Release date: 9th November 2004
LICOM’S ALPHACAM SIMPLIFIES
VARIATIONS ON A THEME
World-beating mast manufacturer, Seld鮠Mast offers a vast range of designs across the complete spectrum of sailing craft, from single-handed dinghies to ocean going yachts.
Its adoption of Licom’s AlphaCAM software underlines the company’s drive to streamline the manufacture of products that are invariably tailored to the requirements of each vessel.
Southampton-based Seld鮠Mast Ltd is part of a world-wide group with manufacturing facilities in Sweden, USA, the Netherlands and the UK. With further licensed production in Australia and South America, along with more than 700 authorised dealers, the company not only dominates the British mast market, but also retains around 40 per cent global market share.
Seld鮦rsquo;s products are characterised by the fact that each mast is individually tailored to the requirements of the boat it is fitted to. That means almost limitless variations - not just in the length and cross sectional profiles of the carbon fibre and aluminium extrusions from which the masts are made - but the number and positioning of fittings, such as rigging and sail handling systems, that are mounted on them to achieve the required boat handling characteristics.
Over the years, the company’s manufacturing facilities had developed around traditional manual methods, with skilled craftsmen using hard copy drawings to locate and position fittings to the mast profiles. It was not only time-consuming, but also difficult to jig the components to ensure precise location around its profile and, in turn, accurately drill and tap holes perpendicular to the surface at that point on its circumference. Not surprisingly, the company’s then Technical Director, Andrew Burrows, was keen to find a method of automating the production process.
The installation of a custom-designed 13 metre bed CNC machine which enabled 360 degree machining around the masts, proved to be the first stage in this process.
“This speeded up production significantly” notes Burrows. “But the machine still required high levels of programming input. In order to achieve the substantial cost reductions and productivity benefits we were looking for, we needed a method of automatically generating the NC code for each different order.”
Following an evaluation of a number of alternatives, Burrows felt that AlphaCAM from Licom offered the most capable solution for his organisation’s needs. In particular, the system’s built-in parametric features and integrated Microsoft VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) enables families of components to be handled extremely effectively.
With the help of Licom’s project manager, Mark Aldous, a comprehensive library of macros was compiled, which incorporated the machining instructions for a vast variety of fittings.
“These macros can now be simply called up on demand and placed on the mast section in the required position and orientation. They are effectively a series of machining sub-routines, which can be grouped together into a combined programme to suit the specific mast design,” explains Aldous.
Other refinements provided by Licom include automatic optimisation of cutter paths to minimise toolchanges and a custom-developed post-processor. So, once variables such as local datums and clamping points have been defined, the AlphaCAM system produces the fully-defined machining programme at the touch of a button.
“The effect has been both immediate and dramatic, says Burrows. “Previously we needed two full time programmers to keep up with demand. By implementing the Licom system, we have achieved major quality and throughput improvements, effectively removing Selden’s previous capacity constraints.
“For example, a complex mast might have taken five days to produce prior to the introduction of the AlphaCAM system. Now, we would expect that figure to be reduced to around two, with perhaps a maximum of two hours programming required. On simpler masts, with fewer fittings and therefore less machining, production time has typically been cut from two to 1� days. Overall, we have trimmed direct labour manufacturing costs by 40 per cent and achieved a payback on the complete machine and AlphaCAM system investment in less than three years.”
Mr Burrows, now managing director of aeronautical and marine design and project management company AeroHydro Ltd, still undertakes consultancy work for Seld鮮 He reports that the initial project has been so successful that the company is already looking to extend its manufacturing capabilities; by utilising Licom software in conjunction with latest generation robot production methods.
For further information, please call Emma Tyreman at Licom Systems Ltd on: 024 7671 3434
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