CAM software Complex work becomes much easier with flexible CAM solution

Editor: Alexander Stark

UK — As the subcontractor Pro-Cut Precision Engineering has acquired a multitude of 3 and 5-axis Hurco machine tools for machining complex parts, part programming was becoming a time-consuming process — that was until the Milton Keynes company invested in the Hypermill CAM system from Open Mind Technologies.

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The finished part and the Hypermill is rendered on-screen.
The finished part and the Hypermill is rendered on-screen.
(Source: Open Mind)

When Pro-Cut Precision Engineering opened its doors for business just over ten years ago, the objective was to invest in the very latest equipment to ensure the Milton Keynes business could machine high-quality components with short lead times.

The Little Horwood subcontract business works across several industry areas, serving the F1 and motorsport industry, the defence sector, industrial machinery and components and also the specialist high-speed imaging and microwave market. Explaining the reasoning behind investing in Open Mind's CAM software, Pro-Cut Precision Engineering’s programmer, Alex Parris-Hammons explains: “We previously had a CAM system as well as programming many components on the machines, but we found that we were losing time by not being able to stay ahead of the game. Hypermill allows you to program off-line and do all the programming whilst the machine is still doing a current job. This enables us to build a queue of future jobs.”

With our previous CAM system, we were doing 5-axis work with it, but we found the collision detection wasn’t that great. In fact, we’ve had to lie to the software system to get it to produce the parts we needed.

Alex Parris-Hammons

The new software identifies where the collisions are, both in an internal and external simulation. It gives the user a list of where the collisions are, and it makes it so simple to correct any problems that occur.

Now with two seats of Hypermill, Alex Parris-Hammons recalls the initial installation: “The plan was to use Hypermill initially for simple components and then build-up to the full capacity, which is the 5-axis simultaneous toolpaths. This would give us better surface finishes and faster machining times. In the early stages, I have called the Open Mind technical support team and they have been able to walk me through any scenarios by using Team Viewer and a telephone call to resolve any issues.”

Aluminium electronic casing programmed with Hypermill.
Aluminium electronic casing programmed with Hypermill.
(Source: Open Mind)

Steve Holmes, Managing Director at Pro-Cut Precision Engineering recalls: “We purchased Hypermill a little while ago actually, and Alex had done the training, but we naturally kept falling back to our existing provider due to tight deadlines and several other factors. For a little while, Hypermill was just sitting there, but then this one particular part came along! It was a challenging aluminium electronic casing part that was outside the scope of our current CAD/CAM system. So, we decided that this was the part that we begin with, where we jump in and manufacture with 5-axis simultaneous Hypermill machining. This is the first part that we produced using Hypermill and it was absolutely bonkers — and we only had two weeks to complete the 3-off batch of parts.”

Aluminium casing highlighted on Hypermill.
Aluminium casing highlighted on Hypermill.
(Source: Open Mind)

Steep learning curve: Machining complex parts with ease

As the programmer that was tasked with creating the program for the complex aluminium electrical housing part, Alex highlights the features that stood out with remarkable ease of use: “The 5-axis and the Z-level finishing is very good with this software. You just have to click on a surface, and Hypermill will machine that surface. Once you understand how it works, it is very easy to actually use and get up to speed with. It means you can quickly reach competence level where you can do complex work much easier.”

The tool library allows users to input a lot of information on each tool and the respective holder. When that information is put into the system to do the simulation, it will then calculate whether it is going to collide with the workholding, fixtures or the machine. In this way, it will detect and protect itself.

Managing Director Steve Holmes with a finished aluminium housing part.
Managing Director Steve Holmes with a finished aluminium housing part.
(Source: Open Mind)

Following the first operation, the aluminium housing was turned over for machining on the opposite face. Highlighting this, Alex says: “We made a fixture plate to locate on the inside of the component and we threaded the tabs to pull down the periphery of the part. On the second side of the part, we used six tools. Programming the part took a couple of days. However, now that I have undergone a steep learning curve and I know what to do, programming similar future components would take significantly less time — we could probably program this part in half a day now.”

“Previously, this part would have been very difficult to program without Hypermill. The second side of the component would have undoubtedly made our previous CAM system crash a lot as there is a lot of information and a lot of code being produced. With Hypermill, we have machined the complete component in just 15 hours. Now that we have used this very complex part as the first push to get onto Hypermill, we are very pleased that we are using it effectively for all of our parts.”

Concluding on why the company opted for Hypermill, Steve says: “Our previous system had its merits, but it didn’t have the process security, collision detection and avoidance and it would have been incapable of the complex 5-axis work that Hypermill, can breeze through.”

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