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Tape-prep computer mows down fabrication costs.

A robot lawn mower than even puts itself away when the job is done was introduced in 1969 by American Marketing & Sales Corp, Alpharetta, GA. Called Mowtron, the wire-guided vehicle with its Italian-sports-car look was such a success that it created a problem with some of the fabricated parts made by outside vendors. The parts were becoming too expensive and cutting into profits, so the company decided in 1980 to bring their manufacture in-house.

A year and a half later, AM&S had become so expert in sheet-metal fabrication that major companies in the Atlanta area were coming to them for printed-circuit-board holders, video-display-terminal cabinets, computer chassis, and a variety of metal enclosures. Sheet-metal fabrication became the small company's main line, with first-year sales reaching $792,000 in Sept '81. Tied up with tape

Soon, another problem presented itself. Manual tape preparation for their Amada and Di-Acro NC turret punch presses was unable to keep up with the growing workload. Preparation and debugging of tapes would often take the better part of the workday with a big loss in valuable work time.

The solution was automation. After reviewing several computer systems, they chose a system by Techware Computing Co, St Petersburg, FL. The system consists of a DEC computer, printer, and three video-display terminals; a Houston Instrument plotter; a Data Specialties tape puncher; and Techware's CAM-TECH II program language.

AM&S's Vice President Jerry Ward, who programmed NC punch tapes manually for 1-1/2 years before the switch to Techware in sept '81, recalls the drawbacks of manual preparation. "Our first punch press was the D2-Acro. It would take us about a day to make tapes by hand. Now, it takes only 45 min, and sometimes as little as 20 min.

"The first job we ran on the Techware system was for fiber-optic cable splicers for Western Electric. I saved eight days of shop time with the Techware system."

Ward added that he had prepared only 200 NC tapes in the 1-1/2 years of manual prep, but has already done 1170 tapes with computer prep. How the system works

With the CAM-TECH program, the users enters on the video-display terminal (VDT) the part information, punch descriptions, and one or more hit-generating and system commands. The system verifies compatibility between tool and station size, identifies potential errors and tonnage requirements, and displays the data generated by the command.

At any point in the process, the user can access a graphic image of the part or a "windowed" portion of the part for visual verification of the data that has been entered. A 1/2" part area can be made to fill the screen. Input data is stored on a disk, and the line printer generates relevant job information, such as an operator's setup sheet.

The next step is a hard-copy plot, outlining the part including punch shapes, station numbers, and center locations to an accuracy of [plus-or-minus] 0.005". This allows visual inspection of the part and eliminates the need for proofing the tapes on the press.

"Now, over 95 percent of the tapes we send to Quality Control are correct," notes Ward. "When we did them manually, they were correct only 30 percent of the time."

The final step in the process is punching parts. An optimization process groups all hits per station and determines the shortest machine path between hits to reduce table travel and turret rotation. The computer then generates a printout of total hits per station, hits on the tape, coordinates for hits across the sheet, and floor-to-floor machine-cycle times. Evaluating results

Besides saving production time, the new system has increased profits, reports Tyrous Ward, president and Jerry's brother. "Sales for 1982 totaled $1.4 million after one year of using the system, compared to $792,000 for the year before. Jerry attributes this increase to higher production volume, faster turn-around times, and closer tolerances on machined parts. We project we will be reporting $1.7 million in sales for 1983."

Jerry Ward likes CAM-TECH's math package, which allows the user to calculate the trigonometry involved with unusual cuts and angles. The program generates angular dimensions to nine decimal places.

The building-block approach of the Techware system offers small-shop owners a basic manual tape-prep system and time-sharing benefits of the CAM-TECH language without a major investment in computer hardware. For larger operations, they offer in-house, turnkey systems for NC turret punch-press systems, either single or multiuser. A remote interactive file exchange feature (RIFLE) allows users to debug NC punch programs via telephone to Techware's St Petersburg headquarters. Software packages are available for Wiedemann, Behrens, Strippit, Di-Acro, US Amada, and W A Whitney NC and CNC punch presses, as well as certain thermal-cutting machines.

For Jerry Ward, this was an ideal solution. "We've been extremely happy with the Techware system. We have used it on numerous jobs for 46 of our customers. We plan to add another VDT and some job-estimation software soon."

For more inforamtion from Techware, circle E4.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jul 1, 1984
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