Metal stamping is a cold-forming process that makes use of dies and stamping presses to transform sheet metal into different shapes. Pieces of flat sheet metal, typically referred to as blanks, is fed into a sheet metal stamping press that uses a tool and die surface to form the metal into a new shape. Production facilities and metal fabricators offering stamping services will place the material to be stamped between die sections, where the use of pressure will shape and shear the material into the desired final shape for the product or component.
This article describes the metal stamping process and steps, presents the types of stamping presses typically employed, looks at the advantages of stamping parts compared to other fabrication processes, and explains the different types of stamping operations and their applications.
Basic Concepts of Metal Stamping
Metal stamping, also referred to as pressing, is a low-cost high-speed manufacturing process that can produce a high volume of identical metal components. Stamping operations are suitable for both short or long production runs, and be conducted with other metal forming operations, and may consist of one or more of a series of more specific processes or techniques, such as:
Punching and blanking refer to the use of a die to cut the material into specific forms, such as pole line hardware. In punching operations, a scrap piece of material is removed as the punch enters the die, effectively leaving a hole in the workpiece. Blanking, on the other hand, removes a workpiece from the primary material, making that removed component the desired workpiece or blank.
Embossing is a process for creating either a raised or recessed design in sheet metal, by pressing the raw blank against a die that contains the desired shape, or by passing the material blank through a roller die.
Coining is a bending technique wherein the workpiece is stamped while placed between a die and the punch or press, such as sheet metal fabrication. This action causes the punch tip to penetrate the metal and results in accurate, repeatable bends. The deep penetration also relieves internal stresses in the metal workpiece, resulting in no spring back effects.
Bending refers to the general technique of forming metal into desired shapes such as L, U, or V-shaped profiles. The bending process for metal results in a plastic deformation which stresses above the yield point but below the tensile strength. Bending typically occurs around a single axis.
Flanging is a process of introducing a flare or flange onto a metal workpiece through the use of dies, presses, or specialized flanging machinery.
Metal stamping machines may do more than just stamping; they can cast, punch, cut and shape metal sheets. Machines can be programmed or computer numerically controlled (CNC) to offer high precision and repeatability for each stamped piece, and this technology is widely used in furniture hardware. Electrical discharge machining (EDM) and computer-aided design (CAD) programs ensure accuracy. Various tooling machines for the dies used in the stampings are available. Progressive, forming, compound, and carbide tooling perform specific stamping needs. Progressive dies can be used to create multiple pieces on a single piece simultaneously.
Types of Stamping Operations
Progressive die stamping
Progressive die stamping uses a sequence of stamping stations. A metal coil is fed into a reciprocating stamping press with progressive stamping dies. The die moves with the press, and when the press moves down the die closes to stamp the metal and form the part. When the press moves up, the metal moves horizontally along to the next station. These movements must be precisely aligned as the part is still connected to the metal strip. The final station separates the newly-fabricated part from the rest of the metal. Progressive die stamping is ideal for long runs, because the dies last a long time without becoming damaged, and the process is highly repeatable. Each step in the process performs a different cut, bend, or punching operation on the metal, thus gradually achieving the desired end-product shape and design. It is also a faster process with a limited amount of wasted scrap.
Transfer Die Stamping
Transfer die stamping is similar to progressive die stamping, but the part is separated from the metal trip early on in the process and is transferred from one stamping station to the next by another mechanical transport system, such as a conveyor belt. This process is usually used on larger parts that may need to be transferred to different presses.
Four-slide stamping is also called multi-slide or four-way stamping. This technique is best-suited for crafting complex components that have numerous bends or twists. It uses four sliding tools, instead of one vertical slide, to shape the workpiece through multiple deformations. Two slides, or rams, strike the workpiece horizontally to shape it, and no dies are used. Multi-slide stamping can also have more than four moving slides.
Four-slide stamping is a very versatile type of stamping, such as in electronics hardware, as different tools can be attached to each slide. It also has a relatively low cost, and production is fast.
Fine blanking, also known as fine-edge blanking, is valuable for providing high accuracy and smooth edges. Usually done on a hydraulic or mechanical press, or by a combination of the two, fine blanking operations consist of three distinct movements:
Clamping of the workpiece or work material in place
Performance of the blanking operation
Ejection of the finished part
Fine blanking presses operate at higher pressures than those used in conventional stamping operations, hence tools and machinery need to be designed with these higher operating pressures in mind.
The edges that are produced from fine blanking avoid fractures as produced with conventional tooling and surface flatness can exceed that available from other stamping methods. Since it is a cold extrusion technique, fine blanking is a single-step process, reducing the overall costs of fabrication.
Types of Stamping Presses
The three common types of stamping presses include mechanical, hydraulic, and mechanical servo technologies. Usually, presses are linked to an automatic feeder that sends sheet metal through the press either in coil or blank form.
Mechanical presses use a motor connected to a mechanical flywheel to transfer and store energy. Their punches can range in size from 5mm to 500mm, depending on the particular press. Mechanical pressing speed also varies, usually falling between the range of twenty and 1,500 strokes per minute, but they tend to be faster than hydraulic presses. These presses can be found in an array of sizes that stretch from twenty to 6,000 tons. They are well-suited for creating shallower and simpler parts from coils of sheet metal. They’re usually used for progressive and transfer stamping with large production runs.
Hydraulic presses use pressurized hydraulic fluid to apply force to the material, such as in agricultural machinery parts. Hydraulic pistons displace fluid with a force level proportional to the diameter of the piston head, allowing for an advanced degree of control over the amount of pressure, and a more consistent pressure than a mechanical press. Additionally, they feature adjustable stroke and speed capabilities, and can typically deliver full power during any point in the stroke. These presses usually vary in size from twenty to 10,000 tons and offer stroke sizes from about 10mm to 800mm.
Hydraulic presses are usually used for smaller production runs to create more complicated and deeper stampings than mechanical presses, such as car spare parts. They allow for more flexibility because of the adjustable stroke length and controlled pressure.
Mechanical servo presses use high capacity motors instead of flywheels. They are used to create more complicated stampings at a faster speed than hydraulic presses. The stroke, slide position and motion, and the speed are controlled and programmable. They are powered by either a link-assisted drive system or a direct drive system. These presses are the most expensive of the three types discussed.
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