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Todays engineers have more choices than ever when it comes to specifying the proper components for all types of applications.
There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing an application-specific component or a standard component.
This decision is mostly driven by the application.
*The goal of a design engineer should be to choose the ideal component for a design, and not to limit this decision by what is in a catalog or what is found online.
Therefore, today we will explore the strengths and appropriate applications for both standard and special components so that design engineers can make the most educated decision when specifying for their designs.
*What is a standard component?A component manufactured to an exact industry standard.
They are predictable in design.
Trade organizations such as NFPA, ISO and others have established specific guidelines governing the tolerances and dimensions of standard components.
Standard components are generally produced en mass more of a production driven model with no customization for specific applications.
*When is a standard component used?
Standard components are usable in a wide range of applications that dont require components to be modified or have unique considerations.
They are normally chosen when space is unrestricted.
Standard components cannot be manipulated or customized without additional cost, so engineers will design around this type of component or purchase additional materials to accommodate the piece.
Standard components are currently used roughly 90% of the time.
*Why do engineers choose standard components?
Standard components are historically the natural selection for design engineers because they have been the most common and accessible.
Standard components are often seen as the only option, as they appear in catalogs and have been the more cost effective and timely option in the past.
However, recent innovations have now made it possible to use special components when it would have been impossible or cost and time prohibitive before.
*What is a special component?
A special component is precisely designed and built to fit a specific application.
There is no limit or standard to the size, shape or construction of a special component.
*When is a special component used?
Special components lend themselves to designs in which standard components do not fit the space, do not last within the application, etc.
Special components also allow engineers to define how to use them and are great for new designs where the engineers only limit is his or her creativity.
They are currently used roughly 10% of the time.
*Why choose special components?
Design engineers use special components when they need more flexibility than what a standard piece offers.
Design engineers can create a component to accommodate the exact needs of a specific application.
Additionally, you may choose to specify a special component when youve tried the standard and its simply not working properly to solve a problem that a standard component cannot.
*There are several disadvantages of standard components.
First, the complexity and accuracy involved in todays designs requires that components used are precise and fit the exact application needed.
Because all applications are different, design engineers often end up designing around a specific component instead of securing the exact component that they need.
To make a standard component work within an application, engineers are often required to source additional materials to mount the piece properly, which increases the project time and cost.
*Continuing with the disadvantages of standard components
Components that are mass produced and designed to a certain, uniform standard are not always what will work best within a design or application, but engineers often feel limited by these options.
There are times when standard components work just fine. But when they wont, its important to note that there are other, affordable and timely options at your disposal.
But first, you have to understand the truth about these special components. *The truth about special components is that
Special components are often avoided because there are many misconceptions surrounding them.
Historically, these application-specific components have been viewed as too expensive, hard to get and impossible to replicate.
In recent years, some manufacturers have devoted energy to overcoming these obstacles and addressing the issues todays engineers face to ensure they have the option to get the exact component they need.
To illustrate the changes that have taken place, Ill walk you through three myths and facts:
*Myth #1: Custom components are more expensive (even cost-prohibitive) than standard ones
This is false!
Facts: That isnt universally true anymore.
Standard components often require extra parts to properly mount within a design, which can increase the costs by as much as 10-15% on a single project. Multiply that across a number of components required for a single design, and that cost increase is significant.
This also requires additional engineering time and can slow down a projects timeline as modifications are needed. Both of these scenarios increase the overall cost of the project.
Application-specific components may be more expensive on the front-end, but the savings realized over the life of the piece and overall application are significant. With a component designed SPECIFICALLY for the application, the design will work much better and more effectively over time.
Special components can also be designed to withstand repetitive use and extra force, allowing them to be built correctly the first time and decreasing the frequency of needed replacement.
*Myth #2: Custom components take much longer to produce
This is also false!
Facts:Engineers often find themselves designing around standard components, which on its own can add considerable time to the project.
Many manufacturers are now using manual equipment, allowing them to produce smaller quantities of components, keeping them from breaking into larger production runs. This decreases the turnaround time of a special component to roughly the same amount of time it takes to secure a standard component.
With the right information on the front end, this process can be just as quick as ordering a standard off the shelf.
Choosing an application-specific component also eliminates the additional time and work spent searching for, securing and applying additional parts needed to make a standard component fit. *Myth #3: Spare or replacement parts for custom components arent readily available.
Again, this is false!
Facts:Manufacturers can often produce spare or replacement parts for a custom component in less time than it took to build the original part.
Todays manufacturers have streamlined processes and utilize manual equipment that enables them to have a readily-available supply of additional parts for each specialized component they design and build.
Some manufacturers do not even require a minimum order for custom orders, giving engineers the flexibility of ordering what they need, when they need it.*Whats the real story?
Over the years, these special components have become more affordable, more convenient and quicker to secure. With a growing number of complex and precision applications, manufacturers are overcoming previous roadblocks ensuring that design engineers get the exact component they need for their application.
*So how do you know which decision to make when considering standard and special components?
For the purpose of this example, we will pretend were in the process of specifying a pneumatic cylinder for your next machine.*When youre designing your next machine, consider your options by asking yourself the following questions: What is the environment that the component will be operating in? Hi temperature? Low temperature?
Will the component be subject to any kind of wash down?
Will there be any kind of abrasive materials in the area, such as metal shavings, grinding dust, etc?How much linear force do you require out of the component?
Do you have enough room for a standard component? If not, an inline multi-piston component might meet the application requirements Are you replacing an existing component that is failing? If so, its possible to d...