Smart & Efficient Manufacturing

Success story

By combining smart methodology and computer-aided software, the die manufacturer MDL Europe reduces programming and machining times.

We make systematic use of the ESPRIT simulation module which provides a faithful reproduction on the screen of what will happen on the machine. We did not need to invest in simulation software.
Patrick Willemann, Head of CAM, MDL Europe

The terms “die-making” or “punching” are used to define a process through which a sheet of metal is subject to plastic deformation in order to obtain a specific form, such as a stainless steel sink, numerous automotive parts or the frames of household appliances. The company MDL Europe provides the necessary tools for this manufacturing technique and it is its express aim to become one of the market leaders.

Markets to conquer

MDL Europe owns two production units in France. Other plants are located in Mexico, Brazil and India. Its customers throughout Europe are toolmakers and machine manufacturers in the automotive, aviation and capital goods industries.

Its activity is founded on the production of die holders, guidance systems, die sets, machining assemblies for the aviation industry and prototype tooling with 3D shapes. These parts, often large in size, require a high level of precision. They vary considerably due to the fact that the products concern totally different sectors.

In recent years, MDL has strengthened its service with more machines, methods and programming. This was essential to adapt to changing customer needs and the increasing complexity of parts. The entire production is driven by 45 specialists in 3- and 5-axis production milling who are experts in high-speed machining (HSM). The top-end machine pools - large- and small-capacity CNC milling machines, machining centers with multiple kinematics - provide a solution to all manufacturing problems.

Macros developed at MDL. One is used to automate reaming operations and the other grooving operations. This cast-iron die-holder, which is 4,500mm long, 2,240mm wide and 480mm thick, is intended for die tooling in the automotive industry.

Global CAM

Before 2011, the programmers worked with a well-known but closed programming software package which allowed no personalisation. They encountered coding errors for almost every part and were afraid to run the programs on a machine.

The managers therefore began to look for a global CAM solution capable of automating the machining processes which was simple to implement. This is how they encountered the distributor Mhac Technologies: “We quickly appreciated the suitability of the ESPRIT product with regard to our needs as well as the competences of the application engineers, ” explains Vincent Bihr, the Technical Director. “In only a few days, they installed the software, trained the programmers and generated ISO codes thanks to post-processors certified by the manufacturers.”

Today, the distributor provides aid for the optimised use of the software, in particular for the development of post-processors and the implementation of specific developments. For the Head of CAM, Patrick Willemann, it is manna from Heaven. “Whenever I have a question about ESPRIT, a technician answers me the same day and can take control of my workstation. We waste no time and that is absolutely priceless. ”

Proven efficacy

The programmers often deal with plate projects consisting of drilling, threading and reaming operations as well as numerous pockets. On these parts, ESPRIT has enabled both programming and manufacturing times to be reduced. As the architecture of the software is entirely open, MDL has automated its machining processes via the API interface (Application Programming Interface). In each CAD model, the macros recognise the types of entity to be produced. “For a die-holder requiring 30 hours of work, we required 25 hours of programming. With ESPRIT, this task represents only 30%. ”

This is followed by the manufacturing stage. ESPRIT provides the ProfitMilling® high-speed draft rough strategy which revolutionises rough milling. Available with 2, 3, 4 or 5 axes, it makes it possible to optimise the angle of engagement, the chip load, the lateral cutting forces and the machine acceleration. At MDL, ProfitMilling has helped reduce machining times by 40% on certain parts.

Furthermore, MDL is currently testing the latest generation of the ESPRIT software. The programmers created a pressure roller by 3D milling starting with a raw cast. Previously, this type of part had to be programmed in several stages. This version facilitated raw preparation in a single stage and accelerated the implementation of the machining and manufacturing modes.

When producing large-scale and delicate cast-iron parts, a single error can have serious financial consequences. “We make systematic use of the ESPRIT simulation module which provides a faithful reproduction on the screen of what will happen on the machine. This helps avoid collisions and tools being broken. We did not need to invest in simulation software,” explains Patrick Willemann.                 

François Lalli, Alain Wermelinger, Cédric Weiss, Quentin Rabey and Patrick Willemann in front of the DMG DMF 360 intended for large-scale machining uses.

In light of the good results observed on the French production sites, MDL has deployed the ESPRIT CAM throughout the group. In the end, the stamping process provides perfect results: MDL has left its mark on its programming system. The aim is to reiterate the performance to provide customers with what they expect: maximum reactivity and impeccable quality.

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