Extend Die Life with Flood Welding
One of the forging industry’s biggest challenges is finding ways to increase die life, a parameter that is fundamental to efficiency and profitability. One way to achieve this is through the process called flood welding, a high-speed, high-deposition weld-metal recovery of a worn forging-die cavity.
History should never be ignored when solutions are needed in the forging industry. Our company has been providing solutions to this industry for almost 75 years. Whether it is open-die, closed-die, ring rollers, upsetters, hammer or press forging for both ferrous and nonferrous materials, Weld Mold has gained the experience, ability and know-how to help any forge operation overcome nearly all the tooling productivity problems that affect the bottom line.
Global economy, tariffs, supplier shortages, extended lead times and anticipating how changes in any, or all, of these conditions may affect your company are all serious considerations in today’s business world. Getting new customers and maintaining old clients means that all these concerns must be addressed. With many external influences affecting how business is done these days, it makes sense to look inward for ways to contain costs to the highest degree possible.
In 1913, Henry Ford had an internal problem that required a solution – turnover rate. With the advent of the moving assembly line and a standard nine-hour work day, Ford had to hire 52,000 workers to fill 14,000 jobs! Productivity suffered, quality was undoubtedly affected and costs could not be controlled reliably. The solution that Ford developed was considered radical at the time, especially by his peers. No one had ever tried it, and there was no precedent with which to make a comparison.
Many forges today face the same kind of problem with the tooling they use or may produce. Forging-die steel is purchased at regular intervals to replace aging and worn-out dies that are scrapped at the end of useful productivity. The closer a die gets to the scrap pile, the less reliably it performs.
A measurement of the efficiency of a person, machine or system is how well they convert inputs into useful outputs. In the forge, increased productivity can be accomplished by increasing the number of parts produced per die re-sink, the number of re-sinks a forging die can support and the length of time a die can be in service. We feel there is only one process that can achieve all the above.
The step-by-step flood-welding process we developed can mean a forging die will make more parts per cavity, reduce re-sink costs and provide an unlimited productive life span. Forging dies can have a nearly limitless life span of productive output. The cost of getting a die to fit in the process, press or hammer needs to be incurred only once.
The model of Henry Ford’s landmark wage doubling in 1914, along with instituting an eight-hour work day, worked for him in that it ended the incredible annual man-power turnover rate of 380%. What Ford did in 1914 (and again in 1926) was to get more for less. The money spent was reported to be $10 million! The result was that productivity increased, man-power turnover ceased to be a concern and quality was no longer a question.
The productivity, profitability and quality gains made by Ford was an investment in the stability of Ford Motor Company. Similarly, Weld Mold can provide the same type of stability to forging companies with their investment in welded dies.
The virtual elimination of die-steel purchases alone could be worth $1 million or more annually to a high-volume company that employs die welding. Many forges would view the doubling (or more) of production for each cavity re-sink a real plus. The ability to reassign die blocks to new production is a huge benefit from the standpoint of turning obsolete cavities, in blocks that already fit the forging process, into productive tooling for new product.
Not long ago, new die steel had a six-month lead time. A forge that has the ability to weld dies can ignore the onerous die-steel lead times. A successful die-welding program means that a wider variety of steels can be used as the base for forging dies. Press dies can be converted to hammer dies with the addition of welded shanks, and dies that would normally be scrapped due to severe damage can be repaired and put back into service.
Components used in the manufacture of forgings – such as rams, sow blocks, columns, die holders, eccentrics, guides, anvils, frames, etc. – that may wear and crack with use can also be repaired using our techniques. Lead times for forging components can be several times that of die steel. When downtime must be kept to a minimum, weld repair of these forging components can mean the difference between meeting production schedules or not.
Getting More for Less
Originally developed to provide the lowest-cost alternative possible to die-steel replacement, the Weld Mold welding process and the alloys developed to best take advantage of that process have proven themselves for over 70 years.
The process, called flood welding, was painstakingly developed to permit the high-speed, high-deposition weld recovery of a forging-die cavity with alloys that were the subject of equally thorough research and testing. Many of our alloys have become the standard for forging-die and forging-component weld repair.
As with any process that is improperly employed, or material that is used without regard to end-of-application characteristics, failure and dissatisfaction will result. In too many instances, the demand for “instant gratification” requires shortcutting the process. Lack of time for preheat, peen or post-weld stress relief have all been used as reasons why the process doesn’t work. However, doing it right the first time saves money and time over doing it two or three times.
Another area of concern is the preparation for welding. Because there aren’t any cracks, there wasn’t any preparation for weld –
no scarfing or machining to remove fatigued material. This creates a problem by limiting the effectiveness of the weld metal. Chosen to have superior wear qualities in most cases, the weld can be highly diluted and will not have predictable performance characteristics without opening the cavity. It may exhibit none of the performance properties the weld was chosen for.
“Getting more for less” means following the procedure, doing it right, doing it once and knowing that the quality will be there. On the same side of that coin, the proper application of a properly selected weld filler also means that it will be longer before the die comes back for repair or rebuild.
An investment in the flood-welding process is much less costly than what Henry Ford spent to solve his turnover and productivity problems. The return on the investment can be sustained not only on a profit-per-part level, but it can also be used to reduce maintenance, repair cost and turnaround time on forging equipment.
If the investment in a solid, proven welding program seems to be costly, think of it this way. Die steel that is in a constant cycle between the receiving dock and the scrapyard has no value aside from the few parts it has produced. Add to this the cost of getting a raw block to the point that it can produce a part. This cycle occurs repeatedly and is money spent accordingly. In contrast, a properly welded forging die will perform consistently for years. The payoff for a quality, complete welding system could be less than a year with a qualified welder.
This brings us to the problem of where to get a qualified welder. There is a resurgence of welding programs at the high-school level and most community colleges also have welding programs. Many of the students are looking for an opportunity to put their new skills to work. We can provide on-site training to bring those new skills on line with the proven application process required to produce welded forging dies capable of years of reliable and repeatable service.
When a part is no longer required by the customer and there is a pile of spent forge tooling, there is no reason to scrap anything. Ninety percent of the obsolete tooling can be turned into blank dies waiting for a new cavity and a new purpose. New products can be developed more quickly in reassigned dies because the size and shape of the die already fit your hammer or press.
For those that don’t currently embrace die welding, and flood welding specifically, I look forward to hearing the objections. With current global situations there are plenty of concerns that need to be addressed. Don’t let the source of your next die be one of them.
You already own it!