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Optimould - Development of Innovative Design and Manufacturing Techniques for Aluminium Moulds

This project aroused from the constant necessity and pressure of the European automotive industry (and, consequently, of the Portuguese Industry) with the purpose to reduce production costs and to optimize the processes involved in the production of the several components in order to maintain itself competitive in relation with Asian and American companies.

Thus, this optimisation runs by for a tight cost control. In order to achieve a cost diminution and productivity’s growth, the introduction of new processes or materials as an innovative alternative is extremely necessary.

Optimould created a methodology for the optimisation of aluminium moulds manufacturing in large series, applied to the automobile industry (technical parts), based on a real and industrial case study. This tool is supposed to be an essential instrument in what concerns the substitution of steel moulds manufacturing for moulds in aluminium alloys, offering to the enterprises very competitive advantages, such as the a reduction on the moulds manufacturing cost as a result of a better machinability of these alloys and a smaller time cycle during the injection process as a result of a better thermal conductivity of these materials. Though the aluminium mould study and utilisation is not recent, its connection with automobile industry is still incipient.

Goals:

The main goal of this project relied on the optimisation of the aluminium moulds conception by pondering innovative methodologies, in order to increase productivity, quality and the efficiency of the injection moulding process.

Nowadays, moulds are manufactured in steel and designed based on empirical knowledge and practical rules, which may lead to expensive material costs and time machining. The use of aluminium alloys with highly thermal conductivity, polishing and repairing allows a large reduction in the manufacturing process time. However, it presents better mechanical qualities and a minor adhesion to superficial coatings than steel. Thus is extremely important to come up with new methodologies and technologies that allow its optimisation either in the project fields or the manufacturing fields.

Results:

The methodologies and the tools developed by this project are extremely important for the competitiveness in the Portuguese Mould Industry through out:

  • A guarantee of shorter injection cycles;
  • Higher control of the warpage in the moulded parts;
  • Wearing control caused by the cyclical movements of the metallic parts that are directly in touch – PVD coating;
  • Wearing control caused by abrasion;
  • Wearing control caused by the corrosion of moulded surfaces;
  • Reduction of the extraction force;
  • Quality’s Guarantee;
  • Moulds with wearing problems are easily repaired – ease machinable and reparable materials;
  • Lower manufacturing costs – the aluminium alloys processing is a lot faster when used different cutting methods.

Fundamentally, the aim of this project relied in the creation of new support methodologies to the aluminium mould conception process with economical advantages for the industry:

  • Mould manufacturing time reduction (10% to 30%);
  • Mould cost reduction  (5% to 15%);
  • Time reduction of the Injection cycle (10% to 25%).  

Duration:

3 Years (1st July 2002 – 30th June 2005)

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