Troubleshooting with CAD/CAM Software
Hi-Tech Machining Company in Spartanburg, South Carolina has come a long way since its beginning in Robert Fowler’s backyard in 1987. Now a driving force in the manufacturing industry, Hi-Tech specializes in designing, machining, and repairing custom molds and parts for a wide variety of clients.
- Product Used: Mill, Lathe, Wire
- Industry: Tool & Die
- The Challenge: Machine a complex, multi-angled fork plate as simply as possible, eliminating errors while saving time and reducing wear and tear on an endmill.
- The Solution: Mastercam
- Improves manufacturing productivity by reducing set-up time and consolidating manufacturing operations.
- Angles ranging from 11 to 90 degrees are possible due to the Solids feature which allows solid model manipulation on the fly.
- Verify feature allows programmers to see the entire machining operation before it runs, resulting in a simplified post code for the fork plate.
- Entire operation is performed with one 3/8” endmill due to streamlined post.
Each project that comes through is unique, and the manufacturing team rarely sees the same part twice. To handle the variability in work, Robert Fowler’s son, current president of Hi-Tech Machining Robbie Fowler, has outfitted the shop with a wire EDM, three vertical machining centers, three CNC turning centers powered by Mastercam.
“We do a good bit of prototype machining. In the past, if it was a complicated 3D shape, there was no way for us to do it. But there’s no doubt that if we didn’t have Mastercam, then quite a number of parts on the floor we just couldn’t do. At least not it in a fashion that would have been profitable,” he shared.
One such part is a fork plate that the Hi-Tech team was recently contracted to manufacture. The complicated part, made from 41/40 steel, required an even more complicated machining sequence. Caleb Knight, a programmer at Hi-Tech, explained, “The vertical machining center actually drills both ends with a trunnion that rotates up, so it drills one end and then the other. The basic operation on this is 2D High Speed with some pockets.”
Each of the angles, ranging from 11 to 90 degrees, had to be evaluated individually. Each required its own operations and turn, adding significantly to the intricacy of the programming process. Knight said, “This part is kind of complex because zeroes are usually on the part or the zero is at the center of the rotary axis. So instead of touching the part off, you have to move the part to zero. The software really helps.”
Mastercam modeling and simulation features help Hi-Tech follow every step of the machining process. Knight often used Solids to view the model and to adjust it. “You can bring the actual curve vice in. Then we get a stock model,” explained Knight. Solid models can be manipulated easily within the interface, allowing programmers to push and pull surfaces and edges.
Knight also relies on simulation features like Verify. These toolpaths show programmers the finished shape of their components while checking for gouges and other problems. Knight used them to simplify the fork plate code. Eventually the code was so streamlined that, apart from the radius, the entire part could be made with one 3/8” endmill.
The Hi-Tech programming team and innovative CAD/CAM software are a powerful pair. Fowler shared that the people in his shop are all knowledgeable, but that he respected their dedication and problem-solving abilities far more than their experience. They rarely face a problem that they can’t solve alone. Fowler is confident in their abilities and is looking to the future for more opportunities to put their creativity to use.
“Mastercam is the first process of all of our jobs. We rarely ever get repeat jobs, so most of the time it’s the first process in manufacturing the parts that we do. We hit Mastercam and create a program. Most times, we get a model from our customer so we work straight from their models. Mastercam is a huge part of our first process.”– Robbie Fowler, Hi-Tech Machining Company, Inc., President