General Metallurgy

Sheet Metal Formability

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

Formability refers to the ability of sheet metal to be formed into a desired shape without necking or cracking. Necking is localized thinning of the metal that is greater than the thinning of the surrounding metal. Necking precedes cracking.

From the metallurgical perspective, the formability of a particular metal depends on the metal’s elongation, which is the total amount of strain measured during tensile testing.

Why Control Heat Treatment Temperature?

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.
Steel heat treating

Whether you are through hardening steel, annealing a cold-worked metal, or solution treating an aluminum alloy, the heat treating temperature is critical for obtaining the desired microstructure, and therefore, the desired metal properties. Using a temperature that is too hot can result in a metallurgical transformation that proceeds too quickly or the formation of undesired phases. Using a temperature that is too low can result in incomplete metallurgical transformations, cold worked metals that do not soften sufficiently, or insufficient stress relief.

Manipulating Metal Properties

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests are common metal characterization methods used to determine whether metal stock or a metal component has the required properties. The reason for this is that these tests are simple and quick to perform, in addition to being inexpensive. However, while these tests do provide useful information, there is a danger to the common practice of specifying only hardness and alloy composition on component design drawings.

Engineering Materials for Cost Reduction

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

One approach to cost reduction is to re-engineer products to use less expensive materials or reduced quantities of higher priced materials. This approach can have a significant impact on a product’s costs, since the materials used in a product account for a large part of its total cost. With appropriate design verification, it is possible to make the desired product changes and preserve the required performance and reliability. In fact, sometimes a product’s performance and reliability is also improved, providing an additional competitive advantage.

When a Low-cost Supplier Becomes Expensive

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

This article outlines an eight-step process to help you identify and repair the root cause of a problem that arises when working with suppliers.

I have consulted with manufacturers in many industries. Regardless of the products being produced, they all face the same general challenges and frustrations about product development and manufacturing. Each of them is concerned about the following questions that impact their profitability:

Product Design, Manufacturing, and Materials

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

Designing and manufacturing a mechanical, electrical, or electromechanical device requires thorough specification of the materials properties of the individual components and controlling the materials properties. Doing these will help ensure high manufacturing yields, good quality, and good reliability. For some products the materials requirements are minimal, allowing for a wide range of material variation in order to produce the final product. Other products with many materials requirements (e.g. automotive, medical, appliances) require tight control of the materials properties.

Selecting Capable Suppliers – Part 1

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

Suppliers of components and sub-assemblies are critical to the success of most companies. Companies depend on their suppliers to provide an item that always satisfies its design requirements and is always delivered on time. However, companies do not always use a methodical approach for evaluating and selecting suppliers. Instead, they are lured by the promise of a low piece part price, only to find that the costs due to poor quality and delayed product launch quickly overshadow the planned savings. This article explains how to select suppliers that will enable production at the lowest total cost and highest quality.

Selecting Capable Suppliers – Part 2

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

Suppliers of components and sub-assemblies are critical to the success of a product. This is the second part of a two-part article that discusses the considerations for selecting suppliers that will enable production at the lowest total cost and highest quality. The first article discussed the materials engineering and supply chain perspectives that must be considered when evaluating and selecting suppliers, and ended with a list of supplier selection criteria. This article explains the considerations for each of the selection criteria and discusses the evaluation process.

Controlling the Atoms in Metals

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

On a microscopic level, there are many things going on inside of a metal. Metals consist of numerous microscopic structures that have a direct and large influence on the properties of metals. Through composition, mechanical treatment, and thermal treatment these microscopic structures can be modified to impart specific properties. Whether the desired structures, and resulting properties, are obtained in a completed component or joint between components depends on the knowledge and skill of designers and manufacturers.

Phase Transformations in Alloys

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

The metallurgical phases present in an alloy have a huge impact on the properties of a metal component. Phases are distinct materials that are comprised of the elements in the alloy. These distinct materials have distinct properties that have an impact on the overall properties of the entire alloy. Additionally, the size, shape, and location of the phases within the alloy also effect on the overall properties of an alloy. Within many common alloys it is possible to alter the phases present with heat treatment.

The Relationship Between Metal Properties, Composition, Microstructure, and Manufacturing Processes

Posted by Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.

This short video lesson explains the relationship between the properties of a metal and the metal's composition, microstructure, and the manufacturing processes used to fabricate a component or form a joint between components. It's an example of the format used for our metallurgy courses.