Pattern for progress: a small shop moves up to fast track CAD/CAM software.


Schill Corp, Toledo, OH, started out as a small pattern shop on the east side of town at the turn of the century. Several booming wartimes and a severe depression later, it has a 60-person workforce, an in-house foundry, and a plant recently expanded to 35,000 sq ft. Key products are molds, trim fixtures, and castings for a variety of customers in the medical, food, and automotive industries.

The survival tenacity that contributed to the firm's longevity is still alive and well, says Wade Wines, CAD/CAM systems manger. "The Big Three often mandate that shops such as ours purchase certain equipment to meet their vendor specifications. A case in point, and the largest purchase in this company's 100-yr history, was the $500,000 CNC mill we purchased two years ago.

"Yet, when this behemoth arrived, it sat there for six months and was never used to cut a single job. At that time, a lot of work was being outsourced for programming and machining. I was hired to do whatever it took to get this machine running and making money, and bring this work in-house."

Wines. had the proper background. He had worked for a design service and two pattern/model shops. "At each of these," he explains, "I had worked with a Solution 3000 system, from Micro Engineering Solutions, Novi, MI, primarily because it was easy to learn and use, compared to other systems, many of which don't have its capability. I knew that within a month's time I could train someone with no computer experience to be proficient with it. - So Wines accepted the challenge. Schill had just rebuilt its computer room, and was willing to provide the equipment he needed. The first few months were quite exciting," he recalls. -It was like being on center stage. Everyone was watching me and waiting. They wanted to see something happen."

Making it work

Two Solution 3000 systems were purchased, each directly interfaced to milling-machine controllers and supported by an array of CAD/CAM software. Initially run on MS/DOS microcomputers, this hardware has been replaced by Sun Microsystems SPARC workstations with a UNIX operating system. A third microcomputer-interfaced to a 2D Nestler digitizer-is used for data translation and as a file-server workstation, inputting data for 3D surfacing by the Solution 3000 software.

Schill products range from aluminum molds for auto headliners to graphite molds for electrical receptacles to holding fixtures for the bottling industry. "I call the graphite permanent mold...

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