When It Comes To EDM Graphite – You Get What You Pay For
November 2017 Blog
Karl Schmidt, QMR/SSBB – Quality Manager
Graphel Carbon Products
This past October, a Japanese company named Kobe Steele was found to be falsifying test records and substituting materials for various genuine metallics used in the transportation industry. Although rare, this can and does happen in the graphite industry.
Graphel Carbon Products has been AS9100 Certified since 1994, and we verify all of our materials and suppliers. We only sell materials that are genuine and verified, and do not substitute. As the Quality Manager here at Graphel, I take my position very seriously, and I am very concerned that our customers are purchasing genuine materials, and are not deceived by substitution.
In today’s manufacturing world, materials production and supply have become increasingly complex. Business moves quickly, information is exchanged almost instantaneously and pressure for immediate performance can be extremely high – even in industries that have long production cycles. As a result, product shipment and quality assurance can often struggle to keep up.
Let’s start with the definition of substitution:
Product substitution: Knowing and willful substitution, without the purchaser’s knowledge or consent, of sub-standard, used or counterfeit or materials those specified in the contract or purchase order.
Although most graphite materials are not used as a robust structural material, they are still a significant part of your customer’s EDM operation. If your organization does any work in the supply chain of any major aircraft OEMs, whether it’s EDMing of engine hardware, supplying electrodes, or just graphite blocks you will, and do, effect the EDM process.
Consider the following Aircraft OEM specifications:
- GE spec. P17TF1-S (Electrical Discharge Machining) lists “Electrode Material” as a “Significant Parameter” that “at a minimum, will be controlled within the limits of a control plan” (ref par 3.5 g)
- Similar requirements are listed for Pratt & Whitney in MES-3251 & 3252
- AS9100 D states the following in sect 8.4.2 “Type & Extent of Control” of “External Providers”.
Ok, so what does all this mean? Basically if you buy graphite, you need to require a test report or a certificate of conformance from your provider. You are obligated to validate the accuracy of that report by either an external or internal source within your organization.
Most businesses’ operational profiles involve complicated supply chains that include multiple potential third party suppliers or contractors. From a business perspective, some feel that there is a transfer of risk when using third party suppliers, but is this really the case? If a supplier lets you down, where does the buck really stop? How can you ensure that you are working with the right suppliers, and what level of oversight and accountability do you need to ensure quality. Unfortunately, most of the answers to these questions are unknown, and the operational realities can be obscured.
So, where am I going with this? If you are getting an unbelievably low cost electrode or graphite material, there is probably a reason.
- Is your electrode or graphite provider AS9100 certified?
- Can they provide actual or typical material certifications when requested?
- Are they providing your organization with certificates of conformance?
Graphel Carbon Products is AS 9100 Certified, and has been since the introduction of the standard. Additionally, we are also NADCAP Certified. We will and do provide certificates of conformance and actual and typical material certificates.
We stand by our products and assure that you are getting the material you have requested. Graphel Carbon Products makes sure you are getting what you paid for.