Machining Productivity Through Specialized SoftwareSat, 09/01/2018 - 10:47
Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) solutions are not new to the automotive industry but some companies still are not always aware of the advantages that certain architectures can offer when compared to platforms based on computer-aided design (CAD), says Robert Weber, Commercial Director of software developer Euklid México.
“Productivity of a software is related to how easy it is to learn, how strong its modeling capacities are and whether components machined using the software need much additional finishing work,” says Weber. Most CAD/CAM solutions built their interface from 2D or 3D CAD, thus focusing more on the component’s design rather than its manufacturing challenges. Weber explains Euklid was designed directly as a CAM platform to give clients a competitive advantage.
Euklid is a Swiss-based software developer that focuses on software for tooling, molds and 3D modeling. Weber says that when manufacturing companies in Switzerland started to migrate toward automation, they realized that a drafting system or a solution that machines components such as a 3D CAD/CAM software would boost productivity. “Adopting CAD software multiplies productivity by 1.5 times but an integrated 3D CAD/CAM solution can multiply savings fivefold,” he says. According to Weber, the importance of a software being easy to learn lies with the challenges that staff turnover brings companies and in the advantages of technicians interacting with it. “While engineers handle software tools, they know nothing about CNC machines or cutting tools,” he says. Training engineers in a software can take six months and if they leave the company, it takes another six months to train new recruits, adds Weber. Euklid CAD/CAM, however, can be learned in a week. “Even with high staff turnover, damage is minimized because the software can be taught quickly to engineers, technicians or model makers,” says Weber.
On software modeling capacities, Weber differentiates software that focuses on solid modeling and software for surface modeling. “An advantage of surface modeling is its ability to reduce the number of patches tenfold compared to a solid model maker using fewer programming commands,” he says. This not only reduces production times but also allows for more complex designs to be machined. “Euklid can build a valve with seven commands in three minutes while solid machining software needs an hour,” underlines Weber. Optimized production times enable companies to charge more per machining hour. “An hour of three-axis CNC machining costs about US$25 compared to US$40 for an hour of CAD/CAM,” he says.
In terms of the additional finishing work needed to move from CAD to CAM, Weber says most software solutions in the market lack the ability to trim automatically when adding a radius due to the lack of integration between CAD and CAM platforms. Euklid on the contrary does the trimming automatically because its modelling capabilities already takes machining into account. In terms of machining, Euklid works directly on the surface of the component. This results in a wide variety of milling alternatives that reduce CNC machining time.
Having integrated finishing steps right from the modelling process also eliminates additional manual work and guarantees repeatability throughout the manufacturing process. “With solid milling software, the equipment has to be balanced after each machining iteration. Surface milling, however, provides balanced stability right from the start.”
Euklid has introduced its solutions among Japanese OEMs such as Nissan, as well as Asian tire-makers and Weber sees clear growth potential in Mexico. However, though clear on the advantages it can offer to manufacturers, one of the main challenges that Euklid faces to grow in the Mexican market is that companies in the automotive industry look for software solutions that can do everything. “It is a mistake to think companies can develop software that is strong in all areas from 3D modeling to product design and manufacturing.” Moreover, Weber points out that companies in the Mexican automotive industry are usually price-oriented. “There is no awareness of how to evaluate software solutions based on productivity.” He adds that company executives should ask technicians from the CNC area, what software solutions would help them better. “More attention should be paid to people in the machine shop because that is where the money is made,” he says.