RO-RA Aviation Systems reveals how it has come to rely on CGTech’s VERICUT simulation and optimisation software including VERICUT Force.
RO-RA Aviation Systems specialises in the production of complex, high-precision and difficult-to-machine components. With demands for high quality components, it’s essential that processes are safe and stable. For maximum process reliability and the best possible performance, RO-RA uses VERICUT CNC simulation, verification and optimisation software, including the VERICUT Force milling module. The result: no more machine crashes and time savings of up to 25% per component.
RO-RA has made a name for itself worldwide, especially through innovative and creative solutions in both development and production.
“Pre-development, calculation, design and qualification, as well as prototype production are essential components of our business model,” states managing director, Helmut Wiesenberger.
One success factor at RO-RA is the digitalisation of development and manufacturing processes. This includes the networking of all engineering and testing processes in the company.
“By setting up digital twins in product and process development, we achieve significant improvements in time-to-market,” Wiesenberger continues. “Both our current capacity utilisation and the outlook for next year make me very confident.”
In the aviation industry, light and often heat-resistant materials are used for the most part, but they are only partially easy to work with. The machining know-how acquired over the years is one of RO-RA’s USPs.
“In addition to machining high-alloy steel, titanium and aluminium, we specialise in high-strength nickel-based alloys,” says Patrick Fellinger, head of engineering at RO-RA. “With our manufacturing technologies, we are able to produce highly complex geometries as well as gears very economically by means of skiving or hobbing.”
The machinery is likewise high-quality. With more than 30 state-of-the-art machine tools and around 90% automation, including seven robot stations, workpieces up to a maximum diameter of 300mm or 850 x 700 x 500mm (X/Y/Z) can be machined almost around the clock.
The components at RO-RA, somewhere around 3,000 different pieces, often have highly complex geometries. They need to be highly accurate and have the best possible surfaces - a combination that makes cost-effective manufacturing extremely challenging. RO-RA also manufactures complex connectors made of aluminium for aircraft fuel lines, in which the machining rate is around 95%. The components must also be non-conductive i.e. the surfaces must be perfectly processed. Previously, RO-RA experienced machine crashes despite CAM simulation, which of course resulted in downtimes and service calls. To avoid this and ultimately increase process reliability, RO-RA introduced CGTech's VERICUT simulation and optimisation software in 2018 after a selection process.
“In order to produce such sophisticated milled components efficiently and economically, we were looking for a software solution that simulates our NC programs in advance and checks them for any problems, such as collisions,” says Fellinger. The fact is, CAM simulation 'only' simulates the toolpaths and not the actual NC code.
“With VERICUT, we get a virtual machine and a machining digital twin,” continues Fellinger. “This means every travel path that we program is checked for 100% process reliability.”
Simulate to innovate
VERICUT can simulate any CNC machine, regardless of manufacturer. We also supply the necessary interfaces that VERICUT integrates into the customers’ specific software manufacturing environment.
“Our simulation software is completely independent of the controller, CAM system and CNC machine used,” says Dirk Weiss, responsible for sales in Germany and Austria at CGTech.
According to Fellinger, the software is also very easy to use – with one mouse click, the CAM data is loaded into VERICUT. Weiss adds: “The simulation process only takes a few minutes with only a slight difference between the virtual processing time and the real machining time.”
At RO-RA, every milling program is checked by VERICUT for any errors before it is sent to the machine.
“After all, only a production simulation of the NC data, i.e. the machine code, offers us sufficient security for all machining processes,” says Fellinger. “The topic of crashes is definitely a thing of the past for us."
Proof of proving-out
Thanks to the trust in VERICUT that has grown over the years, RO-RA have also been able to improve the prove-out processes of new components.
“In the past, the feeds were significantly reduced when proving out,” says Fellinger when explaining a common procedure that must first be brought out of the minds of the employees. “This is an understandable approach by the machine operators – but this resulted in the first component mostly being rejected, for example due to insufficient surfaces.”
Weiss, who is also familiar with this from many other projects adds: “The only way to do that is through trust in the software. For the best possible production preparation, RO-RA also uses the tool management software WinTool and the real tool data from the tool presetting is read directly on the machine via a chip.”
The force of time savings
For a year now RO-RA has been using the Force module, in addition to VERICUT, to further optimise its machining processes.
“We try to make the most of the production of our components in terms of program and tool technology – especially in the case of recurring parts,” says Fellinger. “With Force, we now have another very simple lever with which we can further improve our competitiveness.”
VERICUT Force is a physics-based software module for optimising NC programs. It is used to analyse the cutting conditions during the entire NC program operation. In particular, the maximum reliable feedrate for a given cutting condition is determined based on the load on the cutting edge, spindle power and the maximum chip thickness.
"So far, we have optimised 35 different components with Force and, depending on the material and complexity, have been able to reduce machining time by up to 25%," says Fellinger.
With a focus on difficult-to-machine materials, CGTech demonstrated the advantages of Force even by analysing an engine component for RO-RA and was able to reduce the machining time by 18% (from 12 to less than 10 hours). RO-RA only had to provide CGTech with the VERICUT project as well as additional information, such as the material (in this case Inconel 718) as well as certain limits, such as the maximum mean span thickness.
“Optimisation, including simulation, takes around two hours for a component like this,” says Weiss. “Thanks to a knowledge database with corresponding empirical values in the background, VERICUT Force delivers an improved NC program at the push of a button.”
In addition to the considerable time savings, RO-RA also benefits from an improved cutting tool life (up to 40% for Inconel or titanium).
"Force is not about changing the milling strategies of existing programs or the toolpaths,” states Weiss. “Rather, everything is regulated by the feed to bring in additional advances. The geometries are not changed. Force enables astonishing improvements, especially in the machining of materials that are difficult to machine and or complex multi-axis operations."
According to Fellinger, RO-RA was also able to achieve very remarkable results with aluminium components: "All in all, the investments in VERICUT and VERICUT Force for RO-RA have paid for themselves within a very short time – we can no longer imagine working without VERICUT.”