In times when the domestic moldmaking industry is searching for answers to the ever-growing impact of imported molds, a change in the traditional mindset in the mold manufacturing process is needed to regain market share. To offset higher loan and overhead costs, combined with higher tolerance requirements by mold buyers, the transition to the HSM concept is necessary to survive in today's and tomorrow's world mold market.
HSM has been around for quite some time, but has not been implemented to the degree necessary to turn the industry around.
Innovations in the industry that should be implemented within every mold shop and that will make a difference include HSM coupled with new cutting tool developments, new machine technologies and the latest in mold software.
These new technologies and techniques save machine time, eliminate EDM work and improve the overall quality of the product - the factors that determine competitiveness. However, for most companies these technologies and techniques taken together are cost-prohibitive and cannot be accomplished overnight. Each one requires capital investment in new equipment or upgrades of older equipment, training and the implementation of the latest technology in cutting tool techniques. Following are a few of the necessary steps to take to make the move to HSM.
Three Steps to HSM Implementation
1. Train operators.
Operator training is an essential component to the success of HSM. Educate operators to be comfortable working at cutting speeds of 60,000 rpm on smaller tool diameters while utilizing the optimal available machine feedrates for the size tooling used. Quality checks also need to be performed to make adjustments, if necessary.
2. Investigate software developments.
Software developments in the mold industry help operators and mold engineers tremendously. CAD drawings are loaded directly onto the CNC machine where the software calculates machine-processing data and performs other functions such as machining process simulation, automatic toolpath optimization and toolpath error detection. These functions reduce the memory load on the CNC machine - freeing capacity and optimizing the control to its maximum capable calculating speed. These software packages not only improve the performance on new machines, but also dramatically enhance the CNC's capability on older controls.
3. Buy the right machine and machinery accessories/retrofit with the right equipment.
Effective HSM is a combination of a solid, quality machine, a fast calculating machine control and a servo drive system combined with the necessary spindle speeds. Each of the aforementioned can be retrofitted with high-speed quality components - the lack of a rigid machine base being the exception. There are many machining centers in the field that offer an excellent basis for a HSM project upgrade. Even with all of the expenses considered the retrofit solution offers a very attractive alternative to a new machining center.
HSM in moldmaking is no longer an option or a futuristic concept. Indeed, if companies want to enjoy long-term success in the global arena, they will need to initiate changes toward implementing this new technology.