Digital manufacturing is rapidly emerging in the electronics sector as a solution for both new product development and for maintenance, repair and obsolescence needs.It allows items such as thermal management, shielding, gasket and reflective mate rials to be specified, ordered and shipped rapidly and efficiently, 24 hours-a-day. Materia ls Direct offers just such a service, aiming to provide a fast and convenient way for.buyers in the electronics engineering sector to source precision, custom-cut technical materials from leading suppliers.
For some, this fully automated approach to sourcing bespoke parts is a new concept, from which many questions may arise. Not least: is there really an appetite in the electronics industry for more of a self-service purchasing experience compared to more traditional approaches?
The answer is yes. The electronics industry, like others, is experiencing the globalisation of design and manufacturing capabilities, with different time zones and different native tongues. The resultant requirements are hard to cover with a centralised or regional nine-to-five service. This means there is a definite service and economic benefit behind always open intuitive portals for sourcing custom parts and components. Where fast time-to-market is key to leadership, being able to order parts 24/7 with rapid delivery for prototyping has big benefits.
But can such services manage new product introduction, where volumes ramp from prototype to production levels? Historically, in the case of sheet materials for gaskets and therma l management solutions, prototyping has been addressed by hand making parts or modifying standard parts; mainly because of the time taken to manufacture tooling and the associated cost for just a handful of parts.
Unfortunately; hand-fashioning prototype parts is time consuming and the result is not truly representative, from an appearance or performance point-of-view, of what will ultimately be used.
With advanced tool-free manufacturing it is quick and easy to make small quantities of completely representative parts, without tooling costs. Such an approach is ideal for prototy ping and small batch production, however, there will typically be a volume level where it becomes more sensible and economic to invest in tooling. This provides the best piece part cost and ensures that manufacturing
can keep pace with demand.
When it comes to managing obsolescence, maintenance, repair and overhaul, obtaining parts for older equipment can be a challenge. Tooling may be worn out, or it may be geared towards the manufacture of thousands of parts, when just a handful are needed. In this situation, and so long as a drawing exists, tool free manufacturing, such as Materials Direct’s computer programmed profiling, can provide the ideal solution.