Hridoy Ahmed

Ways to Build a More Profitable Moldmaking Business

Mold makers operate in an intensely competitive environment. The amount of work available on any given day is finite, and if it’s not going to your shop, it’s going to a competitor’s.

One way to gain a competitive advantage is to maintain high efficiency. When you have the fundamentals in place, your shop generates high-quality NC programs with speed and confidence, setting the stage for CNC machines that run well and produce outstanding finished tools.

Autodesk Mold and Die Resource Center

For many Industrial Mold Making, efficiency is already very much strong. So how do you improve your competitive position if you’re already doing everything right?

There is no simple answer. But if your shop is consistently performing at a high level, there is still ground to be gained at the margins. The following tips run the gamut from design to programming, from to setup to machining. Leading manufacturing software provider, Autodesk, offers a fast overview of some options your shop can easily put into practice.

1. Decrease Cycle Time with More Advanced Equipment

If you think an old machine is making you more money because it’s already paid for, think again. Today’s improved machine tools, tooling, workholding, control and CAD/CAM technology have made substantial gains over the last ten years, allowing shops to reduce the time it takes to machine cavities, cores, inserts and other components. And it’s not just about machining faster. Better machining technology also generates smoother, more accurate surfaces, which in turn reduces the need for subsequent EDM and benching operations, all of which can contribute to shorter lead times.

On-machine verification (OMV), also known as in-cycle measurement can streamline setup and processing on CNC machines.

Better workholding and control technology also can reduce setup. Adding a rotating table to a three-axis machine, for instance , allows you to cut more sides of a tool without the need to stop the machine, remove the fixture, reset it and square it up. Incorporating on-machine verification (OMV), also known as in-cycle measurement, onto your CNC machines can streamline setup and processing. During setup, OMV can be used to ensure the NC programs are correctly aligned with the stock being machined. OMV typically utilizes a spindle-mounted probe to pick up holes, edges and other features that can be used to set up machining datums. This can be done far quicker than using manual processes. Then, at predetermined times during machining, you can probe the part to ensure key areas are within tolerance.

Five-axis machining for Industrial Mold Making.

Five-axis machining takes it to another level. Whether full-five axis, or just 3 2 (continuous 3-axis machining with 2-axis positioning), this technology lets you get at more features of a cavity with a shorter tool. Keeping the length-to-diameter ratio as low as possible allows you to avoid running more slowly to avoid the vibration and gear “chatter” which will compromise part quality when tools are too long. Simply, the shorter the tool, the faster the machine can run and also the better the surface finish quality.

Cutting tools are also getting more productive. Multi-flute cutter (6-8 flutes per tool), for example, allow maximum higher feed rates with no any sacrifice in quality. Combined with five-axis machines, new barrel-shaped cutters allow you to significantly increase stepover distance yet still generate smoother surfaces.

2. Improve Equipment Utilization

Admittedly, better equipment is more expensive, at least initially, so you must consider how to get the greatest return on that investment. One way is to machine faster. Maximizing spindle utilization is the other. With faster setup and also the ability to machine unattended with faster cycle times, shops can double the output of a machine, or more.

Better CNC machining equipment is not the only way to produce more efficiently.

Collision detection and avoidance software that runs offline and on machine controls gives CNC machine operators the confidence to run programs unattended.

Setup reduction are often accomplished in several ways, all of which reduce downtime to stay CNC machines running the maximum amount as possible. Removable pallets with hydraulic clamps allow operators to run one job while prepping another, then swap out pallets and continue immediately instead of taking the time to wash up and re-fixture the second job only after the primary is finished. These pallets can also be configured with up to a dozen individual mold inserts or components that can be machined simultaneously, as opposed to running one or two at a time in vices.

Autodesk Mold Die Overview

OMV helps here as well. During job setup, OMV can drastically reduce the time necessary to square up the block compared to a dial indicator. It also allows machinists to identify parts that can still be salvaged. If a section is beyond salvation, OMV can prevent any longer nonce wasted on a section that should be cast into the scrap bucket. OMV enable these decision, and more, to be made in the real-time—all without removing the part from your machine.

CNC machines can also be configured to send an alert to a designated operator or employee if they experience an issue while running unattended. Knowing immediately when a machine is stalled can save hours from the schedule that would otherwise be lost.

3. Pursue More Demanding Work

Having more capable equipment unlocks the door to doing more complicated jobs where the margins are higher, and the competition is smaller.

As product designers—and the CAD software they use—become more capable, tool designs became more complex than ever. Techniques such as generative design, topology optimization and lightweighting allow parts to become increasingly organic in shape. These developments, alongside tighter delivery timescales, rising material costs and therefore the ever-present threat of overseas competition, can put immense pressure on mold and die shops.

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