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CAD/CAM software boosts CNC productivity.

Prototype jobs account for one-third of all business at SPM Corp, a Woburn, MA precision machine shop. More importantly, work on prototypes often leads to more orders when fullscale production begins.

"Doing the R&D puts you on the inside track because you can zero in on costs more accurately," says Hugh Wilkinson, president of the 30-employee shop. Staying on the inside track, he adds, also takes on-time delivery, quick order turnaround, and the ability to quickly adapt operations to part design changes.

Eventually, these demands grew to the point where SPM could no longer rely on language-based software or manual calculations to program its four Matsuura CNC machining centers. The existing programming methods were too slow and lacked the sophistication needed to meet the requirements of SPM's customers in the electronics, medical, semiconductor, and fiber-optics industries.

Searching for a solution to these problems, SPM hit on MasterCam CAD/CAM software from CNC Software Inc, Tolland, CT. SPM has cust programming time in half using the PC-based package, and overall productivity of the shop's machining centers has increased by 20%.

A good example of the productivity improvements is machining of an aluminum pivot clamp. SPM originally machined one of the 1.75" long clamps at a time, using a five-step process that took 15 minutes. MasterCam software gave SPM the capability to completely redesign the clamp production process.

"When we got MasterCam, we decided we had the dynamic rotation capability to machine multiple parts instead of one part," says production foreman Dan Slack. "Before, we couldn't rotate a part for manual programming, and doing it with the language software was a long, complicated process."

After loading the part drawing file directly from the customer's CAD model into MasterCam, SPM personnel rotated the component to recreate the other parts in one circular shape, a ring with 3.8" ID and 6.6" OD. Defining the clamps as a series of six parts on a ring saved time by letting SPM do prep work on a turning machine.

After turning to machine the inside radius, groove, and chamfer the six parts, the ring was transferred to a milling machine for finishing operations. Total time required to make six parts: 35 minutes, more than 60% reduction in process time per part.

MasterCam software has changed the way SPM handles all kinds of work, from simple bus bars to complex shapes and surfaces. Payback period for the CAD/CAM package was a little more than a year.

For more information on MasterCam software from CNC software Inc, Tolland, CT, circle 318.

Kit breathes new life into EDM

The sinker EDM was 24 years old. Some components needed repair, and the machine was being sold without a power supply. Still, the bridge-type Elox machine had the capacity to handle large workpieces such as dies for forging of drive shaft yokes, spider gears, and other automotive components.

Dana Finney to Finney Impression Die Co, Greenwood, SC, says the decision to purchase the machine was made much easier by availability of th Amerikit EDM modernization package from Agie USA Ltd, Addison, IL. "Amerikit was definitely a deciding factor on whether or not my shop would purchase the used Elox machine," he says.

Designed for use with Elox HRP 60, 100, and 200 series EDM systems, the modernization can take the form of a new power supply and control, or can include more extensive machine refurbishing. In the case of the HRP 201 machine, the overhaul included repair of the handwheel, leadscrew, and worktank, replacement of the mechanical stops, and replacement of the original 12" travel Z-axis with a 16", programmable, high-resolution (0.000 005") Z-axis. An Elox Futura II+ power supply with color CRT and memory for up to 256 sets of cutting data rounded out the retrofit and provides fully automatic workpiece processing.

The refurbished system features a die sinker head suspended over the worktable, with a bridge running between two uprights. The table moves between the uprights, and the bridge runs across the top to provide a 24" x 40" X-Y travel. The movement of the table constitutes the Y-axis, Z-axis movement is in the head, and the X-axis movement is in the bridge.

Finney Impression Die Co is using the system to produce forging and impression dies that require 80 RMS or less finish and tolerances ranging from [+ -0.001" to + -0.005"]. The machine reportedly was making parts within three hours of installation, and has continued to run without a hitch. Cost of the rebuild/retrofit was less than 1/3 the price of a new machine with identical capabilities.

For more information from Agie USA Ltd, Addison, IL, circle 283.

Hole punchers help fabricator

Drilling of holes for assembly and installation of boat lifts, docking systems, boardwalks, and other marine products was a real problem for J&R Steel Fabrication Inc, New Baltimore, MI.

"Even though we have standard designs for our boat lifts and 90% of the fabrication is done in our shops, each job has installation variables that require some field work, especially locating holes for final assembly," says J&R vice president Mike Sutton. "It took three days and a lot of broken drills to complete 15 installations, and was very uncomfortable for our installation technicians. Faced with installing 43 more units, we started looking for a better way."

