Automobiles rely on a wide range of components to operate safely and efficiently. Most of these components — which are found in every part of a vehicle, from its frame to its electrical systems — are manufactured using metal stamping and precision machining methods.
Metal stamping, also referred to as pressing, involves placing a sheet or coil of metal into a press and forming it into the desired shape over a die or mold. This can be done in one stage or over several stages, depending on the complexity of the required end product.
Automotive stamping allows for the manufacture of many different functioning parts, which are used in automotive bodies and frames, as well as electrical, steering, alternator, and fuel systems. These components play a crucial role in ensuring optimal safety and functionality.
Terminals and Electrical Connectors
The auto industry produces thousands of vehicles a year, and hundreds of terminals and electrical connectors are installed in each vehicle.
Automotive manufacturers typically employ connectors with a two-piece socket and tab design. Using flexible materials, the male and female component ends can easily attach and disconnect, allowing for great durability and flexibility. This is crucial, given the amount of abuse these components take from weather, general wear and tear, chemical exposure, and other harsh elements cars encounter on the road.
As the auto industry depends more and more on electrical systems, demand will rise for highly protected, durable terminals and connectors. These components can be made from a variety of different materials — including copper, brass, phosphor bronze, and various grades of steel — using four/multi-slide forming and progressive die and metal stamping techniques.
Automotive Wire Forms
The wire forming process involves pulling a strip of metal through a series of lubricated metal dies or molds so it can take the desired shape. Allowing for many wire sizes and shapes, this simple, versatile process can even be applied to glass. Commonly worked materials include titanium and copper, but the ideal material choice will depend on the specific application at hand.
Wire formed products are used in a wide range of applications, including construction, which makes use of rebar, as well as heating elements and even mattresses, which make use of springs and coils. In the auto industry, wire formed products are found in tires and under chassis.
Automotive Brackets and Hangers
Metal brackets are also found in many different automotive applications — door panels, instrument panels, fender assemblies, and airbags, to name just a few. Primarily used to fasten one component to another, brackets can be manufactured from metals such as steel, as well as various other high-strength, oxidation-resistant alloys. Since automotive brackets may be exposed to the elements, these properties are particularly important.
Learn More about Automotive Stamping
Metal stamping and precision machining techniques are essential for ensuring optimal safety, reliability, and comfort in all types of vehicles. These processes, whether complex or simple, require experienced and dedicated technicians; companies should be sure to partner with knowledgeable industry leaders who can provide reliable solutions tailored to the specific application at hand. Components must be durable enough to withstand years of use in varying road and weather conditions, so quality is of utmost importance.
At Keats Manufacturing Co., we’re proud to offer industry-leading wire form design and manufacturing services. Committed to quality in everything we do, our facilities are ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and TS 16949 compliant, and we make use of the latest technological innovations, including CAD/CAM. Our operations are overseen by 25 of the industry’s most experienced die makers.
For more information on our custom metal stamping services for the automotive industry and discuss automotive component manufacturing options for your unique application, reach out to the team today.
Keats Manufacturing is pleased to announce that we have achieved certification under IATF 16949:2016, a technical specification for quality management systems in the automotive sector as set forth by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF).
What is IATF 16949:2016 certification?
A Quality Management System (QMS) is a set of processes, policies, records, and documented procedures that lay out the internal rules under which a company produces and delivers its products and services to customers. Within the automotive industry, one of the most ubiquitous international standards for quality management is the ISO/TS 16949. This standard harmonizes the various certification systems and assessments in the world’s automotive supply chain.
What is the significance of the certification?
This IATF certification demonstrates a consistent commitment to customer satisfaction and quality of products and services. Both internal and external audits of our QMS documentation show that Keats Manufacturing has a high-standard Quality Management System in place and that we operate accordingly.
What requirements must a company meet to be certified?
IATF16949 consists of 11 sections, seven of which detail the requirements for an organization’s QMS in order to qualify for certification:
Section 4: Context of the organization – The organization must determine its context in terms of the QMS, including the needs and expectations of interested parties.
Section 5: Leadership – Top management must show leadership and commitment to implementation of the QMS as well as assign process owners and other roles and responsibilities.
Section 7: Support – This section details the QMS requirements for infrastructure, people, organizational knowledge, competence, communication, awareness, work environment, monitoring and measuring of resources, and documentation of information.
