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Category: Manufacturing

A Guide to Prototyping at Apex

Why Prototype?

A prototype provides specifications for a real, working system rather than a theoretical one. By definition, a prototype is an early sample, model, or pre-release of a product built to test a concept or process. So, why is it valuable?  Well, developing pre-production parts serves as proof of concept.  It also makes sure a part is feasible to manufacture and feasible to produce.  A well-thought design will fit the category of these things:

  • Cost Effective Manufacturing Process
  • Ease of assembly
  • Ease of Tooling
  • Reduction in Tooling changes and costs to change hard tooling
  • Reduction in scrap by optimization of blank or material

Who Should Prototype & Where To Go?

Many OEM companies go to prototype shops to help develop a part for their products. Unfortunately, many of those shops have no interest in whether or not the part is feasible to manufacture (DFM = design for manufacturing).  They have no concept or experience in developing a production process. So, they make the parts as is, and you are stuck with the development that is not manufacturable.  This is why it is wise to use a production house, like Apex Spring and Stamping.  Our strong development team provides engineering services to develop a cost-effective sample that is easy to manufacture.

When to Prototype

The best time to do prototypes is when you are in the design and development stage of any project.  Often, the spring product is overlooked.  We may need to fit the overstressed part into a tight space, and if not properly developed, we are typically set up for design failure.  Doing a prototype can avoid this failure. 

NOTE: The most important thing to ask a spring designer:  How much space do you need to make this design a success?

A Story of Prototype Success

Apex is always pleased when prototyping leads to success for our customers.  A great example is a story about one of our customers who was developing a consumer product.  They came to us with the complex stamped metal part.  They invited us into the development stage, and we worked for 6 months to develop a cap and base for a personal hygiene product.  Early development resulted in a reduction in tooling changes and the feasibility of forming the correct material for the correct application.  

The following describes many of the elements that contributed to the development of this unique consumer product.  

Material Selection

The material selection was critical for this product.  A stainless steel was selected based on its ability to polish, and keep from rusting in a very tough environment.  This was a consumer product that was exposed to harsh chemicals and moisture with a high susceptibility to rust in a bathroom environment.  Also, this product needs to be portable in backpacks, purses, or utility bags.

Initial Scanning and 3d Printing in Plastic

This was critical to development. We took three dimensional CAD Data and made it into a touch-and-feel product. Shown above are…

  • 3d printed part for touch and feel samples
  • Draw Tooling sample before cut-off development on the lip.
  • Tumbling example for cut-off development
    Polishing example for mirror finish

Forming Simulation and Tooling Design

Image from Simulator Software to Prepare for Manufacturing

When the final material was selected, the biggest question was: can we draw a 300-400 series stainless steel to the depth needed for the design of this product?

To answer this question, the thinning and thickness of steel were simulated in software that Apex has access to in their tool room. Apex can simulate how the metal will flow very accurately before an actual part is ever manufactured. This simulation also helped with the development of the prototype tooling. Shown below is an image from the simulation software.

Development from the forming simulation was critical for the production and cost of the part. Simulations help with making the best of the strip utilization, for costing.

Special Cut-Off Development

Also for this product, the cut-off burr was not acceptable. It required there be no sharp edges. Therefore, the development of the cut-off was critical to the success of the product.

The four areas that were attacked were the:

  1. Cut-Off Process
  2. The Tumbling Process
  3. The Coating Process
  4. The Polishing Process

This all helped with the final edge of the part.

Finish

Also critical to the functionality and look of the product was powder coating and masking.
When used the cap and base mated with plastic internal parts. So, the sizing (with the coating) is important. The required size was determined by the force a user would require in order to open and close the product. Therefore, special consideration was used for the process and tolerance stack up for the final product success.

Polishing & The Finished Product

The bottom of the unit was a separate draw form and the dimensional and finish were also critical for the product. Therefore, we developed some polishing systems to make the stainless steel very highly polished. It was also a reusable option for reducing the amount of plastic in landfills.

