Technology Year in Review

Let’s take a quick look back at some of 2016’s technology trends.

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Moldmakers not only spent the past 12 months battling ongoing moldmaking challenges, but the year also brought to light new moldmaking challenges, as well as new product and equipment enhancements designed to help face these challenges head-on. Let’s take a quick look back at some of 2016’s technology trends.

Automation. Fully automated milling of hardened mold inserts is the next level of automation in moldmaking. A growing trend is machine-side robots for placing inserts in molds, labeling, part removal and more, and collaborative robots that interact safely with humans. 

Additive manufacturing. Use of laser cusing of steel, hybrid additive machines, 3D printing of plastic parts and conformal cooling all increased.

CAD/design. Design software that features 3D simulation and analysis, or even virtual reality imaging, is helping moldmakers fine-tune part and mold manufacturability before actual cutting of steel. 

CAM and programming. Software that is proficient at both CAD and CAM is key, especially with large files. Another big area of focus for CAM is finishing.

Machining. Five-axis machining continues to be adapted at a higher level, and productionizing mold building through the use of multi-tasking machines or well-planned machining strategies. There has been increased use of modular workholding systems in shops’ small component areas. 

Cutting tools. Trends include vending machines for cutting tools, more modular tooling, and continued interest in hard-cutting capabilities and cutters, as well as high-feed milling cutters for difficult-to-machine materials. Moldmakers are seeking enhanced systems/software that provides tool recommendations specific to the machine and application. 

Components and mold material. More common is the use of unconventional mold movements for part ejection, an increased use of standard mold components, use of localized fast heating during cycles.

Quality, inspection and measurement. There has been increased use of machine tool touch probes, measurement data from on-machine inspection, in-process inspection with model-based definition and CT scanning of molded parts. Developments also have been made in quality data management software, measurement software, as have enhancements of computer tomography and white-light sensor technology. 

Molding. Another trend is process validation using simulation to analyze the mold before steel is cut. This is also being incorporated with in-mold cavity pressure sensors to provide feedback from the floor.

Maintenance, repair and surface treatment. Laser welding, and using spotting presses for mold inspection and verification in addition to mold maintenance and repair has increased.