Software Standardization Simplfies Electrode Design

To remain competitive, this manufacturer has had to adapt to changes in the demands of its customers, including leadtime reduction. This software has enabled the company to design and build molds more efficiently. Prior to standardizing on the software, the company used disparate applications for each department.

Case Study From: 4/17/2006 Modern Machine Shop

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Paperless toolroom

Implementing viewers for the tool designers has helped create PTA’s paperless toolroom, which is outfitted with the latest EDM technology. This, along with Cimatron’s electrode package, has more than doubled departmental throughput.

The growing trend towards highly cosmetic parts can cause customers to break certain design rules, says PTA Corporation (Oxford, Connecticut). To thrive in aesthetic-driven industries, the company emphasizes quality and collaboration with its customers.

Maintaining a position in the world of plastic injection molding since 1953, PTA has collaborated with companies such as Apple, GE, Philips, Siemens and Zoll Medical Corporation to address all areas of design, quality, cost and manufacturability.

“We get involved with projects far before they are ready to be released to manufacturing,” says Rich Dorans, vice president of operations at PTA. “Often, the files that we receive are no more than a basic concept.”

To optimize manufacturing results, PTA offers clients suggestions regarding part design and material selection. This usually entails assisting in the selection of different plastic resins, surface finishes and finish treatments, as well as defining proper draft and other details needed for applying solid tooling concepts.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that the mold is robust and will produce quality parts so that the customer will be satisfied with the product in the long run,” says Mike Dormer, PTA’s CAD/Data Manager.

To remain competitive, PTA has had to adapt to changes in the demands of its customers, including leadtime reduction. Cimatron E 7.0, software developed by Cimatron Technologies Inc. (Novi, Michigan), has enabled the company to design and build molds more efficiently. Prior to standardizing on the software, the company used disparate applications for each department.

“This forced us to do a lot of translating of geometry back and forth between different platforms, which made the process very time-consuming,” notes Mr. Dormer.

The company initially introduced Cimatron software in its electrode department, where substantial bottlenecks were evident. Shortly thereafter, the software was introduced to carry out machining of the core-cavity, a move that resulted in shortened machining times.

Adopting Cimatron as its all-inclusive solution has meant that PTA can use the software to accomplish tasks ranging from quoting to delivery. Working within Cimatron, company personnel review parts for quoting.

This same software is also an integral component of PTA’s design process. Using the hybrid modeling system, the design department at PTA can automate the mold design process. With the mold design module, tasks can be performed in solid; the part can then be unstitched; and the user can work with faces and surfaces as needed. Following that, parts can be re-stitched when the user is finished.

Because the manufacturing department was already acclimated to and using the software, the transition has been virtually seamless, says the company. In addition, the need for translations was eliminated. Furthermore, PTA has created a paperless toolroom as a result of incorporating viewers on the shop floor.

“The fact that we’re all on the same platform has also helped streamline and speed up our operations,” explains Mr. Dormer.

“The most noticeable improvement from operating under the same platform was in electrode design,” he adds. Even though the company had been using Cimatron for 5 years, the work was hindered by different departments functioning on separate platforms.

The electrode module facilitates the design and manufacture of electrodes. The company’s EDM machines can then be programmed by the Cimatron E EDM module, which automates the entire process. Capabilities such as these save users the time normally associated with manually programming and eliminate errors, says the manufacturer.

Another benefit of the standardization, says Mr. Miller, is that the company is equipped to provide better feedback to its customers: “We can take parts, run sections through them, discern the interferences and put parts into an assembly to see how they interact with one another. These key features enable us to quickly let customers know whether they should modify some of the geometry.”

“Within 2 weeks, we witnessed more than 200 parts come through, each of which must be evaluated,” continues Mr. Miller. “Using the software’s built-in tools, our project managers can simulate a split of how the part will fit into the tool to analyze drafts before it goes to the designers. Looking forward, I can see how this will be advantageous to our quoting department.”

A recent project provided a concrete example of how valuable these capabilities are to the company. The project comprised a package of more than 20 tools, all of which were designed in Cimatron. The majority of parts were overmolded—building one mold for a solid substrate and another to “overmold” an elastomer on top of that substrate.

“Working in solids provides 3D visualizations that assist the mold makers in planning out their jobs and understanding where they want to take them much faster than they were able to in the past,” says Mr. Dormer.

While any conversion to a new system can be disruptive, Mr. Dorans says that the process exceeded his expectations. “Although Cimatron is a sophisticated system, the training and learning process has been beneficial,” he says. “In addition, Cimatron’s technical support resources have been crucial in smoothing out issues that arose during the transition.”

PTA now uses the software for all new projects and has done away with other programs. In addition to using the software for designing electrodes, PTA is working towards downloading information directly to its Makino EDM machine.

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