Prototyping end-of-arm tooling

August 1, 2022

 Prototyping end-of-arm tooling


Reka Forgach

“I’m always traveling with the 15-inch MacBook around the world and I was sick of hauling it with me, opening it up in the airport and waiting for it to boot up. Then I switched to an iPad, and bought the first iPad Pro 11 in 2018. I was looking for a way to view CAD files, to review parts and complex designs for our customers. I found Shapr3D and thought, it’s absolutely perfect. It’s very easy to check the details of a part, import the designs and edit the tool designs in the app.”

Wolf B. and Sabrina L. are the General Managers at 3dsystec, a Hong Kong-based tooling company, with a technical office in Shenzhen that supports foreign companies in injection molding business, project management, injection molding simulation, 3D scan measurement, and end of arm tooling (EOAT) production. 3Dsystec's team also works to reverse engineer parts without 3D data.

The 11-person team includes 8 project engineers, designers, and measurement engineers on location. They work largely with clients in the automotive industry, including Tier 1 suppliers and BMW, with 90% of their customers working in that segment.

In a move to prepare to a complete shift to Apple devices, Wolf purchased iPad Pros for everyone in the company. Browsing around different apps on the device, this was the moment where he stumbled upon Shapr3D. He and realized it was perfect for viewing files of plastic parts on the go. on his frequent travels to clients between China, Canada, Mexico, Hong-Kong, and Europe.

The making of an end-of-arm tool

Wolf’s team will get a file from a customer for a car part. In most cases the team receives the data in a STEP file, occasionally it will arrive as an .XT or CATIA file. They’ll review it, make sure all the details for the parts needed for building an injection molded tool are there, and if not, request edits from the client before sending a proposal. Once the proposal is accepted, it’s off to the races.

Changing the Shape of the Gates to Pick Up With a Carbon-Fibre Gripper
Changing the shape of the gates to pick up with a carbon-fibre gripper

The file will go to the toolmaker who then designs the tool and builds it up. Once the design of the tool is ready, the team starts to build the EOAT. With the first parts, the team will make the measurement. This way the customer gets an end-to-end service, from part design to the complete production of the plastic part.

Migrating from Microsoft

For CAD topics, the team works largely with Siemens Nx for the designs. They use several other software tools, like Spinfire from Actify to change the format from CATIA to a STEP or X_T file. They also use the 3D viewer from Kisters.  

While most of the work happens on Windows Surface tablets, the team uses iPad Pros for communication, sending reminders and notes using Apple apps and getting used to the Apple ecosystem. Wolf is planning to migrate completely to Apple devices in the future, and is using this time to expose his engineers to it and learn different ways to insert Apple software into their workflows.

Reviewing Tool Designs - Simple Carbon-Gripper Design
Reviewing tool designs - simple carbon-gripper design

Recently, he also began using Shapr3D to visualize ideas for the design team and company clients.

“It’s very easy to create shapes and some basic geometry. I don’t go into detail in the shape, I just make a rough sketch so that they can see it. Then I give it to our designer and let them do it that way.”

This process is helpful in directing the workflow moving forward. If the team is working on a slider or a demolding problem, Wolf can make a rough volume of the shape in Shapr3D and explain where to cut and where to make a parting line for the tool.

Changing the Shape of the Gates to Pick Up With a Carbon-Fibre Gripper
Reviewing tool designs in Shapr3D
“People understand immediately what I want. We also have a language challenge here, working with Chinese engineers and speaking in English, which is also not my mother tongue. Shapr3D helps us overcome the language barrier and differences in understanding, by letting me simply show what I’m talking about.”

Before Shapr3D, Wolf made the master for the tool and passed it on to his engineers to recreate in a PLM system. Now he creates designs himself, including his current project, a completely new structure of carbon EOATs.