EDM

Portuguese mould makers pushing the limits

| Editor: Barbara Schulz

OPS Ingersoll’s Sales/Marketing Manager Matthias Schmidt (left), together with Vitor Cardoso and his machine operator at Marinha Grande-based VL Moldes.
OPS Ingersoll’s Sales/Marketing Manager Matthias Schmidt (left), together with Vitor Cardoso and his machine operator at Marinha Grande-based VL Moldes. (Source: Schulz)

Like most European manufacturers, Portuguese mould makers are unable to compete on price alone. Those who take advantage of the latest technology, such as a combination of EDM technology and high-speed machining, will have an edge up on the competition.

Even the casual visitor to some of Portugal's mould making shops walks away impressed by the heavy investment in advanced machine tools. Mould makers have been systematically upgrading their equipment with several objectives in mind: speeding up production, maximising flexibility, automating processes for unmanned operations and maintaining high-quality standards in order to remain competitive.

Heavy investments in R&D double production rate

With €115m of investment in R&D over the last five years, Portuguese mould makers have nearly doubled their export and production rate, with around 90% of their products going into markets such as Spain, Germany, France, Poland, the US and Mexico.

Most of Portugal's 500-plus mould makers are located either in Marinha Grande – just 130 km north of Lisbon – or in Oliveira de Azemeis – some 270 km north of Lisbon (or 60 km south of Porto). You can visit most of the plants and design offices in a quick, two-hour trip from Lisbon.

That's exactly what we did to find out what it is that makes the country’s mould makers so successful these days, and how they implement EDM and complex 5-axis CNC milling technology into their processes.

For many years, EDM die sinking has been considered something of a black art, a bit mysterious and an expensive secondary process. However, the use of EDM in injection moulding tooling is so essential that it is almost impossible to imagine a modern shop without an EDM machine; many of today’s products simply could not be produced without it – even though “today you can mill parts you couldn’t even have dreamt about five years ago,” as Hugo Pinto, sales manager at JDD Moldes in Oliveira de Azeméis, points out.

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