Operator Friendly Line Eases Transition For Mold Shop

This mold-making company found that readout systems allow its operators to control the Z-axis better, which makes them more accurate.

When Latham Tool & Manufacturing Company, Fairfield, Connecticut, recently made the decision to automate its mold-making operation, owner Arnim Jebe spent a considerable amount of time researching what was available. Mr. Jebe had used an older readout line from ACU-RITE Inc., Jamestown, New York, at a previous company and was aware of the company's reputation for quality products. His research showed that the new line of readout systems was more operator-friendly than the earlier version.

Latham Tool & Manufacturing was founded in 1963 and designs and builds single- and multi-cavity molds for injection and compression. Its target markets include consumer products and the electrical, medical and automotive industries.

Latham Tool's typical molds range from 3 1/2" × 5" single MUD frames to 24" × 24" 16-cavity hot manifold tooling. MUD frames, or Master Unit Die frames, are quick-change units.

Latham builds many prototype molds, but also does some full production tooling. Because of the nature of its work, lot sizes are often in ones and twos. Turnaround times for the molds range from eight to 16 weeks, depending on the complexity of the engineering involved.

None of the machines in Latham Tool's 4,000 square foot facility had readouts before Mr. Jebe purchased the three DRO 200Es for EDMing and four DRO 200Ms for milling. Each readout system comes equipped with Acu-Rite's ENC 150 precision glass scale linear encoders. The transition has been a smooth one for the nine-man operation.

ACU-RITE's glass scale technology played a big part in Mr. Jebe's decision to purchase the readout systems. His EDM machines needed not only an extremely accurate measuring device, but also one small enough to fit in the available mounting space. The ENC 150 glass scale linear encoders satisfied both needs.

One of the biggest advantages to automating his operation with the DRO 200 series of readout systems has been the increase in accuracy, especially in the EDM operations. Latham's rough work on the mold cavities is performed on the mills, while the EDM machines complete the finish operations.

Mr. Jebe was also convinced by the number of options available to him with these readout systems. "We also use the mills for knockout patterns and hole patterns. It's great because you can dial off to your location faster," he says. Other features that Latham Tool uses include the centerline feature, the reset for the Z-axis on the EDM machines and Position-Trac on the mills. Position-Trac is a feature said to be unique to ACU-RITE that enables the operator to easily, quickly and accurately re-establish workpiece zero after power loss. This special feature reduces time-consuming setups, rework and scrap.

The addition of Acu-Rite's readout systems has already resulted in productivity increases for Latham. "The general machining of hole patterns, for example, is already at least 30 percent faster," says Mr. Jebe. "The readouts just make it so much easier." For Latham Tool's hot manifold systems, the readout systems have enabled the company to greatly increase the speed with which they can be completed.

For EDM applications, accuracy and repeatability are most important to Mr. Jebe. ACU-RITE's DRO 200E enables Latham Tool's operators to control the Z-axis better, which makes them more accurate. That increase in accuracy also results in increased productivity as well. ACU-RITE's DRO 200 readout systems have enabled Mr. Jebe and Latham Tool to quickly achieve goals of increased accuracy, increased productivity and easy operation. MMS