Canadian Plastics

Deconstructing the Global Market

Whether you are buying molds from non-North American sources, partnering with offshore moldmakers, or just keeping up with the competition, a fascinating comparison of the main moldmaking nations emer...

June 1, 2003   Canadian Plastics



Whether you are buying molds from non-North American sources, partnering with offshore moldmakers, or just keeping up with the competition, a fascinating comparison of the main moldmaking nations emerges from data gathered by the U.S. International Trade Commission last year (USITC publication #3556). The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and various industry associations subsequently had K&H Global Business Planning Consultants Inc. (Windsor, ON) summarize the USITC document. That summary report is the basis for this analysis, and the comparison chart on page 24. (The K&H Global Market Intelligence Report is available through the Canadian Tooling and Machining Association, info@ctma.com.)

The allure of China is low-cost labor. Because of that, labor is used in different ways during mold manufacturing which contributes to shorter lead times. A significant number of Chinese tool, die and mold (TDM) producers operate around-the-clock, and can use more workers concurrently on each job.

The pricing issue is also addressed in this report. Pricing is closely linked to mold quality, and various Asian sources report that a mold built in China to North American standards, with North American quality materials, is not that much cheaper.

Mold quality is another factor to consider. “Chinese-made TDMs with low levels of precision …, and made from Chinese steel and components tend to be of low quality,” the report states. This lack of quality is often noted by moldmakers involved in the repair of these molds. However, the report notes, when Chinese molds are produced to international standards, with imported high-quality steel, and production processes managed to Western standards, the result is quality comparable to that of Western producers.

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EXPERT SYSTEMS

Automating the mold design process through knowledge-based routines is the main thrust of new CAD/CAM software aimed at the plastics industry, with the goal of saving time and errors.

Software developers are automating repetitive functions to save the mold designer time, and also automating functions earlier in the design process, such as assessing part designs for manufacturing constraints.

“Pressures due to time-to-market requirements and reduction in tool prices are mandating that competitive moldmakers look to adopt automation across the entire process — from part design, through mold design to mold manufacturing,” says Vynce Paradise, director of marketing, NX Manufacturing, EDS PLM Solutions. “CAD/CAM software is becoming much more ‘intelligent’ with best practice methods captured in templates, knowledge-based software and process oriented applications. The increased automation allows the overall process to be faster and cheaper and reduces the need for special skills.”

Collapsing the business process chain — bringing the mold design process closer to the part design task — is facilitated by recent CAD/CAM developments, says Paradise.

“For example, allowing the part designer to address questions such as: Can this part be molded? How do I prevent downstream problems caused by part design issues? requires new tools to analyze the part model for shapes and sizes that may present problems.

“Similarly, enabling the mold design process to start before the part design is finalized requires flexible tools that allow easy and associative updates.”

EXPERT MOLD MAKER (XMM) from Cornerstone Technologies makes the leap from knowledge-based design to knowledge-based machining. XMM captures the operator’s knowledge for programming features such as holes, slots and pockets. It later reapplies this knowledge to the manufacturing of plates and mold bases, minimizing job preparation time.

The real benefit of XMM, reports Cornerstone, is the reduction of errors. All numerical data is passed from Cornerstone’s XMD mold design program to XMM, so there is no manual data entry, and no errors.

According to Cornerstone, current users of XMM estimate that NC programming now takes one-quarter of the time it used to. Build-A-Mold Ltd. (Windsor, ON) chose XMM to automate the machining of mold plates and bases. The company estimates savings of two hours per plate.

Cornerstone Mold Technologies 877-XMD-MOLD

INCREASED TOOL CONTROL, faster verification and enhanced solid contour programming are among the new features on Mastercam Version 9.1.

One example of the upgrades in Version 9.1 is Thin Wall Machining. With this technique, Mastercam Mill can achieve finer control over these delicate cutting procedures while ensuring the best possible finish. An operator can now specify multiple finish cuts in Z for every rough-cut. Because this technique puts less stress on thin-walled parts, greater overall cutting depth and thinner walls can be achieved.

CNC Software Inc. 800-228-2877

DELCAM’S UPGRADE last year to its PS-Moldmaker software incorporates a wide range of improvements to the mold design and drafting functionality. PS-Moldmaker continues to combine a high level of automation for tooling designs and a close integration with modelling and analysis tools within PowerSHAPE.

The new version of PS-Moldmaker has new Wizards for the design of slides and cooling channels. The Cooling Wizard uses the dynamic sectioning command with PowerSHAPE to create a plane, or multiple planes, within the mold core or cavity for the layout of the water channels. The user then simply has to sketch the layout required. The software provides a warning if the channels impinge on the cavity, if they come to close to give sufficient wall thickness, or if they are too far from the part to be effective.

Delcam International Inc. 519-974-8088

NEW INTEROPERABILITY OPTION: GibbsCAM has licensed Granite technology from Parametric Technology Corp. Granite provides the base for the geometry, feature and data exchange capabilities at the core of PTC’s Pro/ENGINEER CAD software. The new “Solid Exchange Built on Granite” option allows GibbsCAM users to directly access native Pro/E, Pro/DESKTOP and other Granite-based CAD systems design data. It also facilitates accessing solid modes in the STEP format.