Section 8: Operation – The organization must meet product requirements in all aspects of planning and creating their product or service. This section addresses planning, review of product requirements, design, purchasing, creation of products or services, and control of the equipment for monitoring and measuring the product or service.
Section 9: Performance evaluation – The organization must effectively monitor the functionality of the QMS. They must assess customer satisfaction, perform internal audits, monitor products and processes, and review management.
Section 10: Improvement – An organization must continually improve the QMS, meeting requirements for nonconformities and corrective actions, error-proofing processes, and problem solving.
Once the processes and procedures have been designed and implemented for a period of time, the records collected during the operation of the QMS serve as the basis for audits, reviews of the system, and, ultimately, certification.
How is this newer version of the certification different?
The updated version of ISO/TS 16949, IATF 16949:2016 was published on October 3rd, 2016. It replaces the previous ISO/TS 16949 and sets forth the requirements for a QMS used by an organization within the automotive industry. Meant to be used with ISO 9001:2015, it supplements the requirements for a stand-alone QMS, customizing the standard to the specifics of the automotive industry.
IATF 16949:2016 blends various standards from across the United States and Europe. It outlines best practices for the design, development, manufacture, installation, and service of automotive products. This international measure of quality is the gold standard for any company to develop a system for ensuring improvement and customer satisfaction.
What does the certification mean for Keats’ customers?
We take automotive quality very seriously. The purpose of the IATF certification is to ensure that our customers can rely on faithful delivery of high-quality products. Keats Manufacturing has long been committed to customer satisfaction and ongoing improvements, and this certification is evidence of that commitment.
To download our IATF 16949:2016 certification and our other quality certifications, click here.
At Keats Manufacturing Co., we’re proud of our ability to meet customers’ exact custom needs, whether clients require a single prototype or tens of millions of pieces.
Our custom assembly capabilities include multiple-stage tooling to eliminate secondaries, plastic injection molding, in-line contact staking insertion, and welding.
We can create in-die tapped and threaded holes with or without screw/fasteners insertions, and also offer in-line part-to-part assembly to reduce component costs. Brackets, clips, bushings, shields, terminals, stampings, lead frames, and wire forms are the foundation of our offerings. Just-in-Time (JIT) delivery ensures all even the tightest deadlines are met — every time, for every project.
Keats serves a wide range of industries, including automotive, aerospace, communications, construction, medical and medical device, electrical, appliances, military, and general manufacturing. Our stamping, tapping, and threading services meet or exceed strict industry standards — including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, TS 16949, Mil-Spec, PMA, SMI, and TMA — and we employ advanced, state-of-the-art technologies and equipment to meet customers’ unique requests and ensure optimal product reliability. Before any of our products ship out, they undergo thorough final inspections.
We have more than 55 years of experience manufacturing high-quality custom small metal stampings, wire forms, and assemblies, and proudly employ 25 of the industry’s most experienced die makers. Both of Keats’ locations house more than 142 metal stamping and wire forming machines, and we offer sophisticated four-slide/multi-slide and stamping press technologies — allowing us to accommodate high-volume orders of up to 50 million parts. Keats offers various custom metal fabrication capabilities, including bending, drawing, cutting, flattening, stretching, and straightening.
Below are some examples of our previous custom manufacturing work.
Spring contact for hearing aids — Keats manufactured a beryllium copper spring contact for a large medical-component manufacturer. The 120,000 spring contacts, which were ultimately used in hearing aids, complied with tight tolerances of 0.0005 inch. The springs also required gold plating, which we were able to provide within the given time frame.
Copper terminal assembly for timer control — Our team manufactured and assembled a copper top spring stamping and contact assembly for use in appliance timer controls. We made use of AutoCAD software to design the automated assembly for terminals, blades, and contacts, which were individually stamped. The brass used in these pieces was pre-plated with 100% tin to allow for optimal corrosion resistance, and the silver contacts were assembled during stamping. The client’s 300,000 pieces were provided through JIT delivery.
Steering wheel sensor terminal — This 0.0238-inch thick phosphor bronze terminal was manufactured for use in automotive steering position sensors. We made use of our precision stamping services to manufacture 1 million of these terminals, each of which was plated with bright tin to provide reliable corrosion resistance, ensuring optimal longevity and safety.
