Blade Expert Helps Bullet Proof a 5-axis Post

According to Derek Goodwin, CEO of the Goodwin Manufacturing Group (a product design, prototyping and manufacturing consulting firm), there are a number of issues that must be resolved to get 5-axis systems working to their full potential. Goodwin explained that there is a widespread misconception that you just call a post-developer and order a post for a particular machine. In truth, that is only the beginning of the process.

Within the post itself there are dozens of places that require decisions about what the post should instruct the equipment to do. Some of these are technically complex; others are just matters of preferences regarding a myriad of things from retract distances to coolant timing.

Post developers typically handle requests for information to resolve these issues by sending the client a very long questionnaire. Checking off all of these little details can take hours and days of research based on understanding what code the CAM system will output and how a specific controller is going to respond.

Customers who respond by giving answers off the top of their heads are likely to be disappointed in the first draft of the post and its development will lag while the equipment is unused or underused. For postprocessor development, the Goodwin Manufacturing Group frequently takes on the role of customer surrogate, giving the post developers everything they need in detail.

Yet even when most of these issues have been meticulously addressed, there can be surprises. New 5-axis posts must be rigorously proven out before they become part of a mainstream manufacturing process. The most demanding test for a 5-axis post is a complex part that requires simultaneous 5-axis machining.

Recently, Goodwin’s team worked with a large contract manufacturer to implement a 5-axis process on the rotary table of a twin pallet horizontal mill. Goodwin said, “It was a brand new machine and they did enough 5-axis work to know that the process must be thoroughly proven before it can be offered to customers without the risk of violating their lead time expectations. We decided the best test for this post would be manufacturing an impeller. Impeller programming can be very complicated and this company had not written one yet. We bridged this gap by installing Mastercam’s Blade Expert software, which creates complete programs simply by having the programmer enter data into a series of menu options in the software.”

The post developer was able to quickly respond to the minor problems detected after running variations of the initial Blade Expert program. The project was completed in just a few weeks. The company not only wound up with a proven 5-axis manufacturing system and postprocessor, but also a process for generating programs for impellers and blisks.

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