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Deep rib machining reduced from days to hours with Sodick EDM
Deep rib machining reduced from days to hours with Sodick EDM

Deep rib machining reduced from days to hours with Sodick EDM

Added to MTDCNC by Sodi-Tech on 10 May 2016

RP Technologies, a plastic part prototyping shop based at Kingswinford, is using its newly installed Sodick AD55L die sink EDM to reduce the time taken to produce deep ribs from days to just hours. Acquired from Sodi-Tech EDM, the machine has replaced a manual spark eroder for producing the company’s quick-turnaround aluminium tools, 60% of which are destined for the automotive industry. The company is now predicting payback on its investment within just two years.

RP Technologies is a leading manufacturer of injection moulded prototype components. The 42-employee company prides itself on the fast turnaround of complex aluminium prototype tooling, providing a “without limits” approach to the solutions offered to its customers. 

“Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t ask customers to change their designs to fit our manufacturing process,” explains Company Director, Brett Mitchell. “While we obviously review customer models to highlight any areas that are not suitable for injection moulding, we always offer a solution to meet requirements, no matter how complex the component design or process. The automotive industry is particularly keen on this philosophy as design changes can often be lengthy processes.”

To help facilitate this pledge, the company has recently upgraded its EDM capability, replacing a manual spark eroder without a tool change facility for a state-of-the-art Sodick AD55L die sink EDM with linear drives and optimised rib machining functionality.

“In the automotive industry there seem to be many parts that demand deep ribs, typically 75-100mm deep or 50mm for a blind rib, which provides a challenge when spark eroding,” says Mr Mitchell. “When we were reviewing the market for a new EDM, only Sodick could offer a solution that fitted the bill 100% with regard to cutting deep ribs. The AD55L can produce ribs of this type in hours, rather than the days we had to endure previously. As everything is about time compression in our industry, this has proved vital.”

Around 60% of output at RP Technologies’ 25,000 sq ft facility is for automotive customers around the world, everything from under-bonnet parts through to interior components, typically from grade-specific glass-filled nylon. Turnaround times are in the realm of three to five weeks, depending on tool complexity, and although quantities can be as small as 10-off, the ISO9001 accredited company often finds itself faced with producing up to 100,000 parts, particularly if a customer is in trouble with a hardened injection mould. Here, RP can step in to bridge the gap between a new or rectified production tool.

“Clearly, the transition to the latest Sodick technology has given us a huge boost in terms of productivity and precision,” says Mr Mitchell. “And despite moving from manual to CNC, the machine is actually simpler to set up and use. Of course, we also now have to the option to walk away and leave it running unmanned. It’s only been here two weeks, but we fully intend to leave it running overnight, lights-out, in the near future. Furthermore, it will open up what we can do with spark eroding as a process. Previously it was something we tried to avoid, whereas now there is no end of possibilities.”

RP specialises in the complex shapes and contours which are common in today’s market. Every tool has a dedicated technician and the company’s engineers have full involvement throughout the entire process, from tool design to moulded component, underpinning an ethos of “partners not suppliers”.

“Some of the components that we produce are also quite large, maybe 300-350mm, with tolerances of 0.02mm for certain features,” says Mr Mitchell. “Fortunately, the Sodick AD55L is ideal for producing these type of moulds. In fact, such is the impact of the new machine that I would anticipate payback on our investment within two years, which I consider fast in comparison with most capital investments of this ilk.”

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