Monday, 8 July 2013

Mold machining: Promises kept with Breton Matrix

Meeting the delivery times and high precision parts are the foundations of company philosophy for Focus on molds. To keep these trump cards in our hand, the company puts its trust in qualified personnel and hi-performance machine tools such as the Breton Matrix 800 K25/2T.

Designing injection or pressure die-casting molds is an interesting challenge for the engineering department, as these components push the designers’ creative energy and come up with new solutions. The special feature of the molding process is that two similar pieces need different dies: just a small geometric variation may mean redesigning the shape and position of elements such as deburring chambers or heat exchangers. This redesigning is frequently required in the automotive industry; imagine how many parts change shape from one car to the next, or even two different versions of the same model.

So similar, so different
“Molds may seem all the same, but every customer has its own special requirements as the mold will be used in different ways on different presses to those of the competition,” says Giuseppe Ghilardi, general manager of Focus on molds, “so there's a study I might even call tailor-made that goes into every die and punch design developed by highly qualified personnel. Here at Focus on molds we dedicate a great deal of time and energy to our employees, concentrating our efforts on their training and rewarding those deserving the highest praise. We're convinced that the quality of the parts and therefore customer satisfaction is the result of their work, rather than just the performance of the machine tools. This has been our philosophy since 2002, when we launched the brand.”

Over a decade of success thanks to an important change of direction in 2002 when the new management took over a company established in 1979, completely restructuring both the staff organization and work method. 
At the end of 2012 we moved to the new works in Cologne (BS) with an area of 10,000 m2, half of which covered. “During the transfer, we took the chance to assess the conditions of our machine tools, to see whether it was worth moving them, or if it was more economically viable to purchase new models,” mentions Ghilardi. “In the case of Breton, in the old works we had a machine with seven years of service, and although it still managed to keep up with the required quality standards of production, some minor imperfections had begun to appear.”

More than words
The positive results in these seven years convinced Focus on molds to continue collaborating with the Italian company, purchasing a Matrix 800 K25/2T. “Until a few years ago I hadn't even heard of the Breton machines,” continues Ghilardi. “During our first meeting I was told their product had certain characteristics and could offer a certain type of performance. I'm happy to say that the promises made by the sales staff and technicians were kept, not just when the machine was purchased but in time too. For this reason, when it was time to renew our machines we were in no doubt whatsoever and contacted Breton immediately.”

Initially Focus on molds asked if it would be possible to retrofit the old model already installed, but the characteristics of the Matrix 800 K25/2T in the catalog convinced the company from Brescia to invest in a new machine. “The Breton technicians explained that the new machine had numerous improvements to reduce head noise, improve recovery from thermal expansion and improve accuracy on some machining types even more than before,” Ghilardi adds. “As the promises made have always been kept, I put my trust fully in the new machine and signed the contract.

As this machine is mainly used for finishing and superfinishing molds, the improvement in precision and maintaining this performance in time were parameters of fundamental importance. As well as the difficulties associated with the dimensional variations of the molded piece in fact, there is also the problem of having to produce net shape components with very close tolerances. 
The Matrix 800 K25/2T meets these requirements with ease, thanks also to its very rigid head and the ability to work at high rotation speeds, which lets you work a wide range of materials.

Punctual precision
This machine is ideal for making the majority of molds, which otherwise would need to go through a spark erosion process, increasing production and delivery times. It's important to emphasize that timely performance is something of a motto for Focus on molds: we're proud to say that over the years we've always managed to deliver our customers' orders by the date of delivery. 
90% of our production is for the automotive industry, and when working with the major names like Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar you must be fully aware of your potential and times, because delays will surely mean a customer lost,” states Ghilardi. “This is extremely important for us, as first and foremost it's an indication of our professional standards and lets us establish trustworthy relations with our customers: if the customer trusts you, you're sure to be one of the first suppliers they'll contact for future orders. The problem is that the person placing the order takes precision for granted, and requests tighter and tighter deadlines

This means we have to take great care when deciding which proposal to accept. Sometimes in fact in spite of everything we've had to turn down interesting projects because of the impossible deadlines, despite the fact that from a feasibility point of view they were well within our scope. A contract we signed recently represents a different case though, as the customer gave us an ultimatum in terms of the number of parts and the delivery date for consigning the job. We accepted, despite the fact the contract would mean a notable effort on our part, putting our trust in the potential of the Matrix 800 K25/2T.”

Precise, versatile, reliable
The Breton machine is a highly versatile milling center that can meet any work requirements, thanks also to its extensive operating range that lets you position a complete mold without having to remove it, if only minor milling is required. Furthermore, thanks to its 5 axes, the Matrix can perform complex operations and the workpiece can be positioned on the machine in one simple operation, so there is no time wasted and there can be no errors in precision as the piece doesn't have to be moved. 
The main advantage is the way the head moves and turns,” explains Ghilardi. “The Matrix can perform complicated movements extremely easily also thanks to the numeric control installed, which may be either a Heidenhain or Siemens NC, and simply transmits the data from the Cam program to the machine, so it responds as quickly and smoothly as possible.” This makes the Breton machine very easy to use, so easy in fact that training here at Focus on molds is limited to new personnel, and is basically only on learning how to use the NC.

On paper, Matrix is a machining center that's easy to use, and in practice it's proven to be highly reliable too: until now the new machine hasn't needed any kind of repair call, even tele-assistance type. This is a very interesting service offered by Breton, and thanks to the tele-assistance support the technicians can remotely run diagnostics and, for repairs that require field service, they arrive just with the right tools and parts to solve a problem, although most of the time problems can be solved over the phone
This is more than just an advantage in terms of image for Breton; it means customers can respect their times, as any repair call will be timely answered and targeted.

In general, we're very pleased with Breton  both from a machinery point of view and for the quality of the pre and post-sale service,” concludes Ghilardi. “They always met our requirements, and above all kept their promises. For us this means added value, because it's exactly the same way we've earned our customers' trust and is the mark of a serious and reliable partner.”
(Thanks to TM - Tecnologie Meccaniche for the article)
Sergio Prior


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