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Investments result in world-class stamping.

Investments result in world-class stamping

During an economic slowdown businesses tend to cut back on capital equipment investment and training. John Scrymgeour, owner of Dietron Tool & Die Inc, Scarborough, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, decided to focus on the long haul, investing in the future of his business and his employees. In the last year, the company has invested over $500,000 in new metalworking machinery, upgrading machines and training operators. Over $32,000 was spent on training time alone.

The six-year-old company is family owned and specializes in producing various types of stamping dies including progressive, line, fineblanking, and draw dies. Die sizes range from hand-operated, hand-fed 8-to 10-ton line dies to 18-ton progressive dies.

All designing, manufacturing, and machining steps are now done in-house to maintain control over the finished die quality. Dietron does, however, job some of its work to its sister company, Wiretron. Located in the same building, Wiretron is a wire EDM job shop that produces smaller 2D and 3D dies.

Dietron services customers in North America and Europe, 90% of which are stampers for the automotive industry. Housed in a 12,000-sq-ft building, the company has 19 employees, 17 of which are tradesmen. Since progressive die making is such an art and one person actually "lives" with a particular job for several months, Scrymgeour believes his die makers should be designers and programmers as well as skilled machinists. Several of his tool and die people are trained in all NC applications. The shop runs 24 hours a day with two overlapping shifts.

Like many of today's tool and die shops, Dietron had little experience in using technologically advanced machines, not even simple NC machines. Scrymgeour said, "The most complicated piece of manufacturing equipment we were using was a calculator." Traditional die shop machines in use included several horizontal and vertical milling machines (including a Deckel copy mill), radial drilling machines, surface grinders, tryout presses, and a variety of other standard metal-working equipment.

The company was using its copy mill to duplicate parts to then produce dies. Preparing a die for duplication took over 48 hours. On half of the die would be cast and allowed to set for 24 hours, then the other half would be cast and set for another 24 hours before the copying could begin. Since the duplication was done by hand on the copy mill, several additional days were required to obtain a copy.

In addition to the time and cost required to produce a copy, Dietron was subcontracting portions of the die production process, averaging in excess of $75,000 annually. Even though the industry was in a recession, Scrymgeour decided to add new machinery to reduce the sub-contracting and increase productivity. His original plans included the purchase of another copy mill, but he was also intrigued with the newer digitizing technology.

At the 1990 International Machine Tool Show, Scrymgeour reviewed several copy mills and other duplicating equipment. He also took a model with him to test various types of digitizers and determine how complicated it was for each to cut. Scrymgeour said, "Most of the vendors said, 'Give us two or three days to produce it or we'll send someone to your factory.' The Sharnoa (Sharnoa Corp, Plymouth, MI) salesman said, 'Leave your model and go get a cup of coffee. When you get back it will be ready to cut.' The part was digitized in 15 minutes and the finished cutting program was ready in about half and hour. That impressed me. I figured if a salesman can run the machine then it can't be that complicated for me to use."

Since Scrymgeour was particularly interested in a machine that had duplication capabilities, he purchased a Sharnoa SVC 36 vertical machining center equipped with a Sharnoa laser digitizing system and Tiger[reg] 5 CNS controls that permit machining and CAD/CAM operation simultaneously. The laser digitizing system can scan and digitize a part at feedrates of over 120 ipm. Information obtained from the scan can be used to make a direct reproduction of a model; scale the size up or down, produce mirror images, or make male/female conversions. The machine has a [+ or -]0.0004' positioning accuracy and a repeatability of [+ or -]0.0002" and has a 43' X 16" table. X-axis is 35", Y-axis 20.5", and Z-axis is 22."

Several months later Scrymgeour purchased another Sharnoa vertical machining center, the SVC 52, that has a larger, 55" x 28" table. He estimates that each machine will bring in about $300,000 in additional annual sales.

According to Scrymgeour, Sharnoa's "bundled" technology, not just the mill itself, sold him. "The controls and software, coupled with the laser digitizer, are what make these machines. In my opinion, the software is the best I can buy for die-making applications. They have more than adequate memory and can handle complicated tasks easily." The machines' MS-DOS[reg]-compatible, 32-bit microprocessor-driven CNC control can simultaneously control up to six axes of motion while maintaining higher milling speeds and is equipped with a 20-megabyte hard disk drive.

Since the company was not familiar with even NC technology, it took employees about a month to get up to speed on the machines, including training and trial-and-error steps, and only an additional 60 days to become proficient on the equipment. With the second machine they were up and running in three hours.

Learning to use the machines effectively has paid off. Using the laser digitizing system on the machines, the company has eliminated the 48-hour job of casting both halves to be duplicated and the costly time it took to copy the dies on a copy mill. Even intricate dies can be scanned and digitized in about six hours and then cut in the same day.

Laser digitizing the part also eliminates the shrinkage factor and resulting reduction in tolerances that can occur with the separator lifts used in progressive dies. Conversion of male/female parts can also be done quickly, in about 15 minutes. Using a copy mill for the conversion normally required several hours.

Lights-out manufacturing

The company is also saving actual machining time. Now Dietron has a lights-out environment for both digitizing and machining. It is not uncommon for the company to digitize a part overnight or over the weekend and for it to set up a machine and let it cut overnight or over the weekend.

Part accuracies are also better with the Sharnoa systems. For some parts, Dietron needed to hold tolerances as tight as [+ or -]0.0005". With the new machines, the company has no problem holding [+ or -]0.001" or [+ or -]0.002" tolerances.

Programming is done via a DNC link and is now done in the company's programming area. Within the next six months, Scrymgeour plans to integrate the design right into the machining side so a DFX file can be created and plugged directly into the machine instead of programming something twice. For example, the company now digitizes a part and transfers the information to IGES or DFX files and then to the EDM cutting area.

Using the machines has increased Dietron's production by 30%. Because of the machines' consistent repeatability, Dietron can produce a 3 up cavity die three times faster than before. Plus, bench work has been reduced dramatically.

PHOTO : John Scrymgeour, owner of Dietron Tool & Die, examines an automotive bumper while an operator machines the male part of the line die used in the production of the bumpers.

PHOTO : John Scrymgeour discusses a project with an EDM operator.

PHOTO : Samples of Dietron's progressive die work including 2 up and 3 up dies and finished parts.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Manufacturing Solutions
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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