The solution J&R found was portable hole punchers from Hougen Mfg Inc, Flint, MI. For field work, the Hougen-Ogura Punch-Pro 75002 weighs less than 20 lb and is rated at 13.2 tons. It can punch round holes to 11/16" dia through 1/4" thick steel, and works as fast as 1.5 sec. In the shop, a larger unit weighing 77 lb and rated at 27.5 tons is used to punch holes up to 7/8" in diameter through 3/8" thick materials.

Mr Sutton estimates use of the hole punchers results in time savings of 75% over drilling. Hole location accuracy and better protection of the rust-preventive coatings used on the company's products are other benefits gained from using the hole punchers.

For more information on Hougen Mfg Co, Flint, MI, circle 379.

Video training boosts job-shop productivity

The recession has taken its toll on machine job shops, just as it has on other sectors of the US economy. Micro Enterprises Inc, Springfield, OH, has not only survived the recession but had grown from a single-and multiple-spindle screw machine shop to a full-service CNC milling and turning facility. Sales increased 37% in 1991, and the compan has received several awards from customers for maintaining quality while meeting tightening delivery schedules.

"We're a one-stop shop," says Micro Enterprises president Bill Chatfield. "The key to our success is our ability to meet the delivery schedules required by our customers while maintaining the quality they demand."

One of the reasons the company has achieved this impressive growth record is the use of video-based training programs for setup personnel and machine operators. Supplied by V-Tip Inc, Rockford, IL, MasterTask training programs require each learner to achieve 100% compentency in critical job tasks. The packages explain the basics of CNC, and provide advanced training on setup, canned cycles, and troubleshooting quality defects.

Like most shops, Micro Enterprises had previously relied on training courses provided by machine tool builders. However, the few days of instruction left operators and setup personnel with less than they needed to make the machines fully productive. Typically, attendees retained about 80% of what they learned.

The video-based training strategy, on the other hand, requires that trainees score 100% on written tests and in hands-on performance tests which are administered during normal setup and adjustment periods to minimize lost production time.

The 100% requirement allows Micro Enterprises personnel to work smarter, says Mr Chatfield. "They realize they can't perform very efficiently if they only know 80% or 90% of what they need to know to do the job," he says.

The result of the video training is greater productivity, reduced setup time, and decreased scrap. "Our rapide growth makes it difficult to put a dollar figure on the impact the training has had. I believe we've seen a reduction in machine crashes and tool damage. I know our peoplee are working with greater confidence and are able to solve problems on their own that they couldn't handle before the training," says Mr Chatfield.

MasterTask video-based training concentrates on CNC control, and is applicable to many different machine brands. Training programs are available for Fanuc, GE Fanuc, and General Numeric Controls.

For more information on video training programs from V-Tip Inc, Rockford, IL, circle 284.

Taking service to great lengths

The solutions described in this department each month typically cover production-related problems that can be solved using technology: a new piece of equipment, hardware, or software; an improved material or production technique. Occassionally, we see Manufacturing Solution that involves little more than common sense and a desire to provide the best possible service to customers. Which brings us to the story of an aerospace supplier interested in long parts and short delivery times.

When John Weitzel Inc, a Wichita, KS, supplier of precision machined and sheet metal parts, received a rush order from Boeing, Larry Gaug, manager of Weitzel's Attica, KS, plant, set about assembling the required drawings, materials, and tooling. A Boeing supplier for 40 years, Weitzel was called upon to supply a hot-jogged extruded part for an airplane-on-ground (AOG) application. It seem Boeing's original vendor had backed out of the deal only three days before the delivery deadline, which was then extended for Weitzel.

Problems arose when the hot jog equipment was set up. Plant personnel soon discovered that the distance between the wall and the machine would not accommodate the length of the part. Mr Gaug quickly figured a way to handle the dilemma.

"I told my staff to get me a sledgehammer," he says, "and proceeded to knock a hole through the brick wall."

The part was delivered to Boeing on the original--not extended--deadline. And, Mr Gaug says, Weitzel now has the capability to hot jog extruded parts "in unlimited lengths."

Material simplifies complex contours

The problem facing Martin Marietta Aero & Naval Systems, Baltimore, MD, was three fold: how to form a series of intricate tool for a United States Navy project while maintaining tight tolerances and minimizing time and project costs.

