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The Cutting Edge of Automotive Machining

For the automotive industry, the “cutting edge” of parts machining goes far beyond having the latest CNC
equipment and accessories. It also means engaging at the earliest stages of the process using the latest in
design for manufacturing (DFM), simulation and process verification processes prior to cutting the first
part. It is then critically important to have flexibility and adaptability to make changes and scale
production when needed with the ability and commitment to inspect with the most precise tools
throughout the process. The goal of this approach is to give customers the knowledge that when
machining begins, the parts are going to be 100% right, with zero defects, the first time and every time.

Delivering this level of peace of mind is critical in the automotive industry. There is, after all, so much at
stake in automotive production where parts are critical to performance and safety, and the reliability of
how parts function is essential to success.

Typically, when a potential customer is looking for a machine shop to make a complex part, they are
looking for the latest equipment and current certifications including ASQ, ISO 9001 and AS9100. There
is a tremendous benefit, however, for a customer to look beyond these prerequisites for a machine shop
that will work with them from the design phases through manufacturing to predict and resolve failures
before they happen. The ability to predict when failures could occur requires proactive communication
and early engagement with an expert machine shop.

Design for Manufacturing – The ability to adapt early
A Design for Manufacturing process enables the machine shop to anticipate possible complications and
limitations in the machining process upfront.


“With Design for Manufacturing, the goal is to make the product manufacturable in an efficient and cost-
effective way and that starts with reviewing the parts and discussing the specifications openly,” says Tony
Doan, CEO of San Jose, California-based Halcyon Manufacturing, an advanced ITAR Registered and
AS9100/ISO9001- Certified manufacturing shop for complex parts serving Greater Silicon Valley. “The
automotive industry needs a cutting-edge machine shop that has both the expertise and the desire to guide
their customers on how to achieve better machined products at a better price.”

This analysis and feedback are part of an ongoing manufacturing collaboration between an automotive
client and their contract machining partner well before production starts from the inception of a project
through prototyping.

Halcyon applies the Design for Manufacturing protocol across a wide spectrum of metal machining from
bar grade 6061 aluminum, brass, copper, titanium, stainless steel, and plastics. The company also works
with quartz, ceramic, graft, titanium, and a variety of steels and serves customers in the automotive,
aerospace, home defense, medical, and semi-conductor sectors.

“When you can use the latest simulation and process verification technologies prior to cutting the first
chip of metal or plastic, then when you start manufacturing, you know that the parts are going to be 100%
right the first time, every time,” says Doan.

Rapid prototyping
Rapid prototyping removes financial and time risk by providing a cost-effective way to test a full range of
designs and materials. With rapid prototyping, many iterations of a part may never make it to production,
which can save automotive contractors time and money.

“If we understand how the part needs to function, we can 3D print the item in plastic, run it through a few
tests, and then proceed – rather than rush to machine parts out of expensive material in the prototype
phase,” explains Doan, who adds that in addition to initial prototyping, 3D printing can be used to create
workholding and fixtures.

Adaptability and scalability in production
Automotive clients operate in highly dynamic markets and the need for changes to part specifications and
the quantity of parts is high. Cutting-edge automotive machine shops must therefore be adaptable and


flexible for any design changes. They also must be capable of scaling up production to “lights out”
manufacturing if needed without compromising the accuracy of the machining.

“While capacity is certainly important, the overall size of a machine shop is not the most important
criterion,” says Doan. “Automotive companies certainly need manufacturing scale, but they also require
adaptability as complex manufacturing designs evolve and change. For a machine shop to be an effective
partner, they need to be nimble.”

Inspecting quality upfront
Finally, to complement the machining capabilities and nimbleness, a shop must have state-of-the art
metrology equipment for advanced inspections guided by a proactive zero-defect mindset.

“It’s not about making parts and sorting out the bad ones and shipping the good ones,” says Doan. “You
need a machine shop committed to not making the bad parts at all.”

“To produce the most precise parts, you must be able to inspect more than the finished goods,” he adds.
“A machine shop should be inspecting in real-time such things as the set-ups and the speed throughout the
process which enables data to be captured for statistical predictive process control.”

At Halcyon, automated coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) perform process inspections and
produce first article reports. Halcyon also uses a digital multimeter (DMM) with scanning capability that
can take thousands of data points during a scan of a complex curved surface. This results in very precise
and accurate repeatable product evaluations.

Forging a partnership
Automotive and other sectors that rely on machine shops to produce precision parts to extremely tight
tolerances with consistency should look beyond the basic certifications and CNC capabilities for those
with the expertise to optimize the manufacturing process before any items are manufactured and adjust as
needed after. With this level of flexibility, and by ensuring a zero-defect approach at every stage of the
process, OEMs and automotive contractors can proceed with certainty that the parts they are receiving are
of the highest reliability and without unnecessary additional costs for their most critical applications.

For more information visit the Halcyon website at or call (408) 231-3124.

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