Industrially produced goods are formed in moulds which are designed and built specially for them. The MODESTI project allows SMEs who specialise in this kind of work as sub-contractors to adopt the new CAD/CAM technologies they need in order to compete.
The aim of the MODESTI research project,
launched under the BRITE programme(*), was to enable European SMEs
involved in mould manufacturing to keep abreast of new technology.
How? By creating dedicated software designed to supplement the existing
computer-aided design and manufacture systems (CAD/CAM), and which
would enable specialised SMEs to meet the needs of their industrial
From traditional, manual techniques to screen-based technology
"The firms which make moulds are mainly SMEs, who are part of a cottage-industry tradition," explains the Belgian coordinator of the project, Jean-Pierre Kruth. "But we are now seeing new manufacturing technologies, and new CAD/CAM and digital control technologies, which are revolutionising this sector."
CAD allows you to draw a model on screen, then view it from every angle using 3-D animation and, finally, to test it by introducing various parameters into the digital simulation models (pressure, temperature, impact, etc.). CAM, on the other hand, allows you to control the manufacturing quality.
Speed and flexibility
The advantages of these computer technologies are legion: shorter design times (modifications can be made at the speed of the computer), lower cost, faster manufacturing, etc. This new approach also allows shorter production runs, and to make last-minute changes to the mould for a particular part - which is clearly a major advantage when it comes to ensuring product design consistency or variations in car models. Finally, too, these new processes can be used to make complex parts. Clients today expect all of these qualities from their sub-contractors, and it was its ability to deliver them that won MODESTI an award in the Brite-Euram competition in Seville, in 1992.
The MODESTI project was no flash in the pan, and the industrial exploitation of the results has generated numerous applications. The project has paved the way for the expansion of the European firms who were originally involved in it, such as the Irish firm Tecnocad - a software company specialising in applications for moulds - or CADCO, a Belgian firm which makes injection moulds. It has also led to the setting-up of a cooperative association, MESCO, which encompasses 14 European mould manufacturers, as well as the CRIF (Belgian public research centre) and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. MESCO received assistance from the CRAFT programme from 1994 to 1996, in order to carry out the IMES project (Injection Mould Engineering Systems), whose aim is to develop a marketable version of a software package for designing plastic injection moulds.
(*) Now Brite-Euram.