CNC Software Delivers 50-Percent Leadtime Reduction for Complex Molds



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Industrial Molds Group (Rockford, IL), is a leading manufacturer of precision injection molds and the 2012 winner of MoldMaking Technology’s 2012 Leadtime Leader award. The company’s extensive investment in equipment, technology and employees has enabled it to reduce average leadtimes by 50 percent over the last five years.

Industrial Molds considers Delcam’s PowerMILL CNC programming software to be critical to achieving its 8-week average leadtimes. “PowerMILL reduces our leadtimes in a number of ways,” explains Greg Osborn, Industrial Molds account manager.

“It delivers the accuracy we need to get to net shape, which reduces the amount of hand finishing we do. It also has a number of features that reduce programming time and powerful functionality, such as arc fitting allows us to run our machines at top speeds, which reduces machining time.”
Established in 1968, Industrial Molds specializes in all facets of injection mold manufacturing including design, engineering, tooling and special machining services. The company has earned an excellent reputation as a premier precision mold manufacturer, designing and building molds for thermoplastics, thermoset, die cast and insert precision applications. Its portfolio includes molds for a wide range of industries including automotive (engine covers, surge tank bottles, seating, throttle bottles); electronics (modules, coils, electronic panels, and circuit boards); packaging (caps and closures; medical (disposable syringes, medical equipment cabinets, and housings); recreational (engine covers, seats) and many more.

As customers pushed for faster mold development, Industrial Molds began implementing a strategy to shorten leadtimes. The strategy consisted of buying the best equipment, deploying the best technology, and hiring the best people while keeping their skills up-to-date – a practice the company follows to this day. Deploying the best technology included a switch from previous CNC programming systems to Delcam PowerMILL on the recommendation of its distributor, CAD/CAM Systems.
PowerMILL has been a key factor in the company’s 50-percent leadtime reduction by delivering a level of accuracy that makes it possible to machine molds to net shape. This shrinks leadtimes by reducing the bench work previously needed for final fitting.
“PowerMILL’s roughing routines work very well, but that's only 20 percent of the CNC work in a typical project,” says Mark Hastings, High-Speed Machining Manager. “Then we utilize its rest roughing machining strategy for semifinishing. Finally, PowerMILL offers a lot of features that help us get to the actual net shape, such as picking radii and corners, penciling out details, and flow line machining.”

PowerMILL also provides close control over machining tolerances to make sure that the machined parts meet the spec. “The tighter the tolerance, the longer it takes to generate the toolpath,” says Hastings. “We can loosen it up while we are roughing, which generates the toolpath quicker, then tighten it up for finishing. Because we can control the accuracy, we can achieve close tolerances without sacrificing speed.”
“It’s really the synergy of PowerMILL’s tight tolerance toolpaths, along with the high-end Makino machines, good tooling, good holders and skilled operators that allows us to get to net shape,” Osborn says. “It’s everything being at the same high level. An important benefit of net shape machining is that you know exactly where the steel is. As soon as you put a stone to something for hand working, you no longer match CAD. You don't know where the steel is. With PowerMILL, we can get tighter shutoffs, and if the mold is damaged, such as destroying a parting line, we can recreate the exact shape because we cut to net shape and there is no handwork.”
In addition to shortening the mold development process, getting to net shape makes an impressive sales demonstration. “When I bring customers in, they are surprised that our shut-offs still have cutter marks,” adds Osborn. “They don’t see a lot of polishing on the parting lines because we can cut so close to net shape that we don’t need to handwork parting lines. They are very impressed with that.”
PowerMILL features, which save programming time, are another factor that contributed to Industrial Molds’ rapid mold development process. One such feature is the software’s openness, which allows for the creation of macros that automate repetitive tasks. For example, one macro performs multiple collision checks and multiple gouge checks. “I select all my toolpaths, and gouge check and collision check on multiple toolpaths at one time,” explains Hastings. “There’s a lot of automation built into PowerMILL and we run a lot of macros for carbon cutting of electrodes.”
Another programming time saver is the ability to save projects and re-use the majority of their programming when developing toolpaths for similar parts. “I save out generic projects that already have a roughing tool, a semi tool and a finishing tool. Then I bring in a new CAD model with similar features and batch process the toolpaths over the new geometry,” Hastings notes.  “There’s hardly any editing. PowerMILL gives me what I need for the new size part.”

Faster Cutting
The third way PowerMILL speeds mold development at Industrial Molds is by reducing machining time. “PowerMILL’s support for arc fitting allows us to take advantage of high-speed, high-feed cutters,” Osborn explains. “When you use software that doesn't allow you to arc fit the toolpath, you have to slow the machine way down to make corners. High-speed cutters can go 300 inches/minute, but if tools have to slow down for corners, they won’t reach that speed. PowerMILL offers smoothing and arc fit, which lets it travel smoothly around corners at much faster speeds. By smoothing out the transitions, PowerMILL allows for faster cutting while maintaining accuracy.”

Covering All Bases
Because Industrial Molds serves customers in such a wide range of industries, the breadth of functionality in PowerMILL is another key advantage. “Every part we cut, from hardened steel to soft aluminum or graphite, we program differently,” states Osborn. “PowerMILL covers all those bases. It isn’t limited to one type of machining. Some components we cut from outside in and others from the inside out. With PowerMILL, the programmer has so much control.”

Customer-Driven Advancements
Finally, Industrial Molds appreciates the fact that Delcam keeps PowerMILL state-of-the art and listens to its users. “They stay up with technology – using 64-bit software is a good example,” Osborn says. “And they are continually developing features to speed up our job and make things more efficient, such as performing the processing in the background so you can use the computer to do other things. We request functionality and Delcam adds it.”
Accuracy, programming automation and support for high-speed machining are important ways in which PowerMILL supports Industrial Mold’s lead time reduction. And while the company is always being approached by vendors wanting them to look at other CNC software options, PowerMILL remains their software of choice. “The toolpaths are accurate and the finishes are good,” notes Hastings. “In short, we can count on this software being right and accurate the first time.” Osborn concludes, “When you have high-end equipment and people, you need to match that with high-end software. This is the role PowerMILL fills for us.”

For More Information:
Industrial Molds
(815) 397-2971