Norwich-based Carbon Fibre Technologies (CFT) Ltd is using four seats of hyperMILL®, ( www.openmind-tech.com) CAM software to help it optimise complex five-axis machining cycles on a range of high performance DMG machining centres that are producing components and tooling for motorsport, telecommunications and aerospace industry clients.
Founded just 13 years ago by current managing director Arthur Woolhouse and financial director Gavin Gilliatt in a single unit on the Ashwellthorpe Industrial Estate near Norwich, Carbon Fibre Technologies today also occupies the four adjacent units and employs 50 people. In 2008 the company will relocate to a purpose-built facility nearby that will offer a further six-fold increase in floor space.
The company offers a full range of advanced composite design, engineering and manufacturing services, including concept development, detail design, structural analysis, pattern making and production. The reason for such rapid growth is partly due to the weight/stiffness properties offered by components manufactured from carbon fibre composites, which cannot be attained from more conventional engineering materials.
Carbon fibre composite is not easy to machine (very stiff), particularly when the components are complex and require five-axis machining techniques. To help CFT maximise the throughput of its four five-axis machines (all acquired since 2002), the company decided to evaluate the leading CAM vendors.
“At the time we already had a well known CAM package in use, but its five-axis capability was limited – it had a distinct lack of gouge protection,” explains Mr Woolhouse. “Selecting a replacement system was crucial. We were moving towards high specification, high cost, five-axis machining centres and we could not afford collisions.”
These thoughts formed the chief reason behind CFT’s decision to replace its existing CAM package and invest in hyperMILL from Open Mind Technologies. “We needed toolpath reliability so much,” he continues, “and the gouge protection on hyperMILL was the best we saw. Also, ease-of-use and speed of processing were impressive. hyperMILL had a post processor that could cope with the advanced CNCs on our five-axis machines – after all, wonderful toolpaths are worthless without being able to present them to the machines in a format they can understand. The other contributing factor was that hyperMILL could be integrated into our existing thinkdesign’ CAD package.”
Two and a half years ago CFT bought its first seat of hyperMILL – today it has four, the number increasing in direct proportion to the amount of five-axis machining centres on site. Five CFT employees are trained to use the software.
To date CFT has used its combination of hyperMILL and five-axis DMG technology to machine just about all of the component parts that make up the composite content of a modern racing car, mainly for Formula One teams – Mr Woolhouse was involved with Formula One prior to establishing CFT (he was head of Team Lotus’s composites department in the early 1990s). Patterns, manufactured from aluminium, tooling block or graphite, are also a common sight on the machines at CFT. Other parts manufactured include carbon fibre dishes for satellite transmission systems.
CFT has invested heavily in the facilities needed to perform all stages of the carbon fibre component manufacturing processes, including large PC-controlled autoclaves and a pre-preg fabric cutter, which guarantees precision and repeatability of material quantities – essential to ensure minimum weight and variation in finished components. Some Formula One components can feature up to 270 pieces in their lay-up.
“Acquiring hyperMILL has been a good decision for us,” says Mr Woolhouse. “As we have grown, so Open Mind has grown its presence in the UK – we have kind of evolved together. The hyperMILL CAM software has delivered everything it promised since day one – put it this way, we are not planning on looking around at any other CAM packages.”
About OPEN MIND Technologies AG
OPEN MIND Technologies AG is a leading developer of CAD/CAM software and postprocessors for designing and manufacturing complex moulds and parts. OPEN MIND offers an extensive range of products, from 2D feature-oriented solutions for milling standard parts through to software for 5-axis simultaneous machining.
With hyperMILL®, used in automotive, tool and mould manufacturing, high performance engineering and aerospace industries, OPEN MIND Technologies AG is represented in all the important markets in Asia, Europe and North America. OPEN MIND Technologies AG is a Mensch und Maschine company (
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