TURNING DESIGNERS INTO MACHINISTS
By using a feature-based programming system, this British metrology specialist shortened their overall development cycle and gained more freedom to experiment with novel ideas that can be investigated more quickly and convert prototype quantities to full-scale production.
Metrology and healthcare specialist Renishaw plc (Wotton-under-Edge, UK) has been able to greatly improve the productivity of its rapid prototyping department by turning its designers into machinists. The key to the transition was the introduction of FeatureCAM, a feature-based programming system from Delcam plc (Birmingham, UK), in place of the department’s previous CAM software.
“It is important for designers to appreciate the manufacturing techniques and capabilities that are available to them . . . this helps facilitate good ‘Design for Manufacture’ as well as reduce any unnecessary delays during the prototyping stages of manufacture,” explained senior CAM development engineer Richard Turner. To achieve this, Renishaw has always encouraged designers to take a ‘hands on’ approach, even providing two Nexus machine tools from Mazak Corporation (Florence, KY) for them to use for tooling and prototyping production.
“However, the designers, being occasional users, found our existing CAM software too difficult to use so they all passed the work over to our small batch department or sent their designs out for machining. At times, it was taking up to six weeks to produce prototypes, which was obviously having a negative effect on our product development process,” noted development engineer Chay Allen.
The move to FeatureCAM began after another development engineer, Tristan Dover, visited the Delcam stand at the MACH 2008 exhibition. “I saw a five-minute demonstration that made FeatureCAM look like the easiest CAM system I had ever seen. I downloaded the evaluation version and could remember enough from the demonstration to use it. Even without any training, I could program as quickly as an experienced user on our existing system in a head-to-head competition. I realized that this software would be ideal for our designers and other casual CAM users.”
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