Coordinated CAD + CAM = Maximum Efficiency for Die/Mold Specialist

May 5, 2011
Hybrid tooling smoothes micro component design and production
A plastic injection mold tool designed and built by Kummer GmbH using the VISI CAD/CAM suite.
The individual modules of VISI are closely connected during design and manufacturing. A Kummer engineer examines a design here, from a workstation running the VISI suite.
A CAD display of 3D tooling designed by Kummer.

Tooling manufacturers that produce high-precision micro components in hybrid materials — for example, electrical connectors and switches — are refining their preferences in production and process technologies, and Vero Software is among their choices. A good example is Kummer GmbH of tisheim, Germany, which has paired a Vero CAD/CAM/CAE package with its own K'Tecsystem production process, and as a result has emerged as innovative manufacturer of micro components for automotive, medical, and telecommunication OEMs.

Vero Software designs, develops, and supplies CAD/CAM/CAE software that makes design and manufacturing processes more efficient. Its programs have been particularly effective at increasing productivity and decreasing time to market for producers of plastic injection molds and progressive dies.

As far back as 1998, Kummer’s directors Wolfgang and Jens Hofmann recognized that the plastics and stamping industries would become increasingly competitive, so they began to invest in R&D and advanced process technology. Within two years, after thorough internal testing, Kummer introduced its own sequential laminated injection process that combines both metal stamping and plastic injection molding within a single machine.

In the standard reel-to-reel procedures, stamping and injection machines are connected to each other with regulated loops, as part of a longer assembly line. Using this process, the material is processed in several consecutive steps and the production speed of the entire line depends on the injection cycle. Therefore, the stamping machines have to work at a slower, less cost-effective rate.

However, Kummer’s laminated injection method — K'Tecsystem — can stamp, bend, form and then over-mold the processed product with plastic, using just one combination machine. This process manufactures reliable, cost-efficient, high-value components in stamping presses that have a press force range from 25 to 125 metric tons and a stamping speed of up to 1,000 strokes per minute. The plastic injection machines support all types of thermoplastics with a clamping force of up to 200 metric tons and shot weights between 1 and 100 g.

Kummer seeks direct contact with customers. It offers its full range of knowledge in the field of stamping in order to find an economic solution for each technical problem. When an order arrives the design engineers start working immediately with the client, offering practical suggestions as to how the design may be modified or optimized, in order to make the best use of the laminated injection process, and ultimately to make the component more cost-effective to produce.

Throughout the complete design and manufacturing cycle, Kummer uses Vero Software’s VISI suite of CAD/CAM solutions. VISI Progress is used to design components and the punch tool, including developing the sheet metal component and strip layout. VISI Mold is used to design the plastic injection mold, and both modules work together in a seamless construction process.

“It was important for us to cater for all three scenarios using a single 3D system,” according to Thomas Härdt, head of development and construction. "Kummer already had an in-house design system from one of the 'big three' CAD suppliers, but we found that the system was not efficient for tool design. These systems are fully parametric, and so complex that they require 80% of your brain power to foresee the best working practice – which leaves only 20% for the project itself. With VISI, the opposite is true. The system has proved so easy to use that we were already up and running within two weeks and more efficient than with our previous system after only three months."

Once the tool design is completed, Vero's Compass Technology is used in the CAM department for 2 and 2.5-axis CNC programs. The feature recognition is capable of analyzing the 3D model for regular geometries, such as holes, pockets or T-slots - dramatically reducing programming time and eliminating human error. Based on the standard component type (screw, pillar, dowel etc) feature properties are applied during the tool design phase, which are automatically picked up by Compass.

For example, a hole can be automatically recognized and machined regardless of its diameter, using a different sequence of CAM cycles. “With our previous 2D system, the feature recognitions rate lay between 80 - 90%. With Compass we have already surpassed that mark, and there is still room for further optimization. In total, we are running 16 licenses of VISI Modeling as a base platform and a number of additional licenses for VISI Mold, VISI Progress and VISI Machining with Compass Technology,” explained Härdt.

Marc Freebrey, Vero’s marketing manager, explained that the area around Pforzheim, Germany, between Karlsruhe and Stuttgart, which includes Kummer’s location in tisheim, is unique in that there is a high concentration of progressive-die companies producing the same type of micro components. "Many of the companies work together to define the CAD standards and the products they use to ensure maximum productivity. Historically, the companies have used a combination of CADDA (2D system), ME10, and NX or Pro-E. However the industry trend has been to move towards a dedicated CADCAM system for mold and die - and the product of choice is VISI. A customer user group has been established, in which the users are able to vote on their particular needs and define the priority of items put forward for development.”

Freebrey added that this intimate relationship between customer and software provider ensures the product remains focused on the market requirements and provides the users with an opportunity to help define future developments."

Jens Hofmann, operations manager at Kummer explains how with three other companies and a banking institute, they have founded a Stamping Technology Scholarship at the Pforzheim University. "There were two reasons behind this, the first being a connection with the local high school; something that is not so easy for a medium-sized business to establish. The second reason is that we wanted to celebrate our location – this is where our unique stamping technology was born … .”

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