Case Study: Turnkey Metalforming and Machining Helps Global Kitchen Appliance OEM Maximize Extrusion ROI

When it comes to delivering value to their discerning appliance customers, kitchen OEMs are tasked with providing metal designs that meet unique form and functional requirements. Manufacturing superior, quality metal handles can be challenging, especially if your base material is an aluminum extrusion. 

Fortunately for one global appliance manufacturer, Mills Products breathed new life into their aluminum extrusions to create functional, aesthetically-pleasing kitchen appliance handles. 

The Extrusion Challenge

The kitchen OEM required arcked pocket handles to be used for refrigerator, freezer, and oven ranges, but needed additional metalforming and machining capability to create the curved handles from dull, straight extrusions.

Creating a consistent, arc shape was especially challenging because aluminum extrusions usually come from multiple sources, so every metal part has widely varying degrees of softness or “temper.” Aluminium tempers have a tendency to “snap” back into place after bending. Bending each piece once would not hold the arc shape. The Mills team needed to develop a new bending process to deliver the desired result. 

The Turnkey Manufacturing Solution

The Mills engineering team worked with the R&D team to test and build a series of “hard” bending tools. The team developed an indicator gauge with sensors to measure each bending attempt at each tooling station, to gather data such as the average variance for 30 extrusion pieces. After running the parts through each station, the team determined the bending variant for each tool, and modified the design of each tool accordingly, until the tooling system created a consistent bend.

The Mills team used advanced machining techniques to add holes, slots, notches, and other handle features with custom tools that could turn each handle in three or four different directions to add each feature.

Delivering a consistent, arc-shaped handle required numerous metal engineering considerations, including:

  • Aluminum extrusion and temper type
  • Metal fatigue limits for curving and bending
  • Tonnage pressure to ensure the shape holds
  • Volume of parts required per application 
  • Extrusion application for final assembly 

Thanks to the data created by the tooling indicator sensors, along with R&D testing and retesting, Mills successfully delivered a consistent arc for every appliance handle.

The ROI Result

Thanks to the metal manufacturing expertise of the Mills team, the appliance OEM maximized their aluminum extrusion ROI, which they had previously viewed as low-value commodities. Creating a consistent, metal bend was key to delivering bottom-line value. Their dull, straight extrusions were transformed into eye-catching, functional pocket handles for their oven and refrigerator appliances.

Plus, with their metalforming, machining, and R&D services available in-house, Mills created exceptional value without the expense of outsourcing. This in turn increased production turnaround time and ensured part consistency.

Since 1945, the extrusion experts at Mills Products have innovated value-adding metalforming, machining, and finishing techniques to create cost-effective, superior metal products for the appliance, automotive, and furniture industries.

Mills also specializes in assembling these transformed extrusions into value-added components such as:

  • Handles for the home or business, for elevators, office doors, shower & bath safety grabs, kitchen drawers, and appliances
  • Aesthetically-pleasing trim for shelving, refrigerators, office furniture, automobiles, and semi trucks
  • Strong, lightweight frames for industrial structures and solar panels

To learn how the Mills turnkey manufacturing experts can help you get more value out of your metal extrusions, please contact us today.