A French company specialising in industrial rubber injection moulds and cold runner blocks for the automotive sector uses WorkNC CAD/CAM software (www.worknc.com
) to create 3+2-axis tool-path programs for eight CNC machine tools and WorkPLAN enterprise resource planning software (www.workplan.com
) to consolidate a variety of information from sales orders to invoices.
Dixence operates from a 1,500m2
workshop and a 500m2
engineering department at Erbray in Western France, employing about 30 people.
Its main business is designing and manufacturing tooling equipment and manufacturing moulds for all-rubber bonded inserts, plus plastic, metal and rubber parts.
Managing director Gérard Beloeil says that these can be injection, compression, regulated-transfer or cold-plate moulds, produced in different grades of steel (pre-treated, hardened or with a special coating).
“The finished parts are used to support gearboxes, engines, exhaust pipes, suspension systems, engine sealings, and sound-proofing.”
Working for major suppliers of rubber components around the world — including customers in France, Germany, Spain, the USA, the UK, Russia, Turkey and Portugal — around 80% of Dixence’s output is for automotive contracts, with the rest going to customers in the energy, cosmetics and railway industries.
About three quarters of the company’s production goes through WorkNC, which milling-sector manager Fabrice Provost says is fundamental to ensuring that the moulds coming off the machine tools are of the highest quality.
He said: “The software’s 3-D functions are particularly important to us, as we use 3+2-axis machining but can’t program 3-D manually; and since new enhancements have been made for 2-D operations such as manual and semi-automatic drilling, we use all 2-D tool-paths as they are now more flexible.”
WorkNC is used to program three Huron and two Mazak vertical machining centres and two Mazak horizontal machining centres with pallets to produce the moulds and blocks, along with one high-speed machining centre for producing electrodes.
Initially, the mould CAD files are sent to the engineering department to check the project’s feasibility and to determine the different steps required to produce the tool.
Each part of the mould is identified and listed, and a bill of materials is inserted into WorkPLAN.
Based on that information, a set of documents is generated, containing full details of the mould, allowing work to start on the tooling elements.
Machining information about the mould’s individual components means that the milling and turning team can assign them to specific machines, and the files are opened in WorkNC for the tool-paths to be programmed.
Mr Provost continued: “Our programmers often use standard WorkNC tool-paths such as three-axis finishing and contour re-machining, which we find perfect for producing a high-quality finish on curved surfaces where there are no right angles.
“In addition, the comprehensive Global Roughing functions are extremely efficient, producing exactly the results we need.”
Reducing material costs
Dixence generally makes two new mould tools each week. Mr Provost said: “An important feature of our process is that we design a cold runner block for each project, so it is specific to each mould.
“This gives our customers a means of reducing their material costs, especially as rubber can’t be recycled.”
He added that using WorkNC has improved productivity and reduced errors on finished parts.
“The workshop functions round the clock, unsupervised during the night. With the full range of WorkNC tool-paths, all our machines will soon be able to run during the night, increasing our productivity even further.”
Dixence uses WorkNC’s sister brand WorkPLAN as its production control system.
Mr Beloeil said the company previously worked with an Access database and paper-based invoicing, “but with ever-increasing production levels, we needed to avoid duplicating data processing.”
With WorkPLAN, Dixence can consolidate all the information relevant to each project, such as sales orders, purchase orders, time management, delivery notes and invoices.
“We’ve also got full traceability on purchasing, raw materials — including quantity and cost — and purchasing material for individual mould components, so we can make quick and accurate decisions.”
A number of WorkPLAN modules are particularly important to Dixence, including Job Management, Purchasing, Time Management and Sales Activity.
Mr Beloeil said: “With all data about material quantities, costs and time spent on tasks recorded in WorkPLAN, we can quickly calculate the cost budget of our moulds and progressively improve our profitability.”