Driving change in Die and Mould

The die and mould sector requires a wide range of machining solutions to meet the challenges set by its customer base. We examine the specific machining challenges that die and mould manufacturers face and offer some solutions.

The die and mould sector is a good barometer of global manufacturing health, serving as it does multiple industrial markets. The sector, which covers everything from compression moulds through to press tooling and fixturing, is a key supplier to practically all aspects of industry, from aerospace and pharmaceuticals, through to automotive and onto food and beverage.

The die and mould market is demanding of its machine tools, particularly for its milling applications. In recent months, the potential of Mazak’s SMOOTH Technology has increasingly been utilised by the sector, specifically the many intelligent functions that can be deployed. For example, MAZATROL SMOOTHX, SMOOTH Technology’s 5-axis variant, features a range of new MAZATROL programming functions, such as Intelligent Pocket Milling, which can reduce machining time by up to 60% compared to conventional offset tool paths. Fine increment programs, such as free-form die-mould machining, also benefit from new functions such as Seamless Corner Control; Variable Acceleration Control; and Smooth Machining Control, all of which reduce cycle times.

Machine stability

Machine stability

One of the key factors in machine choice for die and mould manufacturers is machine stability, to ensure high accuracy and cutting ability, particularly with large workpieces.

Mazak’s FJV Series of vertical machining centres have a highly rigid construction that offers precision cutting combined with productivity which is provided by both a 40 and 50 taper spindle platforms. The FJV has increasingly become the machine of choice for die and mould manufacturers involved in heavy-duty machining due to its stability and wide range of table sizes.

The FJV-250 II 40 taper model, for example, features a double column construction which aids rigidity and accuracy during cutting operations with its 12,000rpm main spindle. Crucially, all of the FJV series machines are equipped with a range of intelligent machining functions, including Intelligent Performance Spindle, Active Vibration Control and Intelligent Thermal Shield, which aid performance and cutting accuracy.

Large working envelope solutions

Large working envelope

The size of the working envelope is a crucial factor in machine selection for the mould and die sector and the HCN series of machines are becoming increasingly popular for this reason. The HCN series combines large pallet sizes with a high rigidity construction capable of handling the power of a 40 or 50 taper spindle.

The pallet size ranges from 400mm square to 1,250mm square and all of the machines are equipped with ballscrew core cooling for outstanding thermal stability over long machining cycles. Like the FJV, the HCN-5000 is equipped with a number of intelligent features, including Active Vibration Control, Smooth Corner Control and Smooth machining configuration all of which provide unrivalled accuracy during milling operations performed by die and mould manufacturers.

Cutting of complex surfaces

Complex surfaces

The ability to machine complex surfaces with a high degree of accuracy is vital for the die and mould sector. The VARIAXIS i-series is a simultaneous 5-axis machining centre that performs multiple surface machining on workpieces in a single set-up, which makes it ideal for the complex contours required by die and mold manufacturers.

The VARIAXIS i-600 with Smooth technology, for example, is the latest generation MAZAK 5-axis machining centre designed for multi-surface machining and capable of delivering reduced in-process time, high accuracy and unrivalled machine ergonomics with a large machining envelope. The machine has a maximum spindle speed 12,000 rpm, with options for 18,000 rpm and 30,000 rpm. The VARIAXIS i-600 is also available with SIEMENS SINUMERIK 840D sl CNC for those machine users that have standardised on Siemens control.

Tool manufacturing requires a variety of milling functions. The VARIAXIS j-500 vertical machining centre is a cost-effective option for this type of work, offering efficient multi-surface part machining and single-setup processing delivered by fast, high rigidity spindles along with a high accuracy and highly rigid rotary/tilt table. The machine is capable of handling all the processes from raw material input through final machining to provide dramatic reductions in lead times and improved workpiece accuracy through the elimination of multiple set-ups.

The breadth of applications required by the die and mold sector inevitably mean that individual applications will require specific machine capabilities. The difference between machining a mold for automotive, compared to a mold for a plastic soft drink bottle, is enormous and requires very different machines to complete the job. Our advice is to partner with a machine supplier that can offer the necessary breadth of machines and application support that will enable you to choose the best machining solution.