Die & Mould Story

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With state-of-the-art tooling facility, the die and mould industry is one of the most advanced with in-house design capability for moulds. The industry also has 3D based design process with high level of standardisation. With design facilities fully integrated with CAM and the ability to secure data control through access controlled servers, this is helping the industry reduce cycle times and lead times, lower labour costs with unattended machining. When industries such as the automotive and aerospace change designs regularly, machining centres need to mill hard metals at record speed, and also required to make moulds of the hardest steels and other materials. Dies, moulds and tools are an important aspect of the production process across industries and are the foundation of any kind of manufacturing. With state-of-the-art tooling facility, the die and mould industry is one of the most advanced with in-house design capability for moulds. The industry also has 3D based design process with high level of standardisation. With design facilities fully integrated with CAM and the ability to secure data control through access controlled servers, this is helping the industry reduce cycle times and lead times, lower labour costs with unattended machining. When industries such as the automotive and aerospace change designs regularly, machining centres need to mill hard metals at record speed, and also required to make moulds of the hardest steels and other materials. We speak to industry experts to understand the machines used and the challenges being faced.

Mean Machines

The Die and Mould industry has a broad spectrum of equipments including Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing, CNC Milling/Machining Centre, EDM, Die/mould polishing/ Die Spotting machines, Heat Treatment systems, Hot Runner System, Injection Moulding Machines,  Measuring Machines, Quality Assurance, Metrology Moulding machines/Die Casting machines, Sheet Metal Presses & ancillaries, CAD/CAM systems related to Dies & Moulds, Coating machines, Cutting Tools, Digitizing systems, Press Tools, Jigs, Fixtures, Gauges, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Surface Treatment systems, Texturizing systems and Tool Steel systems. In fact at Godrej Tooling, some of the high-end machines include Metal Cutting, a high speed CNC Milling and large double column CNC Milling with tilt heads and index tables, EDM for erosion and wire cuts and Blue Light Scanner, CMM with programmable controls, laser calibration and ball bar equipment for quality assurance. These are supported by CAD-CAM software for off line programming. EOS is the global technology leader for industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers and an innovator for holistic solutions in additive manufacturing.  Additionally, EOS provides all essential elements for industrial 3D printing. System, material and process parameters are intelligently harmonized to ensure a reliable high quality of parts and thus facilitating a decisive competitive edge. “EOS nurtures a vibrant ecosystem of partners and, by means of venture investments, helps incubate promising start-ups. It’s this interaction along the whole industrial value-chain that enables the development of extensive solutions for 3D printing. Hence contributing to the further digitization and automation of manufacturing. We produce innovative and high quality products using Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology. We have developed some unique and cutting edge products such as the EOS M 290 and  EOS M 400-4 that are enabling us cater to this industry. The EOS M 290 and the M400-4 are the high end machines which help in production of the Die casting Dies . These machines allow fast, flexible and cost-effective production of metal parts directly from CAD data. It has an intuitive user interface as the intelligent software concept with a combination of open and standardized parameter sets and the improved self cleaning filter system specially designed for the industrial production. The EOSINT M 290/400-4 has enabled companies to manufacture high quality Dies and Molds, which helps to reduce the lead time during the production process. Lastly, in an effort to deliver the best to the tooling industry, EOS has also entered into a strategic cooperation with companies such as GF Machining Solutions. This allows us to increase the value for customers by integrating conventional and additive technologies,” said Anand Prakasam, Head, EOS India.

Material Challenges

In spite of several kinds of machinery, there is a need to constantly evolve. Considering that designs in the auto and aerospace industry change constantly, there is a challenge of working out the lead times for die and mould. “The lead time are calculated with standard rope lengths with certain wait time.  They are rescheduled as and when changes are demanded by customer. In certain cases, the wait time buffers are used with tighter rope length plans to meet customer needs. In event where capacity becomes a constraint, sub contracting to approved and trained vendors is done either for the subject die or any other die,” says D K Sharma, Executive Vice President & Business Head, Godrej Tooling. Likewise, in die casting dies, materials with higher thermal fatigue resistance are tougher than usual tool steels. Machining them in cost effective and timely manner is a big challenge. Sheet metal dies for high strength part requires cutting of hardened steels at 55-60Hrc. To cut these accurately and cost effectively is a challenge. A deviation in geometry leads to higher tool maker efforts in part proving. CAE analysis of high strength parts (dp >590 pascals) requires multiple iterations and may still demand multiple trials and correction cycles. HPDC castings with complex features and high quality material filling properties that demand innovative filling, venting and cooling arrangement as per CAE flow analysis. “Most of the times we use very close materials to the actual injection moulded parts. Having said that, there are a lot of clients who require the exact material parts for testing and certification. Due to the restrictions on the technology this becomes a challenge sometimes for us and the customer,” opined Nishant Shah, Director – Engineering, Imaginarium India Pvt. Ltd.

