Integrated CAD/CAM Software Inspired by the Needs of Tooling Engineers
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Integrated CAD/CAM Software Inspired by the Needs of Tooling Engineers

By Carol Zampell, Vice President, Software Engineering, 3D Systems

Carol Zampell, Vice President, Software Engineering, 3D Systems

As technology has become an integral part of our lives – both personal and professional – it has transformed the way we operate. Many things move faster and at a lower cost, such as information flow, digital content, and physical goods. Software is a core part of this transformation, and the number of software development engineers worldwide is overgrowing. Among this number are a smaller group who find their passion in creating software to simplify sophisticated product design, take work out of the tooling process, and generally use technology to speed and simplify the task of toolmakers.

Changing the Tool Making Paradigm with Integrated CAD/CAM Software

To stay competitive, mold makers need to shorten delivery time while producing high-quality molds at a lower cost. Design and Manufacturing Engineers often must work with processes that require a product and tool design be passed between multiple software packages. Any workflow that involves the use of numerous software packages has inherent inefficiency and loss of quality. Having a dedicated, integrated CAD/CAM solution for the design and manufacture of molds, dies, and tools enable toolmakers to increase their productivity and deliver high-quality tools of any complexity and size in record time. Add to that a range of dedicated quoting, tooling design and analysis tools, as well as automated NC programming, and tooling departments can dramatically increase their competitiveness and profitability. A typical company may see more than 50 percent improvement in design time and up to 70 percent improvement in total mold delivery time achieved through the adoption of a fully integrated software solution.

Liberty Molds, Inc, an injection mold-making tool shop in Portage, MI is using integrated CAD/CAM software to design and manufacture complex, high-tolerance, custom prototype and production tooling. The shop was challenged to design and build complex molds quickly to meet tight delivery timelines their customers demanded. They were using three different software solutions which were cumbersome. It was slow to train their employees on each one; errors were numerous and costly, requiring re-work that resulted in slowdowns across the process. By replacing these three solutions with a single, integrated CAD/CAM system, they cut mold design times in half, eliminated translation errors, resulting in hundreds of hours saved on re-work per error and lowering final costs. Pat Stevens, engineering manager with Liberty Molds, Inc., has said, “In this business, time is money. Something that used to take us 16 weeks to build, we can now build in 10–12 weeks.” His team is now also using simulation tools to identify and correct problems before designs are sent to the shop floor.

"Software is a core part of this transformation, and the number of software development engineers worldwide is overgrowing"

Classic Tool and Die is a family-owned tool and die shop in Ontario, Canada, which builds stamping dies primarily for the automotive industry. After adopting an integrated software solution for quoting to design to manufacture, they saw significantly improved productivity through shortened design and build times, enabling them to meet the demanding lead times of the automotive industry. Adriano Oppio, vice president at Classic Tool & Die, stated, “Using a single solution eliminates errors due to translating data from one CAD software program to another, and completely streamlines all of our internal processes.”

Innovating the Future

With advances in machining and manufacturing technology, the job of tool making is becoming even more complicated. Advanced software has become essential to managing that complexity, and enables toolmakers to create molds that deliver higher quality parts, faster.

For example, large, highly complex, and thin-wall injection molded parts create unique challenges in material flow and consistent cooling to prevent warpage. In recent years, conformal cooling has become available to help address this challenge. Traditional drilled or milled cooling channels create inconsistency around part geometry and are less effective when dealing with large parts or highly intricate part designs. Using additive manufacturing to produce conformally cooled mold cores or inserts for these intricate designs can lead to higher quality parts and reduced injection cycle time. To help accomplish this, our software developers have created sophisticated algorithms to automate the relatively complicated and time-consuming process of designing optimal conformal and conventional cooling channels.

As options for mold design and manufacturing become more complicated and competitive, I’m proud to be part of a team of software engineers that is working very hard to deliver easy-to-use, integrated tooling solutions to simplify the job of toolmakers. Industry-leading manufacturers who are incorporating these integrated CAD/CAM software solutions into their workflows are not only maintaining their competitive advantage but are also leading the industry into the digital future.

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