CMM and CAD/CAM Combo Helps Shop Reverse Engineer Broken Tools
Standard Pattern has been in the tooling business since 1937, not an easy feat in an industry that has seen its ups and downs over the years. When Thad Wagner bought the company with two partners in 1977, they were building wood patterns and operating out of a horse stable.
Fast forward to 2013, and you will find a modern tool shop that remains small and nimble, using the latest technologies available to provide a growing list of loyal customers with high-quality patterns made out of aluminum, iron, and steel. "Making the necessary adjustments and adopting new technologies have kept our company competitive and allowed it to stay in business for so many years," says Dustin Wagner, who now shares the ownership of the company with his father Thad.
Creating 3D Models for Old Tools
Standard Pattern provides a diverse range of products and services, with a great portion of the business focused on tooling for the foundry industry.
In recent years, Standard Pattern has been fulfilling a growing demand for 3D models of lost and broken tools. As many tools age and break, creating 3D models is the most cost-effective way to make new tools to replace the old ones.
In most cases, there is very little to go by. Blueprints, if they exist, are often outdated and have not kept up with changes to the tools made over the years. In many cases, there are only the parts to go by. Standard has developed an expertise reverse-engineering these old tools using CMM to generate the part data.
An added challenge is the quick turnaround required for delivering the new tool. "Everybody wants things yesterday," says Wagner. "We used to have 8-12 weeks to complete jobs. Now we are looking at mostly 2-3 week deliveries."
Wagner shares an example: "One of our customers lost all their tooling in a fire. All they had left were castings and some machine prints without any 3D models. The biggest challenge was making all of the models from scratch with just castings. Since they were running short of casting, there was a lot of pressure for quick delivery of the new tooling."
Delivering an End-to-End Solution Fast
Wagner looked carefully into several software vendors before choosing Cimatron. "I sat through a lot of demos and Cimatron was the best I found. I was hooked with the way it splits models and molds," he says.
According to Wagner, Cimatron is key to Standard’s success. "With Cimatron, we can make a tool in less than a week, including ordering the material, drawing a 3D model, writing tool paths, cutting the tool, and cleaning it. Without Cimatron, it would have taken us 6-8 weeks."
To meet customer demands, Standard Pattern has its own machining center operating around the clock. "Reliable NC software is a must for lights-out operation,” says Wagner. “Cimatron gives us complete confidence that we can run our machines error-free."
Other advantages translate directly to the quality of tools that Standard Pattern is able to deliver. As Wagner explains, "with Cimatron we cut from solid chunks of metal instead of casting the parts. The result is a stronger tool that can be used longer and is more accurate and easier to repair. We can quickly and easily change a certain area in the tool or upgrade it, which makes the entire process much more cost-effective."
Making the switch to Cimatron was easy, says Wagner. “The software is very intuitive, so starting to use it was pretty straightforward even without much formal training. As we got more sophisticated in our use of the software, Cimatron support has been very knowledgeable and highly responsive to provide us with the help we needed.”
Results: Drastically Increasing Competitive Advantage
Standard Pattern’s fast turnaround and one-stop service are the qualities that make customers return. “In many cases we don’t just replace the old tool,” adds Wagner. “We try to understand what issues they have been facing with the old tool and design a better tool that will address these problem areas.”
According to Wagner, not many shops are able to provide an end-to-end solution that starts with the design of 3D models from blueprints or existing parts and concludes with high-speed machining of the new tool from hardened material. “I don’t know how we could deliver the quality and speed that our customers demand without Cimatron.”