An engineering subcontractor recently moved all of its CAM programming to Edgecam after Seco Tooling provided the company with support solutions to specific issues on complex components.
I&G Precision Engineering had used Edgecam to drive an Emco lathe operated by the firm’s hands-on managing director Andrew Evans since investing in CNC machinery in 1992. However, as the company expanded with further machine tools and more shop-floor staff, other CAM packages were introduced.
“Originally, we used Edgecam for both milling and turning on those new machines, but when I came off the tools we decided to try other systems, and it was eventually only used on the lathe,” he says.
Operating out of 11,000 sq ft premises in Ystalyfera, Swansea, with 11 employees, the company largely manufactures parts from stainless and tool steels, as well as aluminium, for aerospace, food, beverage, medical and defence customers, along with the Royal Mint. I&G makes a number of components for aerospace ground-support systems such as jigs and fixtures that are used to remove engines and wing parts. The company also produces everything from bakery equipment, including rollers for production machines and castings for dough-rollers, through to electronics housings for defence customers. In addition, the company has received commendations from the NHS for its work in devising breathing apparatus that help new-born babies inhale xenon gas as part of medical treatment.
Andrew’s son, Mike, who is engineering director and workshop manager, says that I&G works closely with Seco Tools, which recently provided the firm with tooling and programming support to improve the production process on a specific job.
“We saw immediate benefits, as the job used to take us around three hours – including two hours for just one operation – but using Edgecam the full process was completed in an hour,” says Mike Evans. “When we looked at how Edgecam machining strategies could improve our cycle times it became a no-brainer that we should go back to it on our range of Haas CNC machine tools, and our new Mazak vertical machining centre.”
All new components now go through Edgecam, and production runs of older parts are all being reprogrammed.
“We’re saving up to 40% on cutting cycles, which has a tremendous impact on the bottom line,” he says. “It improves our margins, making us more profitable and releases additional capacity to take on more work. Edgecam is a vital part of our manufacturing process now. It runs the entire production process.”
Evans says that the software’s milling and turning modules ensure they can ship between 600 and 700 components each month, normally on a three to four week lead time.
“Edgecam is so simple to use,” he states. “The customer sends us a STEP or IGES file, or any other CAD file, which we import into the software and create fixtures and fittings, identify the CNC machine we’ll be using, and the stock. Then we run ‘Feature Finder’ to identify all the features of the parts, and generate tool paths.”
“Machining processes are considerably more stable now than under our previous CADCAM package,” continues Evans. “With our old software, when the cutter was coming into a corner you could see the machine loads spiking, which we don’t get with Edgecam. We can run programs overnight, rein the step-overs back and know the tooling will last for the entire production run.”
He describes Edgecam’s ‘Waveform Roughing’ capability as “massive” for the company’s growth plans, in terms of driving down cycle times and increasing capacity, enabling I&G to take on additional work.
“We do a lot of 3D milling on features such as pockets, and we previously undertook the roughing cycles in the traditional way, often just stepping down 1 mm at a time. However, Edgecam allows us to step down up to 10 or 15 mm at a time. Then, as we pocket out to those depths, we can profile back and come out of the pockets, so it saves considerable time.
“At first, when those programs were coming in from Seco Tools, we were concerned that the increased feeds and speeds would break the cutters,” he adds. “But then we saw how well they worked, and it now gives us the opportunity to push the machines to their limits.”
He cites a project where Waveform slashed the roughing cycle from 30 to 10 minutes, and helped reduce the overall machining time by half.
“We manufacture a particular component for the atomising industry, which is used to turn metal into a powder for hard surfacing materials. Traditionally it was a turning job, but Waveform means we can now mill the grooves. This was a huge revelation, and made us think of doing jobs in a completely different way.”
The company is planning more investment in the coming 12 months, including the purchase of Edgecam Inspect, which creates measurement cycles on machine tools.
“This means we’ll be able to inspect every part on the machine if necessary, after each operation, and provide a customer report,” says Evans. I&G is also considering a five-axis machine, and possibly a CMM from Hexagon.
Concluding, Evans says he introduces Edgecam to the company’s apprentices immediately.
“We’ve currently got three apprentices at various stages, and they’ve all taken to Edgecam like a duck to water. The skill set is changing; a lot of the old traditional craftsmen’s skills are dying out, and engineers need to embrace computer-led skills to produce the components properly. Edgecam helps engineers deliver what’s needed by offering several ways of achieving the same result.”
For further information www.edgecam.com