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Part 5: Scalable CAM Technology Helps Small Shops Grow

How small shops can use advanced CAM software features to achieve steady incremental growth 

Part 5: Optimize the workflow

In this blog we will look at some of the ways small shop owners are using their advanced CAM capabilities to get more parts completed sooner, without compromising quality. 

Reprogram repeat jobs to improve profitability: Generally shops, especially startups, are not enthusiastic about “fixing what ain’t broke.” However, shops that started out using conventional CNC programming can often improve the profitability of work that comes in on a regular basis by rewriting the programs using material aware toolpaths. Often the cost associated with rewriting the program can be recovered in terms of increased machining productivity the first time the reprogrammed parts have been machined.

Flexible workholding solutions: Having a variety of flexible workholding solutions that can be quickly adapted to the types of manufacturing your customers request allows you to get parts on and off the machine faster. Having several holding solutions in or on the machine allows you to gang up jobs for continuous production. If you can trust the fixtures and get multiple parts on the machine effortlessly, the focus of manufacturing productivity shifts back to the advanced CAM software that is up to the challenge of generating part programs as quickly as possible.

Maximizing machine hours: It is important to get as many operating hours as possible out of your CNC machine. If you have the work, then you can hire part-time operators to load programs and take parts on and off the machine. If you have more complex parts or machines with multiple workholding solutions, you can also load it up and run lights-out (unattended) so that your machine can do the work while you are home with the family or getting some badly needed rest. If you have made simulation a way of life, you can machine these parts with confidence even though no one is present in the shop.

Tool libraries: Your understanding of best feeds and speeds to use with specific tools for various part geometries is proprietary knowledge that allows you to machine more effectively. This knowledge should be available to everyone who works in the shop, and should not have to be recalculated and re-entered into the CNC program every time a similar job comes in. Tool libraries capture this valuable information and automatically enter it into subsequent programs. This saves time, while it ensures that everyone who programs CNC equipment is using proven settings that are most appropriate for the work at hand.

Setup sheets: Similarly, as the shop grows, the knowledge that was once resident in the head of the owner/primary programmer must be shared consistently with other machinist/programmers and operators. Marking up drawings and images of setups is an approach that is taken most frequently. Small startups have a unique opportunity to achieve team communication consistency at the outset by developing setup sheets that concisely convey—in computer generated images and word—exactly how a part should be set up and run. This is far easier to do when there are one or two machines and just a few people than a few years down the road when multiple approaches to conveying part setup information have to be sorted out.

Template-based CNC programming: When it comes to making families of parts, one good manufacturing program can serve as a template for many other similar parts. This makes it possible to generate manufacturing programs in minutes simply by dragging and dropping toolpaths and other information picked off the master program template.


Part 4: Scalable CAM Technology Helps Small Shops Grow

How small shops can use advanced CAM software features to achieve steady incremental growth 

Part 4: Pair advanced cutting tools with Dynamic Motion

Start-up shops have a unique opportunity to obtain a competitive advantage immediately by deciding to use the best obtainable cutting tools (from the standpoint of cost and performance) and maximizing the value of that decision by using advanced software capabilities that allow you to use those tools for all they are worth. 

Quality cutting tools: Although they are more expensive, advanced carbide tool designs cut faster and last longer than conventional cutting tools. When paired with the right toolpaths and coolant, they can pay for themselves many times over in terms of increased productivity. Two to three times improvements in roughing cycle performance are frequently reported. However, these tools have to be paired with the right cutting motions to fully achieve all of what the new tool designs can potentially offer.

Intelligent, material-aware CAM software: Advanced cutting algorithms like those incorporated in Mastercam, with dynamic motion technology, continually adjust cutting tool feeds, speeds, entries, and exits based on the program’s knowledge of actual material conditions ahead of the tool at any moment in time. This provides for a consistently smooth tool motion that allows the tool to cut at the maximum allowable chip loads without any fear of generating excessive wear or breaking the tool. 

