Copyright © 2005 by
Intelligent Concept,
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By Dr. Eugene Kocherovsky

Valenite HSK Production System

Modern industrial manufacturers are striving to introduce new product designs to compete in today’s volatile global markets. To keep up with changing customer needs and tastes, custom-build or standard "tailored"-build products have become strong marketplace trends. However, in traditional engineering and manufacturing environments, these products require specialized processes and, as a result, customers pay more for them. Manufacturers must find ways to respond to these market demands while keeping prices competitive, and still make a profit.

Valenite Inc., a subsidiary of Cincinnati Milacron, developed a highly efficient production methodology based on Parametric Technology Corporation’s Pro/ENGINEER, which offers a unique and flexible approach to both engineering and manufacturing. The system possesses capabilities that allow it to adapt to rapidly-changing production cycles in a relatively short period of time. While the new approach has already delivered an impressive return on investment, a great deal of planning and thought had to be invested up front. To determine how to apply the new technology in their unique environment, Valenite’s engineering team began to explore and experiment. An in-depth analysis of production processes was initiated.

The Search for a Flexible Process

Valenite, like most companies today, is structured departmentally into functional areas, such as order entry, engineering, manufacturing, tooling, quality control, etc. The length of each new product cycle depends in part on the speed at which product information travels within and between these departments. "Waiting modes" can equate to down-time, increasing cycle time and cost, while decreasing responsiveness.

Based on Valenite’s research, a new CAD/CAM technique was proposed, integrating most of Valenite’s separate business activities into a highly intelligent program which would capture processes and generate product documentation automatically. By leveraging the power and full associatively of Pro/ENGINEER, this approach was successfully implemented in Valenite’s tooling plant as the core of a flexible manufacturing "cell".

Fig 1.1-1.3. Typical designs of Valenite HSK shell mill adapters.




These products may be similar in shape or styling, but differ in size and dimensions, depending on what best conforms to a particular customer need.

The increased access to up-to-date product information had an immediate and positive impact on the design of products known as "family parts" (FP) — products which are often similar in shape, but differ in size and dimensions. This "template" approach allows endless variations of proven product designs to be developed and marketed very quickly. Pro/ENGINEER’s associatively enabled Valenite’s engineers to access and modify family part designs quickly and easily, and to share new product information with other areas in the development process.

Valenite’s R & D department continued their rigorous experimentation with Pro/ENGINEER until they could formulate basic principles of building truly reusable parametric solid models, assemblies, drawings, manufacturing models, and documentation.

The examples that follow briefly outline the theories behind some of these experiments. To receive an in-depth description of the Valenite experiments and their interesting results, please refer to the contact information at the end of this article.

The Shell Mill Adapter Experiment

A fully automated manufacturing cell for HSK adapters was introduced for the new standard machine tool interface (DIN89669). A typical HSK Shell Mill adapter (Figure 1.1–1.3) is used for mounting shell mills for metal-cutting machine tools. The product design is relatively simple, having only two basic parts — the front part and the shank part. The conservative shank part is totally defined in the standard shown in Figures 1.1– 1.3 and is incorporated in a large FP table. It includes eight sizes and six shapes, for a total of 48 combinations.

The front part is moderately complex and is offered in Valenite’s catalog as 10 standard items, which have different front pilot diameters and types of clamping screws. Some of them have internal coolant supply, some do not.

The breakthrough idea for this product was to offer customers some "tailored standard products." The goal of the process was to build an integrated system which would be able to generate customized solutions for customers with very fast turnaround times and minimal manual intervention. To fulfill this objective and make the system work, Valenite engineers developed the following principles:

Pre-plan the dimensional variations of the product.

It is very important to establish the proper dimensional limitations of a future product. These limitations are the result of the functionality of the product and the manufacturing capabilities of the company producing the product. Customers, as well as sales personnel, have to be aware of these limitations.

Define the parameter matrix of the product.

Parameter matrices contain all the variables which the developer must deal with, and they can be independent or dependent. Pro/ENGINEER users are familiar with sketch dimensions, feature dimensions, assembly dimensions, reference and known dimensions, numeric, logical and strings variables and user defined parameters, and each of them can be independent or dependent. Before development begins, a list of these independent or dependent parameters would be created to keep track of their utilization during development.

Define the organization of the model.

Depending on the product, the point of interest can be a single part or an assembly. The general concept of Valenite’s system is presented in Figure 2. We defined the organizational levels as: Input, Assembly, Single Part, Manufacturing, or Documentation.

Almost all levels of the system were connected to Pro/PROGRAM™, which allowed us to continuously utilize conditional statements for incorporating company standards and daily practice of tooling solutions. Prior to this, we had conducted extensive interviews with leading company specialists in order to formulate the logic of human decision-making techniques. After processing the data, we established a "dimensional fence" around the model, which was described by relations in terms of conditional statements.


Fig 2. Intuitive user interface           Fig 4. Automatically generated manufacturing drawings

Verify stability of the model.

The final goal of our project was a system which would in some way artificially take control of all engineering activities and help provide a complete set of necessary documentation. The final test was an exercise in execution of potential customer orders in real time in order to estimate efficiency of the model and establish a reasonable marketing and advertising strategy in terms of guaranteed delivery time and price.

Document the model.

The process of documenting the logic and relations used to develop each model is not yet established in the industry. Everyone does it their own way. At least within a company, there has to be established definitions for common parameters or dimensions which developers handle on a daily basis.

Note: In our opinion, the key in developing an automated model on systems such as Pro/ENGINEER is to define proper guidelines regarding how many products can be generated from a single model.

Fig 3. Automatically generated Layout (proposal drawing)

                                                Fig 5. Automatically generated Tooling List

This will take substantial effort in the beginning, but in the long run will dramatically reduce the time and cost of maintaining the models. By following such an approach, a company will be less vulnerable to loss of a key developer or outside contractor, and will be able to smoothly transfer the model through new software releases.

Train your personal.

Even a highly intelligent program requires some training in order to handle difficult situations. There can be "failures in regeneration of the models" or unusual situations with input parameters which passed a formal system "check-up", but created a geometrically unacceptable product.

Fig 6. Automatically generated
                  manufacturing Folder






Fig. 7.1. Tool path
      Fig. 7.2. NC - Code verification


Finally, in addition to basic Pro/ENGINEER knowledge, the user must have his company’s proprietary product knowledge in order to make final judgments on generated information.

Results of development.

As a result of implementing these principles at Valenite, and with Pro/ENGINEER’s help, we developed  a system which reduces the cycle time required to generate all documentation for HSK adapter production from an average of 4 days, to 35-40 minutes. And, after the manufacturing cycle starts, we are now able to provide the customer with a proposal for their request on the same day — a unique marketing bonus.

In addition to HSK adapters, similar systems were soon built for quick change turning tools, milling cutters, and indexable drills. We  successfully leveraged the power of Pro/ENGINEER and the knowledge of our researchers and engineers to create an enduring competitive advantage at Valenite Inc. It was well worth the effort!

Eugene Kocherovsky is a project specialist in the Research and Development Department at Valenite, Inc. He holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with 18 years of R & D experience in the automotive and metal cutting industries. He started to explore Pro/ENGINEER in 1990, and since 1992, has built highly automated models integrated with Pro/MANUFACTURING. He can be reached by phone at 248-589-7429, or by e-mail at