This technical information has been contributed by
Fourslide Spring and Stamping, Inc.

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Fourslide Process Offers Manufacturers Cost and Time Savings

Fourslide

Engineering modifications can be made more quickly and inexpensively versus conventional stamping

BRISTOL, Conn.--For smaller metal products that are complex or needed in lesser volumes, an integrated process known as "fourslide" fabrication can offer design engineers major savings on production, from tooling to material savings. Unlike conventional metal stampings from a power press, fourslide production uses a series of relatively inexpensive tools that operate in sequence to produce finished metal products, which can be simple flat stampings or complex fasteners, terminals, contacts, and connectors.

Although fourslide does not pre-empt the choice of many power press applications, the "sweet spot" for this technology includes smaller metal parts where lower volumes, complexity of form, tooling costs, and fluidity of design are issues.

A four-strike system

Named for the four tool slides that are essential to the operation, the fourslide process offers several advantages over the traditional power press. These advantages include generating complicated forms and multiple bends more efficiently, lower up-front (chiefly tooling) costs, shorter lead times, and the ability to modify tooling to accommodate engineering changes more quickly and inexpensively.

Fourslide manufacturing begins with the raw material in flat strip form off a coil, which is stamped or blanked in the progressive die section of the fourslide machine. The strip is then fed into the forming section, where four tool-carrying slides approach the part from the four cardinal compass points, forming the material around a center form or mandrel. All machine motions are cam driven; the cams are mounted on a continuous shaft, driven by a single motor. The set-up of the machine cams determines the sequence, timing, and number of tool strikes. Check out www.fourslide.com/fourslide-reference.htm for an animated demonstration of how the process works.

If a part is stamped or formed (or both), less than 2 inches wide, and less than 0.075-inch thick, it may qualify for fourslide fabrication. Regardless of what they're called, parts that qualify include precision metal stampings, flat springs, wire forms, and complex forms with multiple bends.

Tooling savings

Typically, when you're comparing the fourslide process with another process, you're comparing it with a power press. Fourslide tooling will range from roughly $3,000 to $10,000--depending on the complexity of the part and amount of work required. The cost of the progressive die used on a power press will range from 5 to 10 times as much. "It is rare that a progressive die would be done for less than $12,000 to $15,000," explains Jim Richards, director of sales and marketing at Fourslide Spring and Stamping, Bristol, Connecticut.

Richards adds that although it is not an up-front cost, shop rate--the cost that a manufacturer would assign to machine time--will likely be less using fourslide equipment because the cost of operating that equipment will normally be much less than the cost of operating a $250,000 high-speed power press. "However, on very high volume jobs where throughput may be greater on a power press, the relative cost per hour will diminish, perhaps overcoming the cost advantage of the fourslide process," he says.

Savings on engineering modifications

Because of the high cost of progressive die tooling, many stampers are going offshore for die manufacture.  Although going abroad may appear less expensive, the real costs of long delivery, communication problems, and quality issues can more than offset the perceived savings. Any changes to the part that require tool modifications can be a nightmare.

In the case of fourslide tooling, both the original tooling and any subsequent engineering modifications are far less expensive and can be created domestically far more quickly than those for power press dies, particularly those manufactured offshore. Richards says that where tool maintenance is concerned, fourslide dies and tooling are far less expensive to maintain, and repair or replacement downtime is significantly shorter than with progressive dies.

Savings on material

Fourslide manufacturing can also save on wasted material (scrap). Richards explains that less scrap results because the process calls for running material that is specific to the job. In other words, if the item that's being formed via the fourslide process calls for material 0.56-inch wide, the fourslide process begins with material pre-slit to 0.560 inch. Hence, less scrap.

"In the case of high-volume runs for many parts, the power press is still a good solution," says Richards. "But when it comes to complex parts, lower volumes, or production of parts where engineering modifications may be a factor--those are optimal criteria for fourslide production."

This technical information has been contributed by
Fourslide Spring and Stamping, Inc.

Click on Company Name for a Detailed Profile

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