St. Paul, MN (March 23, 2020) — UK precision plastic injection moldings and assembly solutions company, OGM, employs first-in-the-UK commercial use of combined additive/subtractive manufacturing machine.
Machinery Magazine discusses OGM’s commercial use of combined additive/subtractive Matsuura LUMEX Avance-25:
OGM’s Matsuura LUMEX Avance-25 was installed late last year and, after extensive trials, is now entering full production capacity. The machine incorporates powder bed-type/laser-melt additive manufacturing in a machine that additionally features a milling spindle (45,000 rpm, BT20 as standard), with additive part build-up interspersed with machining. It has a 260 by 260 by 100 mm working envelope.
Mold tool cavity insert manufacture is the main target application for this machine, so it is no surprise that this installation follows that trend. The ability to produce conformal cooling channels that reduce molding cycle times and boost part quality are the big pluses heralded for these machines.
There is an additional, similar Matsuura LUMEX machine (https://is.gd/voxovu) installed at the Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC) in Coventry. In fact, that installation was the prompt for OGM’s purchase, according to the company’s Marcel Gowers, additive manufacturing applications engineering manager.
He reports that OGM had used 3D printing previously, primarily for prototyping and design work, but today’s situation has its roots in 2016. “OGM worked with the MTC and learnt about this new metal hybrid manufacturing process. The managing director, Paul Wightman, got into conversation with Matsuura, saying that OGM was having issues with a particular mold tool insert and asked whether Matsuura’s technology could improve on the design by adding conformal cooling channels. That was the moment of birth of the concept, to offer a bureau service to others.”
The mold tool insert, designed by OGM and produced as a demo by Matsuura, was the first such conformally-cooled tool used by the company, Gowers reveals, adding that it was used in an existing mold tool bolster and delivered a reduced cycle time, while part quality “increased dramatically” for a key element of the part.
The scale of benefit was very attractive, as OGM has almost 50 injection molding machines to tool. The company, which employs circa 200 people, has multiple sites in the UK, but its 100-employee headquarters in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, is host to the majority of its injection molding capacity, 34, with a site in Wales, acquired last year, having 13. That capacity will be added to, however, with a further seven machines anticipated. The company molds parts for very many well know industrial names and boasts sales of in excess of £11m (parent OGM Holdings’ figure is £20m+), previously sourcing mold tools in support from external suppliers.
Says Gowers: “I joined in October 2017 to start a new department, but initially it was agreed I would undertake six months of R&D to understand the technology and where best to use it. I now think that will actually stretch out for a couple of years – there is so much opportunity for innovation. We already have our eyes on areas that we think will have patentable outcomes.”
3D-printed ‘Conformal Cool’ mold tool inserts, as the company is calling them, plus the manufacture of 3D-printed end use components and the fast production of mold tool inserts were the three elements of its original plan. But of the mold tool insert idea he reports that it became clear that customers didn’t want inserts but “loved the concept of rapid tooling” [complete tools].
Fast time to market was found to be key. With mold tools from the UK on 12-14 weeks’ lead time, China offering at least six-eight weeks, the requirement was for a four-week lead time, which OGM can satisfy with a hard, or even fully hardened, production mold tool.
“Save your four weeks and £5,000-8,000 [for soft tooling], come to us and we can make a proper rapid production mold tool that you can use for prototyping that we can then have hardened, if you so wish, to take you to many hundreds of thousands or millions of parts,” says Gowers.
The company’s new in-house toolmaking activity is supported by what the company is calling its rapid production mold tool (RPMT) service – a first for the UK. This is currently based around various sizes of custom off-the-shelf bolsters, part-machined, with insert manufacture and final machining undertaken thereafter. It has already bagged £1 million sales for mold tools for use in house, using its RPMT process that utilizes the Lumex machine.
By way of demonstration, the additive manufacturing applications engineering manager says that the company has already completed a quarter of a million parts from such a hardened tool. The inserts were ‘grown’ in eight hours, overnight, the standard bolster took three days, with integration of the pair adding a further two days.
Not all inserts necessarily feature conformal cooling, incidentally, and not all will be made totally via the hybrid route – they could still be subcontracted, either overseas or locally, although the fastest response will always likely be the hybrid route. For simple inserts, even a one-week lead time is possible. And inserts will often see CNC machining undertaken off the hybrid machine, with the complicated elements – “which we try to keep to a minimum” –then produced on the Lumex Avance-25.
For rapid tools for parts that have at-risk susceptible features (clips, latches and so on), the use of hybrid AM-produced cavity tooling inserts allows these features to be fine-tuned as production progresses, with inserts swapped out quickly.
A further example of the technology’s use is with a tool repair involving a 600-micron thick blade insert for an onsite tool. The blade was grown overnight, wired off the base, ground and fitted, with tool repair effected by 2 pm the next day – an external quote to replace that insert had put a two-week lead time on its supply. OGM is also experimenting with production of surface textures.
RPMT also supports supply only of the completed tool, so firms can perform their own molding, but this has not yet happened, while the manufacture of mold tool inserts, which may/may not require conformal cooling, has a had a few takers.
There’s a plan to develop new software that will allow the company to quote for tooling on a 48-hour turnaround, with 24 hours targeted, while a planned service for end-use part is in its infancy.
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Matsuura’s Revolutionary LUMEX metal laser sintering hybrid milling machines:
The Matsuura LUMEX metal laser sintering hybrid milling machines have a powder bed metal Additive Manufacturing platform along with subtractive machining capability. The machines combine selective laser sintering (SLS) along with high speed milling (HSM) commonly called Hybrid AM.
The Matsuura LUMEX Technology relies on one-machine, one-process manufacturing of complex molds and parts by fusing metal laser sintering technology with high speed milling technology. The Hybrid technology creates a “finished” part with machined surface finish and accuracy, without inducing the additional variation caused by multiple machine set-ups and part handling.
The machines achieve the highest accuracy in part fabrication since metal powders are melted and sintered via laser, while surfaces are precisely milled at high speeds.
3D cooling channels can be incorporated into molds in the single setup, thereby increasing cooling efficiency and enabling high-cycle injection molding with high quality and precision, reducing costs, and improving efficiency.
Matsuura’s Technology enables differentiated original parts production with internal structures, in a method that has never been possible nor imagined. It is capable of quick-turn production of custom parts, including prototypes and small production run parts.
Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc., located in St. Paul, MN is the U.S. subsidiary of Matsuura Machinery Corporation in Japan. Since 1935, Matsuura has been the forerunner in designing innovative technology and manufacturing solutions to a variety of industries around the globe. Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc. delivers unmatched excellence in 5-axis, vertical, horizontal, linear motor, multi-tasking CNC machine tools and machines with a powder bed metal AM platform with machining capability. Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc. provides the service, applications and technical field support that have always been the Matsuura standard for business. For more information on Matsuura products, contact: [email protected]