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CNC Machining Metal Fabrication

Prototyping With A “Cold” Manufacturing Process

Choosing the right metalworking partner for cold-forming metal can be a critical decision. You rely on them to get a prototype produced. However, if you choose the wrong partner, there can be problems.

For instance, the inherent properties of metal present challenges. Metal tends to change its shape, area, volume, and density in response to a change in temperature. As a result, it may easily deform when being processed into your prototype.

To ensure complete satisfaction, you need to choose a CNC machining services provider with experience in the cold manufacturing process.

Because no heat is added to the material, cold-forming sheet metal allows for high speed, precision, and quality production. 

Elemet Manufacturing Inc. (EMI) has decades of experience. We’re an industry leader in custom, extensive work envelope CNC machining services for prototyping and production runs. 

Count on CNC’s machining processes to meet the highest standards of quality and efficiency for cold forming and prototyping. 

EMI is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company.

What Is The Prototyping Process 

workers examining prototype Bringing a new product to market involves the design, market research, and manufacturing of your product. 

Prototyping is the part of this process where a working model of the product is made and tested. A manufacturer can make a prototype from the same material as the end product. You can use an alternative material for the prototype for testing purposes.

A sheet metal prototype is a model of a metallic product. Your prototype is built according to your design to test your concept or process. In addition, it provides you with a physical sample that can be replicated. 

For your product to be a success, you need to start with an excellent prototype model. 

A Short Overview Of Metal Cold Forming Processes

Cold forming is the process of forging metal below its recrystallization temperature. It is shaped at near room temperature.

The scope cold forming uses is wide and varied. It includes complex shapes such as riveted joints, screw heads, threads, and a vast number of other applications.

Cold-forming techniques are often split into four categories: squeezing, bending, drawing, and shearing. 

The cold-forming process uses the pressure and speed of a mechanical or hydraulic press. The press takes a metal ‘blank’ (a flat piece of metal) and shapes it using a ‘punch’ and ‘die’ set. Basically, the punch is the tool used for shaping, and the ‘die’ is the clamp that holds the metal.

The metal blank will form around the punch as it’s hammered into the die. The blank takes the correct shape without material waste. 

This process is all carried out at room temperature and is known as cold forming or cold forming sheet metal.

Cold forming can be used on a variety of metals, including aluminum, copper, brass, steel, and stainless steel.

cold form process

Advantages Of Cold Forming Process For Prototyping 

The cold-forming process has several advantages, including higher production speed, minimal material waste, and a more robust end product.

High-Speed Production

Because high temperatures are not used on the metal material, cold-forming allows for high-speed production, around 100 parts per minute. In addition, the cold forming process eliminates the need for several additional machining operations. This reduces the time needed to complete the manufacturing process.

Little Material Waste

The high percentage of material utilization in cold-forming means that material waste is significantly reduced, if not eliminated.

Traditional metal manufacturing processes, due to offcuts, etc., can generate significant waste. For example, cutting, milling, and grinding can result in 80% or more of the original material being converted to waste.

In stark contrast, cold forming uses 100% of the original material.

Cold forming brings benefits that are both environmental and financial. There are considerable cost reductions that the process of cold-forming metal can achieve.

Stronger End Product

All the original material is used. The metal is stretched beyond its yield strength but with no adverse effect on its tensile strength. 

Because there is a restructuring of the material grain as the part is formed, the result is improved tensile strength. 

The metal becomes more rigid and stronger, much like a sawn piece of timber becomes stronger along its length.

cold forming threads

Disadvantages Of Using A Cold Forming Process

There are some disadvantages of cold forming sheet metal, including:- 

  • A more limited variety of metals for which the process is effective 
  • A lesser scope of shapes and forms that can be achieved 
  • Higher setup costs 
  • Greater manufacturer experience is required to be successful

Limited Metal Types

The main disadvantage of cold-forming sheet metal is that the process cannot be used for every type of metal. The reality is that some metals are more likely to crack. For instance, certain steel types with a .5% or above carbon content cannot successfully withstand the process. 

Limited Shapes And Forms

Another disadvantage is that cold forging can only create specific shapes. Those shapes are usually more basic and mass-produced. If you’re looking for a custom metal piece, a different process will probably work better for your desired outcome.

Higher Setup Costs

High production quantities are required to justify the high setup costs of cold-forming sheet metal. Quantities of 25,000 to 100,000 per year are needed.

Greater Experience Required

Compared to hot forming, the loads required to deform material are high and material deformability is low. A team with a  high degree of manufacturing experience is needed to achieve complex geometries.

What conclusion do you come to after this consideration of cold-forming and prototyping?

You can likely see the many advantages of cold-forming your prototype and have learned some potential pitfalls. Indeed, choosing the right metalworking partner for cold-forming metal can be a crucial decision. That’s particularly true if you rely on them to get a prototype produced.

For peace of mind, trust the expert team at Elemet Manufacturing to care for your cold forming and prototyping needs. Contact us today!