This approach to cutting results in three major benefits to the end user:

  • Tool wear and associated costs are substantially reduced
  • Material removal rates are significantly increased
  • And, because of the intelligence embedded in the software, CNC programs can be generated in a fraction of the time required to write programs with the previous generation of toolpaths

Mastercam X9 Preview – A Tip About Tool Tips

Mastercam X9 Preview –  A Tip About Tool Tips 

Today we’ll look at where “the rubber meets the road” in manufacturing – the contact point between your cutter and the material.

Mastercam X9 introduces new containment boundary options for better control over your tool tip and actual tool contact point. All surface high speed toolpaths now include a new containment page. Surface high speed finishing toolpaths also support new ways to treat your containment boundaries for more control over your motion. 

You can choose “tool tip” to run the center of your tool as the compensation point for all containment boundaries just as you do now in Mastercam. But now you also have the option to choose “contact point”, shifting the compensation to the tool contact point to run on your containment boundaries. This new option ensures more material removal while simplifying your programming efforts.

Tool Tip Containment Tool Contact Point Containment

Scalable CAM Technology Helps Small Shops Grow


How small shops can use advanced CAM software features to achieve steady incremental growth

Part 3: Make the right opening moves

Growing a manufacturing shop is very much like playing chess or some other complex board game. There are a great many pieces that can be brought into play depending on the situation the shop finds itself in. How efficiently the owners make these moves will determine how successful the shop will be from that point forward. The ability to make the appropriate moves to grow a small manufacturing business depends to a large degree on the robustness of the CAM software that will become integral to the shop’s CNC manufacturing workflow.

This is why the owners should avoid getting boxed in with simplistic CAM software that presents well but does not allow them to go deep with more advanced capabilities as the company grows. Simpler CAM software costs less early on. But as the shop’s requirements multiply, it will eventually have to double back and invest in a more comprehensive solution and, even worse, spend already scarce time learning how to use it.

A better alternative for startups is to choose a scalable CAM package that allows users to purchase at various levels and upgrade as needed so that the business can keep moving forward.

With scalable CAM software in place, here are two important game pieces small shop owners have employed to move their start-up businesses into a stronger position:

Customized posts: Getting your CNC to behave exactly as you would expect based on the code output generated by your CAM software. This allows for higher operating efficiencies as additional CNC equipment is installed because each machine will behave consistently as expected. The customized post will also ensure that code is presented in the same format if some editing is to be done on the machine.

Robust computers and infrastructure: Powerful computers with fast processors and sufficient RAM make programming faster. Networks give multiple users quick access to common files so that CNC programming solutions are easy to share and post at the machine.


Join us at PMTS in Columbus!

If you’re in the Columbus, OH area from April 21 – 23, be sure to make your way over to the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the Precision Machining Technology Show. PMTS is the only show in North America dedicated to the Precision Machining Industry. Join the over 5,000 manufacturing professionals who are moving the industry forward. 

In the Mastercam booth (#437), we’ll be showcasing the upcoming X9 release, as well as Mastercam Swiss and Mill-Turn. We hope to see you there!

You can register for the show at the PMTS website. If you’re interested in seeing what’s new in Mastercam X9, make sure to visit http://whatsnew.mastercam.com/ 


Hyundai-Wia Open House

Get your box seats, program, hot dogs and refreshments at Hyundai-Wia’s first annual "Showcase 20" Open House event.

On April 21-23, join us at the Hyundai Wia Grandstand, their 22,000 square foot facility located at 265 Spring Lake Drive, Itasca, IL 60143. They will be showcasing over 20 CNC machines, of which eight are new. They'll will also have demos, dining and drinks! It is sure to be a Grand Slam event that you will not want to miss!

Click here to register. 


Two-Minute Tuesday - April 14, 2015

Check out today's video with tips and techniques for using Mastercam for SOLIDWORKS!

