In essential parts, automotive, electronics, telecommunications, and medical device companies often use precious metals like gold and palladium. Gold is a stable metal that doesn’t tarnish and is also a good conductor of electricity. Because of this, gold is often chosen for parts made from a strip of metal meant to be used in electrical connections. Stamping companies can use precious metals like platinum and less expensive metals like copper in metal stampings in two ways: as the stamped part or as plating on a specific part of the stamped part.
But since a troy ounce of gold costs around $1,200, using less gold can significantly affect the price of the piece part. Engineers who work with metal stamping can help OEM engineers make new parts that utilise less precious metal while still doing their job.
3-D CAD Files Inform Metal Stamping Strip Design in Stamping Companies
As the first step in getting a quote for making a new part, metal stamping engineers will look at the CAD files from the manufacturer to figure out the best way to make the part. You need to use CAD files to make the best layout for a metal stamping strip. The metal stamper may turn the OEM’s drawings into CAD files if there are no CAD files. Because metal stamping involves folding and shaping, the engineers use the CAD file to “unfold” the finished part and place it on a virtual metal stamping strip to figure out the best way to lay it out.
When precious metals are involved, it’s a good idea to figure out how to use them as little as possible. When designing the metal stamping strip, the metal stamping companies will look at the following:
- The manufacturing process and how the metal stamping will be used in the final assembly
- If the metal stamping can be changed to make the part easier to assemble
- The orientation of the part on the metal stamping carrier strip
- The direction of the grain of the metal part
- Any under-plating of a less expensive metal
Engineers who work with metal stamping try not to waste materials, whether they are using expensive or less expensive metals. For example, the PMA Design Guidelines say, “Nesting parts in sheet or strip stock can reduce the amount of scrap made during blanking operations by a large amount. This works especially well with large L- and C-shaped parts.” The amount of material that can be saved by making small changes to the design without changing the function is often worth it.”
But when plating with valuable metals like gold, you should consider other design options. In this case, engineers are more worried about laying out the strip to use less gold since gold is much more expensive than the base material.
Prices for Precious Metals Are Down, but They Have Changed a Lot
In the years since the US recession, gold and other precious metals have gone down a lot, as have the prices of other goods. On top of the 12% drop seen in 2014, prices for precious metals are expected to fall another 3% in 2015. Again, high supplies, low demand, and a stronger US dollar have put downward pressure on the prices of these goods.
Even though the price of gold has been going down over the past few years, it shot up in May after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s April meeting showed that interest rates would not be going up soon. “The knock-on effect on gold prices ends a tough time for the commodity,” said a May 21, 2015, article in The Week.
Since mid-March, gold prices have been stuck between $1,170 and $1,230 an ounce. This is because people have yet to determine precisely when US interest rates will go up. Higher interest rates tend to hurt gold because they make it more expensive to hold non-yielding bullion while also strengthening the dollar. Gold is priced in dollars. Yesterday, prices went up for some other metals. Silver went up 0.7% to $17.16, and platinum went up 0.5% to $1,158.70 an ounce.
Most of the time, noble metals, resistant to oxidation and corrosion, are used in metal stamping.
Stamping companies that use precious metals can benefit from being open to suggestions for changes to the layout of the metal stamping strip. These changes may or may not require changes to the part’s design.