Author Archives: Robert Simon

  1. 4 Most Common Applications of Aluminum

    Leave a Comment

    Aluminum is a popular material choice across a wide range of industries. Its excellent properties, including low-density, high strength, lightweight, corrosion resistance, and more make it ideal for various applications. This blog will go over the common uses of aluminum as well as their processing options.

    Common Uses of Aluminum in the Automotive Industry 

    Although aluminum has only recently become a new alternative metal for vehicle substructures, it has also emerged as a serious contender for application in large automotive body components. Some advantages of using aluminum in these applications include:

    • Performance. Aluminum is lighter than steel and offers improved acceleration, better handling, precise control, and enhanced braking. Its malleability also enables designers to create various vehicle shapes for optimal performance.
    • Safety. Aluminum can increase the size and energy absorption capacity on a vehicle’s front and rear crumple zones, enhancing safety without increasing weight.
    • Environmental. Aluminum requires less energy to recycle, reducing crude oil usage and CO2 emissions.
    • Fuel efficiency. Aluminum parts are lighter compared to steel components, leading to reduced fuel consumption.
    • Durability. The reduced need for rust repair in vehicles with aluminum parts increases their lifespan. Aluminum vehicle parts are also more suitable for challenging environments.

    Common automotive applications of aluminum include:

    • Body components: Valance, trunk, hubcaps and rims, pillars, header panel, decklid, cowling, grille, roof rack, spoiler, bumper, fender, quarter panel, hood
    • Doors: Handles, latches, hinges, central locking
    • Windows: Sunroof railing, sunroof, motors

    Aluminum Parts for the Electronic Industry 

    The electrical conductivity and ductility of aluminum make it a popular option for electronics and electrical applications, such as:

    • Power systems
    • Electric motors
    • Power lines
    • Equipment housings
    • Internal brackets
    • Computer parts
    • Device casings

    In addition to the above applications, aluminum is also used in the production of electronic and microelectronic components, including capacitors. Other common uses include radar construction, pylons for power lines, and the production of low-voltage motors and transformers.

    Applications of Aluminum in the Construction Industry 

    Aluminum is used throughout the construction industry due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance, durability, non-toxicity, and ability to be produced in virtually any shape. These features enable the creation of structures that aren’t achievable using steel, plastic, or wood.

    With other properties such as durability, reflectivity, and machinability, aluminum has become the construction material of choice for applications such as:

    • High-rise buildings and skyscrapers
    • Drawbridges
    • Structural support for grid shell style architecture
    • Window trim
    • Architectural details
    • Downspouts and gutters
    • Roofs
    • Siding
    • Door frames
    • Staircases
    • Solar protection
    • Air conditioning systems
    • And more!

    Aviation Industry Applications 

    Depending on the particular alloy, aluminum can offer strength equivalent to steel with only a fraction of the weight. Because of this, aluminum aircraft components increase the plane’s carrying capacity and fuel efficiency. 

    The aviation industry relies on aluminum because of its high strength-to-weight ratio. It is also durable and strong enough to handle the stresses of landings and takeoffs. The common aluminum grades and applications in the aerospace industry include:

    • 2024: Commonly used for plane cowls, skins, and structures. It is also used for restoration and repair. 
    • 3003: Common applications include cowls and baffle plating.
    • 5062: Commonly used for fuel tanks due to its high corrosion resistance.
    • 6061: Typically used for non-aviation structural applications and aircraft landing mats
    • 7075: Used to increase the strength of aircraft structures. This high-strength alloy is one of the most popular grades used throughout the aviation industry.

    Processing Techniques 

    Aluminum processing techniques fit a host of end uses and can meet a wide range of dimensional tolerance requirements. The processing technique you use depends on the alloy used as well as the part design. Common processing methods include:

    • Forging 
    • Drawing
    • Extruding
    • Casting
    • Sintering
    • Machining
    • Stamping
    • Laser cutting
    • Explosion forming
    • 3D printing

    Finishing Options 

    There are various finishing options available to meet different functional, appearance, and environmental requirements. Common finishing methods include:

    • Sputtering
    • Etching
    • Powder coating
    • Anodizing
    • Painting
    • Plating
    • Tumbling
    • Sandblasting
    • Wire brushing

    Partner With USTEK Incorporated

    Aluminum will continue to be a material of choice for different industries due to its excellent properties. At USTEK, we deliver efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and timeliness for all our customers. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you source aluminum and aluminum alloy parts to meet your needs and specifications.

