Mexico’s tire market has been growing substantially, fueled by an aggressive increase in automotive industry manufacturing across the country. Extensive tool manufacturing is also driven by this growth, including moldmaking, and Molrio, a Guadalajara machine shop focused primarily on the manufacture and repair of tire molds, has benefited.
The 35,000 ft² (3,251.6 m²) shop, founded in 1972, is run by Heriberto López, staffed by 36 employees. It is fully equipped with vertical and horizontal lathes, milling machines, drills, CNC lathes and eight CNC machining centers. Three of these are five-axis models acquired in recent years with the goal of increasing shop efficiency and expanding the parts manufacturing Molrio does for customers in other industries.
The five-axis machines certainly hold the key to productivity and expansion at Molrio. But there was one problem: The shop was only able to use two or three axes on its five-axis machines. Then Molrio discovered hyperMILL, a CAM software solution developed by Open Mind Technologies, which has U.S. headquarters in Needham, Mass., and an office in Mexico City. The shop uses hyperMILL to maximize its machining process, reduce scrap, save time and increase Molrio’s throughput.
Much of the work Molrio does is servicing and machining a wide range of tire molds it receives from tire manufacturers, and making spare parts for the molds as needed. Molrio receives the damaged tire molds, 3D CAD models of the parts the mold makes and information on the damage to the tooling. “After inspecting the damage and disassembling a mold, we repair the mold through various processes, depending on what is required,” said López. Typical processes can include welding, milling and polishing mold interiors with segment holders, segments and sidewalls (the faces of the tire legends), in addition to mold engraving for letters and numbers.
The operation at Molrio always ran like clockwork; however, its inability to program the CNC machining centers to utilize all five of their axes led to problems such as tool crashes, toolholder malfunctions, workpiece damage and downtime. “We were frustrated with the limitations of only using 3+2 machining. We often wondered why we had a five-axis system in the first place,” said López.
After looking into the issues more deeply, it became evident that the main culprit was the malfunctioning postprocessor of its CAM software. Enter Eden Molina, technical sales manager for Open Mind Technologies in Mexico. López consulted Molina about the five-axis problems Molrio was dealing with and agreed to a meeting and demonstration of hyperMILL.
When Molina met López at the shop, they went directly to the spindle to review Molrio’s machining issues. Molina asked López what he wanted to achieve with his five-axis equipment, and López quickly replied, “I want to see the machine fully working as soon as possible.” Molina then offered to program, postprocess and machine a part on the Haas UMC 750 five-axis CNC for López. Within minutes, Molina programmed and machined the part without any crashes or problems, postprocessed and confirmed. Impressed with how hyperMILL enabled the machine to mill the part in full five-axis, López, holding the perfect part in his hand, simply said, “Great technology. So, what’s next?”
López was soon convinced that the only solution for him was hyperMILL. Molrio is also comfortable using Solid Works CAD, which operates with hyperMILL. “We speak the same language because all of our Open Mind Mexico team is SolidWorks certified,” added Molina.
After acquiring the standard hyperMILL five-axis package, Molrio’s CNC machining operation is running at peak performance. “The software is reliable,” said López. “We always check the graphics simulation feature before running a new part routine, where we can visualize toolpaths and ensure that tools will not collide. It is easy to use—it’s plug and play, and we are assured the machine will run perfectly, using all five axes while saving time and especially tool costs. We have saved 80 percent in tool cost alone, and what used to take about four days to repair a damaged mold can now be completed in one day with hyperMILL. In addition, thanks to hyperMILL, we can accurately and easily machine at tight angles in confined spaces with small tools.”
Open Mind Technologies’ hyperMILL software is a modular, flexible CAM solution for 2D, 3D and five-axis milling and mill-turning with everything integrated in a single interface, including one postprocessor. This complete integration enables fast, easy five-axis programming using the latest operating concepts, reduced machining times and tool wear, improved process reliability and accurate, high-quality surface finishes.
Intelligent algorithms ensure automatic tool collision detection and avoidance with hyperMILL. Challenging features such as high and steep walls, free-form surfaces and deep cavities are automatically calculated and machined with ease. Depending on the geometry and machine kinematics, users can choose from five-axis machining with a fixed tool angle, automatic indexing or true simultaneous machining. The software is also fully compatible with all current CAD solutions and can be directly integrated into leading CAD systems such as SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor, in addition to hyperCAD-S, Open Mind’s CAD-for-CAM solution.
Open Mind has a dedicated tire module software package for the tire industry. Automated milling strategies and special functions in the module ensure simplified and efficient programming. For example, all sipe (tire tread channel) and stone ejector functions are executed by a repeat arrangement of identical tire sections that are usually defined with a tire clock, requiring programming only once. The tire utility also copies toolpaths to relevant positions in the tire, optimizing the toolpaths to reduce machining time. Molrio’s specific type of tire mold repair work does not currently require the Open Mind tire module, but that doesn’t mean López is ignoring it—especially since hyperMILL has been a key enabler that helped Molrio leverage five-axis machining technology.
“I am confident that we can compete with the Chinese tire mold industry, and the hyperMILL tire software module would be a key tool for helping us produce our own tire mold segments from scratch,” said López. This future initiative, in addition to increased expansion and diversification into other market segments—such as medical, food, automotive and mining—portends more growth for Molrio. And this requires more advanced technology moving forward to support the continued growth, such as a new, larger CNC that López recently acquired. Indeed, technology today is where the rubber meets the road for Molrio.
For information about Open Mind Technologies, visit www.openmind-tech.com/en-us.html or call 888-516-1232.