By Kate Bachman
Metal fabrication job shops are the Swiss Army knives of manufacturers. Projects may walk in the door that are
as varied as imaginable from the ones coming in
the day before. “You never know what you’ll be
asked to make,” fabricators typically say. “You
have to be prepared for anything.”
Certainly, metal fabricators competing with
global manufacturers do not want to turn down
a customer. More tools in the toolbox boost a
manufacturer’s ability to handle whichever
quantities, timetables, and part complexities
are required. Fabricators that are also equipped
with stamping capabilities—or vice versa—are
well-positioned to handle nearly any request.
Need prototypes? We can do that. A short
run of 200 by Tuesday? Sure. Then, once you finalize your design, a million parts three months
from now? You bet. We can do all of those. No
reason to go anywhere else.
But having that broad capacity poses another quandary: Which process path do you use?
What indicates whether a job should be run on
a stamping press or a laser and turret press or
Stamping or fabricating? How do you make
that determination? Stamper/fabricator manu-
facturers ACE Stamping & Machine Co., Racine,
Wis.; General Stamping & Metalworks (GSM),
South Bend, Ind.; and Kapco Metal Stamping,
Grafton, Wis., share their perspectives and ap-
proaches to this conundrum.
ACE Stamping & Machine Co. Vice President
James Haarsma said, “How to determine which
route to take is one of our biggest challenges.
This is something that I battle every day.”
GSM President and CEO John Axelberg said,
“When selecting the manufacturing method
for a particular part, we try to propose the low-
est-cost option, taking into consideration lead
time to production and total volume over the
product life cycle.”
Kapco Vice President Mike Kenny said, “For
each part we look at annualized volume, geom-
etry, size, features, tolerances, material, equip-
ment requirements in tonnage and size, and
our customer’s tooling ROI as the key decision
points that drive which particular processes
are deployed. Choosing fabrication, stamping,
or some combination thereof is the result of
identifying the most competent processes to
yield consistent, defect-free parts at the lowest
Cost is the pivot point that all other factors revolve around. Manufacturers leverage each of the
processes’ strengths to achieve cost e;ciencies.
Kenny cites stamping’s capability to combine
several operations in the press as one way it
can tip the scales in its favor. “If there are opportunities to combine additional operations,
such as fastening, tapping, extruding, coining,
or part marking, in a stamping press stroke,
often the reduction in part cost will o;set the
investment in stamping tooling and help drive
the decision,” he said.
Stamping can be automated, requiring less la-
bor input per part than other operations, such
as a manual press brake, he added.
»Manufacturers with both stamping and fabrication
capabilities must decide which process—or which
combination of both—to use to produce a part. Photo
courtesy of Kapco Metal Stamping. 10 places to draw the line
For long runs and circular shapes, stamping is still the fastest game in town. Photo courtesy of Kapco.
FAB OR STAMP?