As manufacturing continues to experience growth, so has the automotive industry. In recent months, the auto industry has seen stronger sales and more sustained recovery, according to this article by the Detroit Free Press. With increased sales comes an increased demand for conflict minerals disclosure.
The use of “conflict minerals” has affected all manufacturing industries, and will be in full effect by the end of 2013. Specifically, the conflict minerals’ requirements are outlined in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform, created by the U.S. SEC. They refer to the prohibition of use of minerals and materials from “conflict” areas, more precisely the Democratic Republic of Congo. The minerals in question—tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold—are restricted from use in American supply chains. According to this article, manufacturers in areas such as the electronics or automotive fields will need to accurately report whether or not these conflict minerals appear in their supply chain.
When it comes to the auto industry, auto manufacturers and other manufacturers in the automotive supply chain, such as us here at Exacto Spring, now need to confirm where the materials are being sourced from. Since auto sales have increased, there has been more of a demand of these reports. According to this article from Automotive News, the conflict minerals’ ruling has forced those in the auto industry to review their supply chain in a whole new view. Why? As stated in that article, those materials are used in a variety of automotive products, “causing a need for the supply chain to get into the data and reach out to suppliers.”
Here at Exacto Spring, we have been busy providing customers letters stating where we have received our materials. This is something that is happening up and down the supply chain, and with a higher production of cars, is something affecting all those in the auto industry. Whether or not you’re involved in the auto industry, it’s still pertinent in today’s manufacturing world to ensure your materials are conflict-free.
As American manufacturing is seeing a welcomed comeback, and national MFG Day is right around the corner (October 4, 2013), it’s as important as ever to celebrate this day of industry recognition and help keep the momentum going. According to the sponsors of the event, this day “provides manufacturers with an opportunity to tell their company’s story, dispel outdated myths about manufacturing, inspire a new generation of manufacturers, and connect with their communities.”
Today’s state of American manufacturing is luckily a different story than it was in recent times. In fact, August’s factory production rates were at their highest in over two years. According to this article, major companies throughout the country are “re-shoring and American entrepreneurship is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to more affordable tools, like laser cutting, 3-D printing and even robotics. It’s a great time to be a maker or entrepreneur.”
Thanks to a general mindset of bringing manufacturing back, coupled with the overall attractiveness of manufacturing in the U.S., reshoring is bringing business back home, and the pace seems to be steady. Many don’t want to go overseas to do business anymore, and the hope is that as this trend continues, the pace will go from steady to heavy.
Accordingly, many American companies are getting involved in their communities and local schools and universities, providing information about the value of careers in manufacturing. As there is a worry over the current skilled labor shortage, companies—and events such as MFG Day—are working to combat the problem by attracting younger generations and getting them excited about the industry.
At Exacto Spring, not only are we proud to be an American manufacturer, but we’re actively involved in the focus on manufacturing’s return. Specifically, we are involved in many local programs, such as our partnership with GPS Education Partners, that work with students. The goal is to get students involved and interested in manufacturing at a young age in the hope they will consider future careers and opportunities in the industry. As American manufacturers, we understand the importance of manufacturing in our economy, as well as bridging the skills gap. Additionally, we offer two-year apprenticeships that provide students with an overview of manufacturing skills, though specifically in spring making techniques. We are proud to be American manufacturers and we certainly hope to continue the trend for future generations.
Manufacturing might not be exactly what it used to be, but with ingenuity, innovation, and education, we can all help make it better than ever.
For Part 2 of our raw materials series, we’re taking a look at some of the other materials we make use of here at Exacto Spring.
Music wire is cold drawn high, with uniform tensile strength. It is the most common material in our industry. In addition to being used to manufacture high quality springs and wire forms, it is also suitable for high stress applications. It is available in plain or coated varieties, depending on application.
This is the material to use when you need your spring wire to survive and thrive under high stress situations. It’s an alloy steel that’s cold drawn and heat treated before fabrication, enabling it to withstand stress, shock, impact loading, and extreme temperatures.
Cold drawn phosphor bronze is one of the most popular copper-based alloys in the spring making world. It exhibits good electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance. An interesting side note: it is used in some modern keyboard instruments, as well as other musical instruments.
Also known as ASTM A229, this general purpose high-carbon steel wire is cold drawn and heat treated before fabrication. It’s a popular choice due to its low cost when compared with other materials.
Our final material is a member of the superalloy family. As that designation suggests, this nickel-chromium based wire—available as Inconel 600, Inconel 718 and Inconel X-750—is perfect for high temperature applications. Cold drawn—and in the case of 718 and X-750 precipitation hardened after fabrication—Inconel also provides good corrosion resistance at high temperatures. It is important to point out that Inconel is a trademark of the U.S. based company, Special Metals Corporation. They are also the makers of Incoloy, Nimonic, and Udimet.
So there you have it, a quick look at some of the more common wires in the industry. Here at Exacto Spring we make use of these materials every day to create our industry leading springs and medical products. If there’s a material we didn’t list that you’re interested in using, don’t worry—odds are we have it or can get it quickly.
