Case Study: Software The need for speed

Editor: Steffen Donath

CNC milling and turning service provider Stevila has turned to Esprit for challenging task. The problem was both interconnection and visualisation.

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The FPT Verus Italian 5-axis milling center with turning function lets Stevila mill parts up to 6000x2000x1500 mm with extreme precision.
The FPT Verus Italian 5-axis milling center with turning function lets Stevila mill parts up to 6000x2000x1500 mm with extreme precision.
(Source: Esprit)

Headquartered in Marijampolė, in southwest Lithuania, industrial manufacturer Stevila offers precision CNC milling/turning and assembly services on a subcontracting basis, producing parts based on customers’ designs in varying batch sizes. Employing an impressive array of CNC equipment in combination with traditional non-programmed metalworking machines, the company serves clients and partners throughout Europe’s energy, automation, medical, printing machines, and other industries. Parts produced by Stevila include everything from expansion bushes and cleaning nozzles to drive-sensor adjust blocks and parts for brake discs.

Stevila's machinists work primarily from stocks containing structural, free-cutting, and stainless steel as well as aluminum, bronze, plastic, and titanium, most of which are warehoused on-site to ensure timely production of urgent orders. In general, the diameter required for turned parts varies from 4 to 2000 mm and Stevila is equipped to mill even the bulkiest parts — one of its more recent investments, an FPT Verus Italian 5-axis milling center with turning function, allows the company to mill up to 6000x2000x1500 mm.

From the beginning, Stevila management established a clear objective for the company: to become the preferred business partner for customers by providing exceptional quality of service, including timely fulfillment of orders and zero-defect manufacturing. To achieve this goal, Stevila adopted priority strategies that included employing state-of-the-art technologies, including the newest tools and equipment, and implementing new production planning methodologies. To tackle these challenges, a first assessment was made.

In assessing its manufacturing processes, company management noted numerous difficulties associated with running such a large number of CNC machines, each with different programming methods and interfaces. “It was difficult to move parts production from one machine to another, as they all had different controls,” says Vilius Senkus, Director of Stevila. “For example, if we were machining a part on two machines and the programming needed to be revised, we had to make a completely new program for each machine for the same part. It was very time-consuming.”

Another factor hindering optimal production was the inability of machinists to visualise exactly how a program would run in the actual machine environment. “We were unable to validate a program before running the part on the machine. This left us vulnerable to errors that could result in collisions, damaging our tool assemblies and workpieces,” says Senkus.

To address the dual challenges of programming multiple machines and needing to graphically verify toolpaths, Stevila sought a single CAM system that could program and coordinate all its CNC equipment while also providing a virtual preview of how the programs will work when they’re actually run.

Management had been familiar with the Esprit CAM system for some time. The company first became acquainted with the software when it was a Mori Seiki dealer from 2005-2013, a period when the machine tool maker began offering machines with Esprit software incorporated. After attending Esprit training courses — initially for beginners, later for advanced users — Stevila engineers became proficient with the software and it was subsequently implemented as the sole CAM system for Stevila’s entire factory.

Benefits of implementation

Once Esprit was implemented, the advantages offered by the system’s advanced capabilities became apparent, the company reports. A key improvement was that engineers no longer had to create multiple programs to machine the same part on different machines. “We now have a single user interface to program all our CNC machines," says Senkus. “With Esprit we only have to make one program of the part and save it on a PC. Then we just use the software's post processor to convert it seamlessly into the G-code program for a specific machine.” The software’s ability to program every CNC machine in Stevila’s shop has reduced programming time, increasing productivity and cutting cycle times.

Senkus also notes that machine collisions are no longer an issue. Thanks to Esprit’s accurate, full-colour simulations of the complete machining environment, any interferences or mistakes in the toolpath or setup can be seen and corrected before the first part is run. “Esprit's ability to simulate machining operations lets us visualise all the movements in the program and check the machining — virtually — before actual machining begins. This helps us avoid machine crashes.” Eliminating downtime from crashes or toolpath errors not only translates into lower machining costs, it also means faster delivery times.

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Expanded production possibilities

Esprit’s machining capabilities and automated programming features have also simplified the programming of highly complex parts, which in turn has expanded the range of components that Stevila is able to produce. “Using Esprit we can create 5-axis simultaneous machining programs for parts with extremely complicated geometrical shapes, which would have been impossible earlier,” says Senkus.

With help from Esprit, Stevila has attained its goal of higher production quality and shorter delivery times. More efficient programming has reduced the company’s production costs while the capacity to program at higher levels of complexity potentially opens up new markets for the company. Stevila’s ever-growing list of customers now includes more than 60 industry leaders, including Siemens, the German automotive manufacturing company Continental, and Swiss-Swedish multinational corporation ABB.

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