Digital World: A most atypical Israeli business

Cimatron is deeply involved in industrial production, developing software to create molds, dies and machines.

Chairs (black and white) 311 (photo credit: Emlyn Addison)
Chairs (black and white) 311
(photo credit: Emlyn Addison)
Israel is known for its software prowess in high technology – the “new” tech where programmers lead the way into a clean, bright future full of new innovations and inventions. “Old tech,” the kind you find in factories and assembly plants, isn’t really associated with Israel; the country was established well after the end of the Industrial Revolution, and factories were never a major feature of the Israeli workplace.
With all that, though, an Israeli company is deeply involved in industrial production, developing software to create molds, dies and machines.
Good software is absolutely necessary to build plastic-injection molds, for example, which can have up to 5,000 parts, including pins, screws and plates.
Usually one person designs the product, but another person – often in another company – designs the molds for each part. It’s up to the software to make sure that everyone follows the same design plan; the more precise the design program, the more precise the final product will come out.
Givat Shmuel-based Cimatron () makes the specialized CAD/CAM software to build those molds.
Cimatron, indeed, is an anomaly in the Israeli hi-tech world, concentrating on applications and technology for what is generally thought to be “low-tech” purposes, Cimatron CEO Dan Haran says. “But it’s not really low-tech because the design of almost everything today is very sophisticated.”
It’s not Internet-type hi-tech, but it’s hi-tech in the sense that the design and execution of almost all manufacturing processes today is very advanced and sophisticated. Call it “post-industrial,” he says.
Take, for example, a car dashboard, an area that Cimatron has quite a lot of experience in.
“There are hundreds of parts that go into making a dashboard, and they all have to be precisely designed and built, so that they can work together,” Haran says. “Most of the parts are made out of plastic and metal, and for each part to work together, you need precise design, and that’s based on the kind of software we produce.”
There are few businesses that are more all-encompassing than mold and die design, and Cimatron’s technology is being used by companies large and small from very diverse backgrounds and in almost any manufacturing capacity you can imagine.
For example, one company using Cimatron’s CAD/CAM system is China’s Haier Mould, a subsidiary of the Haier Group, which controls nearly 35 percent of China’s household appliance market (imagine how many coffee makers that is!) and boasts a sales network spanning 31 countries.
With an annual production capacity of 1,200 standard mold sets and capability to build molds over 40 tons, Haier Mould services global companies such as Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Honda, Nissan, Samsung, LG, Canon and Sanyo.
Vaupell, another Cimatron customer, makes molded products and assemblies for medical, defense, aerospace, electronics and transportation industries. Here, too, precision is essential; the parts that US-based Vaupell makes need to be just so – sometimes to the thousandth of a centimeter – to fulfill engineering and legal requirements.
UK-based DLS Plastics makes all sorts of plastic caps, covers and connectors for use in plumbing and water systems.
Once again, if the connection is off by even a little, things just won’t screw together properly, resulting in wastewater flooding homes and neighborhoods.
Once again, its Cimatron to the rescue, with tools that cut down training time and automate the design process.
You can’t get more industrial than little plastic connectors to keep water flowing through pipes. That an Israeli company has been able to compete with the top companies in the world working in CAD/CAM design for manufacturing is an untold Israeli hi-tech success story. And the same applies to far more sophisticated products, Haran says.
“Blades and turbines for many planes, for example, are made out of titanium and other metals and cannot be made with a die, but are made one at a time,” he says, and Cimatron has that covered as well.
While China has seemingly become the “world’s factory,” there are many higher-end items that cannot be made there, and there is plenty of manufacturing going on in Europe and the US, he says, and it is in there – among the mold makers, die makers, parts manufacturers or subcontractors – where Cimatron’s sophisticated software is most appreciated.
Haran says Cimatron is the seventh-largest company in the world by sales in this business, which has among its top players venerable industrial giants such as UGS (recently bought by Siemens), Dessault (Catia) and PTC.
Combined, these firms sell about $100 million in the industry.
“We compete very well with the other players in this field,” he says of Cimatron, which was established in 1982. “Most of our competitors started around that time, with initial designs being drawn up on PCs.”
It was the PC, in fact, that turned die and mold making into a science and into a business, Haran says. And it was Cimatron’s innovations that have made it a successful Israeli player in a business that just doesn’t seem “Israeli.”