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CAD Efficiency--Fewer People, Twice the Productivity

By: Brad Kuvin

Sunday, February 1, 2015
 

Customers do not always send perfect part files for import into die-design and development software. That’s a fact of life. So the question then becomes, how do die designers charged with overcoming such “sins”—and there are many—develop new dies in a timely way?

At stamping-die and injection-mold house Jamesway Tool & Die Inc., Holland, MI, “we don’t always need perfect solids for our CNC machines,” says die designer Mark Gortsema. “With some of the 3D CAD products available, dealing with such sins can be a technical nightmare and waste a lot of time.”

Up until early 2014, Jamesway designed stamping dies in 2D using AutoCad. When, for several reasons, it decided to invest in 3D design, it sought a design-software package that could deal with imperfect files. Ultimately, it decided to go with CimatronE—the software it has been using for mold design since 2009.

Cimatron software
Jamesway die designer Mark Gortsema uses Cimatron software to design dies in 3D. “Cimatron doesn’t care if part files are full solids or not,” he says. “At the end of the day, I just need to machine the blocks to get them into the wire-EDM machine. Cimatron gets us there more quickly, allowing us to repair solid files efficiently by healing and stitching data where necessary.” Here, Mark reviews the bottom half of a die, with the die drawn in 3d so he quickly can spot any interference of die components.
“Cimatron doesn’t care if part files are full solids or not,” says Gortsema. “At the end of the day, I just need to machine the blocks to get them to the diemakers. Cimatron gets us there more quickly, allowing us to repair solid files efficiently by healing and stitching data where necessary. And, the ability to work with non-stitched models and poor-quality imported data is huge from a profitability standpoint.

“For example,” Gortsema continues, “if there’s a 0.005-in. gap between die faces, I can still get the job into the CNC machine and make good parts. That’s the bottom line, and what matters most.”

More with Less

Jamesway’s roots are in the stamping-die business, launched in 1976 as a builder of progressive dies. The firm branched out in 1981 into plastic injection molds, and today the business is split roughly 50-50 between dies and molds.

Until 2009, the firm had been using several software products to move from quote to design to production, explains owner Mark Rozeboom. “Now we do everything in Cimatron, streamlining our entire process. We’ve been solely using Cimatron for mold design since 2009, and in mid-2014 we moved completely to Cimatron for die design as well. Now, the designer (Gortsema, in the case of die work) uses native files from Cimatron—he no longer has to export and convert files. This preserves the associativity of the data across the board.”

Having mold and die design and CNC programming under one proverbial umbrella has greatly enhanced the firm’s efficiency, says Rozeboom. While the firm once employed 30 people, today the headcount numbers 20, with the same or perhaps a little more revenue on the books annually.

“We used to, for example, have four mold designers/programmers, and two working in die design,” Rozeboom says. “Now we have one die guy and two mold designers. So, we’re twice as productive and the work flow is greatly enhanced.”

The improved work flow shows itself not just in the engineering office but also out on the shop floor, where Jamesway’s tool builders and machinists work. A pair of CAD viewing stations (powered by Cimatron) on the plant floor provide visual tools to help guide the tool builders, a significantly more powerful instructional aid compared to 2D prints.

“The viewing stations let our operators view the 3D die-section and component models, and cut sections to enhance their visualization when evaluating the manufacturing-process instructions,” says Gortsema. “This provides a much more efficient build process, and eliminates much of the need for the builders to seek out designers with questions should any instructions initially be unclear.”

Enhanced visualization of the developed tool sections also greatly improves communications with customers. “Now we can send actual, virtual strip layouts to them,” says Rozeboom. “This streamlines the back-and forth communication process between our engineers and theirs, to fine-tune the die design as needed.”

More Efficient, More Competitive Quotes

blank on binder module
The optional Blank on Binder module used at Jamesway supports the creation of intermediate binder blanking surfaces, and unfolds the part on these faces. As displayed in this sequence of images from Cimatron, note how (A) the module calculates the part against the binder to see, in a multi-hit operation, what a second hit would look like; illustrates (B) a safety zone, where the part will have wrinkles or tears; shows (C) how the sheetmetal will spring away from the form; and determines (D) how much the material will thin or thicken.
Jamesway also uses its one-stop die-development solution to optimize quoting speed and accuracy, and improve its ability to take on more complex jobs. “Not that we used to shy away from complex work,” says Dave Rozeboom, Mark’s brother and the company’s president, “but now our quotes are much more competitive on these types of jobs.”

He should know, since he handles much of the firm’s die quotes. “Before we adopted Cimatron on the die side of the business,” he continues, “we might have had to occasionally quote higher than we wanted to when we weren’t sure we could properly execute the job. Now, with the new software we can more accurately and confidently develop blanks, determine the number of progressions and progression pitch, and other details.”

For example, late in 2014 the firm received two large orders at once, 20 projects in all, comprising progressive dies for stamping a group of seating parts for the automotive industry, and tooling to stamp ATV roll-bar assemblies. Gortsema points to one of the seat parts as particularly challenging and says that “without the ability to design in 3D using Cimatron, we may not have been able to win the project at all.”

The part in question is small and complex—a two-out die that makes 3- by 4-in. parts separated by just a ¾-in. web. Challenging to the tool-design and build process were the number of small, intricate and multifaceted forming processes required, and the call for cam piercing on both sides of each part.

“The software really helped us visualize all of that work happening in a small amount of available space,” Gortsema says. “When the parts are larger they’re typically easier to deal with, but small parts like these can require some unique tooling solutions. The 3D design software makes all the difference.

“The part also requires a preform operation,” Gortsema continues, “not a simple wipedown. In all we had to design eight progressive-die stations to make those small parts. For the diemaker it would have been very difficult to envision all of that work in 2D. In a way, we would likely have had to design it twice.”

Also for design of these parts, one of the optional modules Cimatron provides paid measurable dividends—it’s called Blank on Binder. According to Cimatron, the Blank on Binder module, based on finite-element analysis, allows users to unfold freeform shapes onto a 3D geometry quickly and accurately. It supports the creation of intermediate binder blanking surfaces, and unfolds the part on these faces, avoiding a time-consuming and costly trial-and-error process.

“We used the Blank on Binder module on a six-month trial basis,” says Gortsema, “and found it to be very useful on several projects, including unfolding the complex multifaceted forms on the seat parts. We’ll likely purchase the module soon.”

Concurrent Design and Manufacturing

Last but not least, Rozeboom appreciates that his diemakers on the shop floor can use Cimatron to begin fabricating smaller or simpler die sections, while programmers continue to develop more complex or larger parts in the engineering office.

“That’s a huge advantage for us from a project timeline perspective,” he says. “Being able to have multiple people working on a variety of operations simultaneously can significantly reduce lead times—another important competitive advantage.” MF

 

See also: 3D Systems/Cimatron Software

Related Enterprise Zones: Software, Tool & Die


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