Integrated CAD/CAM benefits die & mould industry

Integrated CAD/CAM software that combines CAD, CAM, electrode design and CMM programming capabilities in one system can save your time and efforts in many ways
 There are, broadly, two types of integrated CAD/CAM systems: One is CAD-centric, which is designed for people or companies that have standardised on a particular CAD system, and want the benefits of compatibility and associativity that integrated CAM can bring, and second is CAM-centric, which is designed for NC programmers who need CAD functions to do their work more efficiently.
The difference in centricity is a qualitative thing, and comes largely from the focus of the vendors who create the software, and the workflow in which the software is used.
Benefits and processing It is found that integrated CAD/CAM offers many benefits as it eliminates extra and costly data translation, automates many manufacturing authoring processes, uses integrated validation tools throughout the process and keeps the data organised.
“Integrated CAD/CAM provides more flexibility to the user to make programming without any data conversion loss,” points out Nitish Shukla, Business Manager, Cad Macro Design & Solutions Pvt. Ltd. “Manufacturing process becomes simpler, easily transferring to the CAM personnel. It avoids double time work, as well as knowledge transferring.”
It is a fact that a majority of tool rooms are in the small and medium sector which are run by passionate people. Often, these tool rooms employ specialists who do most of the tool design and manufacturing. Such specialists require an integrated CAD/CAM software that will not only allow them to make necessary changes to the input CAD model, but will also help them generate toolpaths for a given tool, die or mould. Figure 1 shows a typical (traditional) process, split-up in stages to manufacture a plastic injection mould.
Noticeably, the process is longer and takes many different applications and resources, until the job is finally done. This will result in a longer time-to-market as well as increase in overall cost. With an integrated CAD/CAM system, a new process can be defined as shown in figure 2.
It is apparent, from the figure 2, that one integrated team with one CAD/CAM system now ensures better communication; less data transfer, less chance of error as a more reliable process, less re-work, less management. It also means that there is no need for 2D drawings to be created separately for design communication to the shop floor. It also allows simulation of tool operation based on input mould configuration parameters.
In addition to this, the integrated CAD/CAM software has built-in intelligence and is also a knowledge based software. This allows the software to use components from standard catalogues like Hasco, DME, DMS, Kishin, Futaba etc., while understanding how mould components fit together – so the system suggests appropriate sizes. Features, such as holes, pockets, bosses and other prismatic features are recognised automatically in CAM software and appropriate strategies are applied for NC machining.
“Integrated CAD/CAM software helps in design, machining and inspection of electrodes, supporting a wide range of EDM equipment. The system provides the CAD element of the overall solution, in particular, the option to merge fragmented faces into a single, continuous surface and so produce cleaner, simple electrode geometry,” says Vineet Seth, Managing Director, Delcam Software (India) Pvt. Ltd. “This simplification makes subsequent operations, such as adding draft to complex regions of the model, much easier and also improves the operation of many of the direct modelling tools in the software.”
Automatic scripts for leading machine tools like Exeron and JDMA EPX, AgieCharmilles (Agievision and CT Millennium controls), Makino EDM, Mitsubishi Electric, ONA EDM, OPS-Ingersoll, Sodick and Zimmer & Kreim can be generated, thereby limiting manual intervention to a minimum. Scripts are the EDM equivalent of CAM programmes for machine tools.  They provide an automated process for the programming of the machine, instead of users having to program manually from a set-up sheet.
The automated process is much easier and quicker, especially when a number of electrodes are being used on the same component.  Furthermore, the direct link removes the human error that could always be possible with manual programming. It is now possible to update the script files based on information gathered during the inspection of the electrode. The new script file can then provide accurate process information to the EDM machine, avoiding the need for manual updates.
“Since modelling, mould/tool design, CNC milling and electrode making are important parts of the die and mould segment, integrated CAD/CAM tools help them by making the above processes interlinked and efficient,” adds Mr Seth.
