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IMM Focus: Moldmaking automation

February 1, 2003

4 Min Read
IMM Focus: Moldmaking automation

This mold half was designed with Delcam’s PS-Moldmaker, a software module that further automates design functions from component selection to BOM generation and ordering. User intervention is supported throughout the design chain.

In Delcam’s recent round of software upgrades, the company has increased the automation power in both its design and machining software, while at the same time recognizing that experienced technicians and engineers should optimize the process where possible. To allow for this, the company has created tools that permit software operators to suspend automation sequences, provide input, and then resume the automated process.

The recently launched major upgrade to Delcam PS-Moldmaker software for automated mold design consists of a wide range of improvements in design and drafting functionality, plus a new Web-based ordering system. At the launch of the new upgrade, Stuart Watson, development director at Delcam, noted that the improved package still allows the user to exit the automated process at any point, make manual adjustments to the design within Delcam’s main PowerShape program, and then return to the automation. He said the user thus enjoys the speed of automated design without losing the ability to get precisely the result desired with virtually no restriction on work size or complexity.

Delcam significantly extended the actual automation power of PS-Moldmaker. Essentially, the program generates a 3-D assembly of solid models, detailing all mold components. Now, a user can break in to specify a nonstandard mold base for a larger tool, while the software continues in automated mode, selecting standard components when possible and suggesting appropriate sizes for any nonstandard components needed. The user can modify any of the recommendations and, once the specification is finalized, add the nonstandard component to a personal catalog for future use.

The Die Wizard in this module automatically finds the split line of the product model, creates split and runoff surfaces to form the die halves, and separates the cavity with the split surface from the die blocks. In the new version, it also automatically creates flat areas in the corners of the block (if possible) to simplify alignment of guide pillars and bushings. Another enhancement allows multiple inserts to be created for use within a single plate of a multicavity tool.

Whereas PS-Electrode previously could automatically select the most suitable blank from a database, it now also rotates the blank into the most efficient orientation for machining and automatically trims it to prevent collisions.

The existing automated drafting of the general mold assembly has been upgraded to automate production of a complete associative set of fully ballooned drawings for all the plates, together with the related hole schedules for drilling cycles. Automated generating and updating of the bill of materials now includes functionality from Delcam’s PS-Team task management software that lets the BOM be divided automatically into a series of orders ready to be e-mailed to the component suppliers.

Delcam took a similar approach to flexibility in the latest version of its automated electrode design system, PS-Electrode. This version, working with Delcam’s PowerShape hybrid modeling software, lets the user step out of the automatic process at any stage, make adjustments to the electrode design, and return to automatic operation. The new version thus allows much more complex designs to be produced where more work is required than simply extracting data directly from the tooling model. Also, PS-Electrode previously had the ability to select automatically the most suitable blank from a database. It will now also rotate the blank into the most efficient machining orientation to minimize material waste and cutting time.

Knowledge-based Machining
Along with automating its CAD design tools, Delcam also launched AutoCAM, a knowledge-based module for its PowerMill machining software. Unlike systems based on feature recognition of geometry such as holes and bosses, AutoCAM analyzes all surfaces within the CAD model and selects the most appropriate machining methods for the job.

When using AutoCAM, the operator imports the CAD model, specifies the size of the starting block of material, and selects the machine, including whether toolpaths for high-speed or conventional operation are required. The software automatically selects cutters and strategies, and then generates and post-processes toolpaths without further human intervention. The process takes a few minutes, compared with multiple hours needed by a skilled operator. Strategies, cutters, speeds, and feeds are selected for safe machining.

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