This is something that a few customers have reached out to ask me, so we thought it might be a quick and fun blog post! The question is regarding the small red piece of our Ford F-Series Rear Seat Release assembly. This piece is manufactured from 0.19" aluminum plate and the process that we've selected is abrasive waterjet cutting. We work with a small business in Blaine, Minnesota to produce these. After they're cut, we tumble them to de-burr the edges and clean them prior to anodizing. The resulting part is clean, bright red, quite durable and lightweight.
Alternatives to using abrasive waterjet are primarily laser cutting and machining. The issue that we've found with laser cutting is that we can't get a clean edge finish on the part, like we can with our current process. The laser piece needs a great amount of cleanup and post-processing, which negates any cost savings very quickly.
The second alternative that we've considered seriously is to CNC machine each piece. Of course, this process adds substantial cost, as it's quite time and labor intensive, but it also results in a very nice finished product. Ultimately, to afford CNC machining these parts, we'd have to lose the logo feature on the interior of the part and to be honest, that's one of our favorite features of the product. We bounced this idea off of some customers and friends and found that they agreed. We decided against going this route to lower cost and because the part is hidden most of the time. The added cost of CNC machining isn't justified by the final product.
One operation that we may add to our manufacturing process is to add a fillet around the outside edge of the latch pull on both sides. This will provide most of the benefit of a machined piece without a good portion of the added cost. Look for us to experiment with that in the future!