Shop-Floor Programming Beats Outsourcing
Delcam PowerMILL CAM software
Although most automotive companies seem to focus on outsourcing as many of their manufacturing operations as possible, DELPHI, a world leader in automotive electronics and systems technology, has successfully moved some of its moldmaking operations back in-house. Delcam's PowerMILL computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, new machining centers from Makino and innovative people have helped the company's Flint, Michigan, 29 Mold Build Toolroom transition to both high-speed machining and shop-floor programming. These changes have proved critical in meeting the cost and delivery-time objectives of the transfer of work.
The 29 Mold Build Toolroom has an impressive range of Makino milling machines. These include two V55s, one with a spindle speed of 30,000 rpm and the other with 20,000 rpm; two horizontal machining centers, an A55 capable of 30,000 rpm and a larger Le Blond 1513; two S33s with speeds of 13,000 rpm; and two SNC64s for graphite machining that run at 30,000 rpm within an enclosed dust-collection system. In addition, the unit has a HAAS VF-2 and two Hurco VMX50 machines that are used mainly for detail machining.
The same people who operate these machines, using eight seats of the Delcam software, produce the programs. "As machine operators, we understand the elements necessary to produce high-quality mold inserts," explains Jeff Johns, a computer numeric controlled (CNC) machinist/CAM programmer responsible for high-speed machining mold insert sets. "The combination of our practical experience, the Makino machines and the Delcam software gives us consistently excellent results. By giving us, as machinists, the ability to program exactly as needed, we have seen huge reductions in the amount of air-cutting time and in the number of tool breakages."
"In addition, we haven't had a software gouge using PowerMILL software," adds Rob Bergeron, also a CNC machinist/CAM programmer. "This is becoming increasingly important because, in more and more applications, no weld marks are allowed on the tool surface. One gouge can mean the mold insert would have to be remachined."
"The main benefit of the Delcam software has been the short learning curve," explains Bill Jordan, another of DELPHI's CNC machinist/CAM programmers. "A competent machinist who knows the machine controller can produce valid CAM programs within two weeks. Each new release fits the needs of our programmers, and their success following upgrades leads them to believe the software is thoroughly tested before release."
Operating as an in-house build shop puts more pressure on the internal DELPHI team than is placed on external suppliers. They must match the lowest quote from outside the company and complete delivery in a maximum of 12 weeks. Despite these challenges, the volume of tooling has grown steadily since the unit was established in 2002. By the end of last year, DELPHI's 29 Mold Build Toolroom averaged 18 molds in process at any time.
Competition keeps the division continuously focused on process improvements. The toolroom uses unattended machining to further increase productivity and intends to completely remove hand finishing of the molds. "The finish from the 30,000 rpm machines is unbelievably smooth," Bergeron says. "We are already close to the stage where we can take molds straight from the machining centers and onto the molding press."
The tooling completed so far has been mainly for electro/mechanical applications, including housings for air cleaners and instrument clusters, and enclosures for fuel level senders. Molds have also been produced for DELPHI's novel Passenger Occupancy Detection System. This system detects whether an adult or child is in the passenger seat and determines air-bag deployment accordingly in an accident.
"We know we are going against recent practice by bringing work in-house," admits Bill Jordan, "However, high-speed machining on the Makino machines and shop-floor programming with PowerMILL enable us to meet the necessary cost, quality and delivery requirements to most often exceed our customers' expectations."
Delcam PowerMILL CAM software
- Allows precise programming, thereby reducing air-cutting time and tool breakages.
- Quick learning curve allows competent machinists to produce valid CAM programs within two weeks.
- Permits unattended machining and may soon eliminate hand finishing of molds.