Managing Lead Time

The industrial 3D printers are used to produce functional parts in a small batch production followed by mass productions. Tooling is an area that highly benefits from Additive Manufacturing. Special tools need high technical attention, processes and incur high costs. The design benefits of Additive Manufacturing from EOS increase both the productivity of the tools and the plastic product quality. In many industries, the production of specialist tools is one of the most expensive aspects of the production processes. It is time consuming and very technically demanding to use conventional processes. Based on EOS Additive Manufacturing, EOS enables single parts or individualised serial products to be manufactured quickly, cost-effectively and flexibly – even in small batch sizes. The overall lead time for the production of Die or Mould using Additive manufacturing is at least 50-70% faster when compared to conventional tooling given that the design of the Die is suitable for the AM technology. “By Hybrid production we mean the complicated part of the Die or Mould which need a 5 axis machining or wire edm or multiple settings can be produced using additive manufacturing method and the simpler half can be milled. Another effective Hybrid manufacturing is to effectively build only the functional areas of the tool on a pre machined base. With such different technique the AM technology is able to support the production of Dies and molds even when the design changes constantly. Effectively using DMLS design rules the Dies and Moulds could be redesigned quickly to adapt to suit AM. Also some companies use the Hydrid method to effectively produce the moulds. Manufacturers can also bring their products to market more quickly. For example, Innomia managed to reduce the time-to-market from 18 to 13 days in comparison with conventional tool manufacture as part of a tool optimisation project by using Additive Manufacturing,” opined Prakasam.

Case Study

Moulding is a crucial process in aerospace and automotive industries, so much so that moulds are said to be necessary in the manufacturing of any product. Common forms of the technology include press moulding and injection moulding, and most cars require more than 300 different moulds to take form. In the die and mould markets, Japanese-made moulds are recognized for top-level quality and this reputation continues to flourish with the growth of the manufacturing industry. In fact Japan based Saito Mold & Die Factory had a great experience using a FARO product. FARO is a global technology company that develops and markets computer-aided coordinate measurement devices and software. During Saito’s search for a new solution, a distributor introduced one of FARO’s portable CMM – the FARO Edge ScanArm ES. Right at the product demonstration, it became clear that the 3D measurement device would be a perfect fit for the measurement needs that Saito had. Mr. Kiyoshi Saito, President, Saito, joyously exclaimed, “I’ve found it – this is it! FARO’s device is easy to operate and not restricted to just a select few engineers. With the speed that measurements can be acquired, we can save a great deal of time.” One of the main benefits that Saito enjoyed about the ScanArm ES was its portability. As the device can be brought to any production site for measurement, it won the team over readily. Saito had originally considered imaging technology measurement devices, but an inherent shortcoming was the fixed nature of those devices. As moulds easily weigh up to hundreds of kilograms, it would have been extremely difficult and time consuming to move and position them onto a machine. Moreover, the work would require frequent rotation of the mould to capture various sides of the object, further necessitating an easier way to measure the weighty moulds. With a portable CMM like the ScanArm ES, the operator can move the arm to scan an object easily, completing the measurement in a much shorter time. “If any rework is required after an inspection, the mould returns to the processing machine immediately,” added President Saito. “It is very important to measure quickly.”

Looking Ahead

3D printing has made its mark in the tool and die industry. Tool-makers from the industry have started using 3D printers to support their day to day processes. Reduction of lead times, faster mouldings, precision prototypes for qualification and study are just a few benefits of this technology. The importance is so great that one of the leading German CNC Machine manufacturers has come up with a hybrid technology wherein the same machine can be used to deposit metal material and machine it on a 5 axis bed! This is a testimony to how serious is the industry about Additive manufacturing and its relevance in the Tool and Die industry. Additive Manufacturing is taking a huge leap in the Die and Mould industry. The importance of plastic as well as Metal 3D printing is being realised by manufacturers as well as consumers. This is not only for prototypes but also for manufacturing moulds directly. “For example, we recently printed an entire Mould (core and cavity) in Digital ABS for a bottle which was to be Blow moulded. The outputs produced could be around 500 in number, and showcased great quality. The mould took 2 days to design and 1.5 days to print. Similarly, Metal 3D printing has now become an important process for conformal cooling in Moulds. The complex cooling channels impossible to machine or make earlier can now be printed with inserts. For serial production tools, there’s been a reduction of 30-35% in cycle times using conformal cooling; which is a huge saving! Also we are continuously innovating and trying to see if we can print simpler moulds in metal, considering the material available are Maraging Steel, Aluminium and Titanium; which can help reduce the lead time drastically for pilot and low volume production tools,” added Shah. Machines that are able to cut as per design intents in minimum number of set ups and faster than present time lines, viz., 5-axis machining centers that are already in vogue. “IoT and digitization for higher machine up times, real time data availability for faster and educated decisions on machine as well as part conditions are way forward. Integrating machines with the MIS systems and automation for repeatedly accurate executions will help scale-up. A network supply chain for effective resource deployment is also very helpful,” avered Sharma The industry is also changing, to meet customer expectations that mandate a fast turnaround in the manufacture of Dies & Moulds. New generation manufacturing extensively uses hard machining and complex profiling on multi axis machining centres that do not need much manual intervention. The industry is certainly all geared to meet new customer expectations to take things to the next level.

This story appeared in the March 2017 issue of Manufacturing Today here: MT_July 2016_Auto Components_R

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