No room for complacency with CAM

With manufacturers facing lower customer orders, many companies are looking to improve the productivity of their existing equipment by using more efficient programming tools.

With manufacturers facing lower customer orders, many companies are looking to improve the productivity of their existing equipment by using more efficient programming tools.

In turn, manufacturers are being advised not to be complacent with their current CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) systems and to regularly re-evaluate their processes.

Clive Martell, MD of Delcam (CAM software developer based in UK), says CAM users should regularly make themselves aware of new and constantly improving software.

“Things are moving forward all the time and manufacturers must look at new technology and re-evaluate in order to ensure they are making the best use of technology for their own processes,” Martell told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“Current trends such as multi-processing, higher levels of automation, higher accuracy, more intelligent decision making within the software and the huge growth of the aerospace and healthcare industries indicate that this is a necessity.

Martell says modern tools cut so much faster with higher accuracy than tools of five years ago.

“There really is no comparison.”

“To produce better quality and higher accuracy toolpaths more quickly, we have been doing a lot of work in multi-processing and batch processing.

“With multiple processing in a single computer, things can be a lot faster. What we are trying to do is to allow the user to do operations simultaneously.

“Users can generate one toolpath while simulating another and collision checking a third one. It’s all linked to automation.

“If you’ve got a series of operations on a single computer, it’s easier to automate than operations on different machines; with each change being a potential source of error. With one machine there are opportunities to make it more accurate,” he said.

With the continual drive by manufacturers to increase accuracy and improve product efficiency, either in functionality or less weight with reduced materials, Martell says the company is supporting this directly through functionality within the CAM products to achieve higher tolerances more quickly within the software.

“We are also providing manufacturers with the tools to help them check the set-up on the machine using our OMV (On-Machine Verification) software, plus we have Machine Checking System which is a separate process to check that the machine itself is within the required specs.”

Martell believes we’ll see a lot more of this trend in the future as well as single set-ups.

“We are starting to see new ideas from some machine tool manufacturers as they now have to do more operations in parallel in order to produce new types of multi-function machining.”

Martell believes these trends will continue certainly for the next five years.

Industry trends

Peter Dickin, Delcam’s marketing manager, says he is seeing strong growth in the aerospace and healthcare industries.

“The aerospace industry is demanding more accurate and more sophisticated manufacturing, because fractions of increases in fuel efficiency produce very large savings over the lifetime of an aircraft.

“The technology going into airframes and engines is increasing enormously and the new build programs are using new technology and new processes,” he said.

Healthcare worldwide is already a massive industry and Dickin believes it will continue to grow strongly.

“The competencies we’ve built up within general manufacturing apply very much to a lot of products in the healthcare industry.”

Officially launched at the recent Asian Technical Summit in Korea, Delcam’s new Healthcare Division is designed to help companies across the medical, dental and associated industries to take advantage of the latest design and manufacturing techniques.

“Companies in healthcare face the same demands from patients that our traditional engineering clients see from their customers for faster delivery of better and cheaper products. They are under pressure and meeting this growing demand and increasing productivity can only be achieved through the application of more automated technology.”

Dickin says the company’s PartMaker machining system for turn-mill equipment and Swiss-type lathes is used extensively for the manufacture of medical and dental components.

“As well, the DentCAD and DentMILL programs are used for the design and manufacture of dental restorations.

“These products have been updated, and dental is an area in which we expect very significant growth,” he said.

Other recent product updates include PowerMILL 10 which Martell says is very much focused on taking advantage of new computer technology and particularly multi-core and multi-processor computers.

He says there has been similar developments with FeatureCAM and PartMaker both using the power of the computer to a greater degree.

However, Dickin warns industry that with designs changing more frequently, customers will demand faster responses and production runs will be shorter.

“Companies will have to be more adaptable and may have to look at making more one-off and prototype parts,” Dickin told Manufacturers’ Monthly.