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OKAY Industries, Inc. Wins Product Development Award

CLEVELAND, OH - April 2, 2008 - OKAY Industries, Inc., New Britain, CT, has received the 2008 Ulbrich Award for Competitive Excellence in Product Development as part of the Precision Metalforming Association’s (PMA’s) Awards of Excellence in Metalforming. OKAY won the award for developing a sub-assembly for an endoscopy device used in minimally invasive surgeries. The company produces metal stampings and subassemblies for the medical/surgical, automotive, defense/aerospace and other specialty industrial markets.

OKAY Industries worked with its customer, a major medical device manufacturer, to jointly develop the low-cost endoscopy assembly—an articulating tube that could be controlled by guide wires during surgery. The tube, known as an articulation joint, is a patent-pending stamped stainless-steel link assembly with 28 springs. OKAY partnered with its customer to develop the sophisticated component, typically manufactured as a laser-cut and welded tube assembly, as a significantly lower-cost stamping while maintaining critical features. The process is controlled, monitored and maintained to consistently produce high-quality parts.

Manufacture of the articulation joint is challenging due to the complex assembly process required, tolerances on key dimensions and target cost. The initial manufacturing method called for laser cutting stainless-steel tubing and then welding springs to the individual links—cost-effective for prototypes and low-volume applications. But for higher-volume production, in excess of one million units per year, a metal-stamped and welded assembly is more cost-effective.

OKAY employed its Production Proven Prototyping process to utilize the same tooling concepts, sequence of operations and grain direction that would be used in the production tool. Component strength, cracking, surface finish, burrs/edge condition and feature-tolerance capability were a few of the concerns that OKAY assessed. The primary reason for prototyping is to verify that the component or assembly will function as intended in its final application. However, for metal stampings, especially in this case, it was critical to go beyond prototyping for fit, form and function and think ahead to manufacturing. Prototyping of metal stampings in this way allowed OKAY to determine if the stamping process was stable and capable, and if cost expectations could be achieved. It also allowed the company to identify opportunities for improvements in cost and quality of the component or assembly.

Following the joint development effort and prototyping by OKAY, the patent-pending manufacturing process was adopted. Here, individual links are stamped and interconnected as a complete set to maintain their locations during weld assembly. After all of the inter-connected flat links have been joined via laser-welded springs, the links are separated and the assembled articulation joint is formed into its finished diameter. To reconnect the open ends of each link, a laser operation seam welds the last row of internal springs across each link from end to end.

Using metal stampings to produce links in place of laser-cut tubing has provided tremendous cost savings for the customer. Additionally, the ability to weld the majority of the springs in place while the links are in the flat state simplified tooling/welding-fixture design and reduced the project’s capital cost. Also, with the automated laser-welding operation and integration of the automated rollforming operation, the customer is ensured that every part will meet print specifications without requiring secondary operations.

One far-reaching advantage is the fact that this R&D effort by OKAY has uncovered other opportunities for this technology to benefit customers in several industries that seek to reduce costs by developing articulation joints via the stamping process.

The Product Development Award is one of eight Awards of Excellence in Metalforming, presented annually by PMA. Sponsored by Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals, Inc., North Haven, CT, it acknowledges a manufacturing company that demonstrates outstanding innovation in developing and manufacturing a product that best uses metal in place of a nonmetal competitive material. Along with recognition in industry publications and at exhibitions, OKAY will receive a $1,500 cash prize, which OKAY has elected to contribute to the Central Connecticut State University School of Technology.

PMA is the full-service trade association representing the $91-billion metalforming industry of North America—the industry that creates precision metal products using stamping, fabricating and other value-added processes. Its nearly 1,200 member companies include metal stampers, fabricators, spinners, slide formers and roll formers as well as suppliers of equipment, materials and services to the industry. Members are located in 30 countries, with the majority found in North America―in 41 states of the United States as well as Canada and Mexico.

EDITOR'S NOTE: More information on PMA's Awards of Excellence in Metal-forming is available at www.pma.org.