Prototyping wire forms in 3D
08 February 2010
William Hughes has taken the rapid prototyping of bent wire forms and assemblies to the next level with this novel process for 3D bend wire forms, which it is pioneering at its Dorset headquarters
With prototype quantities of 10-200 in increasing demand, the use of traditional metal jigs featuring go/no-go checks is often prohibitive as they can take between four and six6 weeks to design and manufacture - and cost as much as £3,000 in some cases.
While simple 2D wire forms can often be checked visually against a printed CAD drawing, the industry has long sought a way of effectively checking 3D bent wire forms and assemblies without the lead-times and costs associated with conventional metal fixtures. To meet this demand William Hughes is pioneering the use of specially designed and manufactured MDF gauges. Not only can these typically be produced in a matter of days, they also cost around a tenth of the figure commanded by their metal counterparts - around £300.
With comprehensive CAD/CAM capability available at the company's Dorset headquarters in the form of CATIA V5 R19, customers requiring rapid prototypes need only send a CAD file of the wire product or assembly, from which a suitable MDF jig can be designed and machined. The speed of this process can be very advantageous, as William Hughes' design director, Emma Burgon explains.
"We recently had a customer who wanted a small number of prototypes so he could build some sample assemblies for his client. His client, however, was somewhat tardy in producing the purchase order. Regardless of this, we worked concurrently so that the prototypes were ready in less than seven days, by which time our customer had received his order and was able to place his order with us. Had we waited for the paperwork, a whole week would have been lost, which could have compromised the whole project."
William Hughes' willingness to engage in this type of simultaneous engineering and get its design teams involved at the earliest opportunity, leads to economies of production and handling. It also ensures that prototypes are available for functional testing well before any major commitments are made regarding tooling and materials.
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