VISI Flow Is Vital For Formaplex Mold Tool Integrity
Specialist plastic flow analysis software performs a significant role for a leading UK tool and moldings manufacturer which successfully produces over 400 pre-proven tools each year…. and its costs were recovered within the first month.
Formaplex design and manufacture aluminum and steel injection mold tools to the automotive, motorsport and aerospace industries, and produce low volume finished molded components such as brackets and fixings, through to bumper assemblies and instrument 1 panels. They also supply composite tooling and components, carry out specialist machining and finishing projects, component painting, flocking and assembly.
“Within the first month of using VISI Flow to analyse the correct filling pattern and maximize our process parameters, we saved the cost of the software.”
Adrian Chapman, Technical Director
The company has over 40 CNC machines – both 3 and 5-axis – with a range of machining envelopes up to 8m x 6.2m x 2m to suit a wide variety of design projects, along with 11 injection mold presses, from 55 tonnes to 3,500 tonnes.
They specialize in providing full design support and advice for tools, including plastic flow analysis, logistics project management through production, measurement, tool testing, design, and manufacture. Technical Director Adrian Chapman says VISI Flow from Vero Software is vital in ensuring the long-lasting integrity of their mold tools – its injection simulation achieves cost effective and reliable designs, and optimum molding conditions such as well-balanced runners with symmetrical filling patterns.
“Aluminum molds, in particular, can be damaged if filled from the wrong position, in the wrong sequence, or by excessive pressure with inadequate clamp tonnage. It’s all too easy to blow the mold and damage the parting faces. But VISI Flow shows us all potential manufacturing issues such as welding lines, air traps and the best gate location, before the mold is trialled.
“We can quickly analyse where the pressure is going to be too high, whether the material will freeze too quickly, if we need to have more than one gate and whether they’re in the right place. Once we’ve analysed and understood exactly what we need to do we can advize the customer on any necessary changes such as part thickness modification, changing the material or re-engineering.”
Initial studies of molded features and draft check analysis tell him all he needs to know to complete his initial Design for Manufacturability (DFM) work. He then carries out initial fill studies where VISI provides the same level of control over injecting molten polymer into the mold cavity as is available on the molding machine. The simulation provides the ability to forecast and visualize how a component will be filled by the plastic melt front, making it possible to identify any potential aesthetic issues. VISI Flow provides a number of analytical tools that allow the investigation of molding variables such as pressure, temperature, shear stress, frozen skin, fibre orientation, clamping force and many others.
“With VISI I can quickly analyse the customer CAD data to verify molding feasibility by checking for draft conditions and undercut features; then VISI Flow shows the capability of successfully molding the required plastic part.
“We use the part splitting tools to create parting faces, enabling us to quickly design the main core and cavity block. Once we have those finalised, we model the sliders, lifters and any other small components – whether they’re automatic or manual – and incorporate them into the mold tool.
“With VISI we can simulate the mold kinematics and correct any issues before we start cutting expensive metal. It gives a very clear indication of all areas where problems could arize. We can give our customers full and accurate information regarding the development of their mold tools. Without it, our dynamic approach and customer service would definitely be hindered.”
He says once the mold tool is complete it undergoes a maturation procedure – a series of process trials that monitor and review the continuous improvement of the product until the component is ultimately accepted
The company operates out of 150,000 square feet across three ‘state of the art’ sites in Hampshire, and is expanding with a further 120,000 square feet purpose built facility in 2016. Specialist Engineering is a crucial division of the business which supports the Metrology department, where molded components are accurately inspected and measured with the latest CMM technology. Formaplex design and manufacture bespoke fixtures for the inspection process, under the guidance of Specialist Engineering Manager Grant Keates.
And VISI plays a key role in this process, too, ensuring absolute accuracy and repeatable tolerances. He says they design the fixture by importing the native CAD model into VISI and creating the fixture around the critical points of the component. “The CAD data can come from our customers in a range of formats, but VISI handles it all seamlessly, which is a great advantage for our speed and efficiency of design.”
His next step is to send the finished CAD data of the fixture to the shop floor where VISI Machining’s dedicated high speed milling techniques and built-in smoothing algorithms create intelligent 3 and 5-axis toolpaths for their Doosan and Kondia CNC machines.
“We don’t have any real challenges or issues with designing and manufacturing our jigs and fixtures, because VISI helps us achieve everything we need to.
He says the Specialist Engineering Division embraces new technology with a high level of investment year on year, and is now incorporating sheet metal fabrication, encompassing welding of a range of steels through to exotic metals such as titanium.
Summing up the company’s overall use of VISI, Adrian Chapman says: “It provides us with key information at the design stage and it supports the complete mold process, which ultimately ensures total end product satisfaction.
“A conservative estimate is that within the first month of using VISI Flow to analyse the correct filling pattern and maximize our process parameters, we saved the cost of the software by avoiding downtime, repairs, wasted toolmaking and setting time, and reduced material costs.”
About the Company
Name: Formaplex Limited
- Single software solution for DFM analysis, 3D tool design, plastic flow simulation and CNC manufacturing.
- Cost effective and reliable designs with optimum molding conditions such as well-balanced runners with symmetrical filling patterns.
- Dedicated high speed milling techniques and built-in smoothing algorithms create intelligent 3 and 5-axis CNC toolpaths for their Doosan and Kondia milling machines.
“VISI provides us with key information at the design stage and it supports the complete mold process, which ultimately ensures total end product satisfaction. Within the first month of using VISI Flow to analyse the correct filling pattern and maximize our process parameters, we saved the cost of the software.”
Adrian Chapman, Technical Director