Going from Standard Delivery to Customized Product Development

March 8, 2010
Tool and insert manufacturer establishes in-house product design with NX and Solid Edge

HiCut Tools adopted Siemens PLM Software’s Solid Edge® software for making models and NX software for CAD and CAM — allowing it to make the leap from the standard tooling market to the high-value precision tooling market, using its already installed three-axis machining capability.

HiCut Tools in Pune, India is a custom designer and manufacturer of indexable cutting tool holders and inserts for the automotive supply chain, the oil and gas sector, valve makers, and general engineering companies. Until recently, HiCut served the broad machining market with standard tools and inserts, but its competition in that area was increasing and the margins for delivering these tools were eroding. So, the company decided to enter the high-end tool market.

There were challenges to overcome first. First, HiCut Tools had subcontracted its products’ CAD and CAM needs, but designing customized high-end tools demands intensive R&D and product testing, and back-and-forth communication with customers. It’s a demanding and involving process where constant feedback and rapid response are needed to respond to customers’ requests for changes or improvements.

Just as important, the high-end nature of this market required HiCut Tools to machine geometries with advanced features. For example, it needed to machine geometries having 5-axis features on 4-axis machines. Because the actual machining requires simultaneous motion on just three axes (the fourth is indexing and the fifth is an axis setting), HiCut Tools needed a CAD/CAM program that would comply.

The toolmaker realized that its custom of outsourcing CAD/CAM was not viable. Its vendor couldn’t deliver models and tool paths as fast as it needed the results to serve the new tooling customers properly. Even the need to edit developed CAD/CAM models was too slow.

HiCut Tools decided it needed its own in-house product development capability, including 3D CAD and 4-axis CAM technology. The company evaluated several systems, and since HiCut already had the machinery and infrastructure it needed for the high-end tool market it looked for a software supplier to provide CAD visualization capabilities linked to advanced CAM machining. In particular, HiCut wanted software that enabled the CAM machining to be automatically updated when the CAD model was edited.

HiCut Tools’ choice was a package from Siemens PLM Software that includes Solid Edge® software for making models and NX software for CAD and CAM. Siemens PLM Software worked with HiCut Tools designers both during and after the software-training period to them with their new in-house tools.

This relationship was important on the CAM side of HiCut Tools’ operations. For example, one HiCut Tools customer wanted to develop a complex spherical cutter with radial and axial rakes. Several design modifications were expected before final development.

This project required software that’s capable of very fast modeling and easy editing. Each pocket had to be set up differently because the axial rakes are different. HiCut Tools uses a 4-axis machine and needed CAM software that allows easy transfer between setups, supports a wide range of competent machining strategies, and automatically links with a CAD system. Solid Edge and NX readily accommodate frequent and rapid design changes, so they were ideal for this application.

Amit Pimprikar, senior design engineer at HiCut Tools, said the company is now capable of designing a pocket for a new insert in one day, versus a week of development time if it had continued to assign the work to a vendor. “Just as important,” Pimprikar adds, “when a delivered program needed editing, our machine used to stand idle for a couple of hours until our requirement was communicated to the vendor and an updated program could be provided. Now, our machine rarely sits idle and if it does, not for more than 15 minutes.”

“The new in-house CAD/CAM capabilities have delivered numerous benefits,” confirms HiCut Tools’ CEO Ketan M. Kerkar, “With Siemens’ PLM, rework and rejections due to improper design and CAM issues have been reduced by 75 percent. New product development turnaround has been reduced from one week to just one day.”

To date, HiCut Tools’ new in-house product development technology has been successful. “Tools based on entirely new concepts can now be quickly designed and developed,” according to managing director Lata M. Kerkar. “This enables us to capitalize on our expertise and experience to bring superior customized products to market.”

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