PowerMILL gets it right first time

Finishing toolpath for part of the fork mould
Part of the finished spoon mould

Few things are more taken for granted than plastic tableware. Yet making the tooling for plastic knives, forks and spoons is an extremely complex undertaking. As with any high-volume, low-cost plastic product, the toolmaker is challenged to come up with a highly productive and highly accurate set of moulds. Because the numbers of components is so high, the weight of plastic in each part must be controlled to within one tenth of a gram. Helm Tool Inc., from Illinois, USA, overcame these challenges with high-speed machine tools and Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software.
The tableware job was especially important because it was the first to use the company’s new Makino high-speed machines. "We would only use PowerMILL to program our high-speed machines," says Helmut Mueller, President and Owner of Helm. "Other packages are harder to learn and harder to use. With PowerMILL, we were able to create good programs after only a few hours’ work with the software. The combination of PowerMILL and high-speed machining lets us get the most productivity out of the fewest number of people. 
"The plastic tableware job was a 144-cavity mould and each of the three pieces required different programs. "We cut on this for months," said Mueller. "We roughed, semi-roughed, semi-finished and finished. The programs even had cutter changes and surface blends in them. There was not a single machining error."

"With PowerMILL and high-speed machining, we were able to finish the 144-cavity tool in 12 to 14 weeks," Mueller said. "Without them, we estimate it would have taken us 22 weeks. PowerMILL allows us to do it right the first time, every time. The software also helps us program the high-speed machines to run overnight, unattended. That is because the programs are so reliable.

"PowerMILL gives us an opportunity to do more tools for a given project," he added. "Sometimes, because of the time required to make each mould, larger projects are split up among two, or more, companies. Giving the entire job to a shop like Helm Tool means more business for us and usually offers cost savings to the customer."