and intense accuracy is necessary. Often used in circumstances where a mishap could mean anything from a malpractice lawsuit to a matter of life or death, medical instruments need to be up to par. Our precision stamping production for the medical industry is able to meet the exacting requirements demanded of medical parts.

For more information about the industries we serve and medical parts made with precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN, contact Thomas Engineering Company at (763) 533-1501.

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Measuring Metals Used in Precision Metal Stamping in Minneapolis, MN

September 12th, 2016 · No Comments

Today, the majority of mass-produced parts used in a wide range of industries and for a variety of purposes are formed using metal stamping techniques. Over the years, metal workers and engineers have come to understand the properties of metal, allowing them to optimize the type of metals or metal alloys to use in each specialized stamping process. This knowledge is a significant part of what makes the engineers at Thomas Engineering Company experts in the production of quality parts with precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN.

There are several properties of each type of metal and metal alloy that our engineers can recommend to help our customers choose the best material for the part and stamping process. Some of the basic properties considered include:

Ductility: Each metal has a unique ability to withstand and deform under stress without permanent damage or fatigue to the molecular structure. The measurement of a metal’s plasticity—AKA ductility—allows engineers to choose the material best-suited for how it will be deformed during the stamping process and the stress it will endure as a functioning part.

Conductivity: The conductive ability of a metal or metal alloy is measured in both thermal and electrical conductivity. Parts we produce for the electronics industry often use copper and copper alloys which have high rates of electronic conductivity and function well in the stamping of electronic connectors. Our engineers also consider the fact that metals with high thermal conductivity will serve a much different purpose than metals with a low thermal conductivity.

Density: The volume and mass of a metal is measured as its density. This essentially means that a heavier metal will have a higher density than a lighter metal. However, density is not to be confused with strength. In fact, many metals and metal alloys with high densities have a lower strength than those with a lower density. For example, gold has a high density and low strength, whereas aluminum has a low density and high strength in comparison.

Strength: Measured in several ways, strength is used to determine how a metal will behave under tension, compression, or other forms of stress. This is different from ductility, which determines how much a metal can be deformed and maintain structure. Strength measures a metal’s resistance to deforming stresses.

These basic properties of a metal are just some of the information engineers need to use to determine which metal will provide optimal performance as a specific part. Corrosion resistance, hardness, and visual properties are also considered when choosing a material.

For more information about the materials used in precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN, contact Thomas Engineering Company at (763) 533-1501.

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Material Basics Part III: Aluminum and Alloys Used for TEC Metal Stamping Services in Minneapolis, MN

August 26th, 2016 · No Comments

This is Part III of a three-part series covering precision metal stamping materials used at TEC. Part I covers steel and steel alloys and Part II covers copper and copper alloys.

From the sheets of foil used daily in the food industry to the aluminum bodies of commercial airplanes, aluminum offers a wide variety of uses for a range of industries. Because of its abundance and its cohesive chemical properties, aluminum has proven its worth to manufacturers as a material crucial to the fabrication of many products. At Thomas Engineering Company, we have also taken advantage of the versatility of aluminum and several other types of related alloys for our metal stamping services in Minneapolis, MN.

While the strength and durability of stainless steel and the electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance of copper play vital roles in the production of many of our precision stamped parts, aluminum is also utilized in many cases, as are our alloyed materials containing silver, nickel, chromium, cobalt, and several other metals.

Aluminum: Even in its purest form, aluminum has a remarkable ability to resist corrosion by using a shielding structure called passivation. This means that through exposure to oxidation, aluminum creates a surface layer that chemically bonds with and protects the base material, preventing the possibility of corrosion. Aluminum is used for several parts engineered at TEC for its low density and cost effectiveness. It also bonds well with many different metals, creating alloys with wide ranges of advantageous properties.

Nickel Alloys: In the metal working industry, some common nickel alloys used are nickel-aluminum, nickel-copper, nickel-chromium, and nickel-titanium. Superalloys known as Inconels use a base of nickel, chromium, and austenite and are frequently used to produce parts resistant to corrosion, oxidation, pressure, and heat.

Silver Alloys: TEC produces parts for several industries, including the electronics industry. Because silver is a very efficient electrical conductor, silver alloys are useful in the production of electrical connectors and other electronic components.

