Every manufacturing business has to consider costs: the initial cost of purchasing the CNC machine tools required to meet demands; the cost of developing an efficient manufacturing process; the value of the raw materials that will be machined to create the finished components and, finally, the cost of failing to deliver if any step of the manufacturing process goes wrong. Protecting the machine tools, raw materials and reputations of many leading businesses is Vericut CNC machine simulation and optimisation software.
The cost of CNC equipment varies greatly, often in-line with the complexity and accuracy of the machines. The price difference between a simple 2-axis lathe and a 5-axis machining centre can vary by as much as ten fold. Each has a role to play in the manufacturing process, and a cell of machines can quickly add up to R15 million or more. However simple or complex the machine tool is it will still take time and effort from an engineering resource to get it operating with NC programs needing to be proven – so they are known to be safe to run on the machine. That will get the machine running, but operating it efficiently can take even more engineering time and effort.
Developed by CGTech, Vericut is CNC machine simulation, verification and optimisation software that enables businesses to minimise the risk of crashing the machine and totally eliminate the process of manually proving-out NC programs. It reduces scrap loss and rework, and also optimises NC programs to save time and produce higher quality surface finishes. Vericut simulates all types of CNC machine tools, including those from leading manufacturers such as Mazak, Makino, Matsuura, Hermle, Hass, DMG-Mori and Chiron.
So, companies can create a virtual CNC machining environment that will accurately reflect the machine tools, tooling and workholding as well as the raw material on the shopfloor. Crashes can be reduced because machine simulation detects collisions and near-misses between all machine tool components such as axis slides, heads, turrets, rotary tables, spindles, tool changers, fixtures, workpieces, cutting tools, and other user-defined objects. ‘Near-miss zones’ can be set up around the components to check for close calls, and even machine over-travel errors can be detected.
“A machine crash is very expensive, potentially ruining the machine tool, and delaying the entire manufacturing schedule. However, with Vericut, you can dramatically reduce the chance of any error,” explains CGTech Managing Director, John Reed.
Vericut sits neatly in the logical manufacturing engineering process chain, where components are designed using CAD software, the data from which is processed by a CAM system to create an NC program file that will drive the various linear and rotary axes of the machine tool. The code of the NC program is then verified by Vericut, simulating the movements of the machine in the virtual world. It can operate either standalone or integrated with leading CAM systems such as NX, Pro/E, MasterCAM, EdgeCAM, PowerMill and Hypermill, allowing engineers to check that the machine will behave exactly how they thought it would, as nasty surprises on the shopfloor are often expensive surprises.
Of course, shared data will improve the efficiency of most manufacturing businesses and one feature that is helping this is the Reviewer. This collaboration tool allows 3D simulations to be shared with anyone in the company without the need for a Vericut license. Running on Windows tablets and, more recently, the Apple iPad, the Reviewer can play machine movements forward and backward while removing and replacing material. Error messages and NC program text is highlighted when a collision on the stock or fixture is selected. A tool path line display is optional. The user can rotate, pan and zoom just like normal Vericut, and the cut stock can be measured using all the standard X-caliper tools.
Once the risk of crashing the machine has been removed Vericut then provides ongoing savings by removing the wasted production time lost during the proving-out of new programs on the machine. John Reed explains: “Every machine shop has to introduce and prove new NC programs at some point. For most engineering companies around 15 to 20 percent of a machine tool’s spindle time is allocated to this. On a single shift, this equates to one lost day per week per machine. Assuming the machine is charged out at a very reasonable R720.00 per hour, that’s R5 760.00 worth of lost production time – for each machine. So, a shop with 10 CNC machine tools manually proving-out programs is losing around R 2,7 million per year.”
One of the most obvious ways to get more from the software is to simply use it to try out new, unproven, machining strategies: as a virtual methods testing environment. Other than the time required to virtually create and test new methods, there is no physical cost. You can try out and adjust radical new ideas several times over. A few hours spent testing different methods could potentially save many hours of machine time, reducing tool and machine wear, wasted materials, energy costs, and human fatigue as a result.
CGTech always encourages its users to push the software to its limits. “There are always opportunities to improve an existing process, and applying creativity simulation software can help, giving the NC programmer the freedom to try practically any machining technique in a virtual world. The only real limit is the user’s imagination,” John Reed concludes.
For further details contact TDM Solutions on TEL: 011 234 6019 or visit www.tdmsolutions.co.za