When manufacturing tiny parts, it is all too easy for those parts to get lost or damaged during processing. The tolerances for making a custom stainless steel basket for parts with dimensions of 0.11” by 0.051” are, naturally, very tight—and almost impossible to meet when using the kind of purely manual assembly methods used by cheap foreign manufacturers who rely on low wages to keep costs down.
Recently, a manufacturer of construction and other high-performance materials approached Marlin with a request for a custom stainless steel basket that could hold countless tiny silicone parts through a curing process in an oven without letting the parts fall out of the basket. The basket, once the parts were done curing, would then be washed with an isopropyl alcohol (IPA) solution and a rag or with a powerwash process with water as needed.
How did Marlin make the custom stainless steel baskets for silicone parts curing that the client needed? Here’s how:
Verifying the Stainless Steel Basket’s Requirements
Prior to completing the custom wire mesh basket design, Marlin’s engineering team sent the client a custom basket questionnaire to verify all of the specifics of the client’s silicone parts curing process, such as:
- How the parts needed to be held (loose or in a specific layout);
- What temperatures and chemicals would be involved;
- How the curing basket would be moved;
- What chemicals the basket would be exposed to; and
- Any specific features the basket would require.
In their custom basket quote, the client’s biggest concern was that no silicone parts should be allowed to fall from the basket. To this end, they requested that a heavy-duty locking lid be added to the basket’s frame so that, no matter how roughly the basket would be handled, the parts could not fall out of the basket.
While the curing process itself didn’t involve much in the way of rough motion, the basket might get dropped or rolled during handling, and the basket was small enough to be comfortably carried in one hand. This increased the risk of the basket getting dropped by accident or otherwise mishandled (and, the basket couldn’t be made larger because of the size of the curing oven).
So, adding the locking lid and securing it with two stainless steel tight-hold draw latches was deemed to be the ideal solution.
Additionally, the basket needed to let air flow freely throughout while keeping the parts to be cured inside. To accomplish this, Marlin’s engineers decided to use a fine wire mesh for the sides, lid, and bottom of the basket. The frame would be made with thicker sheet metal pieces to enhance its sturdiness in case of accidental impacts. The space between wires in the stainless steel basket was set at 0.028” wide—a little over half the width of the narrowest side of the silicone parts being cured. This would help to ensure that no parts could fall out of the basket during the curing process or in between processes.
Manufacturing the Perfect Stainless Steel Basket
Once the design team had nailed down the initial draft of the design, they tested it using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software. This software would break the basket’s design file into countless finite elements and simulate the effects of different stresses on each one. If the basket would corrode or bend under these stresses, the basket would fail the test and the design would be reworked.
After the design was refined to the point where it could pass the test, Marlin’s manufacturing team would take over. Using the CAD file of the design, they would program various wire bending, welding, and sheet metal cutting machines to create the pieces of the basket, as well as router a wood block to make a mold to hold the pieces of the basket in place as it would be assembled.
Marlin’s factory automation would make each piece of the basket to exacting standards—helping to guarantee that every basket would meet the incredibly tight parts tolerances needed to keep the tiny 0.051” wide parts being cured from accidentally falling through the mesh. If the assembly of any wire in the basket was off by 0.02” or more, it would turn the basket into a sieve for the parts being processed.
However, even though the manufacturing team was tasked with creating 20 of these custom baskets, they were able to make each one perfectly within the client’s tolerance requirements. Thanks to the precision of Marlin’s manufacturing equipment, and some good old-fashioned American engineering and know-how, Marlin Steel was able to make the perfect parts curing baskets for the client’s needs.
Need “Made in America” quality engineered on the double? Contact the experts at Marlin Steel to get started with a custom basket quote ASAP.