Edgecam programs merged into single machining files

Mould maker Kavia Tooling has developed its own machining strategies to run multiple CNC programs at once by merging several of them into a single file; many containing around 1.5-million lines of code.

Working out of 9000 sq ft premises in Burnley, with 15 employees, the company produces around 80 mould tools a year for plastic injection moulders, ranging in size from small tools of 156 x 156 mm, anywhere up to 2 tonnes. Key to the company’s throughput, Kavia has invested heavily in customising a range of software and equipment, including CAM solutions from Edgecam, and a Pioneer co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM) from Hexagon.
Edgecam drives seven high-speed CNC mills with spindle speeds varying from 12,000 to 30,000 rpm, and Sodick EDM machines, but production director Mark Cole says it’s no ordinary machining process: “Edgecam has customised the software to create a system for us which we call Merge. It means we can put several components on the machines at once, and the Edgecam CNC code for them is all merged into one large program, along with the datums to set the parts on.”
He cites a recent example when the company was working on two cavity plates on one side of the machine, and four inserts on the other. “We put the individual Edgecam CNC programs for each component together into one file, and it all went to the machine as one large program.”
The Merge strategy also helps to keep cutting tools to a minimum, by looking at information such as duplication, length and tool quality in all the programs. “For example, if there were two repeating cuttings tools in the individually merged programs, it selects the best one for the manufacturing process,” says Cole. “It goes through every single NC program and rearranges all the tools accordingly.

“If we have 10 components that can all fit on the machine, Merge puts the tool information for all 10 programs together: the datum setting information, part setting information, the pre-setter, everything,” he adds. “So as far as the machining is concerned, it’s just one big product.”
Cole says the benefits are “unbelievable”, creating a completely standardised system: “The customised software works for us exactly how we want it to, and everyone from the CAM programmer to an apprentice setting the tools, works in the same way. It demystifies shop floor activities and eliminates error.”
Kavia Tooling’s most recent investment in customisation is the unusual way of using a Hexagon Pioneer CMM. Rather than checking finished dimensions and ensuring a part is manufactured within tolerance at the end of the manufacturing process, Hexagon wrote a piece of customised software to enable Kavia to find offsets at the beginning of the operation.
Known as ‘Zero Transfer Fixture Plates’, this particular customisation means that instead of having to put each part on the machine and set it, the component is set on the CMM, which gives Kavia the X, Y, Z and U orientation. This can be done with any number of components, and the information is transferred to the machine through the Edgecam Merge software. Merge uses the data to add a programmed work offset and co-ordinate rotation into the appropriate merged programs.
“We only have to put the Zero Transfer Plate, which is micron-accurate, into position on the machine, and it knows exactly where the part is, so we don’t have to set it,” explains Cole.
The end result is a CNC program which can produce several parts at a time, without the need to use the machine as a set-up station as all preparatory operations are now carried out offline.
“Without the CMM, if we were setting up a component square on the CNC machine for example, we’d have to ensure it was perfectly in line with the machine’s axis,” says Cole. “If we were doing that for 10 components, the process would be prone to error, especially where there are overhangs. But setting them on the CMM means everything is done automatically, because it tells the machine the angle of the part.
“To set up six fairly difficult components directly on the machine might take one day, during which it’s not running,” he adds. “On the CMM it’ll be one hour, and you can be totally confident they’ll be absolutely accurate.”

Edgecam engineers also worked with Kavia Tooling on customising the software further, to set tooling data for the CNC programs offline by utilising data from the company’s Zoller tool pre-setter system. Previously, the operator had to manually set all the tools for each job run, with the same costs and risks associated with datum setting.
“Now, Zoller captures the required tool information for all the programs, and Edgecam merges it into the final CNC file,” says Cole. “It used to be a skilled job, but today a first-year apprentice does it.”
With some of the merged programs coming out at around 36 MB and containing up to 1.5-million lines of NC code generated by Edgecam, they can take four days to run.
“Our machine tools are generally operating 24/7, as they’re expensive and need to be running as long as possible,” states Cole. “A lot of our investment in bespoke software and automation was to create an environment where the machines are running while we’re doing as much preparatory work as we can offline.”
Kavia Tooling’s general philosophy is to run smaller programs during the day, and longer ones unsupervised overnight.
“We’ve also created a lot of systems through Edgecam where we combine a number of smaller runs that would each take half an hour, into a 12-hour night run,” he says.
“Edgecam is absolutely integral to our entire manufacturing process. It’s at the heart of everything, and is vital in terms of what it does through customisation, standardisation and the removal of errors.”
For further information www.edgecam.com

Investment helps future-proof JAW

For over 30 years, Huddersfield-based JAW Engineering has provided local industry with low-volume subcontract machining capacity and emergency breakdown support. Up until now, all its machining had been carried out on manual machines, reliant on highly skilled operators, including company founder John White. Now, with John’s son Stuart taking on management of the family business, the time was right to look to the future and move to CNC.

