February 28, 2002 -- A combination of Delcam software has provided a complete solution to the CADCAM needs of patternmaker and toolmaker H. Eccles (Patternmakers) Ltd. The company, which is based in Halesowen, in the UK’s West Midlands, uses the power of Delcam’s latest CADCAM technology, together with traditional patternmaking skills, to provide its customers with a faster service at a lower cost, while still retaining a high standard of quality workmanship.
Around 95% of the company’s work is for the automotive industry, including projects for BMW, Ford, Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, Renault, Toyota and MG-Rover, to name but a few. The remaining 5% involves specialist projects for the aerospace and rail industries.
Harold Eccles, the father of current Chairman, Bob Eccles, founded the company some 57 years ago. He began by offering his craft skills from a somewhat humble base, located in what can only be described as his garden shed, but soon found the need to move into dedicated premises. A reputation for quality and attention to detail helped to ensure steady growth. However, the introduction of Delcam software during the early 1990s soon accelerated the firm’s rate of expansion.
At first, only CAD software was used. 3D models would be created, either by importing data from the customer’s system or by converting 2D concept drawings into full 3D representations. The drawings needed by the patternmakers on the shop floor would then be produced from the CAD models, with all manufacturing done using traditional methods. An equally dramatic change followed the introduction of the company’s first CNC machine in 1996.
It is often claimed that the automation possible with CADCAM and CNC operation creates unemployment. Nothing could be further from the truth at H. Eccles. Here, the improved productivity and shorter delivery times has made the company more competitive and so increased dramatically the number of projects it wins. As a result, the company has rapidly expanded from 20 staff seven years ago, to 55 now. The size of the site has been increased to 30,000 square feet, following a recent 25% expansion to house two extra Correa machines, bringing the total to six. The addition of a seventh machine is already scheduled, highlighting a long term, continual, investment plan as the business continues to go from strength to strength.
Additional crane bays have also been installed, taking a load weight of up to 10 tonnes, to ensure comprehensive coverage of the factory and its machining facilities. Two CMM machines using PowerINSPECT are also available to customers. The bigger of these offers a 3.2m x 1.4m measuring window, allowing the checking of large projects such as vehicle floors.
The two more recent Correa machines have 5-axis capabilities, with the largest having a machining area of 5 metres by 2.8 metres. “We needed the bigger machines to cope with the larger projects that we are being asked to undertake. If we have smaller jobs, we can increase productivity by machining a number of parts in one operation. This is especially useful when running the machines over the weekend,” explained Managing Director, Bob Morton. “Also, many of the patterns and tools we make have steep sides. With 5-axis machining, we can cut these shapes with shorter cutters that give greater accuracy and allow faster machining.”
CAD Project Managers Neil Gerrard and Andy Jones added, “One application where 5-axis machining has been of great benefit is in making checking fixtures for automotive glazing. These usually have undercuts, which used to require three or four set-ups on the 3-axis machines. With our 5-axis machines, we can cut the fixtures in one operation. It gives a time saving, as well as being more accurate.”
“5-axis operation also saves time when machining sealing grooves into tooling. Seals are needed, for example, to prevent leakage when making moulds for foam and to maintain the vacuum in vacuum forming tools. With 5-axis machining, it is much easier to maintain a precise and constant depth in the groove and so ensure that the seal fits accurately without a lot of hand finishing.”
The benefits of the complete Delcam software range were utilised in a recent project to manufacture tooling for the carpet on a new Toyota model. These tools are normally cast from patterns designed in PowerSHAPE and machined with PowerMILL. In this case, the lower tool was required to be cast-to-form and the upper tool was CNC machined from digitised data to create a perfect match between the upper and lower tools.
This particular example was required urgently so Eccles’ team developed a sensible approach to solving the problem, typical of the adaptability that is evident in every project that the company undertakes. Considerable investment in new technology and on-going training of staff in new techniques have ensured that all work is completed in the most professional and cost effective manner.
For further information on Delcam’s CADCAM software, please contact: -
Peter Dickin, Public Relations Manager
Direct phone: 44 (0)121 683 1081 e-mail:
Small Heath Business Park,
Birmingham, B10 0HJ, UK