Software vital for precision mould tools

A company specialising in industrial rubber injection moulds and cold runner blocks for the automotive sector uses WorkNC CAM software to create 3+2 axis tool-path programs across a range of eight CNC machine tools, and WorkPLAN ERP software to consolidate various data sets from sales orders to invoices.

Dixence is an SME operating with around 30 staff out of a 1500 sq m workshop and 500 sq m engineering department in Erbray, France. The company’s main business is designing and manufacturing tooling equipment, and manufacturing moulds for all-rubber bonded inserts, as well as plastic, metal and rubber parts. Managing director Gérard Beloeil says these can be injection, compression, regulated-transfer or cold-plate moulds produced in different grades of steel; pre-treated, hardened, and with a special coating.
“The finished parts are used to support gearboxes, engines, exhaust pipes, suspension systems, engine sealings and soundproofing,” he says.
Working for major suppliers of rubber parts around the world, including France, Germany, Spain, USA, UK, Russia, Turkey and Portugal, around 80% of output is for automotive contracts, with the rest going to customers in the energy, cosmetics and railway industries. The company has recently made a REP V710 L 50 rubber injection press available for validating moulds produced for the international market. At the request of customers, moulds are tested directly on-site at Dixence, avoiding any costly part returns.
About 75% of the total 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 high precision required: “The software’s 3D functions are particularly important as we use 3+2 axis machining, but can’t program 3D manually. And since new enhancements have been made for 2D operations such as manual and semi-automatic drilling, we use all 2D tool paths as they’re now more flexible.”
WorkNC programs three Huron and two Mazak vertical milling centres, and two Mazak horizontal palletised milling centres to produce the moulds and blocks, along with one HSM milling centre for machining electrodes.

“It’s this software/machine tandem that allows us to achieve a high level of precision,” says Provost. “The two go hand in hand.”
Initially, the CAD files for the mould are sent to the engineering department to check the project’s feasibility and 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 this information, a set of documents
is generated, containing full details of the mould, which will be used by the purchasing department and shop floor, allowing work to start on tooling elements. Machining information about the mould’s individual components means 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.
“Our programmers often use standard WorkNC tool paths such as ‘3-axis Finishing’ and ‘Contour Remachining’, which we find perfect for producing a high-quality finish on curved surfaces where there are no right angles,” explains Provost. “And the ‘Global Roughing’ functions are extremely efficient, producing exactly the results we need.”
Even though some parts are similar, all moulds manufactured by Dixence are different. Generally, the company makes two mould tools each week. Dixence also produces one cold-runner block, which is positioned on the mould, meaning the company can multiply the number of injection points for rubber-based components.

Provost says: “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 offers a means of reducing material costs for our customers, especially as rubber can’t be recycled.”
He adds 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 productivity even further over a 24-hour period.”
Dixence also uses WorkNC’s sister brand, WorkPLAN as its production control system. Beloeil says 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 consolidates all information, such as sales orders, purchase orders, time management, delivery notes and invoices, which is relative to each project.
“We’ve also got full traceability on purchasing, raw materials – including quantity and cost – and purchasing material for individual mould components, which means we can make quick and accurate decisions,” says Beloeil
A number of modules are particularly important to the company, including ‘Job Management’, which manages sales-related tasks and administration, from order confirmation through to delivery, allowing easy access to all project-related documents. In addition, the ‘Purchasing’ module includes the company’s forecast purchase budget based on the bills of material directly imported into WorkPLAN, along with supplier quotations.
The ‘Time Management’ function allows real-time monitoring of machine utilisation, the status of outsourced tasks, and the remaining time required to finish a task. “We often have similar tools to produce, so we can simply look for a previous project, copy it, and make the necessary modifications,” says Beloeil. And thanks to the ‘Sales Activity’ module, order forms and invoices are generated with just a few clicks, as all the necessary information has already been fed into the system. “This avoids duplicated data entry errors, and means we can monitor invoices daily, and chase payment to maintain a reasonable cash flow.”

Concluding, Beloeil says: “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.”
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