  2. Can 3D Printing Be Used to Produce Metal Parts?

    Leave a Comment

    3D printing is the process of creating three-dimensional solid objects using computer-created designs. Also referred to as additive manufacturing, 3D printing builds up layers of material one on top of the other until it creates a 3D part. 3D printing differs from the more common subtractive manufacturing methods in which material is removed from a larger block of material to form the final product. As such, 3D printing results in less wastage and more cost-effective products.

    3D printing technologies consist of three broad types: sintering, stereolithography, and melting. Sintering heats the material below its melting point to create high-resolution products. Stereolithography uses photopolymerization to create 3D parts. Melting uses lasers, electron beams, or electric arcs to melt materials together and print objects. 3D printing is an ideal manufacturing method to rapidly produce prototypes with complex geometries and it is compatible with a variety of different materials. 

    metal parts

    3D Printing Metal Parts

    3D printing is most often associated with plastic materials, however, you can 3D print products from metal. We use metal 3D printing for rapid prototyping and production of components for industries such as aerospace and mechanical engineering. One of the most common 3D printing methods for metal is sintering in which layers of powdered metal are melted together or combined with another material for nozzle delivery. 

    Many types of metals are used for 3D printing, including titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, and copper, while others are not ideal. Compatible metals have various properties that make them suitable for 3D printing. For example, stainless steel has significant corrosion resistance. This makes it ideal for printing steam turbines, pipes, and valve parts. 

    Some metals with properties such as burning in high temperatures instead of melting are not safe for 3D printing. Metals with very high melting points are also not ideal for 3D printing.

    Click to Expand

    Benefits of 3D Printing Metal Parts

    Benefits of 3D Printing Metal Parts

    As an additive process, 3D printing differs greatly from traditional manufacturing methods. This unique production method offers a range of benefits, including:

    • Design freedom: Because no material is removed during the manufacturing process, it allows for the creation of more complex products. This advanced technology places material only where it needs to be, saving time and money. Further, parts with more complex geometries are no more difficult to produce than simpler parts. This means that metal 3D printing can produce parts that other manufacturing methods are not capable of producing.
    • Fully automated: Apart from the 3D printing machine, no additional tooling is needed. 3D printing machines can be nearly fully automated, reducing the need for operator interference due to the capability of the software to automatically generate paths based on design specifications.
    • Cost per part: Many traditional manufacturing methods vary in cost depending on the number of parts being produced, causing prototyping costs to be expensive. With 3D printing, the cost per part remains static despite the number of parts being produced, allowing manufacturers access to affordable prototyping.

    3D Printed Metal Parts From USTEK

    USTEK is a source of metal products for clients in all ranges of industries. We have hands-on experience in metal manufacturing processes that enable us to offer personalized solutions for all your needs. Our capabilities in metal include CNC machining, die casting, drilling and tapping, extruding, forging, fabrication, machining, precision machining, forming, punching, riveting, stamping, and welding.

    Using your supplied 3D CAD files, we can provide you with polymer models or functional metal parts at a very low cost. We understand that the right choice of metal is crucial, which is why we have a wide variety of metal types you can select from. They include:

    • Aluminum 
    • Brass 
    • Bronze 
    • Cadmium
    • Copper 
    • Gold
    • Magnesium
    • Silver
    • Carbon
    • Steel
    • Beryllium
    • Stainless
    • Steel
    • Zinc
    • Tungsten
    • Titanium

    3D Print Metal With USTEK

    USTEK can print functional 3D metal parts with a wide variety of metals. We strive to help you get the highest quality products quickly and within your budget. Our decades of experience in the industry have enabled us to partner and establish strong relationships with quality suppliers where we can source the exact metal you require. No matter what your requirements are, we have all the knowledge, expertise, and connection to deliver them to you. Contact us today to learn more about our metal components services. 

  3. Understanding the Types of Metal Finishes

    Leave a Comment

    Following fabrication many metal components undergo metal finishing, which entails treating the metal’s exterior surface with a thin layer of augmenting material. Metal finishing is an important part of the manufacturing process because it can enhance the metal product’s properties in different ways. At USTEK, we offer a variety of finishing services to make sure your metal components are prepared for assembly to your specifications.

    types of metal finishes

    Types of Metal Finishes

    Depending on your application, there are several types of finishes to choose from that have different effects on various metal substrates. The following are some of the metal finishes we offer at USTEK.


    Anodizing involves converting a metal’s surface into a thin oxide layer. The resulting oxide layer is thinner than other types of finishes for metal, but it offers superior durability and corrosion resistance. Aluminum substrates most commonly undergo anodizing.