 


X9 Preview: How to Learn More

Mastercam X9 Preview – Want to Learn More?

This week we’re taking a break from showcasing new items in Mastercam X9. Instead, we’ll answer a question we often hear when previewing new Mastercam features. Namely: how can I learn more?

There are several ways to get news about the latest from Mastercam:

  • This blog. We post new items three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Much of the material focuses on Mastercam functionality.
  • Our monthly eNews. Once a month we e-mail out quick-hit topics from the Mastercam newsroom. It’s a great way to keep an eye on what’s happening. You can sign up here
  • The official Mastercam forum. If you’re on maintenance you can join our forum and talk directly with CNC Software employees and other Mastercam users. You’ll get tips and tricks, discussions of upcoming releases, and answers to questions.
  • Your Mastercam reseller. Many resellers host events or e-mail newsletters to keep their customers up to speed. Contact your Mastercam reseller and ask what they have to offer. 
  • Try it! And, as always, the best way to see what’s new is to take the software for a test drive. If you’re a maintained user you can join our Public Beta program and download X9 right now!

Scalable CAM Technology Helping Small Shops Grow - Part Two


Scalable CAM Technology Helping Small Shops Grow

How small shops can use advanced CAM software features to achieve steady incremental growth


Part 2: Basic strategy—one good part deserves another
With increasing frequency today, small startup shops are adopting advanced CAM-centric approaches to manufacturing out of necessity to compensate for the limited funds available for investment in capital equipment and employees. Ironically, this approach often results in a surprising advantage when sales growth allows the shop to move into an expansion phase.

The shop may decide to grow by incrementally adding help, increasing shifts, implementing a new workholding solution, or another CNC machine. Whatever the case, the best practices already in place to support advanced manufacturing technologies are readily scalable so the transition is likely to go smoothly and quickly.

Most new job shops start out with limited resources. Typically one or two people buy a mill and perhaps a lathe and start taking on work, usually from people who are already acquainted with them. Initial jobs are followed by others, if the shop meets three simple requirements:

  • Quality: Make a part that meets the spec. No exceptions allowed, at least not for a start-up.
  • Price: Come in at or, better still, below the competition.
  • Delivery: Meet your customers’ delivery expectations — often responding with very short lead times.

Quality will allow the owners to keep their new customer. Price will keep them near the top of his list as new projects are considered. Fast deliveries will differentiate them and grow their business faster than others. More work will come sooner. After awhile, other factors impacting the small shop's growth potential will come into play.

  • Volume: Consistently meeting Quality/Price/Delivery expectations as the queue of work being processed through the shop becomes larger and larger.
  • Complexity: Responding to requests for making parts with more complex geometries and surfaces or making fast-turn, short-run families of parts.
  • Value-Added: Taking on more secondary operations, making sub-assemblies, or providing design for manufacturing guidance to help make parts perform better or cost less.

Startup shops that arrive at this phase of development have really begun to solidify their standing with their customers, transforming the relationship into more of a manufacturing partnership than a simple vendor/customer relationship.


X9 Beta: Rethinking Repositioning
Note: Our latest beta is ready to go! If you’re a maintained user and want to check out X9, please join the thousands of shops worldwide who are taking X9 for a test drive. 


Rethinking repositioning

In today’s X9 preview we take a look at a crucial element of complex machining that is not intended to remove material - repositioning between cuts. Fast and safe repositioning helps you make the most of your multiaxis equipment by eliminating unneeded motion.

Mastercam X9’s new Multiaxis Link option ensures reposition moves between 2-5 axis operations are safe and collision-free. Select a list of operations and a safety zone shape (defined either manually or automatically), and Mastercam X9 creates safe transition moves based on those choices. A clear preview helps you in your safety zone definition.



You can quickly select an axis of rotation and output the reposition moves at your rapid feed rate or any other preferred feed rate. Operation repositioning is safer and more efficient than ever before.