The Lehman Brothers’ collapse in 2008 affected the global economy tremendously, and the Japanese mold industry still suffers its ripple effects today. However, some molding companies have managed to increase their sales through employing unique technologies and investing in technical innovation.
A fine example of one such company with an impressive facility is Wakazono Seiki Co.,Ltd (Wakazono Seiki), a specialist manufacturer of aluminum cast molds for automobile parts that uses techniques like low-pressure casting, die casting, shell-mold casting, and gravity casting. Based in Yoro-gun, Gifu, Japan, the company is the only one within the prefecture that owns a German, high-precision, 5-axis HERMLE machining center. Armed with cutting-edge technology and exceptional planning capabilities, Wakazono Seiki provides its customers with excellent service from beginning to end.
Wakazono Seiki owns the only HERMLE 5-axis machining center in all of Gifu Prefecture.
In 2012, Wakazono Seiki made use of a manufacturing grant given by the Japanese government to purchase a 3D scanner that it had been considering. In its search for the right device, the procurement team was quick to specify the need for laser, non-contact measurement – a capability that was beyond what its current coordinate measuring machine (CMM) could perform. Non-contact measurement would enable better data acquisition of approximately 1,000 times more data points, as well as an improved presentation of data in clear color maps.
After conducting a thorough research of devices in the market, Wakazono Seiki shortlisted four companies to perform a product demonstration. Apart from making non-contact measurements, the device would also need to have contact measurement capabilities because Wakazono Seiki still required X-, Y-, and Z-axis datum plane measurements of its mold products. For this reason, the company decided that the device would either be a fixed CMM with a scanner, or the FARO Edge – a 3D measurement device that takes the form of an articulated arm.
Ultimately, what helped the team decide was a remark that the President and Group Leader made: “If we need to buy something, we want to buy a dream.” If Wakazono Seiki went with the fixed CMM, the team would only be able to measure objects that fit the device’s surface plate (900 x 1000 x 600mm), which would greatly restrict its capabilities. Mr. Takuma Wakazono, Senior Executive Director, Wakazono Seiki, said, “If our only goal was to measure items, it would be okay to purchase the fixed CMM. However, if we want to accomplish more than that, the FARO Edge would provide us with more versatility.”
Within six months of introducing the FARO Edge, 16 of Wakazono Seiki’s employees, who make the majority of the team at its manufacturing site, had learnt how to operate it well. Due to its ease of use, the device gave the team consistent results across different users. “At the moment, we use it mainly for mold maintenance and modeling of old molds,” said Mr. Wakazono. “Molds that have been used repeatedly up to tens of thousands of times will suffer from wear and tear. The volume of change can be illustrated with a color map, showing clearly the areas that are worn down against areas that remain intact. Based on the color map’s indications, a mold can be repaired accordingly. Shape changes are shown in color and that helps our customers to visually understand the repair required. Since using the FARO Edge, our jobs have evolved into one of maintenance rather than mold making. In fact, in the last half a year, we have managed to raise our sales figures by several million yen with this new maintenance business.”
Obtain measurements with non-contact scanning and show wear volume in colors with Geomagic Verify software.
In retrospect, Wakazono Seiki remembers having tried other methods to grow the company back in 2009. In a bid to overcome its lack of design capabilities, the company embarked on a joint technical research for die casting with the Center for Advanced Die Engineering and Technology from Gifu University. With the university’s expertise in technology and processes, the company managed to cut manufacturing time by nearly 60%. Mr. Wakazono shared, “Especially after the Lehman Shock, we have made positive changes in our sales methods, employee awareness, and even technical research. As a result of the monthly trainings we receive, almost every single staff member now knows how to operate the FARO Edge.”
He continued, “Now, we have a device that can scan and digitize any object. We are making an active appeal to all, whether companies or general consumers. We want everyone to know that Wakazono eiki offers high-precision machining based on scanned data.”
Wakazono Seiki made a big step towards new projects involving high-precision products when it married state-of-the-art technology with its rich experience in die cast molds. Since moving into this new space, the company no longer just manufactures molds for automobiles with the 3D scanner and 5-axis machining center. Mr. Wakazono concluded, “While such projects may not be profitable now, we are still keen to pursue them. In the future, we hope to master reverse engineering so that we appeal to more sectors. We are targeting not just the domestic market, but also those overseas. It is our goal to consistently provide each customer with a unique solution.”
Working on high-precision products with the FARO Edge.
Wakazono Seiki manufactures a φ700mm impeller based on the scanned data of a φ50mm impeller; machining data provided by HERMLE.
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