Category Archive: News & Info

Robots and Manufacturing: A Partnership in Innovation

The use of robots in manufacturing has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. They are now recognized as an effective way of increasing efficiency and cost-savings, while eliminating reliance on an unskilled labor force and creating a need for new, higher skilled employees.

freddyFor companies in various industries throughout the country, automation is proving to be the key to the competitive edge. For example, Boeing has recently made the decision to utilize more automation in order to stay ahead of its competitors. In a recent article on the subject, it was stated that this decision—largely based on the fact that automation is the key to greater production efficiency—means the aircraft manufacturer could potentially “increase production from 8 jets per month to 10 or even 12.”

Automation in metal stamping has proven to reduce cycle times and increase productivity. When looking to remain competitive, greater efficiency, higher production and lower costs are the keys to success. At Manor Tool & Manufacturing Company, our robotic work cell—affectionately known as Freddy—has proven to drastically reduce cycle times for a number of clients. Freddy automates the movement of pieces between machines,  placing and separating final parts that have been formed from scrap web.  This has created a truly innovative use of automation for metal stamping at Manor. When Michael Wenzel, a well-known German robotics expert, visited Freddy recently, he was certainly impressed.

True innovation is what has always set American manufacturing apart, and is what will continue to do so. Robots are one of the brightest spots in innovation right now, and it’s exciting to think of what they will continue to do for the industry in the future.

(Want to see Freddy in action? Check out this video)

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How Metal Parts Move Millions—and Billions

In most major cities throughout the world, the average person’s work day begins and ends with a ride on the train or subway.  In New York City, over 5.3 million people ride the subway on each average weekday, with a whopping 1.6 billion people having boarded the subway in 2012. Imagine how the city’s workforce would be affected if the subway cars didn’t work.

If you’ve been on a New York subway recently, you may have noticed that they’ve come a long way.  Today’s subway cars all begin with metal stamped parts, making up two different types of cars that are constructed of stainless steel with fiberglass blind end bonnets. “A” cars are powered by four traction motors, and “B” cars by two traction motors—both combining a multitude of parts that rely on each other to run effectively.

Today’s NYC subway cars are part of the R142 model class, manufactured by the leading transportation company, Bombardier (a client of Vogel Tool, which is part of the Manor family of precision component companies).  While 5,000 Bombardier rail vehicles transport Americans every day, millions of New Yorkers get to and from work on their subway cars.  The company has been manufacturing NYC subway cars since 1982, and today’s 1,030 R142 cars include electronic braking, automatic climate control, advanced on-board intercom systems, and Alstom ONIX AC propulsion.

As a result of decades of success, Bombardier recently announced that they will be providing New York City Transit with 300 new R179 cars between 2014 and 2017.  This newest model will incorporate state-of-the-art engineering and technology, including BOMBARDIER MITRAC propulsion equipment with new, energy-efficient inverters, and the MITRAC train control and management system with internet protocol technology.  Everything is to be manufactured at Bombardier’s facilities in theU.S.

Beginning with precision metal stamped parts, incorporating advanced design and technology, and ending with millions upon millions of people getting to work in the morning and home to their families at night, this is a perfect example of quality engineering moving everyone ahead.

The Past, Present, and Future of Skunk Works

The highly advanced engineering of the American aerospace industry, particularly in the defense sector, has been responsible for saving lives, ending wars, and protecting democracy for many decades.  Thanks to major innovations in all areas of aerospace engineering—including metal fabrication advances—the industry serves as an example of modern American manufacturing.

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One company for which this is especially true is Lockheed Martin (a client of Manor).  Their Advanced Development Programs (ADP), officially known as Skunk Works, has been responsible for some of the most famous and impressive aircraft designs for 70 years.

It all began with the 1943 partnership with the U.S. Army Air Force, when the company was chosen to provide jet fighters that could counter the growing threat of Germany.  They developed and delivered the XP-80 Shooting Star jet fighter in only 143 days—seven days less than the Air Force required.  It was a highly secretive project run out of a rented, strongly-scented circus tent, where the name Skunk Works was derived. Over the years, Lockheed Martin’s engineering excellence, along with the dependability and elitism of their secretive Skunks Works program, was counted on for countless military needs.

Today, as in the past, the Skunk Works program is focused on tomorrow—specifically on furthering the future of the industry through advanced technology solutions for manned and unmanned systems.  Founder Kelly Johnson’s mantra, “quick, quiet and quality” is seen throughout every venture, where complex conceptual designs, systems engineering, and project management combine to create the aircraft of the future.


Every single aspect of the Skunk Works projects and products relies on perfection—including the initial metal stamping of parts.  A program as important and elite depends on this.  This obsession with flawlessness and technological advancement has led to 70 years of racing toward the future, and it’s thrilling to see what this company will do next. 


