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New Moulding Technology Using Adjustable Pins ‘Reduces Costs by 90 percent’

  • Tuesday, 3rd May 2005
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

An innovative mould tool production process has been developed by UK based company with the aim of substantially reducing tooling lead times and costs by up to 90 percent.

Surface Generation Ltd designed the tool to specifically remove the need for moulds to be made from solid blocks, the company’s reconfigurable process uses adjustable pins to temporarily create only the front face of the tool. After use the bed can simply be reformatted for the next job, which allows organisations to build customised products economically.

This approach means that where a conventional ‘tool set’ for a new automotive interior has previously taken months to produce and costs hundreds of thousands of pounds, it now takes a matter of weeks – boosting sales and profitability, according to Surface Generation.

The company comment that current mould making techniques have been designed for mass production not short runs and cannot be easily re-used. This makes the production of tools for limited volume applications, including research and development, expensive. This is especially true for large products such as aircraft where production is measured in the 100’s and tooling cannot be amortised across the high volumes found in other sectors e.g. telecommunications.

The adaptability of this technology allows the precision manufacture of tools and patterns ranging in scale from automotive panels to wind turbine blades. If a tool needs to be modified, or the surface is damaged, the affected region can be selectively re-formed. Once the mould is no longer required it can simply be re-configured permitting immediate recycling for future use.

Lawrence Kelly, managing director of UK based toolmaker Elkington Brothers, commented that “During testing, Surface Generation’s technology reduced tooling lead time and costs by 68 percent without compromising quality”.

Surface Generation chief executive Ben Halford explained that: “Manufacturers are limited by the tool making processes at the heart of their businesses which are unsuited to the dynamics of modern manufacturing. By removing these limits, Surface Generation’s SPTTM technology allows the mass customisation of goods with tailored parts, giving the opportunity to sell custom products at a premium.”

The company is currently working with leading European and North American OEM’s and has recently closed a NESTA lead funding round from the UK investment community to capitalise on strong market interest.

Surface Generation is a privately owned UK company which was founded in 2002 by a team including Pera and the University of Cambridge to commercialise the SPTTM process. Since then, it has won 1st prize at Oxford University’s Venturefest business plan competition and been awarded DTI and European grants to develop its technology.

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