In the recent Automated Manufacturing Technology Skills USA competition, a three-person team from Tulsa Tech in Oklahoma won using Delcam’s FeatureCAM feature-based CAM software. "This year’s part, a 3-gear planetary gearbox, was one of the toughest I have ever seen in a competition,” said Rick Huddleston, the instructor who coached the team. "I was extremely proud of our team members who quickly designed, programmed and built the part to the tight specifications required.”
Tulsa Tech is a career and technology centre school dedicated to preparing people for success in the workplace. Even though they had just one year of training beyond high school and had never worked in industry, the Tulsa Tech team, consisting of Saroj Bunnorat, CAD Operator, Joncarl Frost, CAM Operator, and John Cox, CNC Operator, competed in the adult division, primarily against people with substantial industry experience that had gone back to school to upgrade their skills.
The team spent the first half hour figuring out their basic strategy to machine the part. Saroj and Joncarl started creating the geometry of the gearbox in SolidWorks and FeatureCAM, while John was setting up the work-holding and tooling on the machine. "The ease of transferring geometry between the two packages made it possible to do different parts of the modelling in whichever software made the most sense without any penalty,” Mr. Huddleston said.
The team created the geometry of the gears in FeatureCAM by entering parameters such as the number of teeth, pitch diameter, etc. The software then automatically generated the 2D geometry of the gear. The next step was extruding the gears into solids and doing some minor editing to meet the design specifications. After all of the components were created, the technical data package, including assembly model, bill of materials and 2D manufacturing drawings, was produced in SolidWorks.
Then, the team members used FeatureCAM to automatically detect the features in the geometry and generate machining toolpaths. After programming the parts, the team used FeatureCAM’s machining-time estimation to determine the cycle time. This information was used as part of the process for making a quote that was another of the required deliverables.
Mr. Huddleston said that he reviewed many different CNC programming software packages before selecting FeatureCAM. "I picked FeatureCAM because it is simpler to use than other CNC software,” he said. "It is easy to take someone with a little machine shop experience and no CNC programming background, and teach them to be a productive FeatureCAM programmer in about 40 hours. Since we selected FeatureCAM, it has developed many new capabilities and features that have easily kept pace with competing systems.”