At Halcyon Manufacturing, tool bits tell the story: The “cutting edge” of machining means engaging at the earliest stages of the process, prior to cutting the first part. The goal is to give customers the knowledge that when machining begins, the parts are going to be 100 percent right with zero defects. (Photo courtesy Halcyon Manufacturing)

From rapid prototyping and design for manufacturing before the first part is machined, to adaptable and scalable manufacturing and state-of-the-art metrology and inspection throughout the process

March 24, 2022

By Del Williams

Beyond the semiconductor components themselves, today’s electronics products need to be enclosed and packaged in consumer-usable form factors machined from various specialty metals and alloys. The reality is that a failure in an electronic product package or a non-semiconductor component can be just as catastrophic as a failure with the semiconductor.

Given the critical nature of these components, the “cutting edge” of machining now goes far beyond having the latest CNC equipment and accessories. It also means engaging at the earliest stages of the process using the latest in design for manufacturing (DFM), simulation, and process verification processes prior to cutting the first part. It is then critically important to have flexibility and adaptability to make changes and scale production when needed, with the ability and commitment to inspect with the most precise tools throughout the process.

The goal of this approach is to give customers the knowledge that when machining begins, the parts are going to be 100 percent right, with zero defects, the first time and every time.

Typically, when a potential customer is looking for a machine shop to make a complex electronic device housing or part, they are looking for the latest equipment and current certifications, including ASQ, ISO 9001, and AS9100. There is a tremendous benefit, however, for a customer to look beyond these prerequisites for a machine shop that will work with them from the design phases through manufacturing to predict and resolve failures before they happen. The ability to predict when failures could occur requires proactive communication and early engagement with an expert machine shop.

Design for manufacturing – the ability to adapt early

A design for manufacturing process enables the machine shop to anticipate possible complications and limitations in the machining process upfront.

“With design for manufacturing, the goal is to make the product manufacturable in an efficient and cost-effective way, and that starts with reviewing the parts and discussing the specifications openly,” said Tony Doan, CEO of San Jose, California-based Halcyon Manufacturing, an advanced ITAR registered and AS9100/ISO900-certified manufacturer of complex parts that serves Greater Silicon Valley. “The electronic device industry needs a cutting-edge machine shop that has both the expertise and the desire to guide their customers on how to achieve better machined products at a better price.”

This analysis and feedback are part of an ongoing manufacturing collaboration between a client and its contract machining partner well before production starts—from the inception of a project through prototyping.

Halcyon applies the design for manufacturing protocol across a wide spectrum of metal machining from bar grade 6061 aluminum and brass, to copper, titanium, stainless steel, and plastics. The company also works with quartz, ceramic, graft, titanium, and a variety of steels, and serves customers in the electronics, semiconductor, aerospace, home defense, automotive, and medical sectors.

A CNC machine in action at Halcyon Manufacturing. Halcyon applies the design for manufacturing (DFM) protocol across a wide spectrum of metal machining, from bar grade 6061 aluminum and brass, to copper, titanium, stainless steel, and plastics. (Photo courtesy Halcyon Manufacturing)

“When you can use the latest simulation and process verification technologies prior to cutting the first chip of metal or plastic, then when you start manufacturing, you know that the parts are going to be 100 percent right the first time, every time,” said Doan.

Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping removes financial and time risk by providing a cost-effective way to test a full range of designs and materials. With rapid prototyping, many iterations of a part may never make it to production, which can save companies time and money.

“If we understand how the part needs to function, we can 3D print the item in plastic, run it through a few tests, and then proceed—rather than rush to machine parts out of expensive material in the prototype phase,” explained Doan, who added that in addition to initial prototyping, 3D printing can be used to create workholding and fixtures.

Adaptability and scalability in production

Electronic device manufacturers’ clients operate in highly dynamic markets, and the need for changes to part specifications and the quantity of parts is high. Cutting-edge machine shops must therefore be adaptable and flexible for any design changes. They also must be capable of scaling up production to “lights out” manufacturing if needed, without compromising the accuracy of the machining.

“While capacity is certainly important, the overall size of a machine shop is not the most important criterion,” said Doan. “Customers certainly need manufacturing scale, but they also require adaptability as complex manufacturing designs evolve and change. For a machine shop to be an effective partner, they need to be nimble.”

Inspecting quality upfront

Finally, to complement the machining capabilities and nimbleness, a shop must have state-of-the art metrology equipment for advanced inspections guided by a proactive zero-defect mindset.

“It’s not about making parts and sorting out the bad ones and shipping the good ones,” said Doan. “You need a machine shop committed to not making the bad parts at all.

“To produce the most precise parts, you must be able to inspect more than the finished goods,” he added. “A machine shop should be inspecting, in real-time, such things as the set-ups and the speed throughout the process, which enables data to be captured for statistical predictive process control.”

At Halcyon, automated coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) perform process inspections and produce first article reports. Halcyon also uses a digital multimeter (DMM) with scanning capability that can take thousands of data points during a scan of a complex curved surface. This results in very precise and accurate, repeatable product evaluations.

Forging a partnership

Companies that rely on machine shops to produce precision parts to extremely tight tolerances with consistency should look beyond the basic certifications and CNC capabilities for those with the expertise to optimize the manufacturing process before any items are manufactured,  and adjust as needed after. With this level of flexibility, and by ensuring a zero-defect approach at every stage of the process, those in the electronic device industry can proceed with certainty that the parts they are receiving are of the highest reliability and without unnecessary additional costs for their most critical applications.

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.

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