You can see the impact of metal stamping using progressive dies in the building trades, consumer products, automobiles and the equipment we use to manufacture “things”. From everyday appliances in our homes to heavy machinery for large-scale industry, die stamped parts are in most every metal part in use today. While innovations continue to lead the metal forming industry forward, the foundation of progressive metal stamping remains the same, set in place in the early and mid-20th century. In the decades since, little has change because progressive die stamping methods of metal forming are basic; even cutting-edge manufacturers still follow the guidelines set in the 50s, and they still serve well today.
Early History of Progressive Die Stamping
The 1896 treatise titled The Press Working of Metals by Oberlin Smith, together with J.L. Lewis’s Dies and Die Making a year later, discussed “follow-on” tooling and the use of “successive gang cutting” techniques.These were the early beginnings of progressive dies. At its onset in the early 20th century, progressive dies saw fairly limited usage among companies in need of in-house manufacturing. Contract tool and die makers still relied on single-operation presses and workers loading and unloading materials by hand to transfer them between dies – a slow and often dangerous task, as hand-feeding strips and parts meant exposing unprotected hands to moving parts. The post-WWII metal manufacturing industry pushed production demands too increase outputs, and worker injuries on these single function hand transfer presses were becoming increasingly commonplace.
The Start of Modern Metal-Stamping Tradition
In 1953, design engineer Ed Stouten started a die design business called the Capitol Engineering Company in Grand Rapids, MI. He proposed an alternative: a multi-station progressive die where parts remained on the strip between operations and scrap material was reused. Sheet metal bending, cutting, punching and forming became a continuous process with little manual input between stages. Impressed, tool and die makers spread the word, and everyone wanted to try this new progressive die stamping process. Stouten developed an official manual and training course, Progressive Dies for Designers, Engineers and Manufacturers, and spent the next 50 years traveling the world along with leading die designer Arnold Miedema, giving seminars to share these new ideas.
The Legacy of Progressive Die Stamping
The fundamentals of progressive metal stamping remain the same not because of stagnation, but because of how significant the development was, and is, to the sheet metal bending industry. Stouten and Miedema’s seminars and designs remain vital for most tool and die makers in Pennsylvania and those outside our region. Manufacturers and customers everywhere owe it to Stouten’s work for the production of high-quality, reliable and safe die-stamped metal parts.