CAD/CAM software speeds prototype lead-times

A US plastics and metal product prototyping company reported that use of Delcam’s PowerSHAPE design software and the PowerMILL CAM system has reduced its delivery times by 50%.

Craft Pattern and mold, based in Maple Plain, Minnesota, USA, reported that it had reduced its delivery times by up to 50% in the ten years that it has been using Delcam’s PowerSHAPE design software and the PowerMILL CAM system The company provides rapid precision plastics or metal prototypes, and low-volume production parts for leading companies in the aerospace, agriculture, automotive, consumer products, electronics, medical and toy industries.

Established in 1986 to provide high-quality moulds and patterns for the foundry industry, Craft Pattern can now ship machined prototype parts within 14 days of receiving the customer’s CAD file.

Company owner, Tony Cremers, said: "By combining our technical knowledge with the latest manufacturing technologies, we are dramatically reducing the development time for our clients." The company usually produces six to ten different patterns a week, depending on their size and complexity.

Cremers added that the Delcam software allowed his company to create models and secondary tooling in a day or even hours: "Previously, it might have taken up to a month to turn around castings or machined parts, but with the Delcam software, we can go from the customer’s CAD file to patterns to castings in one to two weeks,"

He said that one of his patternmakers can use the software to generate an efficient tool path that he knows will work well the first time.

He will get the program out to a milling machine and then start programming the next job while the previous job is being machined.

Cremers continued: "The speed with which we can create toolpaths not only keep delivery times to a minimum, but keeps our shop running consistently".

* Job done in one day – recently, Craft received an order for tooling for a pulley wheel from a customer who wanted to cast the part the next day.

With its Delcam software, Craft was able to modify the CAD file, develop the parting line, generate a tool path, cut the part and deliver it that afternoon.

Cremers related: "When we get a pattern to work with, such as a manifold from the agricultural equipment industry, we bring the customer’s part file into PowerSHAPE.

We can then easily break out the component parts, in order to create a pattern".

Cremers said that using PowerSHAPE, the company can do the following.

* Analyse the model for damaged, duplicated or missing surfaces, and interactively inspect draft angles.

* Visualise hard-to-mould regions such as thin walls and ribs, and undercut areas.

Once the file is imported into PowerMILL, it is then easy to program the machining in layers to suit the lengths of the cutters available.

Cremers added: "Many patterns can be taller than the cutters are long, so programming in layers allows us to program the machining efficiently, and avoid cutting air".

Once a prototype casting is delivered and checked by the customer, its file can be changed and returned to Craft.

"The Delcam software makes it easy to overlay the 3D model from the customer and to see any changes in the new casting file we get back," said Cremers.

It makes it easier to select only the areas of the pattern that need to be changed, then to modify just those section of the PowerMILL file, saving a lot of time in re-programming and machining.

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