Near net shape technology: An innovative opportunity for the
, E. Gentili
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Brescia, Viale Venezia 94, 25123 Brescia, Italy
Near net shape is an innovative concept in industrial manufacturing. The main focus of this technology
is to produce parts, as near as possible close to their ﬁnal shape and contour, implementing non-
chipping techniques. In this way the manufacturing gives the possibility of a ﬁnished product with
minimal cutting. Near net shape technology also generates the opportunity to reduce the productive
steps for a given process chain. Both the above-mentioned characteristics have the same main goal:
achieving cost reduction. This fundamental target incorporates several other advantages, such as:
reduction of process variability, quality improvement in the ﬁnished product and the possibility to focus
the design of mechanical devices on functional features, eliminating technical constraints imposed by
the process. Based on these factors and in cooperation with the IWU Fraunhofer Institut of Chemnitz,
the authors conducted a research regarding the manufacturing of an innovative automotive gear shaft,
produced by applying near net shape processes. The goal of this study is to evaluate whether it is more
convenient to produce the part implementing a traditional production chain or an innovative one, based
on near net shape techniques. The ﬁrst step was to locate the available technologies in order to produce
the selected part. There are two alternatives: a traditional cutting manufacture, performed with a
numerical control turning machine and a near-net-shape technique, characterized only by deformation
processes. The next step was to detect the main differential costs between the two opportunities.
Comparing technical data and information available in literature, the authors detected the main
differential voices of cost: raw material, amortization, manpower and direct setup. In order to make the
study more reliable, the authors assumed an actual industrial environment, featured by an annual
demand of 400,000 pieces and a product lifetime cycle of 10 yr. The evaluation led to the conclusion that
the innovative manufacturing chain is more convenient.
& 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Today’s companies have to face competition that becomes
stronger daily. The industry of emerging countries settles
continuously new goals in industrial process organization and
productive management. In this competitive environment, com-
panies have to look with renovated interest towards the chances
offered by innovative industrial techniques. Near net shape
technologies represent a signiﬁcant opportunity to achieve
production improvement. The main purpose of this kind of
techniques is to produce semi-ﬁnished products, as near as
possible to their deﬁnitive shape and contour, implementing
exclusively plastic deformation. In this way, cutting operations are
conﬁned to the ﬁnishing steps. The research of cost reduction is
the background of near net shape technologies implementation.
As known, plastic deformation does not produce metallic scrap.
The easiest way to achieve an efﬁcient production is to reduce raw
material waste. Near net shape technologies ensure several other
advantages; ﬁrst of all, they allow to manufacture complex
semiﬁnished products in few productive steps, also characterized
by undercuts or particular shapes that cannot be easily manu-
factured using traditional cutting techniques. To produce a part in
fewer steps means to lower the variability of the process, in other
words better quality and whole process efﬁciency. The manufac-
turing ﬂexibility makes it possible to group in one complex piece
more several parts that are traditionally produced independently
and then assembled or welded together; the following assembling
operations will be easier and faster with reduced possibility of
committing mistakes. Thanks to near net shape technologies,
designers can plan products focusing on the ﬁnal purpose of the
device, without being forced by technical constraints imposed by
the process. To get full beneﬁt from this opportunity, designers
must conceive products for near-net-shape technologies since the
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Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing
0736-5845/$ - see front matter & 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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E-mail address: email@example.com (R. Cominotti).
Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 24 (2008) 722– 727