At Exacto Spring, we like to think of ourselves as custom precision spring experts. Clients from a wide variety of industries have relied on us for over five decades, and as we have mentioned before, we manufacture close to one BILLION springs and wire forms each year. With this in mind, we thought it would be a great idea to continue the discussion we started in our blog on Nitinol Wire and discuss some more of the raw materials used in our precision springs. We’ll begin with a very popular raw material—stainless steel.
As you might expect, many springs need to be made of tough and resilient raw materials. Few things in the world embody toughness more than stainless steel. Often referred to as corrosion-resistant steel, it does not easily corrode, stain, or rust like regular steel. When it comes to manufacturing springs, there are a few types of stainless steel that we find ourselves using repeatedly.
This general purpose cold rolled steel is resistant to corrosion and heat, and is magnetic in spring temper.
302 has many of the same properties as 304, but it also has a higher carbon maximum.
This cold rolled steel is heat resistant, and boasts better corrosion resistance than 302. It is magnetic in spring temper.
This material is idea for high stress applications, as it’s harder in tensile strength than the other stainless options listed.
These are only a few of the many stainless steel wires that we utilize for our springs. For a full list or to pick the perfect one for your needs, contact one of the raw material experts at Exacto Spring today.
When designing for a new application, it’s imperative that one consider spring design from the beginning of the project. Thinking about the spring early on ensures that the spring is ideally suited for the application it will be used in. Saved for last, there are often problems with mating components, and stacked tolerances that override the spring. What’s more, when the spring is an afterthought, there’s often little to no consideration given to the environment. Will there be internal fluids that need to be protected against? How about external conditions such as humidity that need to be planned for?
Recently, we had a customer come to us with an emergency where they were going to market with their medical device, and bought an off-the-shelf hose clamp to hold a critical medical tube onto a customized fitting. It turns out that the off the shelf item was not anywhere near the proper design for their application and was causing failures days before they were going to market. The Exacto team instantly reviewed the design from their early stages and properly designed the clamp and solved their issue. In this specific case, we reduced the wire size to get the appropriate amount of movement and replaced the two sharp wires coming off either end of the original clamp with loops, a change that allowed the new clamp to be installed by a robot and eliminated the potential failures. In addition, we tweaked the overall shape so it would assemble with ease on their line.
Stock items are meant for a mass audience, but an individual application often calls for a custom solution and that is where Exacto will help. After we assist our customers, our next step is to manufacture samples, and provide the customer with a wide range of options. Typically, a customer doesn’t know exactly how strong their spring needs to be, and providing multiple options allows them to test each one and see what works best for their application, without a lot of time and cost.
You don’t get to call yourself “Exacto Spring” without being the experts on springs. We know what it takes to design a spring that will work, and that will enhance the overall quality of your part rather than detract from it. We get involved in many design processes and will do a complete feasibility study so that your spring meets the required amount of cycles in your application.
As many Exacto Spring customers might know, our spring and wireform products are used in so many industries and applications. From use in military parts to minimally-invasive surgeries, they’re pretty much everywhere. And, just as there are many varied uses for our products, there are many varied materials that can be used to make them. The material selected typically depends on the specific application—chances are, materials chosen for military parts will be different than those selected for minimally-invasive surgeries—but options abound.
One material that is seeing ever growing popularity is Nitinol wire, which is most often used in medical applications. Nitinol is a material made of near equal atomic weight percentages of nickel and titanium, and comes in various grades; Nitinol #1, #2, #4, and #8 are used for medical applications, and Nitinol #5, #6, and #9 are used for other purposes. While it can be challenging to work with, Nitinol wire is a fascinating material that can be crumpled up and placed into areas of the body, and always returns to its shape (watch it in action here).
One of the premier manufacturers of Nitinol wire is Fort Wayne Metals, who supply about 90% of the medical wire used in the industry. Their Nitinol #1—the most common medical grade—exceeds ASTM F2063 standards for use in surgical implants, and is used in devices such as stents, stone retrieval baskets, stylets, and more.
Our experience and expertise, coupled with this material’s unique properties, create medical products that are second to none. Feel free to contact us with any questions.
As we begin 2013, we almost can’t believe that it’s been 53 years since we began manufacturing springs and wireforms in Rockford, Illinois. It was just 4 years later that we moved our operations here to Grafton, Wisconsin, and we’ve been producing our high quality, custom products here ever since. We are proud to say that, for each one of our products, we have and will continue to perform each and every step of the design and manufacturing process right here in the U.S.
This is a very exciting time for manufacturing in America. U.S. manufacturing ended the year on a positive note. American car companies, like Chrysler and Ford, are bouncing back from the recession, reaching record sales levels and promising to hire thousands of new American workers. Recent surveys indicate that a majority of American and (maybe surprisingly) Chinese consumers are willing to pay more for products with the “Made in USA” stamp. Meanwhile companies are undertaking massive “reshoring” initiatives and bringing jobs back to the US from overseas.
Here at Exacto, we like to think that we were ahead of the curve on that one. We’ve manufactured our quality products in the USA since 1960 and will continue to do so. Our custom springs and wireforms can be found across industries and applications, from automobiles to appliances. Exacto is everywhere you are; in 2000, we created the Exacto Medical division which continues to grow at an amazing rate in contributing to internal and external devices. Here’s to new applications, American manufacturing, and another 53 years!