Press tool manufacturer enjoys the benefits of concentrating on segment where others dare to venture.
Investments in automotive stamping dies and press lines are expensive and require long lead times. Streamlining the development and commissioning of new lines and flexibly adapting existing lines to new designs are key to maximising return on investment. Inner and outer body panel part models are the manufacturing team’s primary input for initiating the stamping die development process, which requires the long lead-time.
Die line-up spacing, opening height, and material travel speed are all critical factors that directly impact the overall efficiency of the working press line. Agile supply chains, synchronised production operations and real-time plant visibility are also required to respond to market fluctuations and to keep product quality high. These days’ specialised design and analysis tools enable the manufacturer to quickly and virtually assess the feasibility of forming parts for highly accurate die face designs.
A general view of the TruTool Engineering shopfloor
Critical to the whole line though is the die or press tool. Tool, die, press tooling and mould manufacturing requires a skill set that is virtually unique in the machine shop segment. However, ask many local machine shop owners and they will say this type of manufacturing has emigrated to cheaper economies, typically in the Far East – a conundrum not unique to South Africa. But this statement is not entirely true as there are still many quality toolrooms turning out product for Tier 1 suppliers who ultimately manufacture components for the OEMs.
To produce complex die cavities in sections, whether you are a tool, die, press tooling or mould manufacturer requires investment in CNC milling, grinding and wire EDM equipment.
As a manufacturer of high-volume press tooling for the automotive, plumbing, shelving and other metal industries TruTool Engineering maintains a substantial in-house press tooling and die making department.
Partners Pierre Moll and Polino Gonclaves
For the last 10 years, this department has enjoyed the benefits of wire cutting EDM, with the addition of four Charmilles machines that were acquired when the company purchased its supplier – Clear Cut Technologies. Along with the wire EDMs came a Haas VMC and a surface grinder and other general conventional equipment.
“2009 was a big year in the company’s history in terms of services that we could offer our clients,” explained Polino Goncalves, one of two business partners that setup TruTool Engineering in November 2006.
“Prior to purchasing our preferred supplier Clear Cut Technologies in 2009 we had to rely on them and others for our wire EDM work. When you are relying on others it is not an ideal situation to be in but this goes for most businesses. It was not that we were being let down at all it was just a control thing.”
“Additionally, having nearly all requisite processes in-house and performed by trained shop personnel not only allows quicker deliveries to customers, but also helps ensure that the documentation is properly maintained for every job.”
TruTool Engineering made the tooling for components used on the front axle carrier on the BMW 3 series when it was still manufactured locally. It involved 30 different tools that produced the various components
TruTool Engineering have recently purchased a bed type VMC milling machine. The machine has a three-metre travel
“Pierre and I started TruTool Engineering when we acquired an existing fully functional toolroom that was based in Alrode, South Gauteng. For a long time the two of us had wanted to start our own business but we had to wait for the right opportunity. It was our ambition to own and manage one of the bigger toolrooms in South Africa, with an emphasis on manufacturing press tooling.”
“The toolroom we purchased was equipped with the usual conventional equipment, including a press that we still make use of today, but no CNC equipment. We subsequently added a radial arm drill and a universal milling machine to the inventory.”
“But if we wanted to attain our ambition we knew that we would have to go the CNC route. It took us two years before we purchased our first VMC machine – a big King Rich milling machine – and we have subsequently added another VMC milling machine.”
“Our latest purchase – four months ago – is a bed type VMC milling machine. The machine has a three-metre travel and this has opened up a new way of thinking, when it comes to machining, in the company. We specifically purchased this size machine so that we could mill larger components as we were a bit limited with the table size of our other three VMC mills and of course the table weight.”
A press tool being machined on the new VMC milling machine
Essentially TruTool Engineering are involved in manufacturing progression dies or press tooling as it is also referred to
“However, the key to success (and the primary challenge) for any machining operation is minimising turnaround time for non-repeating work. Good machining businesses are nearly always able to find ways to shave time off repeating work. This is much more difficult, however, for engineering businesses that may machine a particular component only once. And the challenge of compressing turnaround time for jobs that don’t repeat is more daunting when a 10-ton crane is needed to install workpieces onto a mill’s bed.”
“Besides taking care of the machining work where we were lacking the capability and capacity, we also realised that when we decided on this new investment, the size of the machine would afford us opportunities to seek other work in the field that we have specialised in.”
“Our journey together started in 1990 when we were both apprentices at the same company, training as tool, jig and die makers,” said Pierre Moll when describing his relationship with his business partner Polino Goncalves.
“After qualifying I went my own way and worked for various companies that were involved in manufacturing tooling, while Polino stayed on working in his chosen field of tool and die making. However, Polino was instrumental in enticing me back to the company (ISE) where I would do contract work for them when the company won a big contract. That was back in the year 2000. Throughout the period that I had been away we had remained friends so it was an easy decision.”
TruTool Engineering manufacture progression dies and press tooling up to 3 000mm in length
Progressive die stamping is a metal forming process widely used to produce parts for various industries, such as automotive, electronics and appliances
“The company was involved in a number of big projects and one in particular I remember was that the company had a large contract to supply press tooling to German automotive component manufacturer ISE Europe. We both gained invaluable experience in the world of manufacturing press tooling, as a result.”
“You could say that this is what sowed the seed for the two of us to start a business together.”