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A Guide to Reducing the Cost of Metal Stamped Parts

In this day in age, it can be challenging for companies to save money on a day to day basis when there is a need to purchase materials and equipment. There are 10 easy ways in order to save your company some money when dealing with the costs of metal stamped parts.

describe the imageMetal Prices: With current fluctuation of metal prices, you may be able to find savings in an alternative material that you did not consider previously. For example, frequently we are able to substitute 1050 Annealed Spring Steel for HSLA with minor design modifications.

Tooling Requirements: Review your current tooling requirements for your components and determine if there are alterations that can be made to reduce complexity and maintain functionality. For example, changing square holes to circular holes drastically simplifies machining and tooling requirements. This will reduce your production time and your overall component cost.

Product Design: By analyzing the current design performance you may be able to identify areas of design modification that can reduce your costs. You may be able to alter your design slightly to provide advantages in other areas while maintaining the function and integrity of the part. Some changes would allow you to ship more parts together and deliver more parts in each shipment.

Services: If your component currently requires services from multiple vendors, investigate finding a partner that can supply all of these services for you. Not only will you save on shipping costs, but you will have one point of contact for the successful production of your component.

Production Volume: Has your production volume increased without reviewing your original design? Frequently the need for more components is met with a basic increase in production orders. When volume increases the opportunity arises to streamline your product design to increase manufacturability and production timelines. If you are still using your basic prototype design, now is the time to analyze where changes can be made to still achieve the required functionality from the component, while reducing costs.

untitled2Layouts: By changing the layout of your components you can produce more pieces using less material. If your original layout had 10 parts on your design and you can fit just one more, you are now getting 10% more products for the same material price!

Delivery Scheduling: Consider how alternative delivery schedules or carriers may impact your profitability for each component

Company Partner: Make sure your current metal stamping partner has a deep understanding of your area of expertise. Frequently different vertical markets will require different production steps or documentation.

Project Management: Review the project information and feedback you are provided for reliability, expediency, quality and accuracy. If you do not have strong project management for your metal stamping components, you will lose time managing the project yourself.

Alternate Machinery: It is possible that different machinery may allow you to condense your production runs by combining feature creation. By reducing the number of passes, tooling setups/fixtures, and manual machining the cost of your component can decrease.

By keeping in mind these 10 quick and easy steps, you will be surprised at how much money your company will end up saving.


Looking to cut down on cost?Download our Metal Stamping Cost Savings Guide



The Importance of Tolerance

A major consideration with any product or component design is cost; taking the cost out of a product is a key function and the bane of many engineers. Identifying creative ways to accomplish this while maintaining a part’s integrity is an important design factor and one which can eat up a great deal of engineering resources. One of the best ways to take cost out of a product, and one which in many cases is overlooked, is tolerance requirements. Over tolerancing parts and assemblies is a major factor in manufacturing cost and tooling. This seems obvious, and certainly most readers would agree, however the reasons that over tolerancing parts happens can be complex and related to more than just an engineering decision.

Tolerance Blog

As a matter of course, many manufacturers and design firms hold comprehensive design reviews before any tooling is made; this results in positive cost reductions such as decreasing material thickness or type, possibly a simpler design that requires less complex tooling, etc. Though tolerances are often an issue of discussion, decreasing tolerances can go against the grain for most engineers. Everyone wants their part to be perfect, and increasing tolerances can be an unsettling issue.

An area that is often overlooked is simple communication between engineers or engineering teams. Interacting or adjacent components may be designed in separate locations, or at different times, causing the specification for related parts to not be readily available; time constraints can also play a major role. Rushing to get a design out for manufacturing, a designer may over tolerance a part just to be sure. For example, if a set of drawings call out the same tolerance throughout, it should raise concern.

To effectively take tolerances out of a manufactured part without harming fit, form and function requires a thorough review, and full understanding of a part’s intended application, and interaction with outside components. Here are a few simple steps that can help avoid over tolerancing:

  • Perform a comprehensive tolerance review at the concept stage of the design process

  • Determine the actual required tolerances.

  • Assess tolerances for features such a slip and press fits, or for outside features, and diameters

  • Determine if there will be any inconsistencies with outside components.

Most importantly, train your engineering staff in the cost of tolerance, and put a dollar amount on it.  Pick a project and calculate how much each tenth of tolerance actually costs, and multiply it by features.

Whatever the reason, and they are limitless, over toleranced parts will cost more, be harder to manufacture, and take longer to produce. Taking the time to get it right the first time will be well worth the extra effort.

Reduce Cost of Metal Stampings Guide

Budweiser: King of Beers and Can Design Engineering

Developing a cutting edge product and manufacturing it with extra factory capacity is certainly a win- win scenario, and one which Anheuser-Busch used to produce their new “bowtie” beer can.

If you’re like me, the first thing you thought when you saw this new design was, how did they manufacture it?

If you’re still scratching your head you’re not alone; it took Anheuser-Busch three years and $20 million to develop the equipment and process.

