Legrand GmBH and TopSolid – a Winning Combination

Legrand employs more than 23 000 people worldwide and has consolidated annual sales of 2.9 billion euros (for the financial year 2004). Legrand supplies electrical fitters with just about everything electrical for homes, offices and factories across the globe. Their range of products includes switches and sockets, dimmers, motion and light sensitive switches, remote control systems … In Chile, France and Germany the group is equipped with the integrated CAD/CAM system TopSolid.

Shortening turnaround time
5 years ago the tool makers set out to find a 3D CAM system to replace the existing 2 1/2D solution. At the suggestion of the French parent company one of the solutions tested was TopSolid'Cam from Missler Software. "As far as the complex tools are concerned, we can boast a reduction in turnaround time from 20 weeks down to 12 since introducing TopSolid", says Erhard Lorenz, responsible for tool making.

Transition to 3D in one go
"The financial investment allowed us convert all tool and production resources design to 3D simultaneously", explains Michael Wendel, responsible for tool design. It was not just the cost-effectiveness of the product that impressed the users at Legrand, but more the advantages of having an unbroken process chain, from tool design through to the finished part. The strengths of the solution can be attributed to the combination of TopSolid'Mold and TopSolid'Cam, a fact that both Erhard Lorenz and Michael Wendel are only too happy to confirm.

At the end of 1998 Legrand purchased three TopSolid software licenses for the tool design department, and two licenses for the mold-making package, TopSolid'Mold. At the same time the tool making department received two TopSolid'Cam workstations.

Tool design is team work
TopSolid is used to create a tool out of the component geometry. Before this can be done, the designers and the tool makers must sit down together and specify the following details: the general make-up of the tool, the orientation of the mold components, the part line, the location of the injection nozzles, the side the object is to ejected, the position of the ejector pin and the slide assemblies. During tool design, the designers must take into account which machines are to be used to form which components. "Obviously, it makes a difference whether I want to mill or wire EDM an insert", explains Erhard Lorenz.

TopSolid'Mold provides a multitude of automatic functions which makes designing tools a lot less complicated. The program is able to calculate the shrinkage of a model, optimize its position within the mold and to calculate part lines and areas that would not be ejected from the mold. The design of moveable function groups such as slide assemblies and mold locks can be simplified by the definition of parametric relationships between the elements of an object. The software also automatically checks the components and other elements of the mold for collisions, a function which provides the user with a high level of confidence particularly when designing a cooling circuit.

Michael Wendel is particularly impressed by the excellent support for standard objects and normalized parts. To this end TopSolid'Mold provides an extensive 3D library containing components from Hasco, Strack and other respected manufacturers. The company-specific standards already created in the parametric CAD system were easily transferred to the new system using the IGES interface.

Design evaluation
Many of the important parameters required for subsequent processing are already defined at the tool design stage in the form of TopSolid Features and can thus be automatically evaluated by TopSolid'Cam. "A drilled hole with a tolerance of 10H7 is actually recognized as such. This means that the system knows that it is to center the drill, drill a two tenths pilot hole and then finish using a reamer. I no longer have to define the individual processing steps myself", explains Martin Drebber. The system is even able to automatically recognize and process pockets. These functions are particularly advantageous when making subsequent modifications to the tool, as the drilling and milling programs can be updated at the touch of a button.

Since Legrand does not produce preproduction series or specimen tools, each of the tools made is in fact a prototype. This means that it may be necessary to make modifications to a finished tool, because the part does not fall out of the mold first time or does not meet the required quality standards. It may also be necessary to increase, for example, the wall thickness of a component or a radius in order to improve the filling process. TopSolid'Cam recognizes immediately, by referring to the tool geometry, all modifications and is able to immediately begin calculating the new tool paths.

TopSolid'Cam also stores complex processing cycles in the form of programs which can be called upon whenever required. "For example, I have written a drilling process which tells the system that when using a size 10 drill to drill a depth of 20 millimeters, it can carry out the process in one movement. After 20 millimeters the system moves on to another cycle and removes the chips", explains Drebber. "I can also define filters which make it impossible to select the wrong tool to process a particular workpiece or material." Drebber has also been able to store tool-specific processing parameters in the tool library, for example, cutting depth, cutting speed, feed per tooth.

Speeding up milling programming
Thanks to TopSolid's automated features, Drebber estimates that actual time taken to create the milling programs using TopSolid is up to 80 percent quicker than using the previous system. And he only needs half the time to create the drilling programs. "You also save time up front, because a 3D model makes it easier to see how to process the piece, whereas with a drawing you first have to work it all out." The turnaround time from starting the tool design process through to the production of the first specimen part has been reduced considerably as a result of the end-to-end CAD/CAM system, despite the fact that the actual processing at the machine is not yet much quicker. As a result, the tool makers have since introduced an additional piece of software designed to optimize feeding and have also purchased a high- speed spindle which allows them to run the processing stations at higher speeds. The implementation of TopSolid'Cam makes it possible to mill sample parts for functional testing within a reasonable amount of time. "In the past, a specialist sample maker would have required 150 hours to put together a complex plastic housing. Using the 2 1/2D system it still takes three days to create the milling program. If we use TopSolid, we only need two hours to create the program. " says Erhard Lorenz. In the production resource department, the implementation of TopSolid is most noticeable when it comes to making use of stored sequences, which in turn makes the design process quicker because you are able to reuse pieces that have already been created. It is very difficult to compare the current situation with the past as Reinhard Fastnacht, who designs production resources for Legrand, goes on to explain. "Complex units, such as indexing plate workstations, were never completely drawn up in 2D, but instead as individual parts and then completed in the fitting shop. Now the fitters receive the parts ready to go, and all they have to do is to put them together." This not only halves the time taken to assemble the components, but also ensures that all future assembly stations are structured in this way.

About Missler Software:
Missler Software is one of the leading global suppliers of CAD, CAM and ERP solutions. The company's product lines include TopSolid, TopManufacturing and Goelan. Missler Software offers a uniquely integrated solution for the mechanical engineering industry (general mechanical design, special machinery, tooling, boilerwork …) and for sheet metal and wood industries.

Thanks to its advanced technology and its fully integrated solution, Missler Software is experiencing rapid growth in the global CAD/CAM market. For further information contact Email Contact or visit www.topsolid.com & www.cimsolutions.com.au

Missler Software email : Email Contact
7 Rue du Bois Sauvage web : www.topsolid.com
91055, Evry Tel : +33 16087 20 20


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