As the longest established foundry toolmaker in the UK, Pattern Equipment Company (PEC), based in Leicester, uses NC Graphics to provide a key element of its capability.
PEC uses traditional skills and the latest technology to take a project from conception through to production, managing the complete process. Specialising in gravity die, low pressure dies, sand moulding, low pressure sand moulding, lost foam tooling and wax investment moulds. It puts the highest priority on quality, having achieved ISO 9002 and grade A VW/Audi group approval. The company works primarily with the automotive and motorsport industries producing very complex cylinder block and cylinder head components for high profile projects including parts for the V10 engined Lamborghini Gallardo in conjunction with Cosworth Technology.
Alan Newton, CAM Technician for PEC, is responsible for the smooth running of the 7 CNC machine tools, which include 5 high-speed machines capable of spindle speeds of up to 18,000 rpm. Typically, he receives IGES CAD data from the PEC design department, where the customer’s designs are interpreted and the appropriate splits applied to the mould.
He imports this data into his NC Graphics DEPOCAM system, where he applies contraction and a machining allowance, and produces the CNC programmes ready to cut the initial model. This model is then used to cast a metal master ready for machining to the finished size.
For applications where production quantities are low, the master can be machined directly in high-density model board. To take advantage of the benefits of short tool lengths, the model board is machined in layers before assembly to form the finished shape. Combining DEPO tooling with DEPOCAM has been very effective for PEC.
“We use DEPO heat shrinking tool holders, which combine a short cutter with the strength of a tapered holder. In DEPOCAM’s tool library, we can define both accurately. The collision checking in the NC Graphics software enables us to reliably drive the tool across the job, with the tool holder going safely inside the cavities. The benefit for us is much faster machining times, and much more rigid tooling, which avoids unexpected undercuts - a serious problem with long tools,” explained Alan Newton.
The machine tools at PEC frequently run 7 days per week, so the reliability of toolpaths created by DEPOCAM is of vital importance.
PEC has three DEPOCAM seats and uses a range of ball cutters as well as standard carbide slot drills with 2mm corner radii, which allow for larger stepovers between cuts.
Alan Newton said, “DEPOCAM allows us to programme variably angled walls with different tools. This means we may use a radiused slot drill to waterline machine down a steep wall, then a ball cutter on shallow areas, and finish with a radiused slot drill on flat or virtually flat areas, cutting out unnecessary use of the ball cutter.”
PEC uses the DEPOCAM stock model at each stage of this process to ensure that the tool does not plunge into solid material.
“The stock model is very good, consistently ramping into solid areas and avoiding cutter breakage,” he continued.
For HSM machining PEC also finds that the default settings in DEPOCAM provide smooth reliable toolpaths, allowing it to take right first time machining for granted.
The level of service provided by the NC Graphics support team is an important factor for the company. The team’s policy of taking a problem solving approach to DEPOCAM technical queries, and quickly providing practical answers to maintain production levels has been beneficial to PEC.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the reliability of DEPOCAM and the service I get from NC Graphics. I could not be happier,” said Alan Newton. “Even after several years of use there are lots of options to explore within the software to provide new ways of machining, and new opportunities to improve production.”
Investment in DEPOCAM, and continued use of the software has paid dividends for PEC. The continued successful relationship with NC Graphics, and the reliability of the support team enable PEC to cut with confidence.
Tim Cant, Sales and Technical Director for PEC, commented, “We were very pleased with the smooth implementation of DEPOCAM, and appreciate the benefits of working with NC Graphics.”
NC Graphics (Cambridge) Ltd, Silverwood Lodge, Ely Road,
Waterbeach, Cambridge, CB5 9NN
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 861539
Contact: Mrs Estelle Dunsmuir, Marketing Manager