STI is a leading powder metals manufacturer of highly complex designs – particularly for the automotive industry. Come take a look with April Terreri.
Taking a powder was never a better idea. Sintering Technologies, Inc. knows this better than any other manufacturer of highly engineered and designed products. “We are a highly diversified company capable of producing very complex products in high volumes,” says Vice President of Operations Greg Owens. “Our customers know they can rely on STI to deliver the highest quality products, using their most complicated specifications and detailed requirements to fit their applications.”
A QS-9000-certified facility located in Greensburg, Ind., STI is well known and respected in the industry as a superior powdered metal parts manufacturer, producing components primarily for the automotive industry, as well as other industries producing internal combustion reciprocating engines. STI offers three product lines, including valve guides, valve seats, and numerous structural parts such as timing pulleys, timing sprockets and bearing caps.
Powder it for Longer Wear
Components made using powdered metal technology deliver better wear characteristics and have a much longer life expectancy over similar components produced through machining or using cast iron. “Powdered metal methods allow tighter tolerances for the same price,” says Owens. “This process is becoming increasingly more popular because it eliminates a lot of the machining processes required in castings. Our process is much more cost effective than cast iron, machining or stamping methods.”
Compared to other metal fabricating methods, sintered components are far more superior. They deliver high yields from raw materials, excellent wear resistance, and their self-lubricating characteristics and adaptability to production fluctuations make them easier to work with. Powders can be composed of bronze, iron or alloying elements, which are blended and then compacted before entering the sintering process (heating the product without melting it). “We use a die or set of tools that is the precise shape of the required part,” explains Owens. “Powder is poured into the die and compressed using an upper and lower punch, forming the product required.”
At this point, the product is in the “green stage.” It then passes to the next phase of manufacturing where it is put through a sintering furnace and taken to within about 90 percent of the melting temperature of steel. “This is where fusion of the materials takes place,” Owens continues. “It is then cooled back down becoming a to-spec part.” Producing structural parts requires extensive machining processes when casting or stamping. Sintering technologies eliminates numerous machining stages, Owens says.
STI customers have come to rely on the company’s technological prowess. “Our manufacturing technology is state-of-the-art. We continue to invest a lot of time and money developing processes that can manufacture cost-effective products that will hold very tight tolerances,” says Owens. A distinct advantage STI has over other companies is its ability to deliver products with complex designs, and then stand behind those products with superior technical service. “We are owned by Hitachi Powdered Metals of Japan, the largest powdered metal company in Asia,” explains Owens. “One of our biggest advantages over the competition is we can far exceed technical capabilities and service than other powdered metal companies can offer. In today’s economy, manufacturing companies rely on the supplier to be capable of designing products they need, then providing the technical support they require, enabling them to be more productive and cost competitive.”
STI’s broad range of compacting presses can handle tonnages from 40 tons through 880 tons of force. The company offers extensive additional processes, including repressing, machining, lathing, and grinding – all in an effort to get precise results. “We are dedicated to continuously upgrading our manufacturing processes so they are cost effective and competitive – all in an effort to continue to deliver superior products to our customers,” Owens says. “On the technology side, we continually develop new materials that will give our customers longer-lasting products. Because the final machining for valve guides and valve seats is done after they are placed into the engine, companies look at reamer life and reamer wear as a big issue and our products deliver these qualities to our customers.”
These are not just empty words. STI recently implemented a manufacturing development group, consisting of a joint team of engineers from Hitachi (Japan) and STI. The goal is to accelerate the improvement of STI manufacturing capabilities and techniques in order to deliver superior, cost-effective products. “This group is evaluating our existing manufacturing techniques. They work with automation companies and equipment manufacturers to identify opportunities for improvement in increased cycle times and increased efficiencies while reducing changeover times,” says Owens.
Since its inception in 1988, the company, the result of a joint venture between Hitachi Powdered Metals and Cummins Engines, has shown robust and steady growth, averaging about 12 percent growth every year. “Hitachi was making valve guides for Cummins in Japan and they wanted to get involved in this market in the U.S.,” says Owens. “Hitachi also developed manufacturing and marketing opportunities for Japanese automotive companies such as Honda, Toyota and Nissan that were beginning to open manufacturing plants in the U.S. Hitachi also wanted to penetrate the valve guide market for U.S. automotive companies such as General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler.”
Driving to New Heights
STI is not a company to rest on its laurels. Always on the move to improve, STI recently launched a Detroit-based joint venture with German Bleistahl Produktions GMBH & Co. KG, a manufacturer of valve seats. “This joint venture (called BSNA – Bleistahl STI North America) will accomplish two things,” explains Owens. “First, it enables us to develop far superior products because of the combined strengths of each of our companies. STI has a stronger background producing valve guides, while Bleistahl’s strength is producing superior valve seats. Second, we will now be able to provide a one-supplier package of superior valve seats and valve guides to our customers.” This is good news for automotive companies, which continually look to reduce their supply base, and it shows our commitment to meet our customers’ expectations.
“This venture will be very important as we move forward, enabling us to provide better service to our customers as we retain more of the market share of valve guides and valve seats,” Owens says. “STI’s direction is to grow and expand our market, while continually identifying and meeting new requirements in changing engine designs. We will continue to offer better performing and cost-effective powdered metal parts to our customers.”