“In design, we continue to use Catia—a powerful and effective design software,” he continues. “After the design completes, we use Moldplus SA as a translator to convert files into Mastercam.”
The file translator add-on also can import model-based definition entities, associating them with the imported automated geometry inside of the Mastercam software, which significantly saves programming time, says Mamerow. The overall ability to ramp up its feeds and speeds made the software a must-have for X-Cel Tooling.
More-Precise, More-Efficient Cutting
“The Mastercam Dynamic Motion toolpaths provided another reason for the software switch,” Mamerow says.
Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion dynamic-milling technology, also known as constant chip loading, employs algorithms that evaluate the motion of the tool in relation to the chip load upon the tool and constantly adjusts the cutter path to provide consistent engagement throughout the entire cut. Unlike traditional offset toolpaths, according to Mastercam officials, Dynamic Motion toolpaths use the information gathered during previous cuts and what remains to be cut to adjust the tool accordingly for the safest possible motion. When the entire tool flute length engages with the workpiece material, the technology keeps stepovers, stepdowns and air cuts to a minimum, easing stresses on the tool and workpiece, and allowing for faster feeds and speeds.
“We could not program that feature with our old software,” says Mamerow. “We watched videos of it ripping material off of a block like crazy and said, ‘We’ve got to try to get this here.’ With dynamic milling, we determined that we could cut material out faster with a 0.5-in. coated mill than we could before with a 2-in. cutter. We invested a lot of money in the tooling along with the new software because of these new capabilities.”
X-Cel Tooling also has optimized programming as a result of the software addition.
“We’re two years in now and programming hours have decreased significantly,” Mamerow says, commenting on the dramatic reduction. “We’ve been coming in under quoted hours on pretty much every job. And, our machining has been improving the entire time. We’re constantly learning more about the tooling, the dynamic milling, the roughing—when to use it and how to use it. We’re roughing at about 350 in./min., and finishing at more than 180 in./min. We never approached these speeds prior to using this software.”
Machining form blocks represents a X-Cel Tooling challenge that benefits from the CAD/CAM upgrade. Consider a form block that starts out as a 4.5 by 7 by 9-in. block of D2 steel and requires a contour tolerance of ±0.0005 in. Machinists have achieved optimal cutting speeds using the Mastercam Dynamic OptiRough toolpaths with a 2-in.-high feed mill at a spindle speed of 1350 rpm at 275 in./min. OptiRest toolpaths, which enable rapid material removal with minimal tool stress, perform finishing operations.
“Dynamic OptiRest makes reworking areas with smaller radii very efficient,” says Mark Ebert, X-Cel Tooling CNC programmer, noting that the Mastercam software’s Verify function to run simulations prior to performing cuts provides quite a bonus. “It’s definitely a huge upgrade from what we had. It basically shows the exact way to handle cutting on the shop floor and eliminates a lot of the errors.”
Standardizing Pays Dividends
Standardization also brings efficiencies, as a single CAM-software program across all machine types streamlines the entire shop-floor operation. This proves especially beneficial for the one wire programmer charged with operating six wire EDM machines. He downloads the part model from Catia, then programs the toolpaths in Mastercam Wire across all of the machines. The same holds true for the 2D laser cutting machine, with laser cutting quickly programmed after importing a DXF, Step or Catia file using basic mill-entry software.
In addition, one software program operating across all machines has helped in keeping staff trained and flexible, according to Mamerow. Associates trained on the software easily can move on to programming for the wire EDM machine or 2D laser cutter. Also, the ability to create an X+ setup sheet in the software (available as an add-on) has enabled X-Cel to streamline operations on the shop floor, keeping everyone on the same page and establishing a set of instructions and parameters for all to follow.
“We worked for a couple of months to get the setup sheet to a point where the operators know exactly what they’re doing, and know exactly what tool we want to be in a program,” Mamerow says, noting that ShopWare, Inc., the Mastercam reseller that provided the software to X-Cel Tooling, assisted in customizing the setup sheets. “We used to have a good setup sheet with our old system and we still wanted the operators to have detailed instructions. They don’t have a computer in front of them when running the machines, so they must rely on our programs to be accurate and the setup sheets to be correct.”
All of this points to Mastercam as essential for cross-training, an important part of the shop-floor experience at X-Cel where machinists, toolmakers, laser operators, CNC operators and others must be able to fill in wherever necessary. As the company works with local high schools and technical trade schools to fill apprenticeship opportunities, and because most of the students learn Mastercam in the classroom, they are easily cross-trainable. Currently, X-Cel employs three apprentices from a local high school.
“The goal is to get them here and then, as they progress through the company, they can become tool and die apprentices,” explains Mamerow. “They learn the tool and die trade but also get into some of the machining techniques as well. I also have some experience with bringing on new people with Mastercam. They come in and transition very quickly. A lot of technical schools around here teach the software, so to know that people out there know Mastercam is a big plus for the company.”
Hitting the ground running means that X-Cel Tooling can continue along its growth path into 2022 and beyond.
“We look forward to continuing to grow and learn new technologies within the software in the years ahead,” concludes Mamerow. MF
Article supplied by CNC Software, Inc., Tolland, CT; 860/875-5006; www.mastercam.com.
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See also: CNC Software, Inc.
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