Fast & efficient: Software for moldmaking
Moldmaking company iMFLUX was founded in 2013 to deliver molds for plastic products as quickly as possible. The company has been delivering on that mission – thanks to software in the Xcelerator portfolio from Siemens.
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Bring to your mind’s eye the shower gel you grab every morning, or the dish liquid you use for washing up. What you’re probably seeing is the packaging, and most likely it is made of plastic. When designers come up with this packaging they think about factors like the most appropriate type of plastic, the color, the shape, what the container is intended to hold, and how the eco-footprint can be improved. But when industrial engineers at iMFLUX consider plastic packaging, molds are on their mind.
Precision molds for a precision process
iMFLUX doesn’t deliver just any molds, though. Its molds are used in a process that employs low constant injection pressure, rather than velocity or speed. Injection molding requires precision tolerances, as plastic is going into tools at up to 20,000 pounds per square inch (PSI), and the gaps between the steel have to resist the plastic from seeping through.
Focus on meeting customer expectations
The process of creating a mold typically begins when a customer sends iMFLUX a design or concept. “We take the customer’s concept from paper sketch through to the final qualification of the mold and the part itself,” explains Brent Huxel, Director of Mold Design & Project Management at iMFLUX. In a fast-moving consumer market, pressure is high to serve the customer as soon as possible – not only to meet expectations for speed, but also to start on the next project. Molds from iMFLUX are in high demand – from parent company P&G as well as from a number of third-party customers.
Tight deadlines aside, iMFLUX is dedicated to ensuring complete accuracy. Because when making molds, it’s always better to get it right the first time. Otherwise, costs quickly mount if mold action errors have to be corrected on the back end, for example if something was missed during the design phase, or if the build process was not extensively reviewed.
Only the best tools will do
“We have to be able to take designs from concept to creation as fast as possible to really unlock the speed benefits that we’re here to deliver for P&G, but also to deliver the kind of quality our external partners expect from us,” says Dan Lumpkin, Vice President of Manufacturing Tooling and Design at iMFLUX. To meet these demands, only the best design tools will do. And that’s why iMFLUX depends on elements in Xcelerator portfolio, a comprehensive and integrated portfolio of software and services from Siemens Digital Industries Software.
First, a validated digital model
A constant companion for iMFLUX designers is NX Mold Design. It automates and streamlines the entire mold development process, including part design, tool design, and motion validation. “Mold designers are able to work faster and more efficiently by using the standard mold components from the Mold Wizard library. The upfront validation tools in NX Mold Design help designers eliminate dimensional errors and ensure manufacturability. Our customers have seen up to 50 percent acceleration in the mold development process,” points out Bob Haubrock, Senior Vice President of Product Engineering Software at Siemens Digital Industries Software.
With NX CAD, designers have at their fingertips a tool to create virtual product models. That lets them simulate the final product and forego costly physical prototypes, which also take a lot of time to create. NX CAM is pulled in for NC programming. Whether for milling, turning, electrical discharge machining (EDM), or sinker EDM, comprehensive software can control and connect CNC machines and robots on the shop floor.
For more sustainability in manufacturing
Through the use of elements in the Xcelerator portfolio, iMFLUX is able to deliver first-time yields in the 90th percentile range. “Powerful and accurate machining simulation tools in NX CAM are the biggest contributors here,” says Siemens Senior Account Executive Brad Fleming. “Having an accurate digital twin of the complete machining process – including the part, fixtures, and machine kinematics – helps part manufacturers to quickly define optimal production methods.” Best of all for iMFLUX, the high quality of machined parts effectively eliminates afterwork. Other benefits include virtually no scrap and improved tool life – both of which serve sustainability goals in manufacturing.
Huxel summarizes: “Siemens software has enabled us to move faster. We pull in predesigned mold bases and hardware from the Mold Wizard library, and they enable our mold design and building processes to go faster.”
When time is of essence
iMFLUX’s capability to provide solutions fast has proven its value for meeting customer needs that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, iMFLUX built molds for plastic caps for COVID-19 test vials and for face shield headbands. Another customer asked iMFLUX to reconfigure molds for dental swabs to molds for COVID-19 test swabs. “We were able to build molds in as little as two weeks,” says Lumpkin, which represents a 30 percent to 50 percent time savings. The feature of Siemens’ software that was particularly valuable here is the digital twin of product. With it, designers can simulate the mold and all associated steps with minimal manual operations.
Between making headbands for face shields and plastic caps for test vials, Lumpkin says he’s realized that “this new world of diagnostics for COVID-19 and even the common cold is here to stay.” The new challenge for iMFLUX is balancing the demands of loyal customers with a new line of business that is tragically still needed. But with the Xcelerator portfolio, he is confident that iMFLUX will be able to meet the challenge – all while delivering with the same quality, urgency, and service the company is known for.
In 2010, consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) challenged a team of its plastics experts to come up with technology to reduce the cost and lead time for launching new plastic part designs. The team ultimately developed a new breakthrough technology that utilizes low, constant injection pressure. That lead in 2013 to the formation of iMFLUX, a wholly owned subsidiary of P&G. Aside from serving its parent company, iMFLUX also has a number of third-party customers. iMFLUX calls itself a software and innovation company, a claim that is underlined by over 100 global patents – with more filings in the process.
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