Simplify progressive-die design

Feb. 9, 2006
The core of the VISI-Series 12 CAD/CAM package is a solid modeler that can focus on manufacturing jobs with the addition of optional modules for machining, designing molds, and designing progressive dies

— Michael Schuessler

VISI-Progress for progressive-die design lets users generate a flat-part blank by unfolding a 3D model step by step, deciding which bends are opened at each step and the opening angle value. Each intermediate model corresponds to a separate station in the completed tool.

Users take the separate models for each station and combine them into a 3D model of the complete formed strip.

. These modules work together through one interface to handle design conceptualization, tool building, modifications, and manufacturing processes.

The VISI-Progress module operates with the core module for the design of progressive dies. It works like this: designers or toolmakers import the 3D model of a part to be made and unfold it manually or automatically to generate a flat part blank. The program guides users in determining the forming progression and placement of stations for the progressive die. The software then lays out the formed strip, with all necessary punches and forms.

For example, we designed a die to make a part with two 90° bends. The material thickness dictated that bends required separate stations for forming. One station in the completed tool bends the part from flat to 45° and the next to 90°. So we manually unfolded the 3D model, deciding which bends are opened at each step and the opening angles (in this case, 90, 45, and 0). This developed separate, intermediate 3D models for each bend and the flat blank. We then took the separate parts and combined them into a 3D model of the complete formed strip. Next, we input stock width and progression, or how far the material is fed to the next station, and the software modified the formed strip to those dimensions.

The program guides users in determining blank layout for optimizing material usage. For instance, users can rotate the part shape and the system reports the percentage of scrap for each rotation. This makes it easy to select the setting that most efficiently interlocks shapes.

In addition, the software has many useful tools for repairing surfaces and solids that ma have been "damaged" when their part files were imported. This helps follow a rule we learned from the beginning: good data input yields good data output.

Creating 2D views of the solid is also easy and automated. Users can pick a detail and select which views they want shown (for example: top, front right side, and isometric). The software creates the new views in seconds. And showing a customer a view of the form station is done easily by "slicing" through the 3D-die design. For instance, if the section line goes through a screw and a hole, the program displays half of the screw, hole, and form. And when there are parts within parts, the software displays the nested parts. This gives users a better comprehension of a design because users can see hidden parts and how they fit together.

In addition to design functions, the developers have improved the software's ease of use. For example, Series 12 of the software opens files faster than previously possible. We tested a 120-Mbyte design file we've had for several years. A few releases back, it took about 270 sec to open the file. Now it only takes 20 to 30 sec. We have also seen the size of saved files decrease by 30 to 40%.

Additionally, the software has let us shift about 20% of design detailing, a tedious task traditionally part of the design process, to the shop floor. An experienced machinist with an eye for manufacturing processes now focuses on the best fit and function for detailing and preparing the job for machining. This strategy has helped us address ever shrinking time-to-market cycles while streamlining our design-to-manufacture processes.

And help is easy to obtain. Most user-manual information is covered in the online help. On the machining side, one of our programmers called the developer a few times for tech support. The developer either answers questions immediately or returns calls within the same working day and follows up a few days later to make sure the problem is fixed or to provide additional information.

The program is easy to use and menus are set up logically. In fact, four employees we originally sent to formal off-site training have since trained about 15 new users on-site. Designers with any experience in 3D design will find working with VISI an easy transition. We are looking forward to updates in Release 13 that should greatly improve use and speed when designing and detailing.

Some items we previously requested will be offered in 13. One relates to the 2D module and creating a chart with hole locations and descriptions of the feature. Information will transfer from the 3D solid into the chart instead of users entering data manually. For instance, the system knows that a detail has a 1/2-in. counterbore and tapped holes. When creating the chart, the system enters the information for these features and updates the chart to show the information in the description column.

We do have one minor complaint. A few versions back, the developer added a feature for cylindrical draws that assists in draw-die design, which has not been modified or updated since. This feature requires additional development to become a valuable tool in the design process.

VISI-Series Release 12 comes from Vero International, 30105 Telegraph Rd., #183, Bingham Farms, MI 48025, (248) 644-4965,

Michael Schuessler is vice president of Rockstedt Tool & Die, 2974 Interstate Pkwy., Brunswick, OH 44212, (330) 273-9000 ext. 111, He can be reached at [email protected]

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