CNC machine shops that want to compete in the lucrative but highly competitive die/mould making market need to invest in the best CNC tools they can afford. They also need to have highly skilled toolmakers and competent machinists, which is easier said than done.
The industry requires that companies learn to adapt and change, because if they don’t change, their competition will! The days of easy money in die/mould making are long gone, as are the days of using manual machines and a few CNC machining centers. These days, you must be on top of your game, or you are not in the game.
Building a precision metal stamping die, for example, is a highly involved process that can be automated to a large extent. Of course, you still need the skilled tool-and-die maker to connect all the various machining processes and make everything fit and function. There will always be finishing operations that just cannot be done by a machine, no matter how sophisticated.
The same holds true for a plastic injection mould, you need the finest CNC tools available in order to machine the complex shapes generated by the high end CAD/CAM programs today.
Software for CNC machine shops
The GibbsCam Solid Surfacer is a good example of such a powerful program that is popular. It has high level surface and solids modeling abilities, plus an advanced function for the machining operations.
Surfware Inc. is another excellent CAD/CAM program provider for CNC machine shops. One of their top programs is the SURFCAM Velocity 4 SP1, which is powered by TrueMil. This integrates functions that allow it to read SolidWorks sketches and improved 4 and 5 axis machining.
Some CNC machine shops struggle with their CAD/CAM program and attempt to force it to do things it was not designed to do. If you are building plastic injection molds and making complicated electrodes you simply have to have software designed to handle these complex operations.
Use good toolholders
One item that is often overlooked in the tooling up process is the tool holder. It doesn’t make much sense to invest in a 5 axis milling machine and skimp on the tooling, but it happens all the time.
Imagine buying a DMU 50 eVolution machining center and the buying some low quality tool holders, it just won’t perform as it should. Quality die/mould making demands quality tooling.
I have seen several Makino V56 Graphite Machining Centers with such low quality CNC tools that the Poco graphite EDM electrodes cut in it were all nearly useless. The vibration caused by out of balance tooling made the entire process perform so poorly that the owner had to invest in better equipment.
Lyndex Nikken is another leading company that supplies quality tooling for the metalworking industry. Their product line is global in it’s reach and of the highest quality.
Most modern CNC machine shops include wire EDM (WEDM) and sinker EDM. By integrating pallets, robots and a work holding system it is possible to automate the majority of the metalworking processes.
System 3R, Erowa and Hermann Schmidt all have great products to help the WEDM department to do the job it is intended to.