Mold changing is a fundamental step included in almost every metal fabrication operation. In a metal fabrication process, molds or forming dies are used to deform and reshape a piece of metal into an end product. Mold changing in this process is required in order to forge parts of a workpiece or to fabricate parts into a certain design. The use of mold sets is based on the design of the end product; therefore, molds in different sizes and shapes are commonly changed in the process.
During the mold changing period, the forming machine is not operating. The period of time that a machine is not operating is referred to as the machine downtime or equipment downtime. Mold changing, material feeding, equipment maintenance, etc are the primary reasons for equipment downtime. Generally speaking, the longer the downtime lasts, the lower the productivity of a manufacturing line is. In order to reduce the downtime, equipment such as a mold change cart is needed.
Mold change cart is a machine that lifts up, lowers down, clamps, and positions mold set during a mold changing process. A mold change cart is considered a quick mold change system (QMCS). The QMCS refers to the machines that incorporate a power system to simplify the mold changing process and increase the efficiency of the operation. The mold change cart, or the die change cart, is an example of the so-called semi-automated QMCS.
The anatomy of mold change carts may vary significantly depending on the design and end application of the machine. A shopping cart size mold change cart and a console style mold change platform do not resemble each other; yet, the basic components these QMCSs have are much alike. There is a flat surface to place the mold set and there is a clamping system on the surface to secure the mold set when the machine is moving. To transport the mold set between surfaces, a powered system is required to lift or lower the mold set. Lastly, there is a docking mechanism to assist transporting the mold set from the mold change cart to the metal forming machine.
The quick mold change system consists of two primary parts which include a clamping system and a power unit. With these two units combined together, the mold changing process can be conducted accurately and promptly. The clamping system is responsible for securing and positioning the mold set which are traditionally done by machinists. The power unit serves as the power source to drive the mechanical movements of a QMCS. The power unit can be a hydraulic, pneumatic, or electrical system. With the QMCS, mold changing is no longer a time-consuming and demanding process.
As aforementioned, the mold change cart is typically a semi-automated QMCS in which the operation of it still involves manpower. In contrast, a full-auto QMCS involves no operating personnel during the mold changing process. Instead, it is operated, monitored and controlled solely by the CNC system; the operation of the machine is preprogrammed. A full-auto QMCS is often incorporated with the forming machine as a part of it.
To begin with, the application of QMCS, such as a mold change cart, provides safety to the operator due to its highly automated nature. With a full-auto AMCS, no human operator is involved. With a mold change cart, the operator only has to push a few buttons to run the system and it will take care of the rest changing process. This offers excellent safety to the personnel in the working site.
In addition to the safety, errors such as docking failure, accidental clash and fall of tools, or mal-installation may be a concern in a changing process operated by humans. These errors lead to excess wear and damage to the equipment and tools. These errors are not likely to be made with QMCS.
Cutting down the manpower and minimizing the errors ultimately lead to a primary advantage that the majority of the industrial manufactures value the most: reduction of general costs. On one end, with fewer human operators, the labor cost is reduced; on the other end, with less wear and tool damage, the maintenance cost is reduced too. As a result, QMCS is widely applied in the manufacturing industry.
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