David Magnall, Seco Tools’ innovation partnership manager explains how a collaborative partnership between Seco and CGTech provides a resultant force.
A collaborative partnership between cutting tool technologies specialist, Seco Tools, and leading independent CNC simulation and optimisation software provider, CGTech, is harnessing exceptional results for even the most demanding of customers.
For a number of years, Seco Tools has been hosting its Inspiration Through Innovation (ITI) event at its impressive Innovation Hub in Alcester. Up until the global pandemic it had been a physical ‘open house’ event highlighting the cutting tool specialist’s range of products and engineering application knowledge.
David Magnall, Seco Tools’ innovation partnership manager, recalls: “The ITI event started out as a traditional open house and we would invite other businesses, that we called partners, to exhibit at the event so visitors could glean as much information as possible from their attendance. At the time there was no true collaboration. However, we started to recognise that customers wanted more. As engineering departments have been whittled down and down, large businesses expect their suppliers to provide technical support.
“As a tooling supplier we can usually make an incremental change, but if we interact with other companies that are part of that manufacturing process, we can deliver improvements as a collective which is more of a holistic solution. For our event we started to engage partners to focus on actual customers issues and components. It allowed us to demonstrate what we and our partners believe to be best practice manufacturing solutions. From there the idea grew and we thought we do this once a year why can’t we do this every day?”
high efficiency gains
CGTech in partnership with Seco Tools can provide turnkey solutions for businesses looking for high efficiency gains. As Magnall points out: “Customers are looking to take at least 40% and up to 60% or more out of the manufacturing process, in terms of cycle times and therefore cost, and we need partners to achieve this. These are partnerships where we sit down at the beginning of the year and say what we want to achieve together, what can we do that is proactive rather than wait for projects to come in and highlight what we recognise in the market that needs to be addressed. We know ‘what is keeping you awake at night’, then we can take that pain away.”
Seco Tools has used VERICUT CNC verification and optimisation software for many years with an established track record for getting results.
“We have always used VERICUT, not just in the UK, but globally. At our production sites, anything we are programming could not run without being proven in VERICUT first. The use of the software is pretty much a standard operating practise, so we have worked closely with CGTech for a long time. For me, and many people in the company, VERICUT is the industry standard for CNC verification software.”
Today’s collaborative approach builds on the history between the two businesses so they have created a method of providing more holistic process improvements for customers’ manufacturing operations. This was bolstered even further when the Force module within VERICUT, which uses a physics-based optimisation method to determine the maximum reliable feedrate for a given cutting condition based on four factors: force on the cutter, spindle power, maximum chip thickness, and maximum allowable feedrate, was introduced to the Seco engineering team, and Magnall says: “It looked good on paper, as these things often do. Being engineers we thought we are going to have to give this a try. Some tests were set up and the CGTech staff were confident that what we saw on paper would be replicated, physically on the machine.
“So, we set up some material trials, we were gobsmacked, we did not expect the positive results we achieved and the more difficult the application or material, the greater savings we were seeing. And, it also addressed that paradox that you get from customers wanting a faster cycle time but not at the detriment of the tooling. No one wants the tooling to wear out quicker or the process to become less stable because you are running faster.
“However, the way the Force software works by evening out the peaks and troughs of the load on the cutting tool it gives us a much more stable cutting process that is kinder to the tool and the machine. It raises the bar on productivity because it balances out the load on the tooling so there is no detrimental effect to pushing it harder. That was the real eye-opener for us, in some cases we were getting better tool life, and a more constant load on the spindle achieving smoother machining cycles.”
Real case scenarios
With the capabilities of VERICUT Force now proven to the engineering team at Seco, the partners thoughts turned to the real value of applying it to actual customer components.
A forged 6Al-4V titanium aerospace component highlights the results as Magnall explains: “We had already reduced the cycle time of the complex pylon bracket down to 4 hours, but just running it through Force reduced it down to 3 hours, which is just phenomenal. It’s not like we are just turning up the feedrate hoping that the process holds together, all the clever stuff is done in the Force software. By balancing out the load we are not seeing any decline in tool life, but we see an improvement on cycle time.”
Environmental sustainability is a huge topic within the manufacturing industry, and although people have talked about it for a long time there is now pressure to start making good and deliver.
“There are targets being set that people are working towards. Also, it’s not just the products, it is the whole manufacturing operation that needs to be more sustainable and more environmentally aware. We are certainly seeing it more and more with customers, they increasingly want to only do business with other companies that have some sort of sustainability plan in place. Using VERICUT Force results in savings that are many-fold.
“The cycle time reductions and tooling life increases are knowns. However, from a business improvement and sustainability point of view we should also consider the reduced power consumption from any machine tools running for less time and drawing less spindle power to cut the raw material. And increased shopfloor efficiency may negate the need to invest in further machine tools; making better use of what is available.”
Summing up the collaborative partnership, Magnall concludes: “We have a great team at Seco, and our business model is always to try to provide a one-stop shop. But we only have a finite resource and by partnering it helps us achieve the customers’ goals. The Force software does some really clever stuff and the support that we get from the CGTech team is second to none. If you are going to pick a company to work with as a partner these guys are it, they really are. They understand the collaborative approach as a proactive way of working and addressing the issues faced by industry.”