“From the beginning we decided not to get involved in the manufacture of multi-cavity injection mould sets that are made for the manufacture of caps, closures and other packaging applications. This is still true today but we don’t turn this type of work away.”
“Essentially we are involved in manufacturing progression dies or press tooling as they are also referred to. However, generally speaking press tools are categorised by the types of operation performed using the tool, such as blanking, piercing, bending, forming, forging or trimming. Progressive die stamping is a metal forming process widely used to produce parts for various industries, such as automotive, electronics and appliances.”
“Progressive die stamping consists of several individual work stations, each of which performs one or more different operations on the part. The part is carried from station to station by the stock strip and is cut out of the strip in the final operation.”
TruTool Engineering do manufacture moulds for multi-cavity injection mould sets
Due to the complexity of progressive dies, it is important to address all the factors that contribute to achieving the desired level of part quality, including blank position, pilots, blank boundary and stretch-web deformation
“The decision to produce a part in progressive die or transfer die is dependent on size, complexity and volume of production. Progressive die stamping is used to produce a large number of parts and keep the costs as low as possible. The highest demands in precision and durability must be met.”
“Due to the complexity of progressive dies, it is important to address all the factors that contribute to achieving the desired level of part quality, including blank position, pilots, blank boundary and stretch-web deformation.”
“Pilots play an important role in progressive die stamping – they fix the strip into an appropriate position and maintain control over it. In addition, they are essential for precise sheet positioning during tool closing and drawing operations in transfer dies. Other factors to be considered are timing and interaction of carriers, pads, and upper and lower tools. The benefits of progressive die stamping are increased productivity and significant cost reduction for high-volume production.”
Software for simulation of stamping processes
“These days you have software for simulation of stamping processes that enables rapid and accurate simulation of the entire stamping process including drawing and secondary operations as well as springback and hemming processes.”
Dies are usually made of tool steel to withstand the high shock loading involved, retain the necessary sharp cutting edge, and resist the abrasive forces involved
TruTool Engineering have manufactured tooling for Ford, BMW, VWSA, Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan and the other OEMs
“The dies are usually made of tool steel to withstand the high shock loading involved, retain the necessary sharp cutting edge, and resist the abrasive forces involved. The cost is determined by the number of features, which determine what tooling will need to be used.”
“There are many instances where progression dies are used to manufacture components, especially in the automotive industry, both on the chassis and the body.”
“We have been involved in a number of interesting projects in the automotive industry. We made the tooling for components used on the front axle carrier on the BMW 3 series when it was still manufactured locally. It involved 30 different tools that produced the various components.”
“Currently we are involved in manufacturing tools the Ford Ranger that is manufactured locally. This involves several different tools and will be used to make chassis components as well as a skin panel component. Besides Ford and BMW we have manufactured tooling for VWSA, Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan and the other OEMs.”
“But we are not limited to the automotive OEMs. We have also made tooling for the electrical and electrical motor, geyser manufacture, roofing, extrusion, printing and white goods industries.”
A selection of components that have been processed on tooling manufactured by TruTool Engineering
TruTool Engineering have four wire EDM machines at their disposal
“We don’t do all the designs of the tooling ourselves but if outsourced, designs will be done to our specifications. We work closely with an outside consultant and he formulates the drawings from the concept design that we have given him. We then do the reviews and all tool trials are done onsite at the client.”
“Clear Cut Technologies was established in 2002 and we acquired the business in 2009. Clear Cut Technologies’ facility is where we are now based. When we purchased the company we moved TruTool Engineering from Alrode to the Germiston South facility.”
“We use the Charmilles CNC wire EDM cutting equipment that we acquired to cut very accurate profiles in steel, aluminium, brass or any electrically conductive materials. Our wire cutting process is a high-quality process where we are able to achieve tolerances to within 0.008mm repetitively. We are able to cut the most complex profiles as per our customers’ specifications.”
“The wire used in our wire cutting machines is 0.25mm in diameter and is a brass coated copper wire for fast and accurate cutting conditions. An electrical current passes through the wire in order to cut the metal accurately. We can cut profiles that are up to 700mm on the X, 400mm on the Y and 400mm on Z. We can also cut up to a 30 Degree taper angle and 4-axis cutting of components.”
“Both Polino and I now have extensive experience in the tool manufacturing industry, having worked on the machines and learned how to use our CAD/CAM software package Edgecam. We try to give back to the industry by training TASA supplied apprentices and also our own apprentices including my son Jacques. We usually offer three apprentices a three-month practical training period. Some of them have been so good that we have now employed three of them. Our staff complement at the moment is 18.”
All four of TruTool Engineering’s wire EDM machines are Charmilles
TruTool Engineering have four VMC milling machines on the shopfloor
“We have undertaken several successful projects for the motor industry and can handle any tooling projects up to six tons for each tool and with dimensions of 3 000mm in length. Our fast turnaround times and high accuracy are all due to our capable artisans and precise machines and equipment. Press tooling manufactured by us is of the highest quality as we work to ISO specifications.”
“The shop continues to add to its wealth of internal manufacturing capabilities as needs arise. Having nearly all requisite processes in-house and performed by trained shop personnel not only allows quicker deliveries to customers, but also helps ensure that the documentation is properly maintained for every job,” concluded Moll.
For further details contact TruTool Engineering on TEL: 011 873 4721 or visit www.clearcuttechnologies.co.za