The tools are used to lay up epoxy/fiberglass composite foot fillers that form the core of fairings used in the Navy's wide aperture array submarine communications program. The project requires design and fabrication of nearly 70 different tools, each with different, complex contours. Maintaining tolerances is crucial to obtaining a good fit of the completed fairing assembly on the submarine.

To form the tools, Martin Marietta chose Ren Shapee 350 styling material from Polymers Div, Ciba-Geigy Corp, E Lansing, MI. The material machines easily and holds precise tolerances, according to project manager Harold Fuhrman.

"Ren Shape 350 allows us to produce highly contoured tools in one step, without machining headers, splining, and fabricating multiple splashes. By eliminating tooling steps, we are able to save time, cut costs, and increase tool and part accurac," Mr Fuhrman says.

The tools are formed by generating the required shape in a computer-aided design system, then downloading the design to a milling machine. The final shape is produced from a block of Ren Shape boards bonded together using Ren RP 1700-1 adhesive from Ciba-Geigy. Because the material has no grain, it resists chipping, and tools require very little secondary finishing or filling.

To lay up a foot filler, workers first coat the Ren Shape tool with release film, then lay down epoxy/fiberglass prepregs to fill the contour of the tool. The material is debulked every eight to 10 piles. After all plies are put down, a metal caul plate is placed over the tool for final compaction. The part is allowed to cure on the tool for three days, then placed in a freezer to prevent curing before the complete fairing is fabricated.

For more information from Polymers Div, Ciba-Geigy Corp, E Lansing, MI, circle 285.

Cleaning up metalworking processes

Not long ago, many manufacturing managers thought sensitivity to environmental protection standards meant additional expense, decreased productivity, and a plethora of regulatory headaches and hassles.

Now, new technologyy and products are not only decreasing the environmental impact of metalworking operations, but also helping manufacturers save money, time, and wear on equipment and empoloyees.

Improvements in fluids for tapping, machining, and other metalworking processes are among the advances, which also include lubricant systems that can deliver precise amounts of vegetable-based coolants.

All tapped out

Most current popular tapping fluids contain 1,1,1-trichoroethane (methyl chloroform), which evaporates readily and is one of a family of solvents that has been identified as causing decay of the Earth's ozone layer. Scheduled to be banned in the next few years, the substance also can find its way into groundwater systems and harm plant employees who inhale vapor by-products.

One alternative to tapping fluids containing 1,1,1-trichloroethane is SafeTap from ITW Fluid Product Group, Irvine, CA. The product is available in liquid, paste, spray can, thread, and mist forms. All have "clean" material safety data sheets.

Slippery systems

Other commonly used metalworking fluids also pose environmental and worker safety hazards. In most cases, oil-based coolants and cutting fluids are applied generously to surfaces during machining and other metalworking operations. Equipment and plant floors can be doused with solvent-containing liquids, which can generate visible mists.

ITW's answer to the use of flood coolants is a lubricant system that combines a high-performance, vegetable-based oil with a metered applicating system. The Accu-Lube system has high lubricity; only a thin molecular layer on the edge of a cutting tool is required. Properly applied, the lubricant is consumed during the machining process. The need for cleanup, maintenance, and disposal of flood coolants is eliminated, as is maintenance on sumps and other drainage system components.

An example of how the system can drastically cut coolant use and its associated problems can be found at one of ITW's own plants, which houses a machining line that used 280,000 gallons of diluted, oil-based coolant a year. The need to dispose of contaminated and rancid coolant was continuous. Operated with the Accu-Lube system, eah nozzle in the line uses about 1.5 ounces of lubricant daily. The entire line now requires only about 2400 gallon a year. Coolant disposal and cleanup are eliminated, resulting in substantial cost savings.

Accu-Lube also has high lubricity that can result in decreased tool wear and longer life. A steel fabricator, for example, began using the product for a sawing operation, keeping detailed records for 30 days. Saw life increased from about 30 hours to as much as 52 hours, and cleanup after sawing was eliminated. Parts are now sent directly to the next operation, resulting in time and labor savings.

Yet another benefit of using the vegetable-based lubricant is that chips from machining remain dry and fall cleanly away from surfaces, eliminating cleaning and the resulting contaminated run-off.

For more information from ITW Fluid Products Group, Irvine, CA, circle 310.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Manufacturing Solutions; computer-aided designing; computer-aided manufacturing; CNC Software Inc.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Taking the fastener out of fastening.
Next Article:Turning, boring, milling machines.

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