April 21, 2015 -- A specialist manufacturer of form tools and components for the canning industry has reduced the time on some high precision jobs that used to take a day, down to an hour, thanks to specifically tailored Alphacam post processors driving their range of machine tools.
For Tony Smyth, owner of T & G Engineering, the post processor is ‘King,’ enabling them to focus on challenging, complex and difficult-to-manufacture components, and those with extremely close tolerances which improve the finished product’s performance.
“The tools we make for the canning industry are the most accurate we produce. Predominantly they’re the final components for contact tooling, which the customer uses the most. Basically, it’s anything that comes into contact with the can during its manufacturing process.”
Their wide ranging canning work includes aerosols, two piece can tooling, chucks and rolls, and three piece can tooling, mostly in hard metals, A2, D2, CPMs in the mid-60s on the Rockwell scale, high speed steels, ceramics and carbides. “As we produce form tools – the more accurate tools that produce profiles – a lot of our work is tied up to 5-microns.”
And they are regularly called upon to manufacture a variety of cooling spacers, and although the ranges are similar, the lengths and positions differ. “With Alphacam it’s so easy to go into the existing programs and simply move things, including the 3D machining, to create new programs quickly.”
While the canning industry accounts for 40 per cent of their work, they also produce components for the automotive and motorsport sectors, medical and pharmaceutical, and aerospace, along with mould tools, from their 17,000 square foot premises in Surrey. Tony Smyth acquired T & G in 2008, which is now described as one of Europe’s foremost high precision engineering firms, exporting around 40 per cent of its output. Since then he has bought a further two companies, including the nearby Cawkwell Engineering, which he is using for manufacturing simpler components.
With a number of milling, turning and wire EDM machines from a variety of manufacturers, including Okuma Multus, Haas, Agie Charmilles, T & G Engineering are making increasing use of multi-axis machine tools, saying the ability to turn and mill in the same set-up is vital. “It’s so much quicker with twin chucks, and we’re moving more and more towards multi-axis machining, which is totally reliant on Alphacam to produce the programming.”
They use Alphacam to create toolpaths for between 2- and 7-axis machining work. CNC Supervisor Paul Marshall says it allows them to go above customers’ expectations, especially on their Okuma Multus machines. “For example, where people want a chamfer or just a break in the edge, we can put scanned radiuses on to corners. We always want the finished product to have that extra degree of quality. To put a 3D radius on a slot would be extremely hard manually, but Alphacam accomplishes it easily and quickly with minimal edits.”
And Tony Smyth says Alphacam’s 3D modelling tool, Part Modeler, which is designed for quick and simple construction and modification of solid models, means they can resolve any difficulties on a CAD terminal before the job gets into the workshop.
“Sometimes designers produce models that look good onscreen, but when we start interrogating them Part Modeler shows us things we wouldn’t see otherwise. Once we start spinning, cutting and panning through it we can see corner rads that weren’t visible on the drawing. Alphacam gives us better vision. Without it we could be several hours into a job before realising there’s an issue. Models, as well as the post processor that allows us to accurately cut the metal, are definitely King with us.”
He believes Alphacam’s CAD/CAM functionality is going to continue changing the face of engineering. “Different skills are required now, as we’re running tools at rapid feeds and speeds. High speed machining has changed everything. The B-axis is extremely important for us, particularly on canning jobs with angled holes. Old-style turret machines simply can’t compete, as it’s a different turret position for every tool, but a twin spindle with B axis means we can drill holes in any position with just one tool, and Alphacam simplifies the process. Even for boring bars, we just turn the chuck the other way round. One tool can do multiple operations.”
Apprentices joining T & G are all trained on Alphacam. “I call them the Play Station generation, because they’ll create a part and Alphacam program for a multi-axis machine extremely quickly on a CAD terminal. It’s easier for them to understand machining when they see it on an Alphacam screen. Within a week we had one youngster programming lathes with Alphacam, and he’d never used it before.”
Part of the Vero Software Group, Alphacam is a leading CAM solution providing productivity, reliability and flexibility. Vero has direct offices in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, USA, Brazil, Netherlands, China, South Korea, Spain and India supplying products to more than 45 countries through its wholly owned subsidiaries and reseller network.
Vero is part of Hexagon (Nordic exchange: HEXA B), a leading global provider of design, measurement and visualisation technologies that enable customers to design, measure and position objects, and process and present data.