VISI-Series Software Turns Designs Into Stone

CAD/CAM software developed for the plastics injection die and mould industry by leading developers Vero International Software has been skilfully adapted to help create the stonework designs for the national memorial in honour of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In what is thought to be the first occasion that computer modelling has been used to create 3D machining programmes for stone cutting machines, the masonry specialists for the 210m long Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain being built in London’s Hyde Park have turned to Vero’s VISI-Series CAD/CAM software to analyse the models and create the stone cutting programmes.

Anglo-American design team Gustafson Porter have created a gently curved water feature memorial in which the granite base has been carved so that the water flows in the manner of a constantly changing stream. The �3M project is being overseen by The Royal Parks as the executive agency of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport who are providing the funding.
Completion date is early Summer 2004.

The fountain comprises 550 individually carved 3D granite sections, fitted together in the most complex jigsaw that ensures the water flow varies at different stages around its circular design. Working closely with stone specialists S. McConnell & Sons based in Kilkeel, County Down, Northern Ireland, Vero has adapted existing strategies in its software to meet the requirements of the stone cutting industry and its specialist CNC machines.

“It has been a very challenging project that would not have been economically or technically feasible without the software programmes and the CNC machines,” explains McConnell’s factory manager Glyn Lucas.

“As experienced construction masons, McConnell’s has the machines to handle a project of this scale in its factory at Kilkeel - two Terzago and an OMAG CNC - but the complexity of the task both in terms of the design requirements and the need for absolute synergy between all of the granite components necessitated some very exacting modelling and programming,” he observes.
Machining times for individual sections vary between 7 and 70 hours dependent on complexity with the independent pieces of Cornish De Lank granite ranging from 250kg to 1.5 tonnes in weight.

De Lank granite was chosen because it is hard wearing and non-porous, ensuring the fountain is long lasting. It is also very challenging to machine, necessitating the CNC machines to be equipped with diamond cutters.

Individual files for each of the 550 granite components were converted to 3D models by Surface Development and Engineering (SDE), a company specialising in computer generated surface models. McConnell’s then received the files in either IGES or STL formats. Using the modelling features at the front end of the VISI-Machining module in the VISI-Series software, they then converted the files into solid models before analysing and creating the cutting programmes.

SDE received the STL model from Barron Gould Associates, a British company specialising in computer generated surface models who created a computer model of the different stone �textures’ that create the water effects. They then triangulated these drawings into the final model. These were transmitted to McConnell’s where VISI-Series powerful conversational software converted the files into solid models. Complex but achievable.

Subsequently, the VISI Machining module was used to create cutter paths and the machining programmes. By and large, the programmes equate to conventional metal cutting techniques and the multi axis capability of VISI-Series permits the use of all the stone cutting machine tools X/Y/Z axes in addition to accommodating the use of a rotating machining turn table.

Vero has in fact created a unique cutting programme where �conventional’ metal cutting operations undertaken by tools such as end mills and ball end cutters are read by the stone cutting CNC’s as sawing operations.

Another feature of the software has been the creation of cross sections at 40 key points. The gaps between these points were engrossed by the designers, creating a seamless electronic file of the entire 210m course of the fountain.

David O’Hara, OEM sales manager at Vero says the software is 90% standard with just a few adaptations necessary for the stone industry.

“We have developed with McConnell’s a manual that details how the software can effectively be adapted into undertaking sawing procedures when it thinks it is using metal cutting techniques. On production time alone, we estimate completed manufacture is achieved in a tenth of the time in comparison with conventional manual methods. In fact, because of the complexity, it is unlikely that the desired effect could be created other than with the CNC programming and machine tools,” he claims.

When completed, the water in the fountain will cascade in a number of different ways, varying from tranquil bubbling to bouncing and jumping as it pours over risers and steps. There is also a white water element and a waterfall.

Vero International Software’s VISI-Series CAD/CAM software is now one of the world’s leading solutions for those involved in mould, die and press tool design and manufacture. Key features of VISI-Series include very high capability under-pinned by a fully integrated modular design - users can simply select the modules they require for their individual business and add to the core programme as their business expands or embraces new technologies.

Ease of use is another vital feature and Vero’s service partnership ensures that comprehensive global customer and technical support is always available. For the precision toolmaker and precision engineer, VISI-Series offers a genuine high end capability fully supported by expert engineers and designers offering well tested, practical solutions.

Vero International Software has offices in the UK, Italy, USA, Canada, France and Japan along with 75 distributors in more than 35 countries.


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