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Study shows potential for optimisation of Cax process chains in toolmaking

| Editor: Steffen Donath

With an integrated CAx process chain, it is possible for toolmaking companies to meet the diverse customer requirements and maintain competitiveness.
With an integrated CAx process chain, it is possible for toolmaking companies to meet the diverse customer requirements and maintain competitiveness. (Source: Fraunhofer IPT)

The Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT and the WBA Aachener Werkzeugbau Akademie GmbH have investigated the consistency and efficiency of Cax process chains in a joint study.

In addition to a best-practice example from additive manufacturing, the study presents the individual stations of the computer-aided process chain, derives fields of action from the current system use of toolmaking companies and predicts the future use of Cax systems. The researchers from Aachen do not only recognise optimisation potential in the industry when designing the digital process chain, but also in regard to the restrained application of new Cax system functionalities.

Survey participants agree that digitisation can optimise the entire order processing chain so that the overall throughput times can be shortened.

The study identifies three fields of action for toolmaking companies: external interfaces of the Cax process chain to customers and suppliers, internal interfaces within the process chain between departments and their systems, and the company’s own system landscape and its use. This requires a superordinate view of all stations in the process chain that takes the entire system landscape into account and, at the same time, includes customer processes at an early stage.

Designers spend a lot of time with Catia

In design, the proportion of time spent using the Dassault Systèmes “Catia” CAD system is highest among those surveyed at 47 percent. Although the “NX” system from Siemens PLM Software is the most frequently used with 58 percent, it is much less intensively used compared to 14 percent.

Suitable and standardised data interfaces are also crucial for a high level of customer orientation and for networking the various departments. However, there is no uniform standard for internal data exchange between departments. In external data exchange with customers and suppliers, on the other hand, the “Step” format has established itself in more than 80 percent of the companies surveyed. However, a complete standard has not yet emerged and remains a large unused potential for the industry.

Simulation systems can help to detect errors in tool design at an early stage. The study shows unused potential for tool optimisation and process improvement. Of the survey participants, an average of 22 percent simulate tool kinematics and 43 percent make use of process simulations.

The authors of the study also provide detailed insights into CAM programming as the interface between design and manufacturing and into individual NC simulation systems. The potential of computational fluid dynamics simulation is illustrated using a best-practice example from additive manufacturing. Finally, the study points to further optimisation potentials and offers an outlook on the developments in the future use of Cax systems.

A survey of twelve leading toolmaking companies and evaluations of the "Excellence in Production" competition for “Toolmaker of the Year” with more than 300 participating toolmaking companies deliver the data and therefore form the basis of this study.

Of the twelve leading companies named, 67 percent employ more than 100 people, with the industry spectrum ranging from injection moulds to solid forming tools and sheet metal processing tools.

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