Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, Tanaka is an integrated metal processing manufacturer whose business covers the entire process from mold design to product manufacturing. It is renowned for its expertise in deep drawing, particularly in the color steel plate deep-drawn products (registered utility model patent), which is far ahead of its competitors.
In 2019, Tanaka won the Kanagawa Prefecture Industry Technology Advancement Award. Committed to pursuing top-tier technologies and manufacturing techniques, Tankaka constantly engages in maintenance and improvement initiatives to provide customers with high-quality products and services. In 2011, the company implemented ZWCAD and ZW3D across its operations.
Figure 1. Tanaka’s factory
Reducing Annual Operation Costs with Perpetual Licensing
In the past, Tanaka used Autodesk's AutoCAD® for mold design and Inventor® for 3D design. To minimize the operation costs of CAD, the company implemented ZWCAD and ZW3D across its operations in 2011.
Mr. Ono, Head of Production Department, said: “The cost-performance ratio was a key factor when we considered switching to ZWSOFT’s solutions. With its one-time, perpetual licensing, it helps cut down operation costs. For instance, the price of ZWCAD is 30% lower than AutoCAD.”
Figure 2. Mr. Ono (Head of Production Dept.)
After switching to ZWCAD, the company no longer needs to pay annual fees of CAD. It doesn’t need to purchase an additional CAD viewer either. By adopting ZWCAD as standard software in the company, it can reduce operation costs every year.
Tanaka uses 2D CAD and 3D CAD together in various ways depending on the purpose. For stamping dies, machines and fixtures, it primarily uses familiar 2D CAD to achieve efficient design. It then employs 3D CAD/CAM to create 3D models from 2D assembly drawings and conduct pre-processing simulation. After that, it will proceed with machining in the Processing Center.
Figure 3. An engineer used ZWCAD to create mold drawings
Simplifying Design Work with Fast and AutoCAD-Compatible 2D CAD
Although there are many DWG-compatible CAD programs on the market, it will be meaningless to blindly migrate from AutoCAD to another program if work quality or productivity gets lower. Tanaka had been using AutoCAD before the introduction of ZWCAD in 2011, so compatibility and operability were important for it during the migration.
From the beginning of developing ZWCAD, the team has prioritized user experience. ZWCAD boasts many highlights, such as the Classic interface, common CAD shortcuts, and compatibility with the native DWG format.
Mr. Ikata is the Head of Production Technique Department and Manager of Quality Assurance Department. He said: "ZWCAD is almost the same as AutoCAD, so we switched to it seamlessly. I didn’t hear from other employees that they had any big problems when using it."
Figure 4. Mr. Ikata (Head of Production Technique Dept. & Manager of Quality Assurance Dept.)
In addition, portability is one of the highlights of ZWCAD. ZWCAD's exceptional processing speed enables users to switch between drawing and zooming quickly and smoothly, improving the comfort of design work without the need for a high-performance workstation. Therefore, employees at Tanaka can use CAD software on ordinary laptops. Mr. Ono commented, “The display speed of ZWCAD is very fast. There is no problem running it on an ordinary computer.”
Smoothly Realizing 3D Data Exchange with Customers
Tanaka needs to exchange 3D data created by different 3D CAD systems (including CATIA®) with customers, so it aims to prevent situations where the data cannot be received or smoothly transmitted to the other party due to differences in CAD programs or versions. Additionally, 3D CAD files may be damaged when converted to common intermediate formats such as IGES or STEP, causing problems such as surface cracks or incorrect shape recognition.
ZW3D can not only read intermediate formats, but also smoothly read the native data of each CAD program. Based on it, Tanaka introduced ZW3D. ZW3D is compatible with multiple CAD formats, so there is no need to worry about data conversion or loss. It also performs well in expressing surfaces, i.e., the surfaces that comprise the shap the final product.
Mr. Ikata said: "Data conversion is a standout feature in ZW3D. It is this powerful function that enables us to communicate smoothly with customers. That’s one of the reasons why we chose it."
Thanks to ZW3D, Tanaka has avoided many problems that arise during the design and manufacturing stage like time-consuming data correction.
Reducing Working Hours and Improving Efficiency through CAD/CAM
Previously, Tanaka operated machine tools by manually creating machining programs (G-code). When dealing with complex engineering, it not only takes a lot of calculation time, but also may cause errors.
Therefore, by using CAD/CAM software, Tanaka can create 3D models based on 2D assembly drawings and create G-code automatically. This approach reduces the risk of input errors and significantly cuts down the time required to manually create G-code, allowing the production process to proceed smoothly.
Mr. Ono said, “Creating programs becomes much easier after we introduced ZW3D. We saved a huge amount of time by turning from manual operation to using software to convert 3D data to programs.” With ZW3D, Tanaka has significantly reduced working hours and achieved higher operation efficiency.
Figure 5. An engineer used ZW3D to design the punch for oil filter housings
Reflecting Hand-Refined Molds in CAD Using Reverse Engineering
Tanaka also utilizes ZW3D for reverse engineering to save 3D data of molds. When making molds for high-precision stamped products, chamfers and fillets need to be finished manually and it is a time-consuming process. To address it, 3D scanners are employed to measure the hand-refined molds, and CAD data is created based on the collected point clouds. By reflecting hand-refined molds in CAD data, the time needed to produce spare molds (second molds) is reduced.
Mr. Ono said, “It’s much easier to produce a second one by making 3D CAD data match real hand-refined molds. ZW3D’s point cloud function enables us to create surfaces and then solids based on points, which is fantastic. Although the time we spent might vary depending on the specific steps and sizes, we saved a few hours. Also, even if the mold gets damaged, we can reproduce it if the data is available. It is a good thing because we can always provide the same product.” Tanaka is also promoting digital transformation. By digitalizing the techniques that it has mastered, Tanaka has boosted productivity.
Quick Support from ZWSOFT’s Staff
No matter what software CAD/CAM users learn and how well they learn in training courses, they will encounter different problems on site. In this case, having a partner who can solve problems quickly is reassuring.
Mr. Ono said: “When I had problems, ZWSOFT staff responded immediately, making me feel very secure. I even got calls from ZWSOFT and a lot of follow-ups.”
Figure 6. Mr. Ono conversed with ZWSOFT’s staff
Mr. Ono concluded. "Today, ZWCAD and ZW3D are indispensable in our operations. Our company's future strategy is to actively leverage this type of data and further utilize 3D printers, 3D scanners and more. I want to improve operation efficiency and promote digital transformation." Tanaka will continue to evolve as an integrated metal processing manufacturer.