May 17, 2010 - For
Walker Tool and Die, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Feature Recognition in Sescoi’s
WorkNC CAD/CAM software and the consultancy services supplied by the company to optimize the operation of the system have made an enormous difference to the manufacturing time of its progressive and transfer dies. Specializing in structural automotive parts, including shock towers, air bag housings and instrument panel assemblies, as well as components for the appliance industry such as inner door panels and brackets, the company has been producing stamping dies for more than 50 years.
Walker Tool and Die first replaced its existing CAM software with WorkNC in the mid 1990s, to perform CNC programming to produce programs to cut the complex 3D shapes required in the tooling it produces. Ed Busman, CNC Manager says, “Our old CAM software required a considerable amount of manual intervention to achieve the 3D forms we wanted. WorkNC was able to generate these toolpaths automatically, finding and applying safe and efficient cutterpaths based on parameters input in a toolpath.”
However, the real boost in 2D productivity came with the introduction of WorkNC’s Feature Recognition module for automatic hole drilling, in 2008. This revolutionized how the company operated. Each die component can have up to 200 or more holes, depending on its complexity, and these have to match up to the other components in the tool to ensure that the completed assembly will fit together correctly. Ed Busman had seen the technology at another company, so he could see the advantages right away. “Previously we had to manually program each hole from a list of coordinates provided by our CAD department. Not only was this extremely slow, but each time we transposed the data from the design to the list, and from the list to the machine, we were leaving ourselves vulnerable to human error.”
The implementation of feature recognition into their CNC programming required a change in working practices from design right through to manufacture. Sescoi provided local support and consultancy to help the company achieve its goals. Ed Busman adds, “The Sescoi Regional Manager used his practical experience of installing and running WorkNC Feature Recognition systems to take us through the necessary steps. His knowledge was invaluable, and gave us the confidence and skill necessary to apply the software to our own business.” The key to the successful implementation was the level of CAM software support supplied by Sescoi. It helped Walker Tool to develop and implement disciplined design processes to fit in with its existing CNC programming working methods, so that holes are now consistently and completely defined. It then showed the company how to match these to tried and tested WorkNC machining operations ensuring reliable and automated hole cutting. An extensive technology transfer program has supplied Walker Tool’s engineers with the skills required to operate and develop the system, guaranteeing its effectiveness for the future.
Ron Francis, CNC Programmer, explains how it works. “In our CAD system we define each hole by diameter, depth and color. The color tells us the type of hole we need, for example, whether it is counterbored, tapped or drilled. The CAD data is transferred directly into the WorkNC Feature Recognition module, where the information is automatically processed. WorkNC then produces a series of CNC cutterpaths suited to each type of hole, using the correct tools and a predefined sequence of machining strategies. CNC code and a complete list of the necessary tooling are sent to the machine, eliminating any possibility of error, producing a foolproof system.”
The time saved with WorkNC CAM software has been huge, with a 90% reduction in the hours required for CNC hole programming. Ed Busman says, “The return on investment was immediate. Not only has it saved us many hours of work, it has also made our machine shop more productive and cut out many of the sources of error, greatly increasing the accuracy of our finished tools.” Manual entry of CNC data and manual programming into the machine tools used to result in considerable down time in addition to the possibility of error. Automatically generated CNC code from WorkNC is ready for use instantly, allowing the machinery to start cutting without delay. Ron Francis says, “Machining productivity is up by 75% thanks to WorkNC. Machine down time has been eliminated and problems caused by inconsistent manufacturing methods, incorrect tooling and hole positioning errors are a thing of the past.”
Ed Busman emphasizes the importance of the training and consultancy services it got with the Feature Recognition implementation, “The support we got and continue to get on our WorkNC CAM Software investment from Sescoi has been a crucial element of our success. They turned theory into practical reality. We would be lost without WorkNC Feature Recognition, the difference it has made to us is like night and day!”
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