ZW3D Heat Up American Stove Parts Design and Manufacturing
"ZW3D offers a turnkey solution from product idea to manufacturing."
— American Stove Parts
One clear indicator that the recent recession is over has been the surging production of appliances. According to appliance industry associations, U.S. shipments of gas and electric ranges totaled 8.3 million units in the past year alone, with double-digit percentage increases in some recent months.
While these are large numbers, they only tell part of the story as today’s ranges now contain scores of sophisticated components. In addition, appliance designs change much more frequently than even a decade ago, further complicating OEM manufacturing as well as repair and replacement.
One company that has witnessed the huge changes in the appliance industry is American Stove Parts Company of San Clemente, Calif. Since 1921, it has been manufacturing custom and OEM parts for the appliance industry. While largely an injection molder, American Stove also works with sheet metal and manufactures and assembles a wide range of metal components for commercial and domestic ranges. The company routinely produces components in quantities as small as 100 and as large as 100,000.
With such a diversity of products and varying quantities demanded, American Stove concluded that it had to acquire CAD/CAM technology to become more efficient across the entire gamut of its design-through-manufacturing processes. While the company had no experience working with CAD/CAM software, it knew that it wanted a powerful, full-featured product that was easy to learn and use.
Following an evaluation of various products, American Stove selected ZW3D software. Even with no prior CAD/CAM experience, American Stove was able to get up to speed quickly, achieving in a few weeks proficiency that typically takes a few months.
According to company president Everton Cope, their short learning curve was due both to the software itself and to ZW3D’s unusually strong technical support. “The ZW3D software is so easy to use that it makes tough jobs simple. ZW3D also offered incredible onsite training with a senior design engineer and this boosted our capabilities immediately.”
Prior to adopting ZW3D, American Stove relied on outside vendors or their customers’ vendors to provide part designs. If the part design was not available, the company would make a crude sketch for its tool maker and have that made into a cavity design.
“Since our purchase of ZW3D software, we are now designing parts in-house, which offers our customers a turnkey solution from product idea to manufacturing,” said Cope. “ZW3D is also giving us the ability to quickly make design changes for our customers and offers them the ability to view and approve the design on their own computers.”
American Stove now meets with its customers initially to understand what the application requirements are, then produces a three-dimensional part for their review. With the ZW3D software, American Stove has largely eliminated costly stereo lithography in the part design process. “The isometric and surfacing capabilities of ZW3D clearly illustrate how the part is going to look prior to building the mold,” said Cope.
In the near future, American Stove plans to take ZW3D to the next level of efficiency by relying on ZW3D to produce the mold design and send the part files to the mold makers. Their mold making suppliers can then directly translate the ZW3D machine code into CNC routines on the shop floor to produce molds more efficiently and at lower cost to customers.
American Stove is also using ZW3D to design and manufacture manifolds and sub-assemblies of manifolds. With ZW3D, the company now creates mechanical drawings for these components and bills of materials. Tube lengths and required bends are fitted to assemblies on-screen and the result has been precise mating throughout the production and assembly process. The net result here too is faster speed of execution and better control of manufacturing and assembly.
While American Stove is a manufacturer, the company sees itself as a service organization that provides excellent quality products. Since service, quality and consistency have been hallmarks of American Stove for more than 80 years, the company’s use of ZW3D will help it to even better service its customers in the future.
ZW3D has allowed American Stove to bring the design aspect of its molding operations in-house. This has resulted in better turnaround time on customer projects, as well as generating more efficient internal manufacturing and estimating operations. While American Stove has just begun to use the ZW3D intelligent mold making assistant to automate mold design and production, it expects this capability to become a key contributor to the company’s future success.
An initial project for a control knob proved to be a successful experiment. The knob was a complex geometrical part that required CNC machining, but American Stove was able to send the part design file to a vendor that cut the mold electrodes directly off the ZW3D file. The company plans to work exclusively with tool makers that can turn its ZW3D design files into completed cavities and molds, and as a result save customers tooling costs and significantly reduce lead times.
While American Stove is using ZW3D for complex surface modeling and more efficient manufacturing, the company is also in the process of using ZW3D for a chore more mundane, but often critical to customer satisfaction—creating better parts diagrams and assembly instructions.
“Taken together, the entire range of ZW3D capabilities is vitally important in achieving our goal of becoming a global supplier of components to the commercial and domestic cooking and refrigeration industries,” said Cope.
Note: VX CAD/CAM software and technology has been acquired by ZWCAD Software Co., Ltd. VX CAD/CAM has been rebranded as ZW3D. All the testimonials of ZW3D refer to its predecessor.