Alphacam licence aids PPE production

A free evaluation licence from Alphacam meant that a manufacturer could put a machine awaiting commissioning to work producing essential PPE for front-line health workers. Codem Composites had recently invested in a pre-owned Blackman & White CNC cutting machine, with a bed capacity of 2.2 sq m, to cut carbon fibre pre-impregnated with an epoxy resin. The carbon fibre serves to make components for the motorsport industry and satellite dishes.

“The machine hadn’t been fully commissioned and we had post-processing issues with the software and interface – we didn’t want to invest several thousand pounds in software immediately, given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19,” explains managing director Kevin Doherty. “However, when we got the call asking us to cut NHS scrubs, we approached Alphacam to help get the machine up and running. Alphacam supported our efforts by providing us with a free evaluation licence.”

The software gave Codem complete flexibility and speed of production by optimising nests. Running at a capacity of around 500 full sets of scrubs a week, the Blackman & White machine cuts components for a group of volunteers in Northamptonshire to put together.

Alphacam accurately interrogates the DXF file for each of the patterns, and computes all permutations and variables.

“So rather than someone having to work everything out manually, such as what we are going to cut, how we are going to cut it, and what’s got to go where, we simply input which components we need in which sizes,” he says. “Alphacam does the rest, including helping us with the correct cutting speeds and feed rates. The first cut parts came off the machine within 24 hours of installing the software.”

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Getting smart with Chiron SmartLine

The range of machine tools from the Chiron Group has become even smarter with the new ProtectLine and CutLine software solutions. Available in the UK & Ireland from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG), the modules form part of the SmartLine portfolio, making it possible to increase productivity, improve part quality and boost machine availability and capacity.

ProtectLine allows companies to prevent potentially significant, expensive damage and production downtime. The system is characterised by a digital twin that runs ahead of the physical machine in ‘real time’ during operational mode. For instance, if the digital twin encounters problems or even a crash, the software shuts the machine down in a controlled manner that preventively protects it from collisions.

According to ETG, one of the main features that sets this software solution apart from other established systems is that the simulated model always corresponds to the current production situation. Machine crashes can be reliably prevented, even in the case of small adjustments or operating errors. A further advantage is that ProtectLine integrates directly into the new TouchLine control panel.

ProtectLine fully replicates the physical machine, including the complete machine tool, cutting tools and tool holders, as well as the workpiece. Just like a ‘real’ machine, the software enables virtual tool changes and simulates a virtual machining process in parallel to the actual machining process.

Through this simulation, the geometry of the virtual workpiece always corresponds to that of the actual workpiece, resulting in a realistic model. Used together, the ProcessLine and ProtectLine modules of the SmartLine portfolio form an integrated digital process chain.

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UK launch for latest Verisurf

Bowers Group is introducing the latest Verisurf 3D CAD inspection software into the UK and Ireland marketplace. Offering a direct connection to Trimos portable arms and the C-Line series of portable CMMs, Verisurf software provides a 3D measurement platform for manufacturing inspection and reverse engineering.

Verisurf 3D metrology applications support quality inspection to verify design intent, but also find favour for tool building, guided assembly and more. The software allows manufacturers to overcome many challenges, such as complying with customer quality requirements, confirming conformance to design specifications, and automating and verifying the manual inspection process.

Notably, the software increases the CAD inspection capability of the Trimos Arm, alongside the ability to offer Trimos Arm 3D laser-scanning solutions that were previously unavailable. Verisurf can also build a CAD model from a physical part with its reverse-engineering capabilities, and is composed of integrated metrology modules available in specific combinations or single product suites.

Verisurf uses a windows-standard interface and opens all popular CAD file formats, as well as working with all CMMs, including portable arms, laser trackers and projectors, scanners, and photogrammetry systems.

The Inspection Suite is cost-effective and simple to expand as needs increase. With its easy-to-learn and easy-to-use interface, the software enables users to quickly verify finished parts against normal 3D data or blueprints. Complete first-article inspection also supports the generation of meaningful reports in seconds, using a variety of business presentation formats.

The 3D Scanning & Inspection suite integrates Verisurf’s CAD, measure and analysis modules, while the proprietary CAD-based architecture can read any file format, interoperate with any common portable CMM, and has flexible reporting capabilities.

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Simulation completes full digital chain

A combination of tool-path simulation for G-code verification and cutting-tool management has significantly improved productivity for a company specialising in the machining of hydraulic blocks. Based at Saint-Germain-Laval in central France, Evaflo uses NCSIMUL’s machine simulation module from the Hexagon group to help create a complete digital chain, from receiving the customer’s product plans, through to setting up its CNC machine tool for cutting the prototype.

Around 80% of income at Evaflo comes from machining hydraulic blocks for agro-industry and aerospace applications. As manufacturing the blocks is highly specialised, the company originally programmed through a mix of basic CAM and code written manually using a text editor.

“Checking the code line by line on the machine was time-consuming, so we invested in simulation software that would validate the checking stage,” says co-director Élysé Botellé. “Installing the NCSIMUL Machine module from Hexagon reduced the time taken to complete that task by a factor of three.”

Having saved time in the workshop, the company turned its attention to improving productivity in the office.

“We developed our own code generator, dedicated to producing machining tool-path programs for our five Mori Seiki machining centres and turning machines, which we simulated in the digital twin created by NCSIMUL Machine.”

Based on the real characteristics of its machines, NCSIMUL provides Evaflo with a dynamic verification solution. But it does not end there, as the company discovered the software has complete synergy with another module, NCSIMUL Tool, which integrates its digital tools into the global production process, and optimises the tool cycle.

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Manufacturing software unveiled

Devon-based software developer, Lineal Software Solutions, has launched a software suite designed for the UK’s manufacturing sector. SQLWorks is an MRP platform that helps companies gauge future demand for products, purchase stock intelligently and control their manufacturing processes.

Lineal Software, which already serves companies right across the UK and as far afield as Sydney, Australia, has hired extra software developers to meet demand with the release of the latest version.

Mike Matthews, Lineal’s managing director, says: “This is a terrific leap forward for our SQLWorks software. The new release is our most advanced version, and introduces powerful new manufacturing and logistical control to our existing business management tools.”

The software also integrates with a wide-ranging set of other business applications, including accounting, stock and warehouse management, document management, and CRM. Lineal’s software team knows the ability for industry to automatically complete important engineering tasks, such as importing newly-designed assemblies (BoMs), capacity planning, updating part costs and forecasting future production.

A company spokesperson says: “Post-lockdown, many firms will be doing some serious soul-searching about whether their systems are really up to scratch. If you can’t innovate then you’re at a dead end, and modernisation will be an important part of the UK’s economic recovery.”

A recent Tech South West Award winner, Lineal recently featured on the Tech Tribe podcast to discuss the challenges of launching a new software product during the COVID-19 pandemic, getting more women into tech, and the post-lockdown recovery.

“SME manufacturers need a provider who will ‘take ownership’ of their pain points, solve these, and deliver better business results,” says the firm.

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