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CAM system improves productivity

High-performance software covers a range of machine tool applications.

October 15, 2019   by CASE HISTORY by DP Technology

Ian Kottelenberg (shop foreman) and Tim Middlehurst, Hi-Quality president. PHOTOS: HI-QUALITY

Hi-Quality Carbide Tooling Inc., a manufacturer of carbide precision parts and dies, makes one-of-a-kind carbide tooling, including extrusion dies, spring forming tooling and stamping dies. They’re used in machines to make mass-produced parts for the automotive, aerospace and medical industries.

For the past six years, the 15-employee company has used ESPRIT CAM software for its wire EDM work, but because of the specialized products it produces, the shop team wanted to use one software across plant. ESPRIT CAM got the nod.

“One of our dies will make two or three million bolts or ball joints for a car,” says Tim Middlehurst, who co-owns the small manufacturing outfit in Orangeville, Ont. with Wendy Middlehurst. “We do lots of bearing work for the oil and gas industry and a lot of aerospace fasteners. We also specialize in spring tools that form shaped wire springs – not just your standard round wire springs.”

The facility, which consists of 1,200 square-feet of office space and an 8,000 square-foot plant, has more than 30 machines on the job, including CNC, ID and manual grinders, wire and sinker EDM, and high-speed milling machines.

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Hi-Quality typically deals with small-quantity orders ranging from a single piece to more than 20 pieces. “Everything we do is very specialized,” Tim says. “What makes Hi-Quality’s capabilities unique are the hardness and refractory nature of the carbide used in most of the company’s parts. Carbide is very difficult to work with.”

Now the shop uses ESPRIT, the flagship product supplied by computer-aided manufacturing software developer DT Technology, for milling and turning.

Simplified programming

The Carmarillo, Calif. company developed the software through extensive partnerships with machine tool manufacturers. It’s customizable and supports CNC programming across a plant’s full range of machine tools, including 2-5 axis milling, 2-22 axis turning, 2-5 axis wire EDM, multitasking mill-turn machining, and B-axis machines.

Using a single interface for all machines simplifies the programming process, increasing productivity.

“It’s too confusing switching back and forth between programs,” Middlehurst says. “For wire EDM, it’s really easy to walk through the programming process, and it’s easy to modify existing programs.”

For example, the toolpath for a part can be modified with just a few mouse clicks. ESPRIT then automatically propagates the change through adjacent sub-elements to seamlessly create a new toolpath.

The software’s simulation feature visualizes the complete machining operation on screen; in a virtual environment programmers view the part, observe the movements of the tool, anticipate possible interferences, and make necessary adjustments to improve part quality and avoid tool damage.

Not having to write and troubleshoot custom post-processors offers another advantage. A universal post processor creates high-quality “post and go” G-code and is equipped with a complete library of pre-defined post processors. Additional factory-certified posts are available for many of the leading machine tool brands.

“The post processors that are available for our Sodick and AgieCharmilles machines are extremely accurate; they don’t require any editing,” Middlehurst says. “We have the confidence that once we post a job and plug it in, it’s good – which means a lot.”

When Hi-Quality first implemented ESPRIT for high-speed milling, the software presented a challenge.

“There was no consistent software available, that we knew of at the time, that could do 3D compensation for high-precision complex forms on our 3D mill,” says Ian Kottelenberg, the shop’s foreman. (3D compensation refers to the dimensions of the cutting tool remaining tangential to the part geometry.) “That created a very lengthy re-programming process if we wanted to change the size of the part. We worked closely with ESPRIT, with a lot of testing.”

Hi-Quality’s ESPRIT programmer also worked with an expert from Heidenhain (precision measurement and motion control solutions) to come up with the proper math for accomplishing the offset. After re-working and testing the solution many times to ensure success, ESPRIT finally delivered Hi-Quality a solution that worked.

“The software is now able to communicate consistently with our machine. Success!” Wendy adds.

This is an edited version of an article contributed by DP Technology Corp., a supplier of CAM software based in Camarillo, Calif. E-mail: esprit@dptechnology.com, or visit www.espritcam.com.

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2019 print issue of PLANT Magazine.

 


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