Gibbs and Associates, developer of GibbsCAM, says initial tests indicate that the new Granite-enabled Pro/E data exchange capability is at least ten times faster and more accurate than other approaches.

With the addition of Granite, Gibbs and Associates now licenses all the major kernel modeler technologies currently available — PTC’s Granite, Dassault Systemes’ ACIS and EDS’ Parasolid.

Gibbs and Associates 800-654-9399

WITH PRO/ENGINEER WILDFIRE, PTC has attempted to provide a “no compromise” solution for product design and development. No compromises between ease-of-use and powerful capabilities, and no compromises connecting product development with other business processes, within or outside of the organization.

“We’re providing customers a full range of associative CAD, CAM and CAE applications combined with a revolutionary new Web services architecture — all in a way that redefines ease of use,” says James Heppelmann, PTC executive vice-president.

Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire provides seamless connectivity from within the familiar Pro/ENGINEER work environment to PTC’s Windchill family of collaboration solutions.

PTC need tel. no.

KNOWLEDGE-BASED SOLUTIONS SAVE DESIGN AND PROGRAMMING TIME

Unigraphics Mold Wizard provides expert, highly efficient mold design tools that guide the user step-by-step through the mold design process. It is said to dramatically outperform traditional moldmaking software.

When the part gets changed, as it always does, the part update management mechanism of Mold Wizard allows fully associative updates regardless if the part is native Unigraphics, parameterized, or imported as dumb solid. There are special tools such as “Model Comparison” that allows the mold designer to check for changes and “Model Swap” that enables the user to associatively exchange the new part in place of
the old one. Of key importance is that all down-stream applications can be updated automatically.

EDS PLM Solutions 800-498-5351

DAIMOND COMPOUND CAN WITHSTAND SEVERE LAPPING

Specially formulated for die and mold applications, DiaMold polishing and finishing compounds are built around a stable carrier that assures sustained particle suspension throughout the finishing cycle. This means it will withstand severe lapping conditions with no degradation of cutting quality. DiaMold’s unique blend also provides improved surface coverage and improved impregnation of lapping tools.

Developed by Engis, DiaMold diamond compound also has superior surface tension, consistent viscosity and aggressive removal rates, resulting in a high reflective mold or die surface.

Engis Corp. 800-99-ENGIS

EXPANDED FEATURES FOR ON-LINE HOT RUNNER ORDERING

On-line quoting and ordering of hot halfs and temperature controllers for the complete Dura product line is now available to users of Mold-Masters’ Merlin on-line hot runner wizard.

Pricing for hot halfs and controllers is now provided for all systems configured using the Merlin wizard.

Other Merlin functions include 24-7 access to order history details, including order status, parts list and drawings. The Wizard also permits on-line access to customer drawings in TIFF, DXF and IGES formats, as soon as they have been completed by the designer. Access Merlin through the design section at www.moldmasters.com.

Mold-Masters Ltd. 905-877-0185

STACK-TURN MOLD TECHNOLOGY IN ACTION

German moldmaker Foboha will demonstrate its horizontal stack-turn technology at NPE. Since the launch of this technique six years ago, it has been used in nearly 100 molds. The advantage of this stack-turn design is that it permits double the number of cavities using the same size molding machine.

It is also suitable for two-component parts. At NPE, the system will be used to mold two-color front panels for cell phones.

Here’s how it works: “Pre-injection” moldings are generated in a cavity of the first parting line. When the mold opens, they remain on the movable middle block, and are turned into position for the second parting line by either a 90 degree or 180 degree turn. When the mold closes again, the second component is injected into the cavity formed by the second parting line, which already contains the “pre-injection” moldings.

The heart of the stack-turn technology is a turning unit, installed between the platens, which serves as a mold carrier.

Foboha www.foboha.de

LASER ENGRAVING OF CURVED SURFACES

Baublys Control Laser has introduced a simple and efficent engraving method for injection molds. The Mold Engraving FGM machine provides fast set-up and greater production, using a mechanical probe to digitize any surface very quickly for high quality 2D and 3D engraving.

Difficult mold geometries are handled by a special, highly developed algorithm that executes the desired projection. The Mold Engraving FGM is particularly well suited to engraving conical areas.

Baublys Control Laser Corp. 407-926-3500

ERP AND MOLDMAKERS: A REALITY CHECK

Thomas R. Cutler is preparing a new book, called ERP and Moldmakers (ISBN 0-9624815-6-4) set for release in late 2003. Cutler suggests that over 50% of moldmakers do not have an ERP system installed, and that only 10% who do have one are extremely satisfied with their ERP system. Cutler is collecting case studies for the book, and seeking the input of disgruntled or non-ERP equipped moldmakers. To share a moldmaking ERP experience email trcutler@trcutler.com.


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