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Tebis and P.C.M.A.: a winning partnership
The automotive sector is a demanding, global industry that requires increasingly advanced, high-performance tools and technologies. Knowing how to use these synergistically makes a decisive contribution to commercial success. As in the case of P.C.M.A., a business line of Magneti Marelli, which has achieved its goal of becoming a leading manufacturer of molds and complex systems made of plastic, thanks to its use of Tebis Software.
New technologies for peak competitiveness
P.C.M.A. (Plastic Components and Modules Automotive) is the Magneti Marelli business line that specializes in the design, development and manufacturing of complex systems made of plastic, such as dashboards, center consoles, bumpers and fuel supply systems.
TEA is a division of P.C.M.A. based in Grugliasco, near Turin, which undertakes the design and manufacturing of thermoplastic molds for the automotive industry. A few kilometers away is the headquarters of the Research & Development Center, whose work involves 13 manufacturing facilities spread across three continents: Europe (Italy and Poland), Asia (Turkey) and Latin America (Brazil). It's a well structured but dynamic organization, in which innovation and technological progress have given rise to an increasing degree of synergy and competitiveness in recent years.
"Over the years, the requests we receive from our customers have become increasingly complex to fulfill," explains Vincenzo De Riccardis. "This has prompted us to develop new design and manufacturing techniques capable of providing high-quality solutions with ever shorter turnaround times."
In the automotive industry, the continuous evolution of the ergonomics of vehicle interiors and the search for different colors and tactile sensations, combined with the need for storage compartments and cubby holes designed to enhance usability, have increased the possible solutions that manufacturers need to offer their customers, and reduced the available manufacturing times. To meet these new technological requirements, P.C.M.A has developed a trail-blazing approach based on real simultaneous engineering, and has gradually adopted more powerful, innovative, flexible software that is capable of interacting effectively with the machines and all the work centers installed in the workshop.
"Real simultaneous engineering," explains De Riccardis, means having a common co-location with the possibility of designing the finished product (with our customer) and the mold simultaneously. In other words, we involve both design teams in a close, productive partnership that inevitably generates mutual benefits, by optimizing the time taken to complete all the operational phases, improving product quality and reducing the need for modifications." The end result is more reliable finished products, and higher-quality molds that are simpler to maintain.
Over the years, the company's field of specialization has shifted towards the design and manufacture of large, heavy, complex molds (weighing up to 30 t and measuring up to 2,500 x 1,500 x 1,000 mm), used mainly for the manufacturing of dashboards.
"Today's molds need to offer exceptionally high performance," adds De Riccardis, "and cooling circuits are needed, which these days involve an average of 250 meters of drilling (per mold, ed.)."
Tebis and P.C.M.A.: maximum automation at the service of intelligent manufacturing
"About 10 years ago," says Vincenzo De Riccardis, the Site Manager, we embarked on a technological and operational upgrade at our plant, for the specific purpose of improving our productivity. The aim was to increase levels of automation of the various machining stages, so that we could free up precious resources and reassign them to more strategic areas with higher added value."
This gradual process of renewal and development involved the various levels of our machine fleet, but especially our Tebis software.
To meet these new production requirements, over the years, P.C.M.A, a long-standing customer of Tebis, has equipped itself with a wide range of modules, including: Base and advanced CAD, 2.5-axis CAM with Features module and deep hole machining, kinematics simulation modules, electrode design modules, 3+2-axis milling and 3>5-axis converter. The investment found fertile soil in a far-sighted engineering department, and enabled us to achieve an outstandingly high level of automation both in terms of programming and in terms of unmanned machining.
The implementation, set-up, updating and training were all coordinated and supported by the technical staff of Tebis Italia and by Managing Director Mario Pittatore.
A large and varied fleet of machines is assigned to the manufacture of such complex molds, but optimized management and planning of all the stages of fulfilling orders on a daily basis plays an even more important role in the production process.
In 2002, when Angelo Ricciardi, who is now head of the machinery area, started out as a workshop operator, the toolpath was still managed on the machine. This practice, which was designed to interact to best effect with the work cycle, while at the same time maximizing the use of CNC, came into conflict with the need to transfer know-how quickly from one operator to another, and to break away from tried and tested habits.