Actual implementation In earlier times, companies had to benchmark against traditional processes, thereby educating their customers on the benefit of an efficient CAD/CAM system. This was a long process, and it often meant that they had to go back to the basics. However, a change has been observed in recent years.
“In the past 10 years, a sea change has been observed. Many of our customers now are aware of the benefits an advanced CAD/CAM system brings to the table, and they are geared up to make certain changes to their existing processes, in order to be more efficient,” says Mr Seth. “Implementation of a CAD/CAM system requires us to study the customers’ profile – what they do, how they currently do it, what are their bottlenecks and finally how much time and money they are spending to do this. We then assess the appropriate modules that will give them added benefits, and then start implementing these in a phase wise manner.”
Usually, most companies require a bit of hand holding in the initial stages, but they then start innovating better with the new technology that has been implemented.
“We brought the integrated CAD/CAM package in for CAM-centric ones. It will be easier for the users to modify the needs and adopt as per machine conditions which requires modification after getting model from the user. Our focus is on wire EDM and CNC turning,” informs Mr Shukla. “For those designers who do not have much knowledge about the machining and machines, integrated CAD/CAM can modify as per the requirements of the job.”
CAM solution for CNC WIRE EDM technologyMr Shukla also informs about one solution that Cad Macro offers i.e. new version of MAcRO WIRE 2.4 Auto Programming Tool for CNC WIRE EDM with latest technologies. Its application features include gear profile, simulation with offset etc.  MAcRO WIRE supports all major CNC WIRE EDM post processors of machines like Mitsubishi, Makino, Chmer, Excetek,  Accutex, Agie Charmilles, Sodick, Electronica etc. It can also be customised according to the user defined structures. The   4-axis (complex) wire path can be created with ease even if both top and bottom profiles contain unequal entities. The support team at CAD MAcRO is providing trial version for evaluation and they will even provide the support.
Performance of Indian marketOver the years the Indian toolroom industry has built a reputation for not only being economical in cost, but being able to make the most critical moulds in certain well known toolrooms in the country. The industry can compete head to head with its counterparts on global platform. Though there are a few concerns, this is more as a result of policy paralysis than anything else.
“Indian toolroom industry currently is in a delicate situation. While the larger toolrooms are on an expansion path or technological upgradation path, the largest market that they cater to is currently facing low volumes,” analyses Mr Seth. “Smaller and mid size toolrooms are finding it difficult to justify expansion and tend to largely compete on low pricing. It is due to this situation that capital investment is one of the core challenges in the Indian industry.”
It is paramount to appreciate that quality comes at a price, and any hasty decisions or cheaper alternatives lead to unwise investments in equipment that deteriorates progressively in a shorter span of time. This is one of the biggest challenges, as a low paying investment is likely to drag other better parameters of the company down with it.
“SMEs have to gain advantages of CAD/CAM technology for their mould making process. However, even today many companies are using unproductive older methods and older versions of software. It leads them to lose their quality and on time delivery. Still we have a lot of potential in this market,” believes Mr Shukla.
For better tomorrowMr Seth believes, “When Indian toolrooms will start utilising scientific methods and global business approach, along with their experience, they will be profitable as well as they will also set a benchmark which will perhaps be a big challenge to its competitors in the near future.”
What the industry needs to do is work towards better quality, better service and better lead-times, all at a competitive price. This will be possible only when they are able to do the right work, employing the right people with the right ability, and using the right equipment at the right time. ——————-Manufacturing process becomes simpler, easily transferring to the CAM personnel. It avoids double time work, as well as knowledge transferring
Nitish Shukla, Business Manager, Cad Macro Design & Solutions Pvt. Ltd.——————
——————Integrated CAD/CAM software helps in design, machining and inspection of electrodes, supporting a wide range of EDM equipment
Vineet Seth, Managing Director, Delcam Software (India) Pvt. Ltd.

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