Although we’re primarily known for our appliance handles, Mills Products has also acquired a strong reputation for manufacturing quality metal case handles.
Our ability to choose between different manufacturing techniques and work with a wide variety of materials enables us to create sturdy, lightweight, and dependable metal handles for common cases such as:
- Tool boxes
- Musical instrument cases
- Road cases
- Computer cases
- Cases for electronics
- Suitcases, trunks, and other luggage
Let’s explore what makes a great metal case handle and some of the manufacturing techniques that can be used to deliver those qualities.
What Makes a Good Metal Case Handle?
Metal case handles for all of the applications listed above need to exhibit a few indispensable qualities if they are going to be considered good products. They need to be:
Handles are, by definition, where a user will grip, pull, and hold a case. To endure these repeated stresses, they need to be strong and made of material that won’t corrode or bend. High-strength aluminum, stainless steel, and powder coated mild steel can all fit the bill, depending on the product design and uses.
Cases and case handles always have to strike a balance between durability and weight. While cases should to be designed to withstand the loads and stresses they’ll be subjected to during day-to-day use, no one wants a case handle that is going to add to the burden of transporting the case it’s attached to. It’s important, then, to create a design — and find a complementary manufacturing technique — that will deliver a strong but lightweight solution.
A handle will be a user’s primary point of contact with a case so should be designed to be comfortable. Features that can contribute to the usability of a metal case handle include contours for fingers, cross-hatching textures, and plastic or rubber coatings to enhance grip.
Techniques for Making Metal Case Handles
To produce strong, light, and versatile case handles, one needs to turn to manufacturing solutions that start with sheet metal or tube stock, rather than casting, machining, or extruding, which produce heavy and costly parts.
Here are the three manufacturing processes we recommend for making metal case handles that meet all the criteria of quality handle creation.
Roll Forming: Economical Simplicity
Case handles made with the roll-forming technique start as a strip of coiled metal that passes through rollers, resulting in cross-section profiles curved and bent to specifications.
This method, which produces case handles with simple and symmetrical round, C-shaped, or closed cross-sections, works for just about any metal and enables the case handles to be coated, painted, or plated.
In addition, case handles can be notched, perforated, or punched during the roll forming process, which saves time and energy (and therefore money) during manufacturing.
Tubular Hydroforming: A Versatile Method
Tubular hydroforming is a manufacturing method for producing case handles that begins with a tubular work part. In this process, the work part is inserted into a mold and pressurized water is used to shape the part into the desired shape, either solely from the inside or with outside pressure applied at the same time.
With tubular hydroforming, case handles with asymmetrical shapes can be created and it is fairly easy to transition from a round cross-section to an elliptical one.
This method, which Mills Products pioneered for appliance handles in 2000 and later applied to case-handle manufacturing, also accommodates a variety of metals suitable for case handles, from aluminum, stainless steel, and cold rolled steel to titanium alloys, brass, and copper.
In addition, tubular hydroforming is a very precise process that results in especially accurate adherence to specifications.
Tubular Stamping: The High-Volume Option
Tubular stamping can also be employed for production of case handles and is especially cost-effective for large volumes.
In this method, a section of a coil of sheet metal is formed into a U shape, which is then rolled to close up the legs of the U.
Although tube stamping tooling costs are more significant than with the other methods noted above, materials costs can be kept low because production starts with flat metal stock rather than more expensive formed or welded tube stock. These factors make this technique ideal for high-volume production, where tooling costs can be amortized over long runs.
Selecting the Right Manufacturing Technique for Your Needs
Which manufacturing technique will be best for your case handle will depend on the design specifics. Each process has its benefits and, in the right circumstances, can result in comfortable, durable, lightweight, and economical case handles.
Once you’ve have an idea of what you want your case handle to look like, contact a Mills Products sales engineer and we’ll schedule a meeting to go over the benefits of the various manufacturing methods and help you determine which process will be right for your product.