Progressive Stamped Components in a Vehicle

Today’s automotive OEMs and aftermarket manufacturers use custom miniature and small metal stamped parts in many applications. But have you ever wondered exactly where these parts are in a vehicle? Here are some examples:

engine knock sensors
transmission sensors
vehicle communication systems
EMI RFI shields

battery contacts
e-mobility
throttle components
key fobs
door locks

fuel pump
fuse panel
infotainment system
ignition system
antennas

Common stamped components used in these locations within a vehicle include electrical contacts and terminals, clips, tabs, washers, plates, and brackets.

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Take A Virtual Tour with Our Interactive Graphic

This interactive graphic lets you easily visualize where small and miniature stampings fit within a vehicle. Just follow these simple steps:

  • Click the tan circles to see pictures of the actual stamped components and read a short description.
  • Click the plus (+) sign to see a detailed image of that area and the components within it.
  • Click the X button to exit the pop-up boxes.

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The view down the road isn’t always clear from a distance, but the automotive industry is moving at high speed. New opportunities and technology come into view quickly and progressive stampers must be ready to change course or pursue a new route quickly. Like others in the progressive stamping industry, we at CEP anticipate a continuing shift toward BEVs, more and increasingly complex electronics and sensors. We also expect to see expanded connectivity among components within vehicles as well as between vehicles and “smart” infrastructure (e.g. traffic, weather, entertainment) on roads, highways, parking, and home garages.
– Ken Kaufmann Jr., Stamping Journal, June 11, 2020

Vehicles Change but the Need for Custom Stampings Doesn’t

Cars and trucks are in transition. Many new models are shifting away from internal combustion engines and purely mechanical operations. According to Bloomberg NEF market forecasts, electric cars are expected to grow from 2.7% of all global passenger vehicle sales in 2020 to 10% by 2025, rising to 28% in 2030 and 58% in 2040. What’s more, lithium-ion battery prices are dropping as driving range increases, leading consumers to feel less anxious about investing in battery electric vehicles (BEV).
In addition, sensors, controllers, and other electronics are appearing in more vehicle systems, and Wi-Fi connectivity between devices, vehicles, and the environment is rapidly expanding. Electronics are used in vehicles for things like on-board sensors and controllers to monitor safety and performance (e.g. collision avoidance, tire pressure, engine temperature) and for connectivity with the outside world (e.g. Wi-Fi hotspots to power mapping apps, software update pushes from manufacturers).
Even though these changes are gradual, they show no sign of stopping or reversing. For OEMs and their suppliers, all of this means finding a stamper who can manufacture a bigger range of parts and leverage their ability to meet current and future needs.

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Changes and Constants for Automotive Stamping

Progressive stampers can address the situation in three ways:

  1. Provide manufacturing support for BEV development and charging infrastructure. With fewer internal combustion engine vehicles in production, some traditional progressive stamped parts will be less in demand, such as those used in ignition and fuel pump systems. But battery connections and other components are still needed to bring power to motors and other vehicle systems. Terminals, connectors, clips, and brackets, and components for battery management systems are needed.
  2. Offer EMI shielding products and other components needed for expanded electronics. Not only are there more electronic components in vehicle systems, they’re becoming smaller, faster, and more densely housed near neighboring circuits and microprocessors. The end result is more heat and greater potential for electromagnetic interference (EMI). Shield covers and frames, heat sink plates, and other parts are critical to sending and receiving signals correctly.
  3. Preparing for the transformation of traditional and legacy parts. Traditional cars and trucks that run on fossil fuels and largely mechanical systems are not going away overnight and will remain on the road for years to come. The need for existing styles of terminals, connectors, pins, and clips used in internal combustion vehicles will continue for a while. But even those traditional parts that aren’t eventually phased out will probably change as electronics continue to expand. Brackets, clips, pins, terminals, and connectors are still required to support electronic applications, but in many cases these familiar parts will evolve new geometry, size, and material requirements.
    A range of materials and capabilities
    Today’s OEMs and suppliers turn to progressive stamping for components for both legacy and emerging vehicle technology: clips, tabs, brackets, terminal, contacts, plates, EMI shields, and more.
    Metals and their properties. Material choice is critical to part performance. Common metals are steel and steel alloys, aluminum, copper, brass, and nickel. In progressive stamping, very thin strips of these metals are wrapped into a coil and then fed into the stamping press. Look for a thickness range of 0.002 to 0.125 inches and press tonnage from 15 to 60 tons or more.
    In addition to thickness, other properties of a material impact how it behaves during stamping. Depending on the end use, some properties may be more important than others. For example, metal EMI/RFI shields are commonly made of copper, brass, nickel, silver, steel, or tin based on the metal’s ability to reflect or absorb radiation, conductivity, and strength to hold its shape even in small pieces.
    The choice of materials involves balancing characteristics of the metals with design intent and the ability to make the part reliably and efficiently (sometimes called its “manufacturability”).
    Finishing. Stampers can also deburr, polish, plate, anodize and e-coat some parts to increase resistance to corrosion, electrical or thermal conductivity, or aesthetics of the finish. Services such as reel to reel and barrel plating add value to the stamping process.
    Equipment. As part designs change and become smaller or more complex (or both), many stampers will have to add larger presses with longer beds to accommodate longer tooling. Likewise dies made of high-strength metals are needed to cut hard metals.

