Delcam’s FeatureCAM gives faster prototypes


Delcam’s FeatureCAM feature-based CAM system has speeded the production of prototype housings for marine electronics systems at the Navico development facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The development of these weatherproof cases to protect the sophisticated electronics is the responsibility of machine-shop head Rick Von De Veld and his programmers, Craig Pitts and Bill Boyette.

To bring these casing designs into reality, they decided they needed highly capable yet simple to use CAM software.  "One of the reasons we chose FeatureCAM is that it is quick to use,” said Mr. Von De Veld.  "Because we do so many programs, we wanted an easy to use yet capable package to help us with everything from simple parts to more complex components.”

"We might write 30 programs in a day in our shop,” added Mr. Boyette.  "We produce hundreds of different parts to build test equipment and assembly fixtures for our production plants.  We keep our operation running fairly smoothly with FeatureCAM.  As soon as we finish and check our programs, we can upload them directly to our CNC machines.  We can start machining faster than you could ever set up a manual mill.”

The market leader in marine electronics for the recreational boating segment, Navico, which has its headquarters in Norway, was created from a combination of two of the most important names in marine electronics, Simrad Yachting and Lowrance Electronics.  The Brunswick New Technologies’ marine electronics division was added in March 2007.  The combined company develops a wide range of marine electronics for small leisure boats through to professional vessels.  This high level of development demands a lot of prototypes and tooling.

With FeatureCAM, the Tulsa team overcame a few challenges in designing and machining a prototype case for a marine GPS electronics system.  The aluminium part, which was designed in New Zealand, was to be made for thermal testing in another Navico location.  In addition to its complexity, especially the fins needed to dissipate heat away, the part had to be machined both inside and outside.  The part file was sent as a SolidWorks model to the location in Tulsa, where it was imported into FeatureCAM.  The software provided all the tools needed to develop the prototype.

"We used the 2D spiral milling capability quite a bit.  In order to get all the part surfaces to blend perfectly, we probably used every 3D strategy that FeatureCAM offers,” Mr. Von De Veld said.  Another FeatureCAM tool, the ability to compare the final part shape with the remaining stock, was used extensively on the case to help determine if any area needed further machining.

Total programming and machining time was about four weeks, including the machining of a plastic prototype to find and eliminate possible problems.  However, working through the part details and assuring its manufacturability would probably have taken twice as long with conventional CAM software.

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