Amerimold: Moldmaking's Biggest Show Captures Current Metalworking Technology
Many of the emerging developments and key trends in metalworking technology were represented at this show, making it a revealing cross-section of current advances.
Amerimold ran June 14-15 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois.
The Takumi H10 was one of several machine tools on display. This double-column VMC has a special appeal for mold manufacturers, the company says, because it has the spindle speed (15,000 rpm), rigidity and precision for accurate production of complex mold geometry with fine surface finishes. Travels measure roughly 40" × 28" × 20" in the X, Y and Z axes. The H12 and H16 are larger brothers to this model. All are 40-taper machines. The builder also promotes these machines for other applications in high-speed machining such as aerospace components.
Promac is an Italian machine tool builder offering large gantry machines with fixed and moving tables. These machines are used for producing large automotive molds for complete bumpers, as well as other large car parts for which molding processes provide significant weight reduction and styling options over other production methods. This scale model shows the size and configuration of the Sharov GVT for three-, four- and five-axis machining with an HSK A63 or HSK A100 spindle.
Southwestern Industries had one of its ProtoTrak knee mills on display, partly to show off the new KMX CNC unit that is an upgrade for its older CNC units. As the company explains, mold shops, prototype houses and other manufacturers with well-equipped toolrooms tend to hang onto these machines, even for decades, making support for control units with electronic components no longer available quite a challenge. The new control continues the tradition of supporting the skilled toolroom machinist and mold builder with a control unit for programmable CNC functionality, as well as electronic handwheel/digital readout operation.
The CVe Monitor is essentially a “smart” counter that tracks the number of times an injection mold opens and closes. Each time a simple plunger is depressed, the monitor records the event. Developed by AST Technology, a sister company to Progressive Components, this device does a lot more than count cycles. It automatically calculates cycle time and efficiency while counting down until maintenance is due.
The CVe unit can be cabled to a Press Module that transmits the data wirelessly to the supplier’s Gateway, a cloud-based utility for data storage and retrieval. Data can be presented in various reports and dashboard displays driven by CVe OnDemand monitoring software.
RobbJack’s FM series of carbide end mills is designed for high metal removal rates in aluminum. The company says the design of the flutes induces a vibration into the workpiece to counter the tendency of the workpiece to vibrate at a different frequency. By “syncing” these vibrations, the tool cuts cleanly with no chatter, regardless of the spindle speed. The tool is always in a “sweet spot” to optimize metal removal. The company says this tool is capable of making very-thin-walled parts with a fine surface finish, as well as hogging out material from workpieces with numerous adjacent pockets.
For roughing steel, Data Flute has introduced the FeRx, a variable indexed rougher. The serrated edges on the flutes help form and break chips to keep the tool free-cutting. The coating on the carbide tool is extremely hard and is specifically designed for aggressive chip loads in steel, the company says. Exceptionally good wear resistance is also attributed to this coating.
Advanced Micron Tool (AMT) is offering long-reach end mills with diameters as small as 0.005 inch. The tools feature the company’s multi-layer Nitro3 diamond (CVD) coating for wear resistance, especially in machining of graphite electrodes for EDM. Once a regional supplier of specialized cutting tools, the company is now marketing its products nationwide.
Because molds often involve complex surfaces only machinable on multi-axis machines, measuring and checking those surfaces calls for non-contact 3D scanning systems. The Zeiss Comet LED2 system projects a pattern of blue light across the surface as the part rotates on a turntable. Every projection is captured and digitized by a camera on the other side of the projector unit. The digital images are combined to form an STL-formatted model that can be compared to a nominal CAD model to quickly identify discrepancies between the two.
Faro’s Cobalt Array Imager projects a pattern on an object in multiple views to create a point cloud for dimensional inspection and reverse engineering in 3D. One advantage of 3D image scanners is the quick set up—the object to be scanned can be placed anywhere on the turntable without fixturing or positioning.
Stratasys, an additive manufacturing supplier, recommends its PolyJet technology to produce injection molded prototypes for testing and design validation. This technology creates smooth, detailed and accurate molds strong enough to hold up to short runs of about 10 to 100 parts. PolyJet 3D Printing works similarly to inkjet printing, but instead of jetting drops of ink onto paper, the system jets layers of curable liquid photopolymer onto a build tray.
Marposs Artis showed how a software solution for in-process tool condition monitoring works without any sensors or additional hardware installed on a machining center. The software captures multiple axis-motor driver signals to determine normal cutting forces such as torque. As these forces change, the software routines automatically recognize the underlying condition as tool wear, tool failure or a missing tool.
Although the Amerimold event is primarily targeted to manufacturing companies involved in plastic injection molds, anyone interested in the advanced technology that is critical to mold machining could find useful, valuable information there. In fact, I went looking for product news and application insights that would be of interest to the metalworking industry at large. There was plenty to see. Almost all of the emerging developments and key trends in metalworking technology were represented at this show, as the highlights of my discoveries illustrate.