Technology Supports Machining of Higher Power

The ability to work with customers from such diverse industries as aerospace, medical, architectural, and signage, requires a job shop to be flexible, experienced, and on top of its game. Diversified Metals Services, Inc. (DMSI) in Salt Lake City, Utah expanded its water jet and router cutting capabilities to accommodate a wide range of sizes and materials with the addition of the sixth and seventh axes in the form of a robotic arm. This heavenly combination proved helpful when DMSI was asked to machine a bust of Jesus Christ out of pure marble.

The company typically machines three-dimensional parts on one of five water jet machines—one 7-axis (the robot), three 5-axis, and one 3-axis—as well as two 5-axis routers and one 3-axis router when necessary. The fastest 5-axis machine operates up to 87,000 psi. While one machine cuts 3D shaped components to customer specifications out of ¾ inch carbon composite, another cuts similar components from glass.

According to Mike Long, DMSI President, programmers need to be well-trained in building programming for the different industries the company serves. With tight lead times, there is no room for error. For the whole operation to work smoothly, the team of three programmers and 20 machinists use Mastercam to verify that the program is airtight, and the actual machining is done right the first time.

Machining the marble bust of Christ was a good test for the software’s capabilities. Using a portable CMM arm and laser tracker to reverse engineer a clay bust supplied by an artist, the programmers built the cut paths in Mastercam.

This was one of the first projects DMSI did with the 5-axis router. Programming the cutting tool to avoid collisions between the router head and the marble stock, while machining the complex contours of a face, required some additional thought.

The software’s Verify function played an important part in ensuring that these collisions did not occur but, according to Nate Scoffield, head machine programmer, some customization was needed to build the tool holder. Scoffield added that he learned many additional functions of the software by doing this project, including the compare feature, which indicates where a load is light or heavy on a color map.

The bust is more of a square shape, but the software prefers that a holder be built in a cylindrical shape. The team built custom holders by using the dimensions of the actual transom head, yielding a holder that was bigger than they needed it to be to ensure that there was enough clearance.

“Using Mastercam’s Verify feature, we had no collisions with the marble—which would have been catastrophic,” said Long. “The ability to see the job within the software allowed us to preview the cut path so we were able to make sure, for the most part, that collisions with the actual marble did not take place.”

“It’s more of an elementary challenge now. We were able to begin with building a bust. The tolerances aren’t as critical as they are in the aircraft industry, but the knowledge we were able to achieve with that bust has definitely been a fair amount moving forward,” said Long.

“The bust was very complex, very detailed. We’re able to use the knowledge that we acquired from that particular project to everything we do today. It has also been beneficial for the aerospace industry,” echoed Scoffield.

Today, DMSI’s water jet system can cut nearly any shape from materials ranging from 1/8” to 8” thick, with a radius as tight as 0.020”, and tolerances up to +/- 0.005”. The sixth and seventh axis robotic heads can cut in virtually any direction owing, in part, to their inverted position. By putting faith in the technology, DMSI has been able to serve its diverse array of customers well.