How customers benefit from our process and technical expertise
The first step at the start of any new project is the drawing, which may occur at an early or advanced product or part planning stage. Although some customers only contact the manufacturer when their product development work is finished, the vast majority prefer to initiate the active co-engineering process at an early stage in order to take full advantage of etampa's stamping and fineblanking expertise.

The ideal situation is when both sides confer at a very early stage of the new part's development because the precision manufacturer's pre-development engineers will then be able to provide input to enhance the knowledge of the product developers, and vice versa. At this early stage it is also very important to establish direct lines of communication not only between the marketing department and the customer's purchasing department but also between engineering and R&D departments and between the manufacturer's and customer's quality management specialists.

Preliminary sample testing in the early stages
It is not unusual for discussions about fundamental aspects of the part's design to take place in the early stages of the project – because, for example, it has not yet been decided whether to produce variant A or B. It is also fairly common to carry out tests of preliminary samples by physically producing the parts to be stamped and checking their effectiveness. The good thing about the early pre-development phase is that it is usually relatively long – often several years – and not subject to extreme time pressure, which gives both sides plenty of latitude for creative interpretation.

Know and understand exactly what is needed
Even when they have completed the initial planning stage and the part is in the early stages of development, customers still value etampa's stamping expertise and welcome its technical input because etampa will ensure that due consideration is given to all the technical aspects of the stamping process. To do this properly, it is important to understand how the part functions and what demands are being placed on it, because only then is it possible to specify operational tolerances and testing procedures. A jointly conceived and optimised stamping design is always worthwhile, particularly as it has a positive and enduring impact on the design of the tooling used, its regrinding cycles and useful life.

Significant savings potential
Customers participating in the co-engineering process often discover that even minor changes to the initial plans for a part can substantially improve productivity. etampa works hard to understand the mindset of the customer. They find out immediately whether changing the material or adjusting the tolerances make production more cost-effective or whether modifying the stamping strip could save money. These insights often result in changes to the part being produced that can deliver considerable cost savings to the customer. Production processes optimised in this way have a positive impact on the price of the part and thus on the total cost of investment.

Functionality and point of use of components
The functionality of the part is one of the things that must be clarified as part of the co-engineering process because this is what ultimately determines its production specification. Because the developer's goals are always different to those of the manufacturer, an exchange of views is essential. It is also important for the manufacturer to know where the component will be fitted and used. The corners and edges of the part could be a critical issue for production, for example, especially if they are functionally relevant.

Material selection of great importance
Material thickness options, flexibility in the choice of materials and permissible material tolerances need to be discussed. Depending on the part's specification, a normal structural steel that is subsequently surface treated could prove to be unreliable. In any case, basic hardness is an extremely important factor in the choice of material: not all materials are formable, and when it comes to edge definition and corrosion resistance, it may be wiser to work with a hard material from the outset rather than using a thinner material and hardening it later. By the same token, due attention should be given to any environmental influences that could affect the materials over time and thereby noticeably reduce their effectiveness.

The information that etampa requires from the customer for any co-engineering project includes a drawing that shows functional tolerances; the initial drawing does not have to state every dimension down to the smallest detail. What is important, however, are details of the surface requirements as far as smoothness, edge quality and cleanliness are concerned.

Components must be measurable
When the customer draws up his "wish list" for the part to be manufactured, he should appreciate that the part to be stamped or fineblanked has to be measurable. The production process must therefore take measurement methods into account – something that is often overlooked by the customer. The customer should also provide information about die rolls and material thickness tolerances.

Signing a confidentiality agreement
etampa strongly recommends that all co-engineering projects are covered by a confidentiality agreement binding on both parties, as this will provide the basis for a very open and trusting relationship. An optimum stamping and production recommendation is not possible unless the manufacturer is aware of all of the factors affecting the part to be produced; withholding information because of a fear of being too open with the manufacturer is always counterproductive and can frequently backfire.

Proof-of-concept trial
Submitting a quotation for a stamping or fineblanking job always involves carrying out a "feasibility commitment" or feasibility study which serves to respond to the customer's questions and provide information on details such as radii, tolerances, materials, etc. The most important item of information in these feasibility studies, however, is the statement as to whether the part can be produced as requested. There may be a variety of reasons why this is not possible and why certain areas require further discussion.

When dealing with production planning processes taking place over an extended period, both parties need to make sure that they are working from the same drawings and that the material specifications have not changed. It is also important for a new feasibility commitment to be issued for each new drawing because this can understandably have a great influence on the customer's purchase decision.

"Co" means "together".
"Co" always means sharing a common goal. This is especially true for co-engineering activities. For us, co-engineering therefore means ensuring our etampa-specific process expertise is already contributing to part design at an early stage in development. In working with our customers, our goal is to identify the ideal, cost-optimised stamping or fineblanking production process.