Elgiloy: Like Inconel, Elgiloy is a superalloy resistant to corrosion. Its components of cobalt, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and manganese also give Elgiloy-based parts high strength, good fatigue-resistance, and high ductility.

These metals and many others give our engineers the metal properties they need to manufacture high quality, precision stamped parts for our customers.

For more information about any materials we use in the manufacturing of quality parts with our precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN, contact Thomas Engineering Company at (763) 533-1501 today.

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Material Basics Part II: Copper and Copper Alloys used for TEC Precision Metal Stamping in Minneapolis, MN

August 18th, 2016 · No Comments

This is Part II of a three-part series covering metal stamping materials used at TEC. Part I covered types of steel, and Part III will cover aluminum and other alloys.

At Thomas Engineering Company, we take pride in our abilities to provide our customers with quality parts time and time again. With over 50 years of experience in precision metal stamping, TEC is well-accustomed to the elements that go into making a quality product. Working with high-quality materials specific to the functional needs of each part is crucial to fulfilling our customer’s needs. While we use strong steels in many cases, there are also times when production demands the use of copper and copper alloys for precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN.

TEC uses industrial coppers along with several types of copper alloys listed below:

Copper: We use copper in much of our production for the electronics industry. Copper is a soft, ductile metal with high thermal and electrical conductivity, making it perfect for electronic components and connectors that will endure the passage of heat and electricity. Copper is also used for parts in electromagnets, radiation wave guides, and electronics heat exchangers.

Brass: Balances of copper and zinc make up the different brasses that meet a variety of functional needs for several industries. Because of its copper content and ability to prevent sparking, brass is a suitable material for most electrical applications. Several types of brasses are also resistant to corrosion and can survive severe environments.

Beryllium Copper: Containing a mixture of beryllium and copper, this material offers increased strength, non-magnetic properties, and properties that prevent sparking. It’s also resistant to corrosion from acids not related to oxidization, has high conductivity, and holds up against abrasive materials.

Phosphor Bronze: This copper alloy is a combination of copper, tin, and phosphorus. Phosphor bronze is used for its strength, low friction, conductivity, resistance to corrosion, and tightly knit crystalline molecules.

High-Performance Copper Alloys: There are several ways to alter copper alloys to push them beyond their original properties into the high-performance range. High-performance copper alloys have heightened strength, resistance to corrosion and oxidation, and resistance to deformation.

All our uses of copper and copper alloys play a vital part in the production of precision-based, quality parts.

For more information about any materials we use in the manufacturing of quality parts with our precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN, contact Thomas Engineering Company at (763) 533-1501 today.

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Working with Close Tolerances for Rapid Prototyping in Minneapolis, MN

August 10th, 2016 · No Comments

As a precision engineering and stamping professional, Thomas Engineering Company specializes in working with extremely close tolerances to develop parts with high functioning accuracies down to exact specifications. In order to produce high-quality parts at such a tight level of precision, it’s necessary to spend significant time planning and testing each part before finalizing the design. TEC offers advanced rapid prototyping in Minneapolis, MN, to work with our customers during the prototyping process, forming parts at very close tolerances.

Because we specialize in precision metal stamping, we frequently work with material thicknesses of .001″ to .125” and are forced to handle tight tolerances, often running as close as ±.0002. Understanding these tolerances is critical to fully visualize the level of precision at which our engineers operate.

Mechanical Tolerances:

In mechanical engineering, tolerances are a limit in space. This limit is connected to the pre-designed clearance between two parts or two sections of a part. Mechanical tolerances serve as set boundaries during the manufacturing of a part. Because complete exactness is impossible if a part is to function in the real world, there has to be some measurement of fluctuation taken into account.

The greater the tolerance, or allowance in variation of a part, the lower the precision at which a part will function. Working with extremely tight tolerances allows TEC engineers to produce highly precise parts for the automotive, electronics, and medical industries.

Working with such tight tolerances for the production of a final part is helped along the way with our rapid prototyping services. Using computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems, our engineers can quickly design and produce a prototype part using tolerances that will provide the most accurately-functioning part possible.