    Black Oxide (Hot Blackening)

    Hot blackening adds a thin black oxide layer to the surface of a metal product, creating a matte black finish that resists abrasion. The metal is put through multiple tanks containing coolants, caustics, and cleaners that perform the hot finishing process. Many steel firearms, tools, and auto parts rely on hot blackening to protect them from corrosion.


    The process of electro-polishing removes metal ions from substrates. The metal is submerged in an electrolyte bath with an electrical current, which removes ions, rust, and defects. The final product has a clean, smooth appearance.


    Painting entails applying liquid paint to metal surfaces. A paint finish typically consists of pigment, resin, and solvent. The pigment lends color to the finish, while the resin helps bind the coating to the surface and enhances part durability.


    Also known as electroplating, plating applies a finish made of another type of metal such as tin, copper, chromium, or zinc. The process first coats the substrate with a negatively charged electric current, then puts it into a positively charged solution containing the desired metal ions. Metal plating enhances the metal’s corrosion resistance, coefficient of friction, durability, and aesthetic appearance.


    The polishing process reduces the metal surface’s roughness while increasing its luster, since light scatters less when it is reflected on smooth surfaces. Polishing can be done automatically or manually with different types of abrasives, depending on the condition of the metal substrate. Generally, a rougher abrasive removes larger surface imperfections, and then a finer abrasive smooths out smaller details.

    Powder Coating

    Some applications may use powder coating in lieu of liquid coating. The process involves electrostatically charging the substrate, attracting the powered particles to the surface. Powder coating creates a thicker layer of paint compared to liquid coating. It also features different curatives, pigments, flow modifiers, level agents, and other additives that provide additional protection and visual appeal.

    High-Quality Metal Finishes from USTEK

    All of the above finishes are available at USTEK, where you can find a high-quality part finish for nearly any type of metal component. Based on the needs of your specific application, we’ll help you select the right finishing service for your products. To learn more about our finishing solutions and other capabilities, contact us today.

  4. Top 10 Benefits of Using Aluminum for Metal Parts

    Leave a Comment

    Aluminum is one of the most abundant and versatile metals, recognizable for its soft texture and silvery-white coloring. Its malleable nature and strength at a lightweight make it advantageous in manufacturing in a variety of shapes and applications. This naturally occurring metal has become increasingly popular in both complex designs with many finishes and everyday products as a safe, cost-effective material for metal parts.

    Top 10 Benefits:

    Benefits of Using Aluminum For Metal Parts


    As aluminum is the third-most-plentiful element present in Earth’s crust, at our current usage, our supply will be around for generations with responsible recycling. Given this abundance, aluminum is part of an infinite amount of products, with uses in the following:

    • Construction, for cladding and other components
    • Consumer goods like air conditioners and refrigerators
    • Food- and chemical-processing equipment
    • Technology, including computers and smartphones
    • Transportation, such as vehicles, trains, airplanes, and space shuttles


    Regardless of the world’s abundance, economic availability will be affected by international politics, energy costs, and environmental concerns. The aluminum ore bauxite is processed into elemental aluminum in five major countries. Listed in order they are Australia, China, Guinea, Brazil, and India.  However, for downstream further conversion of prime aluminum, the list in order is China, India, Russia, Canada, UAE, and Australia, with the US in 9th place.  Depending on the source the US recycles 1/3 to 1/2 of aluminum each year and overall nearly ¾ of all aluminum ever produced from bauxite is still in use today.   The parts designed for aluminum will most likely contain energy-efficient domestically recycled metal

    Light Weight

    Aluminum is about one-third the weight of copper and steel, making it easier to use in manufacturing processes. Weighing less means requiring less energy during transportation, so it is a cost-effective metal option. Construction sites and factories use aluminum in building materials and paneling for cars and other vehicles.


    Aluminum is completely recyclable and has identical properties after the recycling process, maintaining its strength. The ability to reuse the material with a fast turnaround makes it more economical for production runs. Remelting requires only 5% of the energy used to make the original metal.


    Aluminum’s bendable nature and ductility allow for the punching or shaping of the material to fit it to various job applications. It can form rods, sheets, or wires in its molten condition, giving it the benefit of versatility.


    Most metals, like steel, become less durable as the temperature drops, but aluminum strengthens. Its pure form is beneficial in structural materials as it has a tensile strength of 90MPa. Alloying aluminum with other materials helps make it thicker and more robust so that it can retain its strength even in treacherous climates while still weighing less than other metals.

    Corrosion Resistance

    Many metals deal poorly with aggressive chemicals, but aluminum holds up in acidic settings. It naturally produces a protective coating when introduced to an oxidizing environment. This protection lends aluminum to applications in automobiles and kitchen cabinetry, to name a few. However, it could be attacked in alkaline environments unless protected by surface pacification treatments (trivalent chromium, alodine, anodizing). Plating with nickel or chromium over a copper flash is also possible.

