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Moving Forward Through Innovation And Investment

Mon, 01/31/2011 - 6:07am

In the highly competitive plastic injection mold market, one engineering/manufacturing company recognized its need to constantly innovate and leverage the latest machines, software, and other tools to optimize its operations.

Proper Tooling, a division of Proper Group International, has been engineering and creating plastic injection molds for the automotive industries for more than 40 years. The company has made a name for itself with a unique design lab that works closely with the customers as parts are being designed to ensure they can be efficiently manufactured. 

“Before we introduced our design lab, customers would often provide us with parts that were designed without much regard to how difficult it was to create the tool,” says Doug Draca, Proper Tooling’s lead design engineer. “Now, thanks to the design lab, we can better collaborate with our clients during the part design process to ensure we can build the highest quality mold in the most efficient manner possible.”

Challenges: Increase the Speed and Quality of Sophisticated Mold Designs

In a market driven by rapid change, companies like Proper Tooling face many challenges.  Having been in the industry for over 15 years, Draca has seen these changes first hand. “Over the last several years, our customers have become increasingly demanding regarding delivery times,” Draca states. “If in the past we had 20-24 weeks to deliver a mold, now we are down to 8-12 weeks in most cases.”

“At the same time, expectations for quality are higher, and the designs are more sophisticated,” he adds. “Years ago, parts used to be a single color, simple shape, and single injection point. Nowadays, parts have complex lines and curves, as well as multiple colors and injection points.”

Another trend noted by Draca is the demand for 3D. “Nobody wants to look at a 2D model anymore. The people on the shop floor want to see exactly what they’re building, and the customers want to see exactly what they’re getting.”

Solution: Cimatron Enhances Company-Wide Efficiency from Quoting to Delivery

In this highly-competitive market, companies such as Proper must continuously improve their processes. “We must constantly innovate and leverage the latest machines, software, and other tools to streamline and optimize our operations. Not less important, we have to invest in our people and train them to keep up with the latest technologies and processes.”

As the company continues to upgrade its machines, the more rapidly designs need to be turned around to ensure these machines are running at full capacity. “In a multi-phased manufacturing operation where several departments are involved, eliminating bottlenecks is crucial,” says Draca. “We needed a better, faster, smarter way to bring new jobs in, design, produce, and assemble the tools, but the software we were using at the time was not up to the task.  That’s why we turned to Cimatron.”

“Some of the very large and extremely complex molds we make today have over 800 components and can weigh over 40 tons,” explains Draca. “We probably couldn’t even handle these types of jobs in a 2D environment.”

Proper Tooling has implemented the Cimatron CAD/CAM suite throughout the company.  Over 70 staff members—from the sales team to the departments that handle design, programming, machining, EDM, and assembly—now rely on Cimatron to make their work as productive as possible.  

“It’s important to note that in addition to great software, Cimatron has been giving us tremendous support, both on the sales and technical side,” says Draca.  “They are always here to help, whenever we need it.  They truly are committed to our success.”

 Results: Innovation and Automation Boost Product Output

In the three years that Proper Tooling has been using Cimatron software, the company has realized tremendous benefits. Among the most substantial advantages is a 20-to-30- percent increase in design efficiency. 

“Cimatron easily converts data from any system, so within minutes from the time you get a part file you can already be designing,” says Draca.  He and his team have created a rich library of mold bases and related components that can be readily reused in new tools, reducing design times, and leaving far less room for errors and inconsistencies.

“Using Cimatron has enabled us to achieve a level of visibility and efficiency throughout the company that other software simply could not provide,” claims Draca.

On the shop floor, machinists and mold makers can now see exactly what needs to be built and how, eliminating the reliance on multiple 2D printouts and back-and-forth questions with the designer.

“Having direct access to the 3D files through the Cimatron Viewer empowers our production people to boost both output and quality.  We are also able to customize the Bill of Material (BOM) so it fits the needs of our design, manufacturing, and purchasing departments,” adds Draca.

Proper’s sales reps use the Cimatron software to view the 3D model and more accurately quote pending jobs and projects. They also use it to better demonstrate the value of the company’s work to both existing and potential clients.

According to Draca, “Customers love the ability to come here and see the 3D models or even view them remotely via a web conference session.”

“The software has transformed the way we do things, dramatically enhancing nearly every aspect of our operations.  Once you start using Cimatron, there’s no turning back,” Draca concludes.

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