Mastercam Reseller Provides Support for Van Dam Custom Boats
Founded in 1994, Axsys Inc. in Wixom, Michigan, is focused on providing the best possible software technology and services available for the design, manufacture, and inspection of products and tooling. Nearly every representative at Axsys has programming and machining experience, meaning issues get resolved just as quickly as they arise. Using real world expertise to deliver tool solutions, the Axsys team can assist customers in achieving their goals and objectives.
When master craftsman, Steve Van Dam, founder of Van Dam Custom Boats in Boyne City, Michigan, upgraded to CNC machines, he needed to find a powerful CAD/CAM software that had a simple user interface and would optimize his machines. The decision was easy. “We talked to a number of different machine shops, and the overwhelming answer we got was, don’t shop around; go buy a Haas, then go buy Mastercam, and you’ll be all set,” Van Dam said. The team bought a Haas VF4 and Mastercam, and never looked back.
One of the software features that machinist Jesse “Jess” Brown uses most often is Model Prep. The solid modeling technology allows design and simulation to happen simultaneously, streamlining the production process. For example, when designing sailboat port lights, Model Prep allows programmers to move, delete, or suppress any and all parts of the model as they work. “We started out with a quick mapping sketch of how we thought we could make it better. Jess took it and did the solid modeling. We brainstormed how the hinge was going to work, how the latching mechanism was going to work, how the seal was going to work, and he did all that modeling in Mastercam,” said Van Dam.
Dynamic Motion technology, which maximizes cutting efficiency by using proprietary algorithms to monitor changes in the material as it is being machined, is another feature used by Brown. “A big thing for us is finding anything we can do to make a better finish, because the hand work that follows that up is very intensive,” Van Dam said, “That’s where we’re using Dynamic toolpaths the most; roughing the material quickly and having surface finishes that help us get that polish faster.”
Joel Bartell, Axsys Account Manager, was there to guide the Van Dam team from the beginning. Having heard of the extreme cutting speeds that can be achieved with OptiRough toolpaths, the Van Dam team was disappointed when the removal rates fell below expectations at first. Bartell quickly solved the problem the team was experiencing with machining rudders out of 316L stainless steel. “The stack up of tolerances over the complete length was giving enough runout to prevent the quality removal rate,” he explained. He recommended shortening the tool holder and switching to a centering collet. The results were immediate. “Once the runout on the tool was removed, the chips were so heavy that they had to be removed with a garden hose hooked up to the coolant tank.”
Mastercam makes even the most challenging cuts simpler. Figuring out how to hold small parts, like mast bushings that measure an inch in diameter, proved to be difficult for Brown and Van Dam, but luckily, they have a solid support system. They call on Axsys whenever there is a problem. Van Dam Custom Boats had representatives from Axsys perform on-site training initially, but now Brown and Van Dam go to Axsys’ headquarters to stay current with the newest updates.
“The software’s given us more freedom to be creative, and I think that’s what’s important to us. Not necessarily that we’re able to cut 10 parts when we used to be able to cut one. It’s how we can draw a very artistic shape, which we could never really do before,” said Van Dam.
“And if they’re really stumped, they call Axsys and say: We are having this problem, is there a solution for this out there? And then they point us in the direction of that solution,” said Ben Van Dam, Company President. “Early on, they were here for on-site training for us when we were trying to get up-to-speed. We were breaking all kinds of tools and trying to figure this whole thing out. We’ve done their training that they have in-house, and then they’ve been here a couple times. A lot of those guys have not only programming experience, but machining experience, too.”
The company plans to continue their legacy of quality and luxury in the future and is making plans to expand to 4- and 5-axis machining soon.