Stamping (also known as pressing) is the process of placing flat sheet metal in either blank or coil form into a stamping press where a tool and die surface forms the metal into a net shape. Stamping includes a variety of sheet-metal forming manufacturing processes, such as punching using a machine press or stamping press, blanking, embossing, bending, flanging, and coining. This could be a single stage operation where every stroke of the press produces the desired form on the sheet metal part, or could occur through a series of stages. The process is usually carried out on sheet metal, but can also be used on other materials, such as polystyrene.
Stamping is usually done on cold metal sheet. See Forging for hot metal forming operations.
Ever since man figured out how to smelt ore into metal, people have been trying to find new and better ways to fabricate metal products. From forging and casting molten metal into sand molds to the work of blacksmiths to modern day precision metal stamping, the history has been a journey of continuous invention and innovation. Today, the precision metal stamping of parts by companies like Thomas Engineering Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota has taken precision metal stamping to new levels early metal craftsmen could never have imagined.
To understand the history of the development process of precision metal stamping and how it has changed metal fabrication, one need look no farther than coins. The first attempts at the metal stamping process had its beginnings in striking coins.
It is believed the first coins were struck in the seventh century B.C. by the Lydians, a people living in what is now modern-day Turkey. The principle behind the process was not all that different than the metal stamping that is done today. A die was created bearing the image of one side of the coin. Another image was carved into a stamp that was struck with a heavy hammer, creating a two-sided coin. These coins were usually made of metals like gold or an alloy of gold and silver.
This process of striking coins, and eventually other objects, remained basically the same until around 1550 when a Marx Schwab, a German silversmith, developed a screw press for stamping coins. The screw press was turned by as many as twelve men to exert the pressure needed to form the metal. Although advances in metallurgy had made it possible to create much harder and durable dies and stamps, the concept behind the process remained much the same.
With the coming of the industrial revolution, the brute force of the human powered screw press was replaced by using steam power to lift a heavy weight above the die and dropping it to strike the image. As technology improved, the speed with which coins could be stamped rose dramatically, but stamping metal parts for industrial use was almost unheard of until the 1890s. Prior to then, manufacturers relied on forging and die-casting for the fabrication of most metal components. However, in 1890, a German bicycle manufacturer began making parts for bicycles using metal stamping.
As manufacturers began to discover how much faster and cheaper parts could be fabricated using metal stamping, the process began to flourish. Surprisingly, one of the last manufacturers to embrace the metal stamping of automobile parts was Henry Ford. An innovator in the assembly process, his engineers had to convince Ford that metal stamping for fenders and other parts was not only faster and less expensive than die-casting, but the quality was just as good. As production demands increased, Ford had no choice but to accept this new technology to keep up with demand.
Since those humble beginnings, precision metal stamping is now used in nearly every product we use. As the capabilities of the process improve, new markets are opened. At Thomas Engineering Company, we are continually investing in stretching the limits and improving the working tolerances of what can be done by precision metal stamping. We can produce stamped parts for ultra thin applications as thin as .001 of an inch. Our client list includes industries as varied as electronics, medical, automotive, computers, aerospace, and much more.
Whether you need a prototype part with a lead time of only days, or a production run of literally billions of parts, Thomas Engineering Company has been meeting the precision metal stamping needs of businesses for over fifty years. Contact us and discover how we can work with you to help you reach your goals.