Mastercam Speeds up the Prototype to Production Part Cycle

The typical prototype to production part cycle can last weeks into months into years. Imagine the delight of Northwood Industries’ Owner and President Kurt Miller when a longtime customer ordered 50 production parts two months after the part—the trigger part of a commercial spray paint gun handle—was redesigned.

Based in Perrysburg, Ohio, Northwood Industries provides precision-machined component parts, mechanical assemblies, and engineering design services to manufacturing companies throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. More than half of its work comes from the coatings and solar energy industries.

Northwood Industry Nozzel in Mastercam

The customer with the trigger for the spray paint gun is a manufacturer of fluid coatings equipment for the application of paints, coatings, and sprayed materials. They approached Miller for help with modifying the trigger part into a “3-finger trigger” for better fit and handling for smaller hands. The Northwood Industries team helped them re-design the trigger part and produced three sample prototypes. And then the order came through, asking to have the nozzles produced as soon as possible.

“When we initially programmed the trigger part,” said Kevin Carter, Turning Operations Leader at Northwood Industries, “it was the first of its kind for us, and it took me six hours to machine just that one part.

“But by the time the order for 50 parts came in, we had upgraded our software to the latest version of Mastercam, figured out how to better utilize the software, and reduced the job from two operations to one. We started with the Model Prep feature, but it was the Dynamic Motion technology that really helped us achieve shorter lead time and faster production time. Also, Mastercam’s OptiRough toolpaths made it easier to polish the part right there, eliminating the finishing step. We got the job done and out the door in no time.”

Northwood Industry finished part

Dynamic Milling uses proprietary algorithms programmed into the software to automatically detect changes in the material as the tool cuts through. The tool remains engaged with the material, minimizing air cuts and allowing the machines to be pushed to full capacity. Depending on the speeds, machining time can be cut between 25 to 75 percent.

Ideal for finishing and polishing operations, OptiRough toolpaths use Dynamic Motion, but in a more precise way. The cut uses 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. Using the software’s Verify function, Carter was able to determine whether the faster cutting speeds would cause collisions or ruin material by simulating the entire operation on the screen.

Northwood Industry finished part

According to Miller, it’s not only about fast turnaround. He said the quality of Northwood Industries’ machined products has also improved, based on the toolpath selections that are made and the way that the parts are now machined.

He explained that the Dynamic toolpaths and Verify have given his company a valuable competitive advantage when it comes to meeting the quick turnaround needs of its customers. Miller said the company now seizes every opportunity when it can consolidate manufacturing operations so that more can be performed at the machine during a single setup. The reduced set-up time and improvement in manufacturing productivity has been remarkable.

You can read more about the development of the trigger part in the Manufacturing Engineering article: CAD/CAM Delivers a Precision Machined Grip.