    Electrical and Thermal Conductivity

    An excellent conductor of both heat and electricity, aluminum is beneficial for high-voltage wiring and power transmission lines because it does not collect a magnetic charge. It is an ideal alternative to copper wiring due to its lightweight nature. It is perfect for computer parts and batteries that make use of its electric conductivity, or heat exchangers for chemical and food applications related to thermal conductivity.

    Reflective Properties

    With a high reflectivity from radio waves into the infrared and thermal range on the electromagnetic spectrum, smooth aluminum naturally reflects light and heat. It is advantageous for vehicle heat shields and reflectors on light fittings and rescue blankets. Also, aluminum roofs are becoming increasingly popular as they reduce the internal heat of buildings and houses by reflecting sunlight.

    Impermeability and Lack of Odor

    Even a thin layer of aluminum is impermeable to light, moisture, and gasses, and has no odor or taste itself. As a result, it is perfect for packaging products that are vulnerable to outside bacteria, such as medicines and foods. Its low carbon footprint also makes it an environmentally friendly material for food manufacturers to use.

    Partner With USTEK Incorporated

    USTEK Incorporated offers you a true partnership, providing excellent customer service and over 35 years of experience dealing with custom technical components. We deliver on efficiency, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness for our customers. Contact us for more information on how USTEK can help you source aluminum and aluminum alloy parts to meet your specifications.

  5. What Is the Difference Between PCB and PCBA?

    Leave a Comment

    PCB and PCBA are two very different concepts, but many people use the terms interchangeably. While these terms are related and both used regularly within the electronics industry, they have distinct definitions. In this article, we’ll discuss what PCBs and PCBAs are, how they are related, and the key differences between the two terms so you can use them both confidently when placing orders and describing products.

    Contact Us

    An image of a bare printed circuit board (PCB)

    What Is PCB?

    PCBs serve as a mechanical foundation in which various electrical components can be mounted to complete the intended circuit. PCBs feature a conductive pattern and a substrate that is typically made of epoxy resin material. Some of the most common types of printed circuit boards include:

    • Single-layer
    • Multi-layer
    • Rigid
    • Flexible
    • Rigid-flex

    With all of these different types available, manufacturers and product designers can create a diverse array of electronic displays, standalone devices, and more for consumer, commercial, and industrial applications.

    An image of a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA).

    What Is PCBA?

    PCBA is the complete electronic assembly and relates to how the components are placed onto the PCB. More specifically, it refers to the process of passing the PCB through Surface Mounted Technology (SMT) and Plated Through Hole (PTH) processes to place and solder the various electrical components onto the PCB.

    • During this assembly process, product builders mount the electronic components into holes running through either the whole board or just specific layers. The holes have conductive pads to ensure the flow of electricity is not interrupted.
    • During this assembly process, the components are not mounted through holes. Instead, they are mounted onto the surface layer with pins along the conductive pads.

    PCBAs are fitted will all necessary components and are ready to be used for their intended purpose.

    Differences Between PCB and PCBA

    As a simple way to keep the two terms straight, think of a PCB as the inert, unfinished foundation of a circuit and a PCBA as the complete product with active and passive components. PCBs are just the boards of substrate layers themselves that can support electronic components. The boards have conductive pads and tracks, etched features, and other details in the non-conductive layers, but they don’t yet have all the components. PCBAs are PCBs with solder paste and electronic components on the surface, and they are plug-in ready.

    An infographic depicting the differences between PCB and PCB assemblies

    Printed Circuit Boards From USTEK

    While PCBA refers to the finished, fully assembled board with all the electrical components it needs to perform, PCB only refers the bare circuit board that is used as the foundation for all of the electrical components. These terms are often used interchangeably, so understanding the differences between the two is crucial.

    At USTEK Incorporated, we specialize in the design and construction from single-layer to multi-layer PCBs for a wide range of industries. We can work with you to create a custom solution for your needs no matter how complex. To learn more about our custom PCB capabilities, contact us today.

    Contact Us

  6. A Primer on the Types of Printed Circuit Boards

    Leave a Comment

    Are you designing a new electronic device or upgrading an existing one? If so, chances are you’ll need printed circuit boards (PCBs). The self-contained boards mechanically support and electrically connect electrical and electronic components. The components are located on the surface of a non-conducting board (i.e., the substrate) and soldered to printed circuits (i.e., small layers of conductive material deposited on one or more sides of the substrate). When designed and manufactured properly, PCBs help ensure the device assembly in which they are installed operates and performs as intended.

