Time is right for a rapid tooling revolution

A major aim of Formation is to create tooling faster than anyone else. It will produce any mould or die, up to 1tonne, in 28 days.

Until a year ago Formation had no experience of toolmaking, its background being rapid prototyping (RP). The experience gained in that business, the company believed, gave it some crucial advantages when it came to developing the rapid tooling concept.

The machine at the centre of Formation’s tooling enterprise is a Micron HSM 700. NC programs for the machine are provided by Delcam’s PowerMill CAM software.

Charles Goodwin, CNC manager, says that milling prototypes could be produced more economically by machining than they could be with StereoLithography.

He continues, ‘The key advantage of PowerMill is the way that you can edit the program, especially the choice of leads and links. The software makes it so easy to modify the initial results to get exactly what you are after.’

A long-term user of the company’s RP services first put the new approach to the test. Sun Microsystems UK Telco Platforms Group (TPG) had a project in which there was a clear need to go beyond prototypes, with production representative components required for design and test evaluation.

The components consisted of a latch, which had to be injection moulded and two different ejector lever components that were to be zinc diecast. While the diecastings were straight open and close tools, the injection moulded component required three side actions to allow ejection. Quantities of around 100 were needed of each.

Formation undertook the CAD work and the production of the tooling inserts. The resulting tool ran successfully first time enabling 100 components to be produced within 3hr. On completion of the first batch, the tooling was returned to incorporate the second set of inserts and the cycle repeated. Within seven working days after the first, 100 parts of the second configuration were available.

Simultaneously the plastic latch was being developed. In reviewing the latch design at an early stage of the product development, a modification was identified and incorporated. The modification was very straightforward, and removed what would have been two very thin blades within the tool, producing a more robust unit.

Total time to produce the injection mould tooling and samples was four weeks from release of customer part data.

Delcam. Tel: 0121 766 5544