Integrated mold development approach surpasses point solutions
Siemens software permits a new level of automation and better data management, enabling faster delivery of complex molds
Taking the next step
StackTeck is an innovative provider of integrated plastic tooling solutions for the injection molding industry. The company’s molds are used to make a variety of products, including thin-wall food packaging, housewares, consumer goods, medical and pharmaceutical containers, personal care items, cosmetics packaging, cutlery, caps and closures as well as technical and precision components for electronics and automotive applications. StackTeck’s molds, which are used for high-volume applications, have as many as 96 to 128 cavities. The company employs more than 300 tooling professionals and of those, approximately 30 are mold and part designers.
Over the years, the complexity of StackTeck’s molds has increased. About seven years ago the company upgraded from 2D to 3D mold design (using I-deas software) as a way of handling the greater complexity. This was a definite improvement over the previous 2D process that required designs to be redrawn in 3D by CAM programmers, who were using Camax software at the time. But in recent years, part and mold complexity has continued to increase while customers want faster and faster turnaround, requiring StackTeck to make its development process even more efficient. “We used to buy the best point solutions, but eventually we realized that an integrated development approach would be better for meeting the business challenges we face,” explains Vince Travaglini, vice president of Engineering at StackTeck.
Reducing mold design time
That decision led to an evaluation of a number of programs, including NX®, SolidWorks and Pro/Engineer software. “For the way we work, and for what we wanted to do with automation, we decided to go with NX, which is one of the best and most robust packages available,” Travaglini adds. The company uses NX software for the entire mold design process, including part design, mold design, and CAM. StackTeck has instituted the single source data model approach where one data model is used throughout the development process.
Using NX, StackTeck has automated mold core and cavity design to the point where the design of the core and cavity now begin before the design of the molded part is complete. “This gives us a jump start so we are not fully dependent on the part design,” explains Theodor Cretu, mold design team leader. This automation was done using out-of-the-box NX. Using associativity, the software generates the core and cavity automatically. “This has allowed us to cut out a significant chunk of mold design time,” says Cretu.
Process improvement includes data management
The upgrade to NX brought other advantages as well. Now that the part design, mold design and CAM applications are integrated, there is no longer a need for data translation. “This process is more efficient, and it also means that the geometry is correct,” notes Travaglini. “We spent a lot of time in the past, a lot of human labor, ensuring the accuracy of the data. Now we have confidence it is correct.”
Another way that StackTeck ensures accuracy is through the use of Teamcenter® software for data management. “Revision control was our biggest problem in the past,” Travaglini explains. “When we had the different departments working with different software, it was very hard to ensure that everyone was working with up-to-date information. With Teamcenter, we have a tight system of revision control. Between that and the single source data model approach, everyone is accessing up-todate geometry in real time.”
With full control of the 3D model, less time is spent on rework. “We don’t have to send a design back to the customer saying, ‘Please change this dimension, remodel it and send it back.’ We do that ourselves,” says Travaglini. The associativity between part, mold and CAM that NX provides also reduces rework, according to Sandro Scarsellone, CAM team leader at StackTeck. “As soon as the Application Department updates the part, we’re already rolling,” Scarsellone says. “We’re spending about one-quarter as much time on rework as we did in the past.”
With the company in the early stages of leveraging NX and Teamcenter, the engineering team has seen overall efficiency improvements of 20 percent. Another advantage of having Siemens software is what it says to prospective customers. “Our industry is very competitive,” Travaglini adds. “Many OEMs use NX. They see us using it and know we’ve got top-of-the-line technology, and it helps us win business.”