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Laser & Waterjet Profiling
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As market forces intensify in many sectors, manufacturing companies worldwide are looking to bring new products to market more quickly than ever before.
An example of this is new models being introduced by car manufacturers. Shorter leadtimes on new models keep designs up to date and sales volumes high, but shorter leadtimes place their own pressures on toolmakers, as a large part of the toolmaking process is development.
Following the initial tool design, machining of the forming stages of the tool begins. Upon completion of the machining, the tool is assembled and then trialled with laser cut profiles and inspected. Seldom does the part produced conform to the component drawing and so modifications to the tool and its component parts commences at this point. This is the development stage which can be very time consuming and labour intensive. Experience plays a major part in the design process but it still relies heavily on trial and error.
Motorists worldwide are looking for more economical vehicles due to ever increasing fuel costs and as a consequence, more economical engines are being introduced. However, economical engines become more beneficial if the overall weight of the vehicle is reduced – but this must be achieved without compromising safety.
The use of aluminium is becoming more commonplace as are thinner section alloyed steels with higher yield and tensile strengths. These new materials with their respective mechanical characteristics are providing new challenges to toolmakers. Splitting, creasing, cracking and ‘spring back’ issues are common due to the materials having less formability.
To allow the company to meet rigid delivery times with difficult to form materials, Brownhills, West Midlands-based Lodent Precision has introduced a ‘Virtual Tool Making’ service. “We define a forming process and then run simulation until we have a green part,” explains company director Paul Riley. “We then calculate the most efficient material yield optimisation and can even provide spring back analysis and compensation if required.
“The use of Virtual Tool Making gives us the best chance of meeting tight delivery times. Development time after producing the forming stages of the die can be considerable and by evaluating the process virtually up front, we can reduce development time considerably. Another benefit of the process is our ability to quote more accurately and even prove to the customer that it is feasible to produce the part to the current design before we begin to cut metal.”
He concludes: “After spending all of my working life – close to 35 years now – in press working and metal forming industries, I see Virtual Tool Making as the biggest technical advancement I have witnessed – and this includes CAD/CAM, CNC machining and wire erosion.”