Machine Verification Software Slashes Leadtimes, Builds Confidence
When Tri-Mack Plastics Manufacturing Corp. (Bristol, RI)—a manufacturer of high-performance components for critical applications primarily for the aerospace industry—was looking for the least expensive way to cut leadtimes, verify cutter paths, and virtually inspect their cut parts, all without sacrificing quality, the company turned to CGTech/Vericut software (Irvine, CA) to accomplish these goals. Fortunately, this software also helped Tri-Mack win GE Aviation’s Supplier Quality Awareness Award (see Flying High Below).
Founded in 1974, Tri-Mack Plastics Manufacturing Corp. (Bristol, RI) first supplied machined PTFE-based components, such as bushings and piston rings, to the aerospace industry. Driven by customer requirements, the company expanded into other high-temperature thermoplastics. By 1980, the company added its first injection molding machines as well as moldmaking equipment.
Today, the company has evolved into manufacturing high-performance components and assemblies. In addition to toolmaking and injection molding, the company has a broad range of capabilities—including precision CNC machining, bonding and assembly, and engineering services. “Tri-Mack specializes in the high-temperature and highly-filled thermoplastics, such as PEEK, Torlon, Ultem, Ryton, Amodel and Nylon,” notes Rob Matrone, Director of Engineering for Tri-Mack. “More than just a molder, we partner with our customers to solve problems.”
Tri-Mack typically builds molds that are a cross between SPI 101 and 102 class molds, Matrone explains. “Although part volumes are typically low, the filled engineering resins processed and tolerances required, warrant hard tool steel, guided ejection, wear pads, and excellent heating and cooling with good temperature control. The majority of our tooling is for the aerospace industry, but we also support accounts in chemical processing, energy, medical and industrial equipment.”
Matrone cites leadtime and price as Tri-Mack’s primary challenges. “Tools need to be built quicker and cheaper than ever before,” he explains. “The challenge is to design and build what is necessary to meet the overall project objectives. We are often working on new projects that have very short leadtimes. Tri-Mack offers concurrent engineering support—meaning that the project often begins without finalized part designs. In order for our customers to be successful, we need to trim as much time out of the new product introduction process as possible.”
Typical tool tolerances for molding areas are +/-.0005, Matrone continues, and mold finishes vary from high polish mirror finishes to any of the standard EDM finishes—depending on the article drawing specifications.
With time an issue, the company wanted to add lights-out machining capabilities. “We needed to run CNC machines unattended, so work could continue overnight as well as on the weekends,” Matrone comments. “Historically, we wouldn’t trust our cycles to run unattended. In the past, we would take even more time by CNC cutting wax before machining a workpiece that had substantial value already added. Good toolpath verification was the answer to give us the confidence that the programs were safe and the workpiece and/or machinery would not be harmed during the CNC process.”
Enter software manufacturer CGTech/Vericut. Matrone points out that Tri-Mack chose Vericut software first and foremost because of its accuracy. “Historically, the verification packages that come with the standard CAM packages have been limited,” he says. “Vericut has very good graphics that actually allow you to look at surface finish. We use the package for all CNC work—not just moldmaking. What you see is really what you get.”
“The technology allows a programmer to view the toolpath created by a CNC cycle onscreen,” Matrone explains. “The programmer can check for collisions, gouges in the workpiece and surface finish prior to actually cutting the workpiece. When building tools, all of the plates, cavities and electrodes are CNC machined. We use Vericut to qualify all programs before they are sent to the shop floor. The technology has allowed us to CNC material unattended—anytime.”
Vericut includes many inspection tools to view and analyze the geometry of the cut part. Models can be cross-sectioned multiple times at any orientation to check areas that would be impossible to see in a solid model (such as the intersection of drilled holes). The software has tools to measure thickness, volume, depth, gaps, distances, angles, hole diameters, tapping features, corner radii, scallop height, and edges. Delta X, Y, Z component distance measurements are included. Vericut also can optionally highlight features, such as all planes on the same level.
The addition of Vericut software has increased Tri-Mack’s speed in building tools and fixtures because the company can run machines unattended now that it is confident in the toolpaths. “This also has allowed us to save time by eliminating the need to remake components or run test parts,” Matrone notes. “By running the machines unattended, we reduce our costs as well. Safety also has been improved because the program verification eliminates tool crashes. These improvements enable us to offer our customers cost-competitive tooling with shorter leadtimes.
“All moldmaking shops need to be running some type of verification software,” Matrone concludes. “Vericut is a reliable product that outperforms the embedded verification packages found in most CAM software.”