KAAP uses Delcam’s PowerMILL to make dies to produce 280,000 components each month.
Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products LLC (KAAP) has been able to reduce machining times and reduce hand finishing by switching to Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM system. The change produced savings both during programming and on the machine; the software that the company had been using was difficult to learn and produced programs that took too long to run.
"Switching to PowerMILL helped us reduce machining cycle times by 40%, primarily because the rest-machining capabilities in its offset area-clearance strategies greatly reduce air-cutting time,” said Victor Steele, Tool Shop Manager for KAAP. "Its optimised and interleaved constant-Z finishing strategy has improved surface finish to the point that manual finishing has been reduced by 50%. PowerMILL is also easier to learn with the result that new programmers can be trained in less than an hour.”
KAAP invested $80 million in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to produce 280,000 forged aluminium components per month, principally for Nissan, General Motors and Honda. Automotive companies are using increasing quantities of aluminium forgings for suspension systems in order to reduce weight and increase fuel economy. KAAP, a joint venture owned 60% by Kobe Steel, 25% by Mitsui, and 15% by Toyota Tsusho, employs 180 people in a 108,000 square foot plant to help meet this demand.
KAAP’s greatest CNC programming challenges are closed forging dies. The company normally