CAD/CAM Software Takes the Tension Out of Manufacturing Lead Times

Allstrap, Inc., (Upper Arlington, OH) specializes in the manufacture of steel and poly straps that hold large cargo bundles together for transport, as well as the pneumatic and battery-operated tensioning tools that keep the straps taut. Recently, the company has seen an increase in demand for its Golden Bear light weight battery-operated tools which perform cutting, tensioning, and sealing operations 30 to 50 percent faster than their pneumatic counterparts, with the touch of a button. To meet the need, the company has combined powerful Mastercam CAD/CAM software with a 5-axis CNC universal milling machine to significantly reduce production time.

Made from aluminum, stainless steel, or 4140 pre-hardened steel and comprised of 25 to 100 components, the tools weigh between 6 to 15 lbs. According to company president Josh Sikora, once the concept for a tool and its parts are finalized, they will switch to either stainless or 4140 for the end product. Machining these stronger, lighter-weight steel materials without tool breakage and other mishaps in a reasonable amount of time was a challenge. In order to optimize a new 5-axis CNC universal milling machine, they needed to invest in a different CAD/CAM software package with features that would push the machine harder.

Sikora had heard of Mastercam and contacted Kevin Richardson at FASTech, Inc. (Reseller in Findlay, OH) whose experience with the software made the decision to purchase easy.

The powerful combination of the new machine and the software allowed the team to significantly reduce the time needed to make two of the tool components. According to Programmer Bob Freeman, the machine has a 50-hp spindle, 60-position tool changer and runs 600 psi through the tool coolant. “When you’re machining at 18,000 RPM and running all that coolant, you really can’t see what you’re doing so you have to rely on your software to get that code where it needs to be or you’re going to get lost fairly quickly and have problems,” said Freeman. He uses a dovetail fixture and the Chick OneLOK workholding device to hold the materials securely. “The vice lets us precisely soft jaw a part on the machine table within a thousandth of an inch, which is close enough for the tolerances we’re working with on the back of the part, and it makes the production work simply and accurately, said Freeman.”

Freeman runs a ¾” endmill with serrations and 5/8″ of flute at 190 inches-per-minute at 12,700 RPMs in 6061 aluminum. Freeman says: “We’re taking half the diameter of the cutter so that’s 3/8 of an inch and we’re cutting it 1.5 inches deep. At 190 inches-per-minute that would be 107 cubic inches-per-minute of material that we’re removing,” he said. Such speeds are possible using Dynamic Motion technology which, through the use of proprietary algorithms programmed into the software, detects changes in the geometries and keeps the tool constantly engaged in the material, reducing air cutting and tool breakage. No matter what the speed, even the bigger endmills automatically know where to go according to Freeman’s program. The toolpath can be programmed in five minutes or less. After roughing, finishing routines are tailored to take leftover stock and create 3D geometries simply and easily.

Because it’s difficult to detect problems when running the machines at such speeds, Freeman relies on the software even more to help prevent problems at the outset. “It can be confusing to try to stop the machine to look at something because you often have 30 to 40 minutes of cutting time in and you might have 20 or 30 tools running.”

Issues within the machine can be detected while running a job using the software’s Productivity+ Add-On, which allows Freeman to program and simulate Allstrap’s Renishaw probe and laser system, performing simple measurements and alignments to verify what is going on inside of the machine, saving downtime, and giving him peace of mind.