Case Study Automated, high-speed milling cuts lead-times by up to 20%
Ireland - Replacing some electric discharge machining processes by high-speed cutting has cut an Irish toolmaker's mould lead-times by up to 20% to typically 14 weeks. Two machines have been automated with pallet changers so that they can be operated around the clock, unmanned at night.
A lot of electric discharge machining previously carried out by Galway Tool & Mould (GTM) has been replaced by high-speed cutting at up to 42,000 rpm on three German-built Roeders machining centres supplied by Hurco Europe, High Wycombe, through its local sales representative in Ireland, Michael Gannon.
Running around the clock
Two of the machines, which are all installed in a temperature controlled environment, have been automated with pallet changers so that they can be operated around the clock, unmanned at night.
GTM’s owner and managing director, Padraig McFadden, said, “As a result of this and other measures, mould lead-times have been cut by up to 20% to typically 14 weeks and we have increased productivity significantly.” The main specialism of the company, which was founded in 1990, is manufacture of high precision injection moulds for the medical, pharmaceutical and high-volume packaging sectors worldwide, from single-impression moulds for prototyping to 48-cavity moulds for producing complex plastic devices such as inhalers.
In addition, a small number of micro moulds is produced to make, for example, miniature rotor gears and screws for medical assemblies or for overmoulding stents. Components down to 10 mg can be moulded to tolerances of ± 0.005 mm, consistently and reliably.
The successful working practices implemented by GTM at its Galway factory resulted in a doubling of turnover between 2012 and 2015 and an increase in floor area. There are now 30 employees of whom three are apprentices.
Migration from EDM to high-speed milling is one factor in that success, but others are the opening of a metrology laboratory for tool validation and an in-house trial facility for moulds equipped with Fanuc electric moulding machines ranging from 100 to 300 t capacity. McFadden emphasised that customers get a perfect turnkey mould every time, which has been designed, manufactured and tested for process viability, including correct shrinkage allowance.
2007 was a year of change for GTM, which until then derived a large proportion of turnover from automotive mould making. Much of this work rapidly disappeared overseas, notably to China, so Mr McFadden diversified into other areas, particularly the medical industry for which Ireland had become a global manufacturing centre. Characteristic of medical mould work are the requirement for tighter tolerances and better surface finishes as well as shorter lead-times than are normal in the automotive sector.