Powdered metal has come a long way in the last 100 years, and press technology has powered much of the advance. As we enter the time of year when we ponder what the future holds, a look back at some major milestones in press technology advancements can offer a real glimpse as to just how far our industry has come in the span of a single (long) lifetime:
Innovation #1: Near Net Shape. Prior to 1920, PM parts were mainly formed in large blocks and machined. That year, the Stokes Machine Company was asked to press brushes for auto starters to size. This first automatic press could make 40-50 brushes per minute. This net-size breakthrough was the start of a dizzying 100 years of innovation.
Innovation#2:Multi-Level Pressing. In about 1940, Powder Metallurgy, Inc began making multi-level parts - adjusting fill to provide a uniform density throughout the part. This innovation increased the available powdered metal market by an order of magnitude, and set the groundwork for a logarithmic increase in PM parts over the coming decades.
Innovation #3: Hydraulic Presses Come Into Their Own. While hydraulic presses have been in general use for several hundred years, and the first hydraulic powdered metal press was patented in 1953, their use in powdered metal applications was drastically limited by their slow rate of production compared to conventional mechanical presses. The advent of commercially available, affordable, and dependable closed-loop CNC controls in the 80's helped turn hydraulic powder presses from a novelty to a must-have for companies investing in the development of very large and/or complex PM parts.
Innovation #4 - Automation. Still in progress, press operation automation began to gain a foothold in powdered metal applications in the mid-2000's. Robots, representing the highest level of automation, at first glance appear to be a perfect fit for some of the repetitive actions required in moving parts from press to staging to sintering. The biggest obstacle to industry adoption has been production variability due to short run parts, which has traditionally made automation setup cost prohibitive. As the cost of system architecture is decreased via the use of smart and collaborative robots, press manufacturers are working with customers to include robotics as part of turnkey solution packages.
Press manufacturers have inherited a rich history of innovation that has helped make powdered metal what it is today. As parts makers move to larger and more complex parts in a hyper competitive marketplace, they will rely on the continued advance of press technology to support their objectives. If history is any guide, their future is a bright one!
Source:Leander F. Pease, III & William G. West, "Fundamentals of Powder Metallurgy".
Press Options that Boost Capability & Performance
Consistency is valued in P/M for a number of reasons. Familiarity with press operation, setup, and maintenance are powerful drivers when the time comes to specify a press, with the end goal of reducing (or eliminating) an expensive learning curve. At Gasbarre we're very familiar with the phrase "just like the last one". If that rings a bell, this article is written with you in mind. The Gasbarre Press options listed below all add significant capability without disruption of status-quo production:
Servo Filler Shoe
What it is: Filler shoe with full closed-loop control of powder filling of the die cavity
Benefits: Often faster than standard mechanically-driven filler shoe
Allows use of complex automation cycling (e.g. w/robotics or loaders)
Capable of providing better, more complete die filling (programmable shaking)
Existing presses can be upgraded to incorporate servo filler shoes
Closed-Loop CNC Core Rod Upgrade
What it is: Continuous, closed-loop hydraulic control of core rod.
Benefits: Accurate core rod adjustments to 0.001" for exceptional powder transfer and counter bore production.
Digital Pressure Gauge & Air Regulation
What it is: Elimination of pressure gauges and regulators from front of press.
Benefits: Provides precise readings to operator via touchscreen HMI
Reduces potential for tampering or incorrect settings of regulator
Removes multiple gauges from front of press, providing a cleaner look
Multi-Motion Press with Digital Pressure Readout & Control
For more information on these options and others, please contact Gasbarre Press Group