Molding Company Adds 3-D Feedback Feature to Online Quotes
When discussing a project with a client, it can be frustrating trying to explain potential obstacles in molding a part without some sort of visual reference. In light of this communication barrier, one rapid injection molding company has adopted the age-old advice, ‘show, don't tell' when supplying feedback.
The Protomold Company, Inc. (Maple Plain, MN) has integrated a 3-D feature into its ProtoQuote online quote request program. "The ProtoView 3-D feature was prompted by dozens of conversations with customers everyday where it's difficult to try and describe [issues] verbally, where on our screens we can rotate things and look at things from every side and zoom in," says Bradley Cleveland, president and chief executive officer of the company. "We're just trying to make it easier for a customer to look at the feedback that we're giving to them. It's intuitive. We're just providing customers with some of the tools we have internally."
As with a traditional quote request, customers are asked to provide specifications from several drop-down menus. These fields include number of cavities, A-side finish, B-side finish, sample quantity, delivery, and material. Upon entering the information, the tool outputs a quote. Depending on the model originally provided, a warning could appear, indicating that changes to the specifications are necessary in order to produce the requested part. If the part cannot be molded as requested, the program details where the problems lie and color-codes problem areas.
Users can page through the menu sections labeled required changes, moldability advisory, and other changes. Engineers can opt to view 2-D static images highlighting trouble spots or install the ProtoView 3-D feature for added capabilities. Viewing problems in 3-D enables users to zoom in and out, as well as to rotate the part to view design hurdles from various angles. Rather than just stating that a part cannot be molded as requested, the ProtoView tool identifies the problem on the 3-D image and allows users to manipulate the image to try and understand any noted issues.
"The whole idea is to allow engineers to get a much better feel for what it is we're trying to tell them about the moldability of their part or potential issues they might have with their design," says Cleveland. "If you can take your part and rotate it around and zoom in and out from it, you can get a much better feel for it than just looking at static pictures."
The company is currently developing additional features for the ProtoView tool, including fill analysis. On a limited basis, the company can conduct mold fill analysis through software that simulates the flow of plastic into the mold, according to Cleveland. By predicting the pressures and temperatures of the mold as the part is being filled, the software enables the firm to foresee whether the part will have a difficult time filling.
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