by Noelle Stapinsky
3D printing important part of options available to Aarkel
Larry Delaey, a Canadian Tooling and Machining Association (CTMA) director and president and CEO of AarKel Tool and Die Inc. and AarKel Tooling Group, has been preparing for the segue into electric vehicle tooling and production for some time.
Headquartered in Wallaceburg, Ont., AarKel is one of the largest toolmakers in North America, with five locations in Ontario, two in the U.S., one in Mexico and an engineering firm in India. It specializes in plastic injection molds, compression molds and diecast tooling.
“Within the automotive industry, we’ve all known that it wasn’t going to change instantly. It’s not like they’re going to flip a switch and it’s all battery electric, but we did know it was coming,” says Delaey. “That’s why a few years ago, we started gearing up our equipment and our additive manufacturing. We were already working with certain OEMs and Tier 1s who were probably more advanced than some North American OEMs, especially when it comes to light weighting.”
Delaey continues, “we’re seeing some unique operations compared to what we’re accustomed to with the Big Three. We are all seeing that Tesla is moulding larger parts, which require larger tools to minimize the number of parts needed. And with that, the tools become much more complicated.”
To meet customer demand and position itself as a one-stop shop, AarKel invested in additive manufacturing and now has two 3D printers. “We’re doing production steel inserts and some components inside the tooling,” says Delaey. “The customers which have embraced additive manufacturing are really seeing the advantages. We’ve also invested in more large five-axis CNC machines to be able to do all the work-around for these large inserts, whether it’s a diecast or plastic. And we’ve invested in large brand new EDM machines. Because the parts are a lot more complicated, this will allow us to not only EDM the parts, but do it very efficiently. One of the EDMs that we bought is not only one of the fastest in the market, but it also has two heads, so we can turn one tool with two heads, which shortens the delivery time to the customer. We also have support for our customers with our 4400-ton diecast machine for sampling and short-run customer support if needed.”
With customers now merging multiple parts into one larger part, which requires more complex tooling, Delaey says, “when they’re joining all of these parts they require a lot of support, such as ribs and structure, to make the production part strong. With that it becomes a processing issue for our customers. So this is where having all three technologies—3D printing, large five-axis CNC and EDM—allows us to provide our customers with options to get increased cycle times and improve the quality of their parts.” SMT