Phospor bronze automotive terminals — Keats designed and built reel-to-reel phosphor bronze terminals for an automotive lighting application, meeting ultra-tight tolerances — as tight as 0.005 inch. We continue to manufacture as many as 850,000 of these terminals annually for this specific customer.
Hinged contact jaw for electrical box — The team at Keats turned out 1 million hinged contact jaw pieces using a multi-slide stamping process, maintaining a tolerance of 0.002 inch. The jaws were also nickel-plated to ensure optimal electrical conductivity.
Copper automotive terminal — We made terminal wire forms for sensors used in the automotive industry. The 0.082-inch terminals were formed from copper alloy wires. A tolerance of 0.001 inch was achieved.
Medical stainless formed wire link — Wire links for use in medical devices were manufactured from ASTM-standard fine stainless steel wire. Keats’ expert design team created the tools needed to produce 1 million of these wire links, and our state-of-the-art equipment and engineering expertise helped us to achieve tolerances as low as 0.0002 inch.
Annealed spring link cartridge — Keats designed and built a series of annealed spring steel link cartridges for use in critical military applications. We formed the cartridges from 0.040-inch thick annealed spring steel, meeting precision tolerances of ±0.005 inch.
The expert team Keats Manufacturing works closely with clients to create top-quality products tailored to their exact specifications and requirements. Serving a huge range of industries, Keats offers various custom fabrication services — including high-volume multi-slide and four-slide precision metal stamping, punching, forming, small progressive die stamping, and tool design — to make your vision a reality. For more information on our custom capabilities or to learn more about our previous work, contact the team today.
Keats Manufacturing Company has been in business for over 50 years. During that time, we have developed an outstanding reputation for providing excellent customer service and industry-leading product quality.
Our responsive, highly knowledgeable customer service team is responsible for part of our reputation; and the rest is our exemplary part quality. We work hard at Keats Manufacturing to ensure that our products are always of the best quality available, and we maintain our high-quality by evolving our processes as technologies become more advanced. Our facilities — Wheeling, IL and Keats Southwest in El Paso, TX — each employ the most advanced technology available to ensure that each of your orders are of unsurpassed quality.
CNC Machining Equipment
In computer numerical control (CNC) machining, machine tools are controlled by highly specialized computer programs. A detailed CAD drawing is created for a part, which is uploaded to the CNC machine’s computer. The software determines the ideal machine process, programs it, and controls the machine during production.
CNC machining is more precise, more repeatable, and faster than manual machining, and can produce shapes that are drastically more complex, including 3D shapes, manual machining cannot produce. At Keats Manufacturing, we use CNC machining for quick, precise tooling development and for repetitive, high volume jobs that require exceptional precision. This equipment allows us to adapt quickly to changes and develop new manufacturing processes to better serve our customers. The addition of our newest CNC machine from Milltronics USA allows us the capability to build replacement production machine parts such as cams, slides, blocks & die components extremely efficiently and quickly.
One key to a smooth production process is an effective material requirements planning (MRP) system.
MRP systems — which are used to plan and schedule production, and control inventory of both raw materials and completed parts — ensure required raw materials are available when needed, and required completed parts are available when deliveries are due. A good MRP system will keep material and product levels at roughly the minimum required levels to help control production costs like storage.
Keats Manufacturing uses an automated, fully-integrated software-based MRP system called JobBoss to plan manufacturing processes, purchasing, and delivery schedules, control inventory, and manage bills of materials.
We also integrate our MRP system to work with our customer portals and unique proprietary MRP systems such as Ariba, Covisint, Plex, and SAP. Our team of 10 dedicated sales and customer service professionals are highly trained on unique customer portal integration and customer specific software requirements. Our MRP system professionals can work with your JIT “Just in Time” delivery / Kan-Ban system to custom print shipping labels as well as update stock levels digitally.
Keyence Digital Visual Inspection Equipment
Because part inspection is every bit as important as quality manufacturing in ensuring only perfect products leave our facilities, we are constantly upgrading our visual inspection equipment.
We employ a range of digital visual inspection equipment from KEYENCE, a globally leading sensing technology manufacturer, at every step of the manufacturing process. Dimensions and tolerances are pre-loaded onto our server — the visual inspection equipment, including high speed machine vision systems, pull a part’s specifications and measure all of them virtually instantaneously on as many as 99 parts at once.
The data measured by the machine is then stored digitally on our server which allows us to implement statistical process control or SPC into our manufacturing process seamlessly. This technology also takes the guesswork of the inspection process since the parts are checked the same way each time.
