CNC verification software Seco and GC Tech team up to provide efficiency gains for cutting processes

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

UK — A collaborative partnership between cutting tool technologies specialist, Seco Tools, and CNC simulation and optimisation software provider, CG Tech, is aiming to improve customer's manufacturing operations.

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With Vericut Force, Seco was able to reduce the cycle time for pylon brackets down to three hours.
With Vericut Force, Seco was able to reduce the cycle time for pylon brackets down to three hours.
(Source: GC Tech)

For a number of years, Seco Tools has been hosting its Inspiration Through Innovation (ITI) event at its Innovation Hub in Alcester, UK. Up until the global pandemic it had been a physical ‘open house’ event highlighting the cutting tool specialist’s range of products and engineering application knowledge. David Magnall, Innovation Partnership Manager, recalls: “ For our event we started to engage partners to focus on actual customers issues and components. It allowed us to demonstrate what we and our partners believe to be best practice manufacturing solutions. From there the idea grew and we thought we do this once a year why can’t we do this every day?” A partnership with GC Tech is to help continue this exchange.

The companies can provide turnkey solutions for businesses looking for high efficiency gains. As David Magnall points out: “Customers are looking to take at least 40 % and up to 60 % or more out of the manufacturing process, in terms of cycle times and therefore cost, and we need partners to achieve this. These are partnerships where we sit down at the beginning of the year and say what we want to achieve together, what can we do that is pro-active rather than wait for projects to come in and highlight what we recognise in the market that needs to be addressed. We know ‘what is keeping you awake at night’, then we can take that pain away.”

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Seco Tools has used Vericut CNC verification and optimisation software for many years with an established track record for getting results. The company uses Vericut, not just in the UK, but globally. At their production sites, the use of the software is pretty much a standard operating practise.

Today’s collaborative approach builds on the history between the two businesses so they have created a method of providing more holistic process improvements for customers’ manufacturing operations. This was bolstered even further when the Force module within Vericut, which uses a physics-based optimisation method to determine the maximum reliable feed rate for a given cutting condition based on four factors: force on the cutter, spindle power, maximum chip thickness, and maximum allowable feed rate, was introduced to the Seco engineering team, and David Magnall says: “It looked good on paper, as these things often do. Being engineers we thought we are going to have to give this a try. Some tests were set up and the CG Tech staff were confident that what we saw on paper would be replicated, physically on the machine.

The experts set up some material trials, we were gobsmacked, we did not expect the positive results we achieved and the more difficult the application or material, the greater savings we were seeing. And, it also addressed that paradox that you get from customers wanting a faster cycle time but not at the detriment of the tooling. No one wants the tooling to wear out quicker or the process to become less stable because you are running faster.

The Force software works by evening out the peaks and troughs of the load on the cutting tool. This results in a more stable cutting process that is kinder to the tool and the machine. With the capabilities of Vericut Force now proven to the engineering team at Seco the partners thoughts turned to the real value of applying it to actual customer components. A forged 6Al-4V titanium aerospace component highlights the results as David Magnall explains: “We had already reduced the cycle time of the complex pylon bracket down to 4 hours, but just running it through Force reduced it down to 3 hours, which is just phenomenal. It’s not like we are just turning up the feedrate hoping that the process holds together, all the clever stuff is done in the Force software. By balancing out the load we are not seeing any decline in tool life, but we see an improvement on cycle time.”

These Force applied savings translate into other industry sectors. As well as aerospace, the Seco Innovation Hub in the UK also specialises in the medical sector. David Magnall points to a tibial tray, part of an implant used for Total Knee Arthroplasty, as an example of how Force can be used. The part is attached to the shinbone and supports the upper part of the implant. Typically, tibial trays are made from titanium, which exhibits higher tensile strength than the surrounding tibia bone.

“Now, if you just look at the numbers on the tibial tray,” he says, “you are only looking at a 15 % saving. This equates to around 40 to 50 seconds, which may not sound a lot but if you look at one manufacturer that is often making between 600,000 and 700,000 tibial trays per year that represents a significant cost saving. Cycle time is critical to medical manufacturers, if they can shave 40 seconds off the process it could save a substantial amount of capital investment because of the capacity that the time saving buys back. Just on cost savings alone at a typical cost per hour for the industry you are looking at around £ 700,000 (approx. € 822,000) per year saved as well.”

Using Vericut Force results in savings that are many-fold. Apart from cycle time reductions and tooling life increases this includes the reduced power consumption from any machine tools running for less time and drawing less spindle power to cut the raw material. And increased shopfloor efficiency may negate the need to invest in further machine tools.

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