With Stuart White’s lack of experience in CNC he turned to a long-standing customer for advice, and was invited in to see first-hand, and talk with operators about their XYZ ProtoTrak-controlled machines. “The opportunity to chat with guys on the shop floor was fascinating as not one of them had a bad word to say about XYZ. Furthermore, seeing the ProtoTrak control in action convinced me that it was the best solution to take us from manual to CNC machining.”
Encouraged by what he saw and heard, White paid a visit to XYZ Machine Tools showroom in Sheffield for a demonstration and made the decision to purchase an SLX 425 ProTurn lathe.
By introducing CNC in the form of the ProtoTrak control, White is looking to future-proof the business, as finding skilled manual machine operators is not easy. Here, the ProtoTrak’s conversational interface makes the job of programming complex parts straightforward.
“The addition of CNC is allowing us to do more complex work than we could previously,” says White. “Moreover, we are more efficient as the control speeds up operations that manually would take much longer, such as screw cutting. Repeatability is taken for granted, and by storing the programs we can quickly repeat parts as and when they are required.”
For further information www.xyzmachinetools.com

20 years’ service and still going strong

In 1997, Rosario di Gerlando and José Freire had their very first Deco sliding-head lathe delivered by Tornos.

Still in use today at Lauener’s facility in Boudry, Switzerland, a factory that specialises in products for the watchmaking and medical sectors, the meter currently displays 76,301 hours of operational use. Today, the company has almost 150 machine tools. Indeed, within the workshop dedicated to medical products, only Tornos Deco and EvoDeco machines are in place.“The Deco/EvoDeco product is really accomplished and we are fully familiar with it,” says Freire.
Both the kinematic system and the programming of the first Deco machines from 1996 are similar to those of the more recent EvoDeco series. During that time, numerous attachments and tool holders have been provided with an interchangeable design.
“We decided to purchase the machines due to their flexibility, productivity and precision, and they did not disappoint,” says Freire. “The machines fully meet current requirements and will certainly meet the future needs of the business. Tornos machines are extremely versatile and we can produce virtually any part on them. For us, the kinematic system and PELD language are the really strong points of the Deco and EvoDeco models. When producing complex parts, the machines remain the best on the market; they can produce workpieces that no other machine can realise.”
Thanks to its optimum control characteristics, a new EvoDeco machine installed at Lauener will be fully operational in less than one week.
For further information www.tornos.com

Making light work of heavy applications

Soon after taking delivery of a Harrison Alpha 1550XS CNC lathe from 600 UK, Blackburn-based subcontractor Fairbrother and Grimshaw witnessed an upturn in orders, utilising the versatility of the Alpha lathes for taking on larger capacity turn-mill jobs.

Neil Grimshaw, company director, says: “We are firm believers of pushing what we do with current technology and standing still is not an option. The Alpha manual/CNC lathe is ideal in that sense as it’s an easy switch from turning manually to using the Alpha with the minimum of training.
“We already have some Colchester manual turning machines and a range of VMCs and CNC turning centres from many suppliers, but large-capacity turning applications were difficult for us to manage,” he continues. “The Alpha XS has helped us raise the bar and added a different dimension to our turning capability. This, in turn, has already helped spread our reputation and we are taking on more work because of it.”
The 2 m between-centres Alpha 1550XS has a swing-over-bed of 554 mm and a 104 mm spindle bore. A large 15 kW motor means that spindle speeds can reach up to 2000 rpm.
“When we purchased the Alpha, we also made use of its range of accessories, including steadies, morse tapers and four-jaw chucks, to give us the maximum flexibility,” says Grimshaw. “We did consider other lathes, but once we saw the Alpha, there was never any doubt in our minds as no other competing product could match the combination of flexibility, accuracy and value for money.”
For further information www.600uk.com

SiFab gains control with machining capability

The decision to invest in machining capacity by Rugby-based SiFab Engineering Solutions was driven by a desire to be able to control deliveries to customers, as well as manufacturing costs. However, with no formal machining training, and limited floor space, company director Simon Hall had to choose his machine tools wisely.

Hall turned to friend and business acquaintance Phil Boffin of BMS Engineering, who had gone down the same route in starting his own business, for advice. “I had used Phil for some tube work for roll cages, so knew he had invested in XYZ machines. On his advice I went along to an XYZ open day at Nuneaton with the intention of looking at a lathe. After having a ‘play’ on a couple of machines, I placed an order there and then for an XYZ SLX 1630 ProTurn lathe and an XYZ 2-OP machining centre.”
The two machines were delivered to SiFab at the end of November 2017 and, once installed, Hall went for his free training on a Friday. Come Monday morning he was producing and shipping his first parts. The conversational aspect of the ProtoTrak control on both machines made generating the first parts easy.
“I produce lots of one-off and prototype parts, and while I am confident that the first-off will be right using the Traking facility on the SLX lathe, it is also straightforward to make amendments when the customer changes things,” says Hall. “The further advantage is that I haven’t waited two weeks for a subcontractor to make these parts and been charged the earth for them.”
For further information www.xyzmachinetools.com