In-Die Camera and Laser Inspection
Another facet of our in-process inspection process is our in-die camera and laser inspection equipment.
This technology yields a number of important benefits. Most notably, it allows us to pinpoint errors before they become problematic, allowing us to reduce scrap, and minimize or eliminate rework time and cost. It is also helpful in eliminating quality control bottlenecks — production no longer needs to be stopped to find and diagnose a problem.
In-Die Sensing Technology
There is no time in your supply chain for unplanned downtime in the manufacturing processes of your parts and components. At Keats Manufacturing, we understand that.
We use in-die sensing technology to achieve precise tool positioning, continuous alignment checks, and emergency press stopping. By using in-die sensing technology, we can drastically reduce damage and unplanned wear to your tools and dies. This allows us to increase not only production, but part quality as well.
Work with Keats
These technologies are only a handful of the tools Keats Manufacturing Co. uses to ensure the highest quality parts and assemblies for our customers.
Over more than 50 years in business, Keats Manufacturing Company has built a strong reputation of unsurpassed product quality and excellent customer service. This reputation is one that spans industries, sectors, and customers.
Our world class customer service team is responsible, in part, for our exemplary reputation — they are highly knowledgeable, responsive to our customers’ needs, mind all of the details, and focus on long-term relationships as opposed to sales figures.
Equally important is part quality. Even the best customer service can only do so much in the face of substandard quality. To maintain the high level product quality that drives our reputation, Keats works hard to stay informed of the constantly evolving technological landscape.
At both our main facility in Wheeling, IL, and our Keats Southwest facility in El Paso, TX, we employ a range of state of the art technology to ensure that we manufacture and deliver only the highest quality products possible.
Keats Manufacturing Company’s dedication to quality starts at the design and prototyping stage. We are equipped with cutting edge 3D printers — these tools are used not for production, but for prototyping.
The ability to produce full size part models quickly and inexpensively is invaluable. These prototypes allow us and our customers to inspect parts before beginning full-scale production, allowing us to correct errors and make improvements when it is easy and least expensive to do so. Through the use of this technology, not only will your product be of a higher quality, it will get to the market faster.
AutoCAD and 3D Visualization
When your prototype is approved, we use the most modern AutoCAD software to finalize its design and 3D die visualization software to design the tooling components your part will require.
These two pieces of software help us plan the production run of your part, minimizing waste and raw material requirements, and develop tooling that balances performance with cost considerations.
Wherever possible, Keats integrates automation into our manufacturing and assembly processes. In both of our facilities, screw insertion and contact insertion have been automated, as has staking. Staking is a type of contact insertion wherein a emboss on one piece is inserted into a hole in another — the emboss is axially compressed, forming a permanent interference fit Joint.
Keats also automates screw insertion and hole threading/tapping. This process is fully automated through advanced production equipment that threads/taps holes in stamped parts as well as inserts a screw into the threaded hole. The screw is torque checked in-line and a digital readout is displayed before the finished part is ejected from the machine.
Process automation increases our production capabilities, allowing us to accommodate larger production runs with ease, while keeping your costs reasonable.
Common in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, a chamfer is a transitional edge between two faces of an object sometimes known as a bevel.
A value added automated process, we have seamlessly integrated rotowire chamfering into our manufacturing process — it allows for one-piece flow manufacturing in place of the multiple steps that would have been required in the past.
Wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) is an extremely versatile manufacturing process. Using an electrical current running through a hair-thin wire, electrical discharges remove material from a workpiece on a micron level.
Wire EDM allows us to manufacture highly complex shapes with unique geometries and maintain extremely precise tolerances. It works with materials of all types and is automated and fully CNC controlled. At Keats, we primarily use our wire EDM capabilities for the quick and precise manufacture and maintenance of tools and dies.
At Keats Our 2 state of the art wire edm machines allow us to respond extremely fast to any tooling malfunction issues. In the event of a tool component failure, a replacement component can be replicated in-house within a matter of hours. All of our tools are built with insert-able cutting and forming stations allowing us ease of maintenance and quick adaptability to customer driven part changes.
Work with Keats
These technologies are only a handful of the tools Keats Manufacturing Company uses to ensure the highest quality parts and assemblies for our customers. Check out Part 2 to learn about the other tools and technology Keats incorporates into their manufacturing processes.