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A Range of Materials and Capabilities

Today’s OEMs and suppliers turn to progressive stamping for components for both legacy and emerging vehicle technology: clips, tabs, brackets, terminal, contacts, plates, EMI shields, and more.
Metals and their properties. Material choice is critical to part performance. Common metals are steel and steel alloys, aluminum, copper, brass, and nickel. In progressive stamping, very thin strips of these metals are wrapped into a coil and then fed into the stamping press. Look for a thickness range of 0.002 to 0.125 inches and press tonnage from 15 to 60 tons or more.
In addition to thickness, other properties of a material impact how it behaves during stamping. Depending on the end use, some properties may be more important than others. For example, metal EMI/RFI shields are commonly made of copper, brass, nickel, silver, steel, or tin based on the metal’s ability to reflect or absorb radiation, conductivity, and strength to hold its shape even in small pieces.
The choice of materials involves balancing characteristics of the metals with design intent and the ability to make the part reliably and efficiently (sometimes called its “manufacturability”).
Finishing. Stampers can also deburr, polish, plate, anodize and e-coat some parts to increase resistance to corrosion, electrical or thermal conductivity, or aesthetics of the finish. Services such as reel to reel and barrel plating add value to the stamping process.
Equipment. As part designs change and become smaller or more complex (or both), many stampers will have to add larger presses with longer beds to accommodate longer tooling. Likewise dies made of high-strength metals are needed to cut hard metals.

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In This Fast-Moving Industry, Stampers Provide More Than Just Parts

While the bottom line will always be receiving good, finished parts on time, most OEMs and suppliers are looking for more than just a box of stamped components. In the race to develop new and more reliable BEV and electronic componentry, the whole stamping process from prototype to production must stay efficient. Ready access to expertise in design, supply chain, and manufacturing give the OEM customer a competitive edge.

Quality assurance

In precision stamping, especially when working with automotive OEM and suppliers, being certified to particular IATF and ISO quality and environmental standards is extremely common. Certification and ongoing audits show a manufacturer’s commitment to consistent quality in production and operations. Standards to look for include:

  • IATF 16949:2016, which addresses quality management systems and additional automotive customer-specific requirements.
  • ISO 14001:2015, which pertains to environmental management systems and environmental aspects of leadership, planning, operational efficiencies, wastes, legal environmental obligations, supply chain, and more.

Value-added services

Many OEMs and suppliers want to develop a working partnership with their progressive stamper beyond merely placing orders. Progressive stampers that offer value-added services can save their customers time and money in several ways:

  • Total cost of production mindset. Rapid prototyping and production runs that factor in building and maintaining a tool, and material availability.
  • Faster time-to-market. Part and tool design and progressive stamping experience can result in fewer prototype iterations and more efficient manufacturing.
  • Reduced scrap. Knowledge of how material properties, part features and geometry, and tool performance affect a part’s manufacturability to specifications and tolerances.
  • Efficiency and timeliness. Knowledge of the global supply chain and availability of material candidates for specific applications gives insight to potential delays or viable alternate metals.
  • Point-of-assembly condition. Careful cleaning and packaging procedures keep parts clean and ready to use on delivery.
  • In-house tool creation and maintenance. Keeping tooling work in-house adds a layer of familiarity with the project from optimizing tool design to estimating useful life and preventive maintenance.
  • Adequate equipment and staff. Flexible, adaptable stampers can supply both standard and custom stampings, prototypes, and short and long production runs.

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The Road Ahead for Progressive Die Stamping

The view down the road isn’t always clear from a distance, but the automotive industry is moving at high speed. New opportunities and technology come into view quickly and progressive stampers must be ready to change course or pursue a new route quickly. Like others in the progressive stamping industry, we at CEP anticipate a continuing shift toward BEVs, more and increasingly complex electronics and sensors. We also expect to see expanded connectivity among components within vehicles as well as between vehicles and “smart” infrastructure (e.g. traffic, weather, entertainment) on roads, highways, parking, and home garages.
While some stamped components will necessarily be phased out of most new vehicles, it is very likely that OEMs and specialty manufacturers will create new equipment and accessories or revamp legacy designs to be smaller, lighter, and faster. This innovation indicates that rapid prototyping and custom tools and dies will remain in demand for complex new parts. Time to market is more critical than ever, which means the more design expertise available, the more efficient the development process.
CEP’s design and manufacturing experience means you can count on us to achieve your goals for both short and long production runs. Please check out our online resources to learn more or contact us to talk about your next project.

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