By Ann Mazakas
This is the eleventh in a series of interviews with leaders in the CAM industry.—DE Editors
Giovanni Opimitti served as the managing director of Vero International Software SpA in Milan, Italy, from June 2000 until his transfer to Vero International, Inc. in September 2004. Vero International is the US subsidiary of Vero International (VI) Group plc, which develops VISI-Series software, a fully integrated CAD/CAM system designed and developed for the mold and die industry.
Before joining Vero International, Opimitti was the cofounder and president of Tecnocam SpA in Milan from 1990 to 2000. Tecnocam’s mission was distributing and supporting leading CAD/CAM systems, among which was Matra Datavision’s Euclid, throughout Italy. In 1994, Tecnocam became a distributor of Vero International Software, and in 2000 the company was acquired by VI Group in the UK.
What current trends are affecting your manufacturing customers?
Opimitti: Vero International products specifically address the needs of the tooling industry, which means moldmakers and diemakers. Today, this market is characterized by ferocious global competition. Delivering products to market at a much faster pace is crucial to toolmakers to stay alive and remain profitable.
Because of the pressures they are experiencing, we find that CAM users are definitely savvier in terms of their software purchases. They usually want a comprehensive tool that suits more than one need. They don’t have time to learn to use different nonintegrated pieces of software. They can’t afford to lose data, which can occur when you are importing or exporting data from one software package to another.
This is a common problem for our customers because toolmakers usually receive CAD models from their customers in an electronic format. They want easy-to-learn software that their teams of users across the company can use from design to analysis to the machine floor. Vero International products range from design to machining, not just CAM. We have an entire line of products.
Another increasingly important trend is the move away from paper documents. Companies are realizing the benefits of becoming totally paperless. They want to exchange most of their data electronically, not only within their own company but also with external organizations. Even when dealing with entities inside their own company, it is becoming more common that these entities are thousands of miles away from each other.
Giovanni Opimitti, Vero International, Inc.
A company might be working with a subcontractor or a location overseas. We already have several customers that have facilities in Taiwan and China. In this situation there are a lot of problems exchanging paper documents. We’ve also noticed that many of the large diemakers are switching to the metric system here in the US because they have to exchange data worldwide.
With the increased interest in high-speed machines, do you see a decline in the need to make electrodes?
Opimitti: There is in fact a trend to use high-speed machining to replace electrodes. High-speed machining is also used to achieve better quality and a better finish. There are many advantages to high-speed machining. We have a specific stand-alone package designed for high-speed machining called Machining Strategist. It is mainly intended for the shop floor and provides highly automated and easy-to-use strategies just for exploiting the potential of the machine tools that are available now. The moldmakers who currently use electrodes are trying high-speed machining to get rid of many of the electrodes, but it is not always possible. This is why we will continue to further develop specific tools for building electrodes for our customers in the mold-making industry. I don’t think it’s likely that electrodes will disappear. There are some operations that, at the present stage of technology, are very difficult to obtain without an electrode.
Does Vero software have capabilities that help with the design of molds and dies?
Opimitti: Absolutely. Design is a very important part of our VISI-Series product. In addition to CAM capabilities, we have a complete solution for designing both injection molds and stamping dies. Our VISI-Mold product has been developed specifically for plastic injection molding, and VISI-Progress is intended for those designing and building progressive dies or stamping dies.
Our customers usually receive geometry or a solid model of the part to be produced, which could be plastic or sheet metal. Their job is then to build the mold or the tooling die around this part. We provide the capabilities they need. It’s not easy to find these capabilities in other CAD/CAM products because they are either focused on design or on machining.
How does your software address the needs of the tooling industry?
Opimitti: One capability we have is feature recognition. It’s very important that the user can get reliable recognition of manufacturable features and produce toolpaths in a very automatic way. As soon as one of our customers designs tooling or a mold, they should be able to get the toolpath for their machine tools in the easiest way. This is possible with very little human intervention. Our current feature recognition is very good, and we are constantly improving it.
For example, let’s talk about the large diemakers for the automotive industry. Our customer receives the geometry for a casting and they have to machine it. The designer of the casting will color-code the surfaces or faces that need machining so that the die shop not only receives the geometric information but also the technological feature information.
What we try to provide our customer is an automated tool to import data into their system and to automatically recognize features directly from the geometry that has been imported from the CAD system. Very often in the automotive industry the CAD system is CATIA or UG ]NX]. We have very good translators that are not only able to translate the geometry but also to read the technological information, which is very important.
To aid communication Vero International recently acquired SMIRTware, a U.S.-based company here in the Detroit area. Their concept since the beginning was to provide die builders with easy-to-use viewing, markup, and notation tools to enhance their productivity. People on the shop floor can view, mark up, and, in the end, machine their parts using only one easy-to-use environment.
This shop floor environment is totally independent of the tool that is used either in their own CAD room or the CAD room of their customer. In this way, they can share information electronically at any company location, even if the plants are far from one another.
This brings us back to the paperless environment. This is a trend that will be developing more and more in the future. Our approach combines two needs: the need for more automation through knowledge-based machining and the need for a paperless environment. There is room for a lot of development in this approach.
How often does Vero come out with a new software release?
Opimitti: We have one major release per year plus one or two minor releases. Much of our software development is driven by customers. We also follow the technology being developed in machine tools and cutting tools. We are noticing that customers want to get involved with their suppliers much more than before. They want ongoing support and training. In other words, they don’t just want the software supplier to drop off the piece of software and that’s it. They want to establish a good working relationship with their software supplier, which is good for us because our new software releases usually contain technology updates and new features that are based on our customers’ requests.
CAM companies have to be more proactive in proposing new solutions to their customers. As an international company, we believe that specialization is a key factor for us. We continually invest in the development of new technology specifically targeted for a specific job, which is building dies and molds. This approach has been very successful in the past and will continue to be successful in the future.
What do you see in the future for Vero?
Opimitti: First, the trend toward globalization will continue. We will see many companies in developed countries transfer their manufacturing facilities to developing countries. This trend will continue while the design process will remain in the developed countries. Efficient communication tools between design centers and production centers, assembly centers and testing centers will become more crucial for companies. Many of our customers have already transferred their manufacturing facilities overseas and others are in the planning stages. In the future it will be a normal situation where designs are created here and the manufacturing will be done somewhere else, usually the other side of the world, with the tools coming back to be tested and assembled here in the US or in Japan or in Europe. The ability to communicate electronically is becoming more crucial.
The paperless environment is not a new concept. We started to hear about it maybe 20 years ago. The problem was that, 20 years ago, the technology just wasn’t ready. Now we have the technology to network anywhere in the world. Also, 20 years ago a company could get by without totally integrated processes because the marketplace wasn’t integrated. The U.S. had its own market, Europe had its own market, and Japan had its own market. There wasn’t a great deal of interaction between these markets. Now it’s not like that. The market is global.
We have only one marketplace. Companies now compete with other companies that are thousands of miles away. Communication and the paperless environment is much more important. We will continue to focus on the specific needs of a specific and fascinating market to help our customers keep up with the rapid pace of technological advances.
Ann Mazakas is the owner and president of Intelligent Creations LLC, a provider of services to the manufacturing industry. Send your comments about this article by clicking here. Please reference "CAM & Design, February 2006" in your message.
Company: Vero International, Inc.
Headquarters: Bingham Falls, MI