    PCBs come in many variations, each of which is suitable for different electronic applications. Below, we highlight and discuss the various types that are available.

    Contact Us

    Single-Sided PCBs

    A single sided printed circuit board

    Single-sided PCBs have a single layer of substrate with components and circuitry on only one side. They are the easiest and cheapest type of PCB to design and manufacture. As such, they are commonly produced in high volumes. Typical applications include simpler circuits, such as relays, sensors, and electronic toys.

    Double-Sided PCBs

    Double-sided PCBs have components and circuitry on both sides of the substrate. Holes in the substrate allow for connections between circuits on different sides. Connections can be formed using one of two methods: through-hole or surface mount technology (SMT). The former involves feeding small wires (i.e., leads) through the holes and soldering the ends to the necessary components/circuit, while the latter involves soldering small leads directly to the substrate. Since the design and manufacture of these PCBs are more involved than single-sided ones, they are typically used for more complex circuits, such as amplifiers, mobile phones, power monitoring systems, and test equipment.

    Multilayer PCBs

    Multilayer PCBs have three or more conductive layers—one on top, one on bottom, and at least one sandwiched between non-conductive substrate layers. They allow for greater design flexibility in a smaller and lighter package. Due to their elevated cost compared to single-sided and double-sided PCBs, they are typically used for high-speed circuit applications rather than simpler and less critical circuit applications.

    Flex PCBs

    Flex PCBs can be single-sided, double-sided, or multilayer. In any case, they have flexible substrates, which allow them to fit into tight or compact spaces where rigid boards cannot. The material can turn and shift without damaging the printed circuits. They help reduce board size and weight, making them ideal for use in applications that need high signal trace density.

    Rigid PCBs

    Rigid PCBs are also available in single-sided, double-sided, or multilayer variations. They have rigid substrates that prevent the board assembly from twisting and turning. Their compact size ensures the integration of complex circuitry, while their well-organized signal paths and clearly marked components make them easy to maintain and repair.

    A photo of a green rigid-flex printed circuit boardRigid-Flex PCBs

    Rigid-flex PCBs combine the qualities of rigid PCBs and flex PCBs. They consist of flexible circuits attached to rigid boards. By accommodating streamlined designs, they help reduce overall board weight and size. As a result, they are commonly used in automobiles, cellphones, digital cameras, pacemakers, and other electronic devices and systems with tight weight and size limitations.

    High-Frequency PCBs

    High-frequency PCBs are designed for use in frequency ranges of 500MHz to 2GHz. Typical applications include communication systems, microwaves, and microstrips. Depending on the application, they may require advanced laminate materials and controlled impedance capabilities.

    An infographic explaining the various types of PCBs

    Contact USTEK for Your PCB Needs Today!

    For PCBs you can trust, turn to the experts at USTEK! As a premier custom manufacturer of electrical and metal components with experience designing and constructing PCBs for various industries, we can work with you to develop a custom PCB solution that fully meets your needs. Whether you require basic, single-sided PCBs for simple circuits or complex, multilayer PCBs with high-frequency capabilities, we’ve got you covered. To learn more about our custom PCB capabilities and how we can serve you, contact us today.

    Contact Us

  7. Workplace Safety Against Corona-19

    Leave a Comment

    Healthcare authorities, from the international WHO to individual countries to our cities and states all agree that social distancing and anti-viral masks reduce the risk of infection with Corona-19.  USTEK responded to the need for PPE masks and employing our partners in production and logistics we now stock and ship these critically needed supplies.

    For details and ordering Click_Here

    KN95 Mask

    KN95 Mask

    Disposable Surgical Style Mask

    Disposable surgical-style mask


  8. How will REACH compliance affect your business?

    Leave a Comment

    Danger Poison

    If you manufacture or even just sell products in the US you already must comply with pertinent EPA and FDA regulations.  And if you ship to California your have their list of known and suspect materials that must be reported.  For those of us dealing with a global marketplace the RoHS directive was proposed in 2002 and became a major factor in 2006 but it dealt with only six hazardous material found in the electrical industry.

    On its heels was the broad REACH directive with its 848 pages and initial listing of 143,000 chemicals.  Of these a subgroup called SVHC (substances of very high concern) was published in 2011 and these 173 materials are under even stricter scrutiny. How does this affect you, the direct or indirect user/consumer?  You need to know exactly what is in the products that you ship to the EU – no “proprietary protected formulation” exclusions apply.  You must state whether or not your materials are in compliance and if a material is not registered then the rule of law is “no data, no market”.

    For an article published today by ThomasNet
    click here -> REACH – ThomasNet