As fuel efficiency requirements continue to become more and more strict, the demands of our customers increase as well. With many of our customers requiring a 100% zero defect requirement on the aluminum control valves we manufacture, we needed to find a better solution.
After extensive research and experimentation, combined with our machining expertise in the automotive and off-road equipment industries, we have found the answer to meet those demands.
Raw aluminum is relatively soft and malleable, and after millions of cycles, control valve metering edges can degrade significantly, impacting valve performance. For this reason, we often recommend anodizing be considered for the control valves we manufacture. Anodizing is an electrochemical process used to increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer on the exterior of metal parts. This oxidized surface is easier to work, allowing for more accurate finishing of critical control valve features. Honing and deburring are more effective on anodized components, giving customers a high performing, zero defect product, holding tighter and more repeatable tolerances.
Benefits of Anodizing
The hardness of an anodized surface allows for consistent size control of valve ports. (The tolerance is often within 2 microns). The edge conditions of the ports can also be machined to be very sharp and hard for maximum efficiency. Working an anodized surface also reduces the burrs that can form when machining raw aluminum. Otherwise, these would contaminate the valve and cause timing issues.
Anodized parts also provide superior wear resistance. This durability prolongs the life of the part and allows for the use of automation, where softer metal parts need to be more carefully handled to avoid damage. The secondary benefit of automation is a more efficient machining process.
Hard coat anodizing also improves the micro-finish of the part by two to five times. This reduced hysteresis (sticking) allows the parts of the valve to slide smoothly, which also contributes to enhanced performance.
Partners in the Process
Delivering ten million control valves a year requires a dependable partner for the anodizing process. Pioneer Metal Finishing of Green Bay, Wisconsin is a leader in their field. Working closely with our team, they are willing to invest the time and effort required to provide our customers with the best product possible.
Most anodizing companies by default, and ease in their process, provide thick layers of hard coat finishes. These thick layers have a tendency to crack when being machined due to the brittle structure of anodize hard coat. Pioneer’s research and development staff worked with our engineers to develop a process that maintains a consistently thinner anodized surface thickness. This allows our production staff at Camcraft to pre-size the aluminum to a tight tolerance, within 25 microns. With the thinner anodized layer, we are able consistently machine sharp edges without cracking the anodized layer.
Pioneer has also consulted and worked closely with Camcraft when trying to resolve customer challenges. When one of our customers was looking for a finer ID surface finish for their control valve, Pioneer worked to modify their hard coat recipe. Working with this consistently uniform shell, we were able to bring the surface finish down from 30 Ra (roughness average) to the 12-16 Ra range, significantly improving the valve’s performance.
Pioneer anodizes the volume of parts we need with zero defects and delivers them to our door with a 100% on time delivery record, aiding us with our own JIT requirements. Any other company might not have the resources to work as closely with us as Pioneer has, and our partnership has allowed us to continue to meet and exceed customer expectations for the high quality control valves we manufacture every day.