Military Cold Forming Services: Micro Manufacturing for Military & Defense Applications
To defend our country, the military must constantly develop new defense technology and equipment that performs on and off the field. From Humvees and tanks to jets and satellites, military technology is more advanced than ever before, requiring detailed machinery consisting of extremely precise parts.
To keep existing machines running properly and to help design and prototype the military machines of the future, the military organizations use only the best manufacturing processes on the market to produce their parts and prototypes. One of these processes is cold forming.
Cold forming, also known as cold forging, has seen a rise in recent years across several industries, primarily because of its incredible speed and efficiency. Unlike machining or hot forging processes that take huge amounts of time and energy, cold forming is relatively inexpensive, virtually waste-free and produces consistent quality parts. To military personnel and producers, these qualities make cold forming an ideal process for making their machine parts.
To understand more about cold forming services for the military and what benefits cold forming can offer, we’ve detailed the variety of applications and benefits cold forming offers for defense applications.
What Is Cold Forming?
Cold forming is the process of manipulating metal at temperatures around room temperature, though sometimes the metal is heated slightly to make it more malleable. Instead of heating the metal to its melting point, though, cold forming manipulates a slug of metal while it is in a completely solid state. The cold forming method accomplishes this by using sophisticated hydraulic and mechanical presses to apply high speed and pressure to a slug, forcing it into a shape.
The cold forming method involves a number of steps and techniques to create complex shapes and forms. What is more impressive is that cold forming can create these shapes within a few seconds, and it can achieve these complex shapes in a wide range of sizes.
The process is relatively simple, involving the following few steps:
- Set: A die, designed to create the proper shape of the final product, is set within the press mechanism.
- Load: The die is loaded with a metal slug set on or in it. This slug is exactly measured and portioned to be the exact volume necessary to fill the die. Too much material results in excess seeping from the mold, while too little material won’t fill the die properly.
- Punch: A hydraulic or mechanical press punches the slug into the die at high speed. This forces the material into the die and creates the desired shape. This punch often occurs more than once to create the final shape.
After this point, other secondary processes can take place, adding features to the product that may not be achievable with cold forming alone. Some examples include secondary machining to create details in the part, plating or coating the finished part to protect against corrosion and wear or finishing the product with a detailed washing or abrasive finishing technique.
What Are the Military Applications of Cold Forming?
When it comes to the military, every technological advantage is an extra boost to the country’s defense. Whether the branch is the Army, Marines, Navy or Air Force, numerous industries come together to make our military the powerhouse it is today. Many of these industries, from ammunition to electronics, use cold forming in one way or another.
Some of the most common applications of cold forming found within the military include the following:
- Ammunition and weaponry: Cold forming ammunitions is a common practice for several varieties of ammunition and weaponry. Smaller bullets, like .22 caliber bullets, are usually cold formed into shape by cutting a piece of lead wire and pressing it into a bullet-shaped die. Jacketed bullets also use cold forming for both the casings and tips. This micro cold forming for ammunitions is favored over hot forming for its incredible accuracy and reproducibility. This is especially important for ammunitions and weaponry, as a malformed bullet or part can result in a misfire or damage to the weapon.
- Automotive: Military vehicles go through many of the same processes as their civilian equivalents, and they use many of the same parts and components. Many of these components are cold formed. The durability and precision of these parts are undeniably superior.
- Aviation: The complex and often highly detailed components of aircraft and rocket engines require extremely precise and specialized manufacturing. Within planes, rockets and other vehicles designed for high-speed air travel, precision and durability are critical features to ensure the functionality and safety of the vehicle. For this reason, cold forming is a preferred forging method for aviation applications. Cold forming methods are less likely to produce defects or folds in precious metal alloy parts, and they tend to be more durable and structurally sound than their hot forged counterparts.
- Naval: Like automotive and aviation applications, naval components are often cold formed for their improved durability and the consistency of the parts. Additionally, cold formed parts finished with an anti-corrosive coating will tend to hold up very well despite exposure to heat and water.
- Electronics: Computers and electronics pervade every aspect of society, including the military. Components of electronics often consist of precious metal alloys, which often must be formed using a micro cold forming process. This has become even more true as devices shrink in size.
At STS Intelli, we’ve served all of these industries within the civilian sector, meaning that we have experience with each of these applications. We understand the level of precision and expertise needed to fulfil projects of each type, and we can provide the same level of quality and precision to both military and civilian companies alike.
Why Use Cold Forming Over Other Methods?
The two other methods most commonly used for shaping metal include machining and hot forming. While both of these processes result in forming a piece of metal into a new shape, they are quite different:
- Hot forging: The hot forging process involves the deformation of metal at a heat above the metal’s recrystallization point. This means the metal is subjected to extreme heat before forging — the level of heat depends entirely on the metal being worked with and its chemical properties. While hot forging is very useful for particularly hard metals and results in a homogenized, more consistent and ductile product, hot forging does have numerous drawbacks. The heat involved in the hot forging process takes immense amounts of energy to produce, which is often gained through burning fossil fuels. This means every product produced using hot forming has a significant carbon footprint, negatively impacting the local environment and atmosphere.