Furthermore, the more demanding nature of the market, the growing complexity of the machinery and the increasingly high-performance tools required extremely high-precision toolpaths and ever more advanced design.
This stage prompted a change of operational strategies relating to how Tebis Software was used.
"After an initial stage," continues Ricciardi, "which saw programming gradually shift from on the machine to the engineering department, the other key step was understanding and making maximum use of the simulation phase, to enable us to foresee potential problems with unmanned work cycles and resolve them in advance." Another interesting optimization process involved defining standards for types of machining in order to maximize the productivity of the mold itself. By streamlining the number, type and suppliers of tools, we made considerable gains in competitiveness."
Against this backdrop, the Tebis platform enabled us to create templates, in other words pre-set cycles in which to load tool sequences on specific components and make them available for use at the appropriate time.
"The initial task of analysis was substantial," Ricciardi points out, "but it has now enabled us to plan more extensively, as well as to optimize our entire tool warehouse." At P.C.M.A., in fact, we fit only multiple coded spindles, and the Tebis simulation module calculates the machine times in advance according to the material selected, streamlines the number of tools and defines how they are chosen.
The use of logic functions in Tebis Software has streamlined manufacturing and brought perfection within the reach of every operator. Separating design from manufacturing has enabled us to assign each resource to the most appropriate environment, thereby making best use of the abilities of each. Painstaking design has also simplified manufacturing and minimized the risk of human error.
"The recent introduction of a new, continuous, 5-axis, vertical milling machine with 200-position tool change," explains Angelo Ricciardi, "has further increased the speed of this process and the degree of automation of our manufacturing. This enables us to plan complete, totally unmanned machining phases."
In this case, and others like it, the aim was achieved thanks to the Tebis simulator, an essential tool capable of interpreting the machining phases and reproducing them faithfully. The same can be said of the complete control of the collision of all machine components, and the checking of limit switches. The process can be further optimized by analyzing the correct position of the component, the layout of the piece clamping devices, the orientation of the head, the machining sequence and whether the tools selected by the programmer are actually available in the workshop.
It is worth emphasizing that the advanced simulation phase involves not only the toolpath (generated by the software) but also all the macros developed by the manufacturer and by the producer of the numerical control.
Pushing back the boundaries of manufacturing efficiency
So, powerful software tools and high-performance machines, combined with know-how and intellectual property, now enable P.C.M.A. to carry out all its processes much more efficiently than before.
"But we're not resting on our laurels," adds De Riccardis. “We're also focusing on other areas for improvement at the moment, and thanks to the flexibility and solidity of the Tebis platform, these will soon be delivering the expected results.”
The same P.C.M.A. technicians will soon also be able to benefit from the new functions offered by the soon-to-be-released Tebis V4.0.
The roughing cycles with trochoidal machining from a solid piece, for example, are bound to be of interest to the company because they were developed to reduce the impact force of the tool and reduce the risk of breakage of the inserts. According to the maximum contact (which can be defined for each tool in the cutting data), the layout of the paths for machining from solid pieces adapts automatically to the type of geometry. In both 3+2-axis roughing and 2.5D milling, it is possible to introduce trochoidal feed cycles in order to avoid removing material from the solid piece. This innovation also makes it possible to obtain optimum contact parameters directly from the tool library, thus bringing the benefit of a higher degree of automation during numerical control machining. The possibility of rapid, safe machining with fast-advance milling cutters significantly reduces work times, as well as reducing the risk of machine downtimes. The reduced wear on the tools also extends their service life and cuts down on the number of tool changes, thereby avoiding the associated costs.
"There is no getting away from the fact," concludes De Riccardis, "that constant, continuous process evolution is vitally important, because it maximizes productivity and positive effects, while guiding strategic and operational decision-making towards ever smarter and more effective use of automation. All this is possible thanks to the availability of reliable tools such as the various Tebis modules, which allow dynamic technological upgrading, for consolidating progressive steps on which to build new approaches for further enhancing product and process quality.”
The end result is more reliable finished products, and higher-quality molds that are simpler to maintain.
Tebis solutions as the basis for efficient manufacturing and processing methods
- Automation and simulation
- Maximum machining productivity
- Shorter processing times, greater competitiveness
Design, Mold manufacturing
Grugliasco (Torino), Italy
Ing. Vincenzo De Riccardis