For more information about our capabilities with close tolerances and working with our team to develop your unique part using our services for rapid prototyping in Minneapolis, MN, contact Thomas Engineering Company at (763) 533-1501 today.

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Material Basics Part I: Steels Used for TEC Metal Stamping in Minneapolis, MN

August 3rd, 2016 · 2 Comments

This is Part I of a three-part series covering metal stamping materials used at TEC. Part II covers copper and copper alloys, and Part III covers aluminum and other alloys.

Metal stamping serves a significant range of industries, providing parts used in anything from large vehicles and machinery down to the smallest metal parts needed in precise medical and electrical tools. While the form and function of stamped parts varies immensely, there remains a commonality between each part created: the deliberate choices in material. Metal stamping companies around the world place great weight on the ability of quality material to make or break the value of a part. This three-part series covers the basics of the materials used at Thomas Engineering Company with precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN.

Some of the most commonly-used sheet metal materials are various types of steel, valued for degrees of strength, relative flexibility, and resistance to corrosion.

Steel, in the most basic terms, is an alloy of iron and carbon with varying levels of other elements such as ferrite, austenite, graphite, chromium, nickel, and more. These other elements determine the type of steel, and each steel type is further broken down into a steel grade. In the U.S., SAE International has regulated these steel grades since 1955.

Of the numerous steel types in this system, TEC uses three specific kinds:

Carbon Steel is a basic steel type consisting of iron with carbon as the main additional element, equaling to .12% to 2%. Carbon steel also has a maximum requirement for levels of other elements peaking at 1.65% for manganese, .60% for silicon, and .60% for copper. This type of steel works well for parts that undergo heavy wear over extended periods of time.

Electrical Steel is a type of steel alloy specially altered to have magnetic properties that allow an electrical resistance that streamlines the conduction of any electrical current. Electrical steel grades can be altered based on the orientation of the crystalline particles.

Stainless Steel is commonly used in situations where exposure to corrosive materials and potential oxidation is consistent. The alloy has a higher content of chromium which forms a layer of chromium oxide. This protects the part from the damaging factors of rust, staining, salt-water corrosion, and other forms of tarnishing and damage.

For more information about any materials we use in the manufacturing of quality parts with our precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN, contact Thomas Engineering Company at (763) 533-1501 today.


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Working with Progressive Stamping and Stage Tooling for Precision Metal Stamping in Minneapolis, MN

July 27th, 2016 · 1 Comment

There are many kinds of tools, dies, and other types of equipment used in the metal stamping industry. Each of these types and combinations of equipment function in a way specific to a metal stamping technique. For the manufacturing of each part, the optimal method must be chosen to produce the highest quality, cost-effective results. At Thomas Engineering Company, we utilize our full range of stamping techniques to best serve our customers with precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN.

While we have the capability for a variety of stamping techniques, TEC uses two specific stamping techniques for many of our orders: progressive stamping and stage tooling. These techniques are similar but have slightly different functions and benefits.

Progressive Stamping

  • Function: Progressive stamping uses a single die that performs a series of operations within that single die. Each operation is highly precise and works to further the finalization of the part. An individual part is passed through each operation in progression, but the die can have parts passing through continuously, holding a part in each stage simultaneously.
  • Benefits: Because progressive dies can operate with a part at each stage, continuously producing finished parts, the progressive stamping technique is optimal for filling large orders of intricate parts. This method can be more cost-effective with a faster production rate than stage tooling.

Stage Tooling

  • Function: Stage tooling also performs in a series of stages, but uses separate dies for each operation. Most stage tooling techniques use a series with a blanking die, a forming die, and a cut-off die. Depending on the part needed, the series will also include a piercing die, a coining die, or a trim die.
  • Benefits: Stage tooling may not be the most effective technique for large quantity orders, but is an effective option for low to mid-range quantity orders. Stages and the order of each stage can be changed, removed, or added. For some of the most technically-complex, unique parts, stage tooling can provide excellent results.

At Thomas Engineering Company, our parts production is centered on our ability to offer the greatest quality and precision for our customers. Progressive stamping, stage tooling, and all our stamping techniques allow us to perform our expert precision metal stamping in Minneapolis, MN. Contact us at (763) 533-1501 today for more information.

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