Eifel Mold and Engineering says it now designs products in parallel with production tooling. The result: Complex projects get completed in about half the time once needed. The company dubs its procedures Simultaneous Product Design and Manufacturing (SPDM). It involves surface modeling, analysis, and visualization capabilities in software called Icem Surf from Icem Inc., Livonia, Mich. (www.icem.com). Also used are other CAD tools, high-speed milling, and a hefty dose of manufacturing expertise.
"Prior to Icem Surf, changes to a design could create unexpected errors in surfaces, such as bumps, waves, or gaps, which must be avoided when building molds," says Tim Hay, senior design engineer at the company. "Icem Surf helps us avoid these."
A recent project for the Fraiser, Mich., company (www.eifelmold.com) was a tuner kit for Chrysler's PT Cruiser. The project required front and rear extensions and rocker panels, with aluminum tooling manufactured on approval of the design. Eifel was asked to deliver in 12 weeks rather than the more customary 24.
Engineers there made a whitelight optical scan of the car, incorporating the tuner kit as clay model extensions. They then downloaded point-cloud data derived from the scan directly into Icem Surf. "The scan gives an accurate 3D representation of the vehicle, letting us precisely locate attachment points. Modeling directly onto the scan increased-accuracy and validity of the design," says Hay. The software made it possible to change geometry and do a dynamic analysis of the digital surface model.