- Machining: Machining is the process of forming a part by removing material from a block of metal, usually using a lathe. This process has been used for decades, and it has a long and storied history of success. However, machining is far from a perfect solution. Because of its reductive nature, machining tends to generate a high volume of waste material. This means more material is used per part, making the process less efficient and less cost-effective. Additionally, machining parts tends to be a slow and labor-intensive process, meaning that each part costs more in labor expenses.
While these methods are suitable for several applications and settings, they are not perfect in all circumstances. For numerous metals and materials, cold forming offers a better option. Some of the benefits cold forming has over these other methods include:
- Accuracy and precision: Cold forging is designed to produce repeatable and highly accurate results for any part. By following identical procedures for each part, variability between parts is minimized, and reproducibility is maximized. This benefit of cold forging is critical when it comes to ammunitions production and parts for rockets or jets, as a single imperfection can result in a malfunction.
- Superior quality: Cold forming produces incredibly stable, high-quality parts. Chip-prone materials like copper, gold and nickel tend to be stronger when cold formed as opposed to hot formed, and materials formed with a cold forming process tend to have more tensile strength than their hot formed counterparts. Additionally, the parts produced with cold forming lack sharp edges and burrs — this is because the process creates natural radii on corners and undercuts. This superior quality is especially important in the military, as much of the equipment used has to last for long periods of time in harsh conditions.
- Increased speed: Military weaponry and prototypes often work with short deadlines — they need everything they can get as soon as possible to keep everything running smoothly. Depending on the product, cold forming can produce from 50 to 400 parts per minute. This is incredibly fast compared to one or two parts per minute produced with a screw machining method.
- Less contamination: During the process of hot forging, the extreme temperatures metal reaches can cause it to chemically react with the surrounding air. Also, contaminants such as metal dust and particulates can get into the heated metal easier and contaminate it. This can cause serious structural problems in the finished piece. Cold forging eliminates this possibility by keeping metal well below melting temperature so it doesn’t interact with the surrounding air. This is particularly important in military applications where structural integrity is key, such as automotive or aviation applications where a single part may take on a great deal of constant stress.
- Low energy consumption: Heating metal to a temperature high enough to undergo hot forging requires an immense amount of energy. Whether this energy is achieved with electricity or the burning of fossil fuels, the energy consumption involved is expensive. Cold forming, on the other hand, requires no heating and only requires enough energy to run the hydraulic and mechanical presses involved in the process. This not only cuts energy costs for cold-forming companies and their clients, but it places less strain on the environment and reduces the company’s carbon footprint.
- Minimized waste: In cold forming, materials are measured, and parts are designed to minimize waste material. Machining produces excessive amounts of waste with its reductive process, trimming excess material off of what will be the finished part. In hot forming, the process produces waste material in the form of overflow and sprue — the result of excess material being poured into the mold. Cold forming eliminates both of these sources of waste by punching the exact amount of material into a proper die. The only waste produced occurs when too much or too little material is loaded into the die. The result of cold forming is an almost 100 percent material yield — if accomplished properly, no material or scrap is left over after the process is completed.
- Decreased costs: Between decreased energy costs and minimized waste, cold forming results in immensely reduced energy prices. On average, a piece produced with cold forming is 40 to 60 percent cheaper than a part produced using hot forging techniques. It’s also 50 to 100 percent cheaper than a part formed with traditional machining methods. This is particularly important to the military as budgets for any one application or purpose may be of concern.
In combination, these advantages make cold forming an incredibly effective and beneficial process for any company, military or civilian. However, there still is a place for machining. In many cases, the cold forming process is used at the start of the manufacturing process to create a general shape, while machining is used to finish the product. In combination, these methods can produce high precision finishes and dimensions while minimizing cost and waste.
Where Can You Find Micro Cold Forming Services?
If you’re looking for a cold forming provider for your military and defense projects, STS Intelli can help.
For more than 80 years, STS Intelli’s main focus has been on you, the customer. We have a long history of working with all kinds of clients on projects of a variety of types and sizes, making their ideas a reality. Whether your industry is aerospace, automotive, medical or military and whether your project is massive or miniscule, STS Intelli can make it happen with our powerful design software and experienced staff.
Not sure if your parts should be hot forged or cold formed? Come talk with us. Many parts that are traditionally hot forged or machined can be cold formed, provided an experienced team is there to study and prepare the part. Our experts can analyze any material and any part, taking care to account for material movement and flow to design nearly any cold formed part.
We at STS Intelli can guarantee you all of this, along with competitive pricing and precise, defect-free parts. Our cold forming technology is top-of-the-line in terms of quality and innovation, producing high-quality parts in record times. We can even do some of your basic secondary operations, like roll forming or piercing. All of this helps us ensure our clients receive highly precise mass produced parts within very short time frames.
If you’re looking for a cold forging team for your next project, contact STS Intelli to discuss your metal forming needs. You can even get a free, no obligation quote online today.