Traditional Can Manufacturing Process

In the final step, the top is trimmed and pressed inward in a process call “necking”; this forms a taper where the lid will later be attached after filling. There are beverage can systems that manufacture cans in this manner in speeds up to 2400 cans per minute.The traditional can is manufactured through a process of cold forming; in this process, a flat blank is formed into a cup,  the cup is then formed using a process called ironing. The dies used in the ironing phase also form the bottom of the can.

It goes without saying that this is a very evolved process, which makes one wonder how different the new process must be to require such a high development cost. In fact the new can costs more to manufacture: it requires twice the aluminum and contains 6% less beer than the traditional can.

With aluminum at over $0.80 per lb., one wonders if the investment will pay off.

New and Updated Manufacturing Process

Budweiser Bowtie Can

Though not much is yet known about the manufacturing process, it is safe to say that it begins with a standard can, with heavier walls. This would explain the extra material, which would have been necessary to produce the shape, as standard cans have wall thickness is only 0.0047”.

Forming the double conical bowtie shape requires a 16 step process that utilizes high precision spinning dies. In a progressive forming process the spinning dies are used to form the bottom of the can in a ten step process, followed by a 6 step process to form the top, and finally followed by the standard necking process.

Due to the physical properties of aluminum, the custom shape and thickness of the material, and the production volume that a product such as this requires, the dies and the system in general would require extreme precision.

Anyone who understands the complexity of high speed automation and precision dies can appreciate the amount of engineering that a system such as this requires.

The can is currently being manufactured at a 300,000-square-foot New Windsor, New York plant, which had to undergo significant changes to accommodate the manufacturing line.

The 150 employee facility has already produced over 18 million bowtie cans, which is just a fraction of the over 3 billion cans that they manufacture annually.

Get More Engineering Insights

Whether you’re interested in learning more about metal stamping (you can read about it on our resources library page here) or would like to discusss an upcoming project with one of our engineers, Manor Tool can help. Click the link below if you’d like to schedule a consultation.

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Top 7 Advantages of Progressive Die Metal Stamping Your Parts

Your designers are working hard on your next stamped part and you need to identify the best process.  Should you use
progressive die stamping, cellular work station stamping, or
deep drawn stamping?

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  1. SPEED, SPEED, SPEED! – Progressive die metal stamping is based on the continuous feed of material through the different die stations of a tool.  The nature of the process allows you to create more parts in a shorter period of time when compared with traditional fabrication or machining.  For high volume parts, progressive stamping provides the lowest cycle times per part.
  2. Less Scrap MaterialProgressive stamping is a metalworking method that can encompass punching, coining, bending and several other ways of modifying metal to produce your desired end part shape. The vast majority of material is used, hence, less scrap is produced. Progressive Die Metal Stamping may provide the most cost effective material option for manufacturing your parts.
  3. Quicker Setup – When compared to traditional fabrication or machining, the setup time may be much less for the progressive stamping process. What is achieved in multiple Setups and processes during traditional fabrication and machining, may be performed in one operation if Progressive Die Stamping is utilized. This reduction in Setup and processing will result in a more cost effective piece part.
  4. Create More Geometries with a Single Process – Progressive Die Metal Stamping allows you to create parts with many geometries within a single tool. This video shows a single part progressing through a die. All required geometries of the part are achieved in one Progressive Die operation.
  5. Longer Runs – The continuous material feed used in the progressive die stamping process allows for long runs.   Longer runs between material changes and tooling adjustments mean your parts can be produced in a much shorter time.
  6. High Repeatability – The hard tooling die designs allow for high volume runs without die degradation.  This means that part quality remains high and there are fewer failed parts.
  7. Lower Cost per Part – All of the factors above contribute to reducing the overall cost of your part.  Using progressive die stamping allows you to create robust parts in the most cost effective and expeditious manner.  We look forward to helping you save money on your next project!


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“Made in America” More About Profit Than Pride

Companies are rethinking their model for manufacturing. Many now firmly believe—and take some pride—in having products manufactured with the “Made in the USA” label attached. This isn’t so much a matter of national pride as it is a better, more profitable way of doing business.

While companies used to have components made in countries with extremely low labor cost, many are returning the work back to factories in the United States. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. However, the real drivers are the same ones that sent work overseas: cost and profit.

Low labor costs in foreign countries lured manufacturing business from U.S. factories at a time when transportation costs were low. Both of these factors are changing. For example, Duetsche Bank reports the wage of the average Chinese worker increased 200% since 2001. Furthermore, transportation costs have shot through the roof because of fuel costs stuck near record levels, an increase in red tape, taxes and fees.

Other factors like language, culture, runaway costs and a growing trend of political, economic and social unrest around the globe add to concern in boardrooms about the ability to deliver products in a timely manner. Additionally, we have seen many examples of natural disasters interrupting the supply chain. The 2011 earthquake in Japan was a prime example.

Finally, American workers and their factories continue to out-produce their counterparts around the world and remain among the leaders in productivity. Made in America not only helps our economy, it makes sound business sense.