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Machine Design

Web-Based Quoter Shows Parts in 3D

Potential customers of rapid part maker Protomold Co., Maple Plain, Minn., can now go online to rotate and zoom in on 3D models of their parts.

Models sent to undergo a simple analysis for problems such as undercuts are viewed in 3D. The faces in red are undercut.

Protomold could put difficult-to-mold parts through filling simulations. The software has colored the tab green indicating a wall too thin to fill.

The company says these views of a cursory automated analysis might point out such problems as undercuts or thin walls, for example.

"The 3D features are in every quote. ActiveX controls that make them possible take only a few seconds to download and get running," says Protomold President Brad Cleveland.

Protomold may run parts with more serious problems through its mold-filling software, and then embed results in the same 3D quotation. "Manufacturing specialists and designers can go online and discuss how the part might be redesigned to, for example, fill a thin wall," Cleveland adds.

The company will only run the simulation software on models with hard-to-fill geometry and only for a limited range of thermoplastics. "We spent significant time generating material data in our lab because we want to make sure it is right, and we have our own parameters to measure," Cleveland says.

"We developed the simulation software because it had to run fast and work with the quoting process. But in a couple years, all quotes will be delivered with a 3D filling simulation." Cleveland adds that the company has run hundreds of trials on real parts that were difficult to fill and found the software identifies problems with good accuracy.

The Protomold Co. Inc.,


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