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Design Software Speeds Patternmakers Turnaround Time

Oct. 3, 2008
Since adopting Delcams PowerShape design software and PowerMill CAM system, Craft Pattern & Mold reports it is capable of shipping machined prototype parts within 14 days of receiving a customers CAD file.

Craft Pattern & Mold Inc., Maple Plain, MN, supplies molds and patterns to foundries, as well as precision plastic or metal prototypes and low-volume production parts for aerospace, agriculture, automotive, consumer products, electronics, medical, and toy manufacturers. Since it adopted Delcam’s PowerShape design software and the PowerMill CAM system, Craft Pattern reportedly is capable of shipping machined prototype parts within 14 days of receiving a customer’s CAD file.

Craft Pattern typically produces six to 10 different patterns per week, depending on size and complexity, and owner Tony Cremers credits the new technologies “dramatically reducing the development time for our clients.”

PowerShape CAD software is offered as “a complete environment” for product design, with modeling, rendering, assembly, and drafting functions. Cremers says the Delcam ( software allows Craft Pattern to create models and secondary tooling in a day or less. “Previously, it might have taken up to a month to turn around castings or machined parts,” he explains. “But, with the Delcam software, we can go from the customer’s CAD file to patterns to castings in one to two weeks.

“For example, a patternmaker can use the software to generate an efficient tool path that he knows will work well the first time, get the program out to a mill, and then get on to programming a subsequent job while the previous job is running,” according to Cremers. “The speed with which we can create tool paths not only keeps delivery times to a minimum, but keeps our shop running consistently.”

In an example cited by Delcam, Craft Pattern recently took an order for tooling for a pulley wheel from a customer that wanted to cast the part the next day. With PowerShape CAD software, Craft was able to modify the CAD file, develop the parting line, generate a tool path, cut the part and deliver it that afternoon.

“When we get a pattern to work with, such as a manifold from the agricultural equipment industry, we bring the customer’s part file into PowerShape. We can then easily break out the component parts, in order to create a pattern,” Cremers says.

The next stage of development calls for Delcam’s PowerMill— a NC CAM tool for manufacturing complex shapes. It allows a designer to test roughing, high-speed finishing, and 5-axis machining techniques, with fast calculation times and powerful editing tools to support optimal machine tool performance.

“With PowerShape, we can analyze the model for damaged, duplicated, or missing surfaces, and interactively inspect draft angles, visualize hardto- mold regions such as thin walls and ribs, and undercut areas. Then, once the file is imported into PowerMill, it is easy to program the machining in layers to suit the lengths of our cutters. Many patterns can be taller than the cutters are long, so programming in layers allows us to program the machining efficiently, and avoid cutting air.”

Once a prototype is delivered to the customer for review, its file can be changed and returned to Craft. “The Delcam software makes it easy to overlay the 3D model from the customer and to see any changes in the new casting file we get back,” Cremers says. This makes it easier to select the areas of the pattern that need to be changed, and modify those sections of the PowerMill file, saving time in re-programming and machining.