Out Front with Andre Ey

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Increasing Capacity, Mitigating Labor Shortages with Smart Technology

Being constrained by capacity is a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. With OEMs diversifying mold designs and introducing more frequent, on-the-fly engineering changes, mold manufacturers must be more agile than ever. These challenges, combined with a deficit in skilled labor, create the perfect storm for missed growth opportunities.

Manufacturers can seize the day by embracing technology to improve utilization of skilled labor, floor space and machinery—and by better understanding the condition of their process stability.

Traditional approaches rely heavily on the art and expertise of seasoned toolmakers. However, as these veterans have exited the market, so too have their valuable skill sets. To fill the gap, machine and process technologies have adopted various degrees of automation. Die and mold shops that invest in these technologies have maximized machine utilization rates while expanding capacity, improving quality and repeatability, and mitigating the need for additional skilled labor.

Advancements in 5-axis machining provide new levels of efficiency in complex, 3-D molds. Machines such as our new D200Z and V80S 5-axis vertical machining centers feature motion control and proprietary Collision Safe Guard (CSG) technologies for precision toolpath control and crash avoidance along sweeping contours. As a result, the D200Z and V80S are capable of highly reliable 5-axis continuous cutting using multi-flute tools, enabling mold shops to reduce cycle times and increase tool life while achieving precision contours with tight blends and matches.

Today, modern control systems, like Hyper-i for Makino EDM machines, provide operators with a user-friendly and unified control interface across both wire and sinker EDM platforms. On-board interactive maintenance guides, training videos and help buttons shorten the learning curve for new and experienced operators. This not only leads to improved machine efficiency but also helps the next generation of EDM operators produce parts quickly, reliably and efficiently.

One of the fastest-growing strategies for overcoming capacity constraints has been a trend toward automating processes. Whether mold shops are performing hard milling, graphite machining, EDM, small die and mold component production, or large die and mold cores and cavities, automating processes means more than simply adding robotics. It begins first and foremost with an understanding of whether the intended machining process is stable enough for automation. Determining stability entails a detailed analysis of the goals you expect to achieve through automating the process, including the impact on overall shop utilization. It can be as simple as automatically establishing offsets by probing workpieces in the machine, or as complex as deploying a fully automated system with machining, metrology and part storage systems in one cell.

With more than two decades of automation experience, Makino is the leader in the design, development and integration of fully automated systems.

Makino’s engineering staff will help you drive what’s next in the moldmaking industry, raising your competitiveness to the next level by overcoming process challenges and increasing your current equipment, shop floor and labor utilization.

Andre Ey
Vice President
Makino Die Mold & EDM Technologies
(248) 232-6203
[email protected]