Eaton Electric, Middleton, Manchester, a world-renowned electrical products manufacturer, used specialist, fast-track plastic injection moulded parts manufacturer Rapidparts (0161 626 5556), when developing its latest range. With around a century of history in making electric wiring accessories such as switches, socket-outlets and lampholders, Eaton is a major player in the electrical installations business. Its products are used in blue-chip projects worldwide, including Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 and London's Canary Wharf. Image: Eaton is a major player in the electrical installations business The company wanted to create a modular grid switch range – small units that fit into frames, mainly for use in office and commercial applications, but also for some domestic use. After Eaton examined the new parts in more depth, the company decided that some would require prototyping. Having used Rapidparts for a number of previous quick-turnaround injection mould requirements, Eaton again turned to the company for help. "Rapidparts said it would start machining rapid injection mould tooling immediately and could provide parts in the actual design material [polycarbonate] within 15 days," explains Mr Roczniak, Eaton's quality support engineer. "We had tried rapid prototypes produced using stereolithography [SLA], but, because of the material, you don't really get a true feel for the functionality of these components. "Using the service provided by Rapidparts, we could give the parts a proper 'form, fit and function' test, including strength testing." Rapidparts prototyped the three main mouldings required for the new grid switch modules: a base that houses the metal contact parts; a cover that fits over it; and the internal rocker. A small quantity of around 500 of each part was supplied and "worked very well", according to Eaton. CLEAR CUT SERVICE "I think we had one issue where one particular switch wasn't functioning correctly," says Mr Roczniak. "However, we talked to Rapidparts and the company quickly made a clear polycarbonate version, so we could see the switching mechanism in action. It allowed us to discover that one of the terminals wasn't sitting down properly and so we made a small design modification to compensate. Ultimately, it's far cheaper to make changes at the prototype stage than when in production." By way of additional benefit, having prototypes in polycarbonate also allowed Eaton to prove the laser marking process. The new range of Eaton wiring accessories is currently being launched in the UK. Further afield, Belarus tyre company Belshina has, with the support of Delcam software (0121 766 5544), brought all its mould-making in-house, despite a significant increase in production volumes. Image: Belarus tyre company Belshina brought all its mould making in house, supported by Delcam Belshina is one of the largest producers of tyres in Europe, both in the number of units it produces and the size of the tyres it manufactures. The company makes more than 200 different types of tyre in three plants: one for mass production of car tyres; one for tyres for buses, trolley-buses, lorries and tractors; and one for the largest tyres it makes, for use on earth-moving and quarrying vehicles. A fourth plant manufactures and repairs moulds for the other three sites. The company first invested in Delcam software in the 1990s, buying the original DUCT system to give it the ability to program the first 5-axis machine tools used in the mouldmaking plant. At that time, the plant only produced around 60 moulds each year, with the remainder of the company's needs met by subcontract manufacturers. TRANSITION IN BELARUS At the turn of the century, Belshina made the transition from DUCT to Delcam's PowerSHAPE CAD software and PowerMILL CAM system. The company steadily added more seats of both programs as it increased its manufacturing capabilities and the number of moulds being produced. It has now reached sufficient capacity to be able to manufacture all its moulds in-house and no longer uses subcontractors. During the same period, the company investigated ways to improve its quality and consistency. In 2006, Belshina added a Cimcore inspection arm, together with PowerINSPECT for inspection and PowerSHAPE Pro for reverse engineering. The most recent addition to the mould-making plant was a special 4-axis machine tool from Taiwan, purchased in 2011 to mill inscriptions and trademarks onto the surfaces of moulds. Belshina added an extra seat of PowerSHAPE and PowerMILL, plus PowerINSPECT On-Machine Verification, for this machine. At the start of 2012, Belshina undertook an evaluation of its complete set of CADCAM software as part of a continuous development review. Following this review, the company ordered four seats of the FeatureCAM feature-based machining software and its first seat of ArtCAM, the latter for artistic applications such as engraving of logos and trademarks. Currently, the factory produces more than 300 moulds each year, with the growing demands of the parent company constantly requiring an increase in the number of moulds to be manufactured. Box item News on the web [] Mould toolmaker BK Tooling (01279 600970) attributes its exceptionally busy past 18 months to investment in equipment through lean times that has enabled it to take advantage of offshored work now being repatriated to the UK. Complementing its investment in machine tool technology, the adoption of heat-shrink tooling was considered, but the company plumped for WNT's Centro-P collet system, with BK Tooling achieving a fourfold increase in tool life, in one instance. This is attributed to the gripping power of the collet system and also the mass of the holder, which ensures a secure interface and minimal runout of 5 micron when used with WNT's precision collets (0800 073 2073). click here [] Specialist engineering and manufacturing company Formaplex has opened a new 15,000 ft2 factory, boosting production space 30%, while an investment of £750,000 has also been made in two large CMS Aries 4826 5-axis machines for the new facility. The new factory, at Horndean Hampshire, will be home to the company's pattern manufacturing capability, it having relocated from Havant. click here Box item 2 Product update Launched earlier this year, the integrated hyperCAD/hyperMILL system from Open Mind (01865 338026) supports tool and mould-makers every step of the way, the company says, from importing item data to NC program post-processing. The current version of hyperMILL 2011 includes several useful and high performance functions for this industry sector. For example, there are machining strategies in hyperMILL CAM that are said to be ideal for the tool and mould-making industry. click here (video) Tungaloy Corporation (0121 309 0163) DoFeed super high feed milling cutters offer high productivity levels, and are said to be ideal for applications in the mould and die sector. The super high feed milling cutters are said to guarantee remarkable productivity levels when rough machining steel, cast irons, stainless steels and super alloys. click here Nikon Metrology (01332 811349) has combined its Co-ordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) metrology with its X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) experience to develop an 'absolute accuracy' metrology CT system, the MCT225. Plastic injection mould and metal die-cast manufacturers can significantly reduce correction cycles during tool development and production start-up. All shrinkage, deformation and dimensional errors are clearly identified in easy-to-understand inspection reports, making it simpler to define corrective actions. click here The Lumex Avance-25 is an additive metal laser sintering/high speed milling hybrid machine tool that will make huge reductions in mould-making production times, claims Matsuura Japan (01530 511400). The technology combination offered by the Lumex Avance-25 enables the additive metal laser sintering process to grow a component from powder, then employ high speed machining to finish-machine the whole or sections of the part to an immaculate surface finish and extremely high accuracy, says Matsuura. click here (video) 'iMoulder' is Imtech Design's handy injection moulding problem-solving app for iPhone and Android smartphones. Injection moulding consultants and engineers Imtech (0208 4681060) operates the full suite of Moldflow CAE programs for injection moulding advice and undertakes Moldflow simulation on the smallest medical device to the largest car instrument panel, quickly and efficiently, giving practical solutions to complex injection-moulding problems. Visit click here First published in Machinery, August 2012