Cost Implications Of Material Selection

For any component material selection has a crucial impact its life cycle and performance. There are a very wide range of different options to consider when selecting the right materials and processes.

Environment: First and foremost with any material selection, it’s important to consider the operating environment of the component in question. Factors such as temperature, moisture, likelihood of wear, sources of corrosion and contaminants will all play a major role in shaping the sorts of materials you will look to use.

Cost of Material: It goes without saying that the higher the corrosion/wear implications of a given environment the more likely it is you would look to materials that are harder/denser in nature. These materials do not necessarily come cheap however and it can sometimes be a balancing act between the function of the part and the cost.

Ease of Sourcing: Some grades and alloys are very easy to source but that is not the case for everything. Having a readily available source of material is key to your output, and one that is not likely to fluctuate with demand is also key. Materials such as Tungsten for example are now listed as Conflict Minerals and are becoming harder to find, require more paperwork and both of these factors will see a rise in price.

Cost of Manufacture: The material you select will also have an impact on the cost of manufacture. There has been a rise of components being made out of ‘hard’ and ‘exotic’ materials in the last fives years with the likes of Inconel and Monel becoming more popular. Although these materials offer enhanced wear and corrosion resistance, they are also harder to machine and will take more time which in itself will have costs associated.

Cost Of Finishing: In many cases components will undergo a metal finishing process in order to enhance its corrosion resistance further. These can be processes such as Electro-Plating, Anodising, Galvanising, Phosphating, Thermal Spray, Paint or Powder or any number of specialist coatings. In some cases it might be more cost effective to use a cheaper base material in combination with the right metal finishing process, in most cases however it is advisiable to seal off the base material from its environment and thus prolong part life.

Cost of Replacement: With all of the above factored in you should have a good idea on the turnaround and costs associated with producing a new part. Understanding the life cycle and cost of the part can guide you as to whether or not a different material/finishing option might be better. If you only have to replace a part every 3 years instead of 3 months then it can certainly be worth paying more and using more expensive materials or processes.

Cost of Downtime: The other major cost implication that often dwarfs all of the above is the cost of downtime associated with changing and replacing the component in question. If your parts fails and it’s on an Oil& Gas pipeline then potentially you are losing thousands of pounds every minute. Often this is the most critical factor in any conisideration for a change in design or material.

B&B Precision offer CNC Machining and HVOF coating of a wide range of components. Working in nearly all materials we offer a completely outsourced manufacturing service. We have been working with a number of manufacturers on development projects as they look for new ways to extend their part’s life. In one example we were able to redesign a Deep Drawing Tool utilising our in house Tungsten Carbide Coating which improved the part life by a factor of 30, making the new manufacturing/coating costs significantly better value then the cost of replacement and downtime. We are an ISO certified machinist based just off the M1 near Huddersfield but serving the whole UK.


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