This is an image of the finished product. Our team and the customer were very pleased with it. It exceeded expectations in quality and was delivered on time. And, prototyping was a critical step in the journey to success for this customer and this product. What projects are you working on right now that could benefit from a prototype? Contact us or Request a Quote today!

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Superior Engineering Solutions at Apex

Experienced Sales and Engineering Team Provides Exceptional Solutions

Since 1977, the Apex Spring and Stamping team has worked hard to solve customers’ challenges, including challenges in engineering.  It takes an entire company effort to provide the final product, be on time and exceed expectations. But kicking off that process is our dedicated group of sales engineers and their team. Many of our customers depend on us to help design and engineer their products. This service is one of the things that sets us apart from our competitors. Our team is highly skilled, and truly excels in providing a valuable design to make products a success. 

Working with our Engineering Team

The goal of the sales and engineering team is to provide you with knowledge and solutions. Their job is to act as a consultant and partner.  They access your needs through listening, asking questions, and finally they provide recommendations. The team’s priority is to provide information to help you make the best decision for your project. Throughout the process they are dedicated to keeping you informed. This partnership is part of what makes Apex’s relationships strong and long lasting. 

Added Value

The following are several examples of the partnership experience our team provides. These are ways we put your needs first, deliver on our promises, and provide superior service and solutions.

Material Science

At times, our team will encourage you to consider alternative material.  We may recommend you go to a stronger wire for your spring requirement because we feel the chosen material might get over stressed. Our knowledge in material science says we have a duty and responsibility to inform you. We want the product to be a success.

On-time delivery

We are committed to delivering your product on time. This includes clear communication of needs and deadlines. Our ability to deliver is one of our competitive strengths.  It definitely separates us from our competition.  

Keeping You Informed and Following Up

Communication is key, and we are committed to keeping you informed.  We will contact you and confirm you received the CAD drawings.  We will ask about final quantities so we are able to quote accurately.  Also, during the process we may recognize an opportunity to save valuable time and money.  When this happens we’ll let you know.  For instance, it may be wise to consider having Apex assemble the final project that includes parts from Apex and from other vendors. Whatever the situation, we’ll stay connected and communicate regularly. 

Meet The Team

Leading Apex’s charge in providing exceptional service are three Apex sales engineers.  They take the time to listen to customer needs, and provide the right solution. They work together often to critically think, troubleshoot, brainstorm, and problem solve.  They are a strong team, working to build strong relationships, and high quality products.  The following will introduce you to our key sales engineer team members.

Tom Little Sales Engineer

Heading up our sales engineering team is Tom Little. Tom is an Apex veteran of 36 years with extensive knowledge in the automotive, office and consumer product markets. His engineering career has been exclusively in the spring, stamping and wireform industry. He is a pillar in Apex’s reputation of helping customers find solutions to difficult engineering challenges. Many times Tom has turned the napkin drawings into the needed 3D cad models, and it’s just what the customer needed.

Another key member of the sales engineer team is Tom Walkons.  His engineering expertise has developed many solutions for our customers. He’s been an Apex team member for the past 10 years, and has built strong relationships with customers who rely on his expertise and knowledge.  Tom also has extensive knowledge in the automotive, EV auto, office and agricultural industries.

Tom Walkons Sales Engineer
TJ Tygeson Sales Engineer

Additionally, the next key member of the sales and engineering team, is TJ Tygesen. TJ has been with Apex for 7 years.  As a talented engineer he’s continued to gain vital knowledge and expertise in the automotive, medical and consumer product industries. TJ focuses on building strong relationships, finding the right solution, and keeping delivery, quality, and price, front and center.

Can Our Engineering Services Help You?

Whatever the challenge, whatever the need, the Apex sales and engineering team is ready to help you find the right solution.  We have an extensive supplier base to help with mating components, assembly, and problem solving.  We model in Solidworks as our native software, which can be imported back to your native CAD software.  Contact us today or Request A Quote to get the conversation started and learn more about how we can partner together to accomplish more!  How can we help? 

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