Fifth Generation Manufacturer Combines Strength of CAD/CAM Software and Machines to Meet Needs of Aerospace Customers

In 2015, Colter Kaspar acquired the assets of a job shop and founded Kormachine. About 25 percent of Waco-based Kormachine’s work consists of machining or prototyping custom and batch parts for the aerospace industry. Quick turnaround times are critical to attracting and retaining customers. Orders range from a one-off custom part to a mini roll out of 1500 parts per month, which are cut 400 to 500 pieces at a time and then shipped out in bulk. Space X relies on the company to test non-critical parts in short periods of time. The ability to meet stringent aerospace specifications in short time spans gives Kormachine the edge over other shops its size.

Colter Kaspar kormachine

The red tape often associated with aerospace orders can take up valuable manufacturing and approval time, which can cause what started out as a routine job to become a rush job when approvals are finally issued. One thing Kormachine has in its back pocket is the benefit of investing in Mastercam as the company’s CAD/CAM solution. This enables the shop to read CATIA, CATPART, and CATPRODUCT files with all relevant machining planes and axes via a translator module. Programmers can import the CATIA V5 tree with notes in the file, read in certain CATIA files directly, and write out MODEL files from Mastercam among other tasks.

Kaspar shared, “Through our Mastercam translator, we can accept and machine off the CATIA program. There are aerospace companies that will only work with you if you have the CATIA program and others that will only let you work on certain projects. We can operate and run off it, no problem.”

Kormachine often receives solid model drawings of parts requiring programmers to analyze the solid’s surface curvature to identify undercuts and minimum radius. “We analyze the part, because we often don’t have a print to work off of, so we usually engineer off a solid model. Being able to build a wire frame on top of a solid has been very helpful as well. And because you can draw, we build our own solids,” said Kaspar.

Many part drawings feature unusual shapes, tight tolerances, and complex geometries. Mastercam’s multiaxis toolpath capabilities provide Kormachine options when choosing high speed toolpaths. For traditional contouring and drilling, toolpaths employing Dynamic Motion technology are used.

But not all is clean cut with aerospace. Sometimes existing parts that have been damaged or broken need to be recreated without the convenience of a print and no solid model. In this case, the part is reverse engineered by drafting a new solid model, verifying its machinability and then sending it out for approvals.

“The nice thing about creating a solid model in SOLIDWORKS® and linking it in Mastercam is we know how we want it, so we can build it again,” said Kaspar. “We build the structure as a wireframe and then extract the solid from that. We actually have hard edges to route from the machine path or the toolpath. It may cost a little more in time up front, but in the end, it saves us a bundle of time because we can program it much faster; we know which parts are ours.”

Mastercam’s Model Prep feature allows drafting, printing, and then running the actual toolpath itself. OptiRough toolpaths, which apply Dynamic Motion in a more precise way, are used for more complex geometries. They use the entire flute length of the tool, but a small percentage of the tool’s diameter on the first cut, followed by several successive shorter cuts that bring the part into the net shape desired.

“The quicker cuts get the job done faster. We can plunge with the pocket and use the other three quarters length of the end mill instead of one quarter length which is essentially getting to the bottom. Time savings is the number one reason for us diving into the trickier cuts. Time is one of our most important assets, and that is what these cuts will do.” As a result, the machines are pushed as far as they can go. At times, the machines are run at 11,000 RPM spindle speed.

The software’s powerful modeling and milling features have helped Kormachine achieve AS9100D certification and deliver complex parts and prototypes quickly and flawlessly.

Learn more about this innovative job shop in the Manufacturing Engineering Magazine article: Mixing and Matching.