Friday, March 1, 2013

When Design Changes are Flying Fast and Furious

Billy Crump has a very fast paced job.

He works as a Mastercam programmer and machinist for Scinomix. The company is a relatively small but rapidly growing high-tech manufacturing company specializing in flexible modular automation for laboratory research and drug discovery. His time is divided between setting up and operating a Haas 3-axis vertical CNC mill and programming a steady stream of prototype and production parts that are continually being fed to him by the company’s founders and principal designers.

He used to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with design changes that ocur frequently because of the company’s expertise in prototyping. These changes made in SolidWorks have to be detected and reconciled with the manufacturing programs created in Mastercam. Crump would either import the changed parasolids file and reprogram the part entirely, or redraw the changed geometry in Mastercam and then regenerate those portions of the toolpaths. In either case, this resulted in a couple hours of additional programming time

The inefficient scenario cost at least one day per work week and was becoming a drag on the company’s productivity. Scinomix solved the problem by giving their programmer/machinist a seat of a single product. Mastercam for SolidWorks that integrates both SolidWorks and Mastercam in one seamless environment. Now Crump can create CAM programs directly in the SolidWorks environment.

Mastercam for SolidWorks offers the same programming interface as the standalone version of Mastercam. It also incorporates the same machining strategies that he had relied on, including High Speed Machining (HSM) along with a powerful set of automated, feature-based toolpaths that get parts off the machine faster, with little or no handwork.

He said, “I don’t import parasolids files anymore. I program inside of SolidWorks and if anything in the design changes, Mastercam will flag these areas as dirty operations. To clean these up, I simply select the geometry, hit ‘regenerate’, and Mastercam automatically reconfigures the toolpaths.”

One prototype Crump manufactured recently went through five design changes. He said that regenerating the program in Mastercam for SolidWorks saved him at least half a day of additional programming.

Like many shops, Scinomix has to deal with constant design changes. They've made this process much smoother by moving to Mastercam for SolidWorks.