By adding Delcam’s FeatureCAM feature-based machining software Moores Machine Shop of Lafayette, Louisiana, has been able to simplify the programming complex parts and to provide the strategies needed to optimise machining time.
The change to FeatureCAM came after the company had purchased a Mazak VNC510C four-axis machining centre to try and grow its business by producing more intricate parts with complex 3D contours. However, it was soon realised that the CNC programming software the company had used in the past was not up to handling the complexities of the new machine. FeatureCAM seemed to offer a more capable solution.
To challenge the capabilities of the new software, Jerry Bunker, CNC Department Manager for Moores, created a program to machine a replica of Old Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys played from 1971 to 2008. The replica was used to produce rubber moulds that were in turn used to make souvenirs made from Plaster of Paris mixed with concrete from the old stadium. "With FeatureCAM and the four-axis machine, we were able to reduce the time required for programming from 20 to 10 hours and the time required for machining from 100 hours to 60 hours for a total time savings of 50 hours,” Mr. Bunker claimed.
"The individual that was going to make the souvenirs approached us along with a number of other machine shops,” Mr. Bunker remembered. "We were able to offer a better price because we planned to make the complex replica on our four-axis machine.” The replica has a consider amount of detail including tiny lettering and stars on the periphery and the part of the stadium that is exposed through the roof.
On a three-axis machine, a minimum of eight different set-ups would have been required. Four-axis machining saved a considerable amount of time by making it possible to mount the workpiece in a fixture and rotate it so that the entire outside periphery could be done in a single operation. A second setup was used to machine the dome and beams of the stadium, and a third operation was used for the bottom.
"This was the first intricate part that we produced. The four-axis rotary machining centre and FeatureCAM proved to be the perfect combination to produce it efficiently to high levels of quality,” Mr. Bunker commented. "Overall, FeatureCAM has helped us increase our capabilities by taking on more complicated projects. Many of these jobs either could not have been programmed with our old software or would have taken so long that our price would not have been competitive. With FeatureCAM, we can produce these jobs quickly and efficiently, and this has helped us increase our profitability in a challenging economic environment.”