Progressive die development has always been an expensive, error-prone process. Valuable time is often wasted redesigning and rebuilding these complex tools. As a result, exhaustive testing and troubleshooting cycles have retarded progress, increased new product development costs, and--in many companies--aggravated competitive pressures.
These kinds of design and fabrication problems are currently being solved at Connecticut Spring & Stamping Corp (CSSC), Farmington, CT. Utilizing a CAD/CAM system and solution-oriented applications software from Gerber Systems Technology Inc, (GST), South Windsor, CT, CSSC is replacing tedious, time-consuming tasks with automated, easy-to-use tools.
Recognized as a leader in the design, development, and assembly of progressive stamping dies, CSSC uses their tooling to produce custom precision metal parts and assemblies for companies in the computer, aerospace, railroad, firearm, camera, and toy industries. With a work force of over 500, the company maintains a highly innovative and successful organization.
As Gaston Pelletier, engineering supervisor at CSSC explained, "If a customer wants any close-tolerance metal part, we find a way to design and manufacture it. Our reputation demands this personal service. But, a few years ago, as our metalstamping trade began to grow, a bottleneck evolved within our engineering department. We simply could not produce detailed and verified drawings fast enough to accept new tooling jobs at this accelerated rate.
"To design just one intersection of a strip layout, by hand, might take days. To draw an entire tool assembly, with full detail, usually required weeks. In many cases, the design checker would find flaws in the drawing, so revision time also had to be included. Consequently, even with a lead period of 18 weeks, the engineering department couldn't deliver the finished drawings to our toolmakers with adequate time remaining to build and troubleshoot the dies. Furthermore," Pelletier added, "if the toolroom foreman encountered additional design inconsistencies, more precious time would be wasted in redevelopment."
Company management, over the years, has demonstrated foresight and determination to keep pace with the latest technological advancement. This situation was no different. Turning away new tooling jobs was out of the question. Hiring and training more designers, draftsmen, and checkers was not a cost-effective solution. Finding a faster, more accurate way to draw tooling was the only answer.
As Pelletier recalled, "We started investigating CAD/CAM systems early in 1982. Some of the systems we looked at seemed to suit our needs, but they also posed certain problems for us. For example, a few of the companies we benchmarked sold systems that were very...