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October 15, 2000

4 Min Read
Designs on Meeting Automotive Needs

Moldmakerswho thrive in today's automotive climate share a common secret.They know how to be resilient. In other words, when the customerthrows a curve, they adapt to it. Maple Mold Technologies (RochesterHills, MI) builds resilience and shortens lead times by embracingnew technology, including software to automate mold design.

According to Ted Hably, mold designer at Maple Mold, globalizationof the automotive business is driving moldmakers and other suppliersto use new technology to fill in the gaps left by outsourcing."Our focus is 95 percent automotive. As automotive OEMs andTier One integrators become more global, the trend toward outsourcingparts of a project is accelerating," he explains. "Theyare scrambling to put their houses in order after mergers andacquisitions, and aren't able to fulfill all the project needs.Unfortunately, firms who do the outsourcing often don't have acomplete picture of the molding process."

For example, Maple Mold may get a file that was prepared bya brilliant designer who has no experience with surfaces. Alternately,a project may come in with great surfaces but it is neither moldablenor drafted correctly. Often, the tool becomes more expensivebecause there are more actions needed to mold these designs, Hablyexplains. "A moldmaking shop like ours can no longer competeby just building a tool," he says. "We have to provideservices that our customers and their outsourcing firms can nolonger provide themselves."

Software to automate mold design is valuable at Maple becauseit allows designers to perform more efficiently, Hably believes."We're being asked to increase services and responsibilitybut do it in a shorter amount of time," he says. "Asa result, we are embracing new technology in a big way."

Reducing Time and Error

On a recent project for a four-cavity mold, Hably and his teamused several modules from Cimatron's Quick Tooling line of products.The P-20 production mold will produce a fog lamp shield and bezel,contains four lifters per cavity, and measures 36 by 22 inches.Accuracies of the tool are not negligible. Generally, tolerancesare .1 to .2 mm for part areas, and tighter for hole locations,typical numbers for automotive parts.

"Although we have used QuickSplit and QuickCompare extensively,this is the first production job on which we are using QuickElectrode,"Hably tells IMM. "This tool will require at least a dozenelectrodes, so it's really coming in handy. It takes away a lotof the grunt work that you normally have to do yourself-extendingsurfaces off the main part to be burned, putting blocks aroundit, putting a UCS coordinate system in some location on the block,and documenting where the burn locations are on the part withcoordinates. These are all jobs that eat up a programmer's time."He estimates time savings of at least 30 to 40 percent using thesoftware.

Hably finds that using electronic tools such as these alsohelps to reduce error. "Many times we'd find that we hada great design, but that burn locations were wrong. Having thesoftware produce burn locations with coordinates helps eliminateerror."

Design Changes Simplified

Design changes, the death knell of short lead times, can underminethe best moldmakers. Explains Hably, "Normally, when changescome in, a customer sends a file containing the entire part withno clear depiction of what was changed. We have to run cross sectionsthrough the entire part to find that out, and it's a time-consumingproject."

In these cases, Hably notices, problems begin to crop up asa prototype assembly is being built. Unfortunately, the partshave already been designed and sent to the moldmaker, who hasbegun cutting steel because of short lead time requirements. Moldmakersthen have to determine whether the tool is steel-safe, if changescan be welded, if an insert is required, or if they have to scrapthe tool entirely.

"We received numerous changes for the fog lamp tool duringthe design phase," Hably says. By using QuickCompare to automaticallycompare the original file to revised files, he estimates the teamsaved several days.

Additional Solutions

A pressure-cooker environment such as automotive helps to separatewhat works from what doesn't. Maple plans to avail itself ofother high-tech offerings to determine just that.
"Shortly, we will begin to have our files translated viaInternet service software providers," says Hably. "Customerssend data in their platform mode, and we can't carry everyone'ssoftware because it's cost prohibitive. On a per-use basis, wecan translate the files in-house for our CAD/CAM system."

Another growing technology is moldfilling analysis, Hably notes."We have Moldflow in-house, and it is another service thatis becoming more and more important for our customer, especiallyin terms of gating and runner balancing for optimum cycle times."Maple Mold plans to expand its use of this technology as well.

Contact information
Maple Mold Technologies
Rochester Hills, MI
Phone: (248) 853-0308
Fax: (248) 853-2134
Web: www.maplemold.com
E-mail: [email protected]

Cimatron Technologies Inc.
Livonia, MI
Phone: (800) 246-2876
Fax: (734) 432-6601
Web: www.cimatron.com
E-mail: [email protected]

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