As engineers, we are always pushed to find the most efficient approach to bridge the gap between design and manufacture. As manufacturers, you create new parts based on a prototype design while simultaneously attempting to determine the optimum technique for long-term manufacturing.

The key to success is pretty simple: develop a solid process for producing high-quality components that satisfy the demands of the end customer (or your own) standards on time and within budget. The reality is that most producers of new components face production challenges, whether owing to mistakes in part design, increased risk thresholds, or high throughput rates.

In the plastic injection molding world, automation is seen as the bridge between Electrical Discharge machining and precision mold manufacturing. There are several milestones to be met for automation to be realized in the manufacturing world. So let’s go through them in this article.

Bridging EDM and Precision Mold Manufacturing Using Automation

The automation path includes three important milestones: (1) mold tooling, (2) effective palletization, and (3) robotic integration, all of which should elegantly fit together and help regulate the rate of change. By achieving these goals, automation has shown to be the key to unlocking the potential in their organizations.

Moving away from their more conventional manufacturing operations required not only a significant financial commitment on the part of these firms but also significant mental adjustments on the part of both management and personnel. Automate or perish has become a rallying cry for mold manufacturers all around the world, and there is no question that the sooner firms adopt automation, the better.

Embracing an automation idea early on has shown to be the greatest option for mold manufacturers’ clients dealing with global production challenges. The benefits of unsupervised lights-out manufacturing, along with increased efficiency, have resulted in a fast turnaround in company fortunes. Automation minimizes machine downtime and increases working week and cycle time without the need for additional personnel. Customers’ rising requirements are more readily met with significant increases in delivery speed. At the end of the automation journey, the ultimate goal is to operate optimally 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Most businesses would thus implement automation in an organized program that not only uses the existing plant in the workplace, which may be the most cost-effective option but also takes into consideration the skill levels and present working patterns of their labor force.

The Key Milestones

Tooling

If you are conversant with the injection molding basics, then you understand that the benefits of using a single tooling system throughout the workplace are obvious. It primarily enables mold manufacturers to transfer workpieces or electrodes from one process to another—for example, from EDM to high-speed machining—without losing alignment or precision.

With high-tech sectors like aerospace, medical equipment, and communications requiring extremely tight tolerances, it is critical to use a tool system that ensures repeatable precision. Using such equipment in conjunction with a reliable and precise reference system not only enhances the labor force’s trust in its correctness but also reduces the tedium of setup.

Palletization

Viewing tool holders as little pallets usher us into the next stage of the automation journey: palletization. The initial selection of industry-standard compatible tooling systems needs to account for future scale-up needs. It must be one that can be added to as needs arise, without having to reinvent the wheel.

Flexibility is essential for accommodating varied sizes and weights of electrodes or workpieces within the same system. Palletization enables semi-skilled personnel in the workplace to set up work from outside machinery while they are still running. This not only enables customized production but also speeds up component machining.

Robots

Total automation systems are made up of tooling, palletization, robots, and a central software system that oversees workflow and programming the production cells. It is critical to select a provider who can provide you with a variety of robot alternatives, both immediate and long-term, based on your company objectives and investment program.

The introduction of robots into any company might be viewed as a danger to the workforce; one automated factory has 22 machines being controlled around the clock by one human! Management, on the other hand, must guarantee that this move is viewed as a chance to become more productive, competitive, and, most importantly, to safeguard employment.

How to Put Automation to Practice

The more machines that a robot can interact with, the better, and vendors with a good track record in building open architecture systems should be preferred.

There are no two shops alike, and the flexibility to incorporate robots into nearly any manufacturing cell is essential. It is no coincidence that many of the world’s major OEMs collaborate with such suppliers to integrate their robots to increase the productivity of their machines.

Based on the size of the workshop and the current equipment, it is also essential to choose a supplier who offers a variety of industrial robots with various sizes, power, and capabilities that can be included as the mold maker expands.

The Bottom Line

Manufacturing processes may be made smarter and more efficient with the aid of control systems engineering. When factories buy equipment without considering automation, they end up with fragmented automation hardware and platforms.

As a result, attaining some of the most frequent plant automation goals becomes more expensive and time-consuming. So as you go for automation in your manufacturing setup, consider the aforementioned aspects for the betterment of your business.

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