Riding the CAD/CAM wave

Hexagon EDGECAM
Hexagon EDGECAM

An engineering subcontractor moves all its CAM programming across to EDGECAM after Seco Tooling provides them with support solutions to specific issues on complex components. Aerospace Manufacturing reports.

I & G Precision Engineering had used EDGECAM to drive an Emco lathe operated by the firm’s ‘hands-on’ managing director, Andrew Evans since investing in CNC machinery in 1992. But as the company expanded with further machine tools and more shopfloor staff, other CAM packages were brought in.

“Originally, we used EDGECAM for both milling and turning on those new machines, but when I came off the tools, we decided to try other systems, and it was eventually only used on the lathe.”

Operating out of 11,000ft2 premises in Ystalyfera, Swansea, with 11 employees, the company largely manufactures parts out of stainless and tool steels, and aluminium. It manufactures a number of components for aerospace ground support systems, such as jigs and fixtures for removing engines and wing parts.

Andrew’s son, Mike, who is engineering director and workshop manager, says the company works closely with Seco Tooling, who recently provided it with tooling and programming support to improve the production process on a specific job.

“We saw immediate benefits, as the job used to take us around three hours – including two hours for just one operation – but using EDGECAM the full process was completed in an hour. When we looked at how EDGECAM machining strategies could improve our cycle times, it became a no-brainer that we should go back to it on our full range of Haas CNC machine tools, and our new Mazak vertical machining centre.”

All new components now go through EDGECAM, and production runs of older parts are all being reprogrammed with EDGECAM.

“We’re saving up to 40% on cutting cycles, which has a tremendous impact on the bottom line. It improves our margins, making us more profitable and frees up the machines, giving us additional capacity to take on more work. EDGECAM is a vital part of our manufacturing process now. It runs the entire production process.”

He says the software’s milling and turning modules ensure that I & G Precision can ship between 600 and 700 components each month, normally on a three to four-week lead-time. “EDGECAM is so simple to use. The customer sends us a STEP or IGES file, or any other CAD file, which we import into EDGECAM and create the fixtures and fittings, identify the CNC machine we’ll be using, and the stock. Then we run Feature Finder to identify all the features of the parts, and generate toolpaths.”

Evans adds that machining processes are considerably more stable now than under the previous CAD/CAM package.

“With our old software, when the cutter was coming into a corner you could see the machine loads spiking, which we don’t get with EDGECAM – we can run programs overnight, rein the stepovers back and know the tooling will last for the entire production run.”

And he describes EDGECAM’s Waveform Roughing capability as “massive” for the company’s growth plans, in terms of driving down cycle times and increasing capacity, enabling them to take on additional work.

“We do a lot of 3D milling of features such as pockets, and we used to machine the roughing cycles in the traditional way, often just stepping down 1mm at a time. But EDGECAM allows us to step down up to 10 or 15mm at a time. Then, as we pocket out to those depths, we can profile back and come out of the pockets. So, it saves considerable time.

“At first, when those programs were coming in from Seco Tooling, we were concerned that the increased feeds and speeds would break the tools. But then we saw how well they worked, and it now gives us the opportunity to push the machines to their limits.”

EDGECAM’s Waveform Roughing capability is “massive” for I & G Precision Engineering’s growth plans

Cycle times slashed

Evans cites a project where Waveform slashed the roughing cycle from 30 minutes to ten minutes, and helped reduce the overall machining time by half.

“We manufacture a particular component for the atomising industry, which is used to turn metal into a powder for hard surfacing materials. Traditionally it was a turning job. But Waveform means we can now mill the grooves. This was a huge revelation, and made us think of doing jobs in a completely different way.”

The company is planning more investment in the coming 12 months, including EDGECAM INSPECT, which creates measurement cycles on the machine tools. The intuitive user interface and workflow gives a seamless transition from programming CAM cycles to measurement cycles by incorporating metrology technology from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence.

“This means we’ll be able to inspect every part on the machine if necessary, after each operation, and provide a customer report.”

Concluding, Andrew Evans says the company has introduced EDGECAM to its apprentices immediately.

“We’ve currently got three apprentices at various stages, and they’ve all taken to EDGECAM like a duck to water. The skill set is changing; a lot of the old traditional craftsmen’s skills are dying out, and engineers need to embrace computer-led skills to produce the components properly. Edgecam helps engineers deliver what’s needed by having several ways of achieving the same result.”

www.HexagonMI.com

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