Finish-machining times cut from 32 to 14 hours

A mould maker serving the automotive industry says WorkNC CAM software gives it a distinct advantage, setting the company apart from its competitors with superior lead-times, quality and expertise. And, as a Beta tester for WorkNC, the company found that a new item of functionality, introduced in the latest release – 2019 R1 – slashed its finish-machining
times by more than half on certain parts.

Operating from three sites in France and one each in Turkey and Slovakia, Julien SA manufactures moulds for interior linings, boot compartment trim and roof linings, along with parts for sound-proofing, foamed components, and aluminium and textile thermal barriers. The company mainly produces single-order parts, or two-to-three small series moulds for foam components.
Based at the 10,000 sq m head office in Le Creusot, France, programming manager Sergio Couto is responsible for preparing production and implementing the product manufacturing process. His department takes the lead on a range of aspects such as technical issues, monitoring and quality control for tooling production.
Although Julien SA makes a small number of moulds for the aerospace industry, most of its customers are major automotive groups that need tight turnaround times. Using WorkNC’s CAD and CAM capabilities, Couto says practically nothing is impossible from a technical point of view.
The software is installed on seven computers on the company’s network, and drives three five-axis machine tools (Breton, Durango and Rambaudi), and four 3+2 machines (Goglio, FPT, Anayak and Soraluce). Explaining how WorkNC is an integral and vital part of its production operation, Couto says the process begins after the programming team receives an assessment from the engineering office with the purchase order: “Firstly, we analyse the CATIA file of the part to be produced, allowing us to isolate items which need to be precise, and to determine what’s feasible.
“With the aid of WorkNC’s CATIA interface we can re-establish the CATIA construction tree, which is crucial, as that data is of paramount importance to our business,” he adds. “WorkNC is one of the rare applications which allows this.”

The company then turns its attention to the number of parts that must be produced, and sets about creating the models in WORKNC, adding offset allowances and any other details required for accurate machining.
“The next step is to prepare the production phase and run tool-path calculations,” says Couto. “We establish machining schedules and adapt WorkNC tool paths to the specific machine being used.”
However, he adds that occasionally the company does not know which machines will be available, meaning generic tool paths must be generated. “This highlights the importance of ‘Machining Contexts’ in WorkNC, because we often have to switch to another machine at the last minute,” says Couto.
The final phase is in the workshop, where WorkNC’s simulation function validates the process before the machines start cutting metal. Here, he says WorkNC’s programming allows the company to undertake lights-out machining: “It means the workshop operates 24/7. From midday on Friday and over the weekend, it is fully autonomous, with automatic tool changing and head rotation. We couldn’t do that without WorkNC.”
As a beta tester for the software, Julien SA trialled a new finishing strategy which allows users to break free from previous constraints caused by tool shapes, and it has slashed machining times by more than half. As a result of the trials, WorkNC 2019 R1 adds the Z-level pattern to the ‘Advanced Toolform’ technology, allowing for tool shapes like barrel, oval and parabolic to be calculated over the part surfaces, including negative allowances.
Couto says the results of using the Advanced Toolform strategy with circular-segment cutters, compared with traditional methods, are indisputable, having reduced the company’s finish-machining times from 32 hours to 14.
WorkNC, part of the Production Software business of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, is fully integrated into every machining phase – analysis, comparison, simulation, machining and verification.

Summing up the benefits of using WorkNC, Couto says tool-path calculation times are no longer an issue: “We manufacture some large parts – 2 x 1.5 m – and it’s very rare that calculation times are longer than eight hours for all roughing, finishing, rest material, corner re-machining, and mechanical operations such as drilling and pocket machining. And it’s a user-friendly application that’s so easy to learn, even for employees who’ve never done any programming before.”
The company has also invested in a mobile measuring arm from Hexagon, to make precise measurements at different stages of the manufacturing operation. Julien SA uses the measuring arm to make immediate decisions to either modify or continue the process when a doubt arises, which Couto says guarantees security, saving time. “This all helps with the precision we need to actually manufacture the part, ensuring it’s of high quality, and that it can be cleanly and accurately trimmed, which is particularly important for its final appearance as many of the parts coming out of our moulds are visible to the end user in the vehicles.”
Concluding, he explains why the company first invested in WorkNC in 1994, and how it has developed since then: “In the 90s, mould makers started receiving files from India and China in which radii and planar surfaces didn’t conform to the original part, and it was no longer possible to program with CATIA. Even back then, WorkNC could rapidly generate a tool path, irrespective of a part’s complexity or imperfect surfaces.
“WorkNC has developed in line with the requirements of milling operators, who had previously programmed tool paths directly at the machine tool. We have total confidence in working with it on a daily basis, and it helps us to take issues such as holidays, sickness absences and machine downtime in our stride. It means we can set ourselves apart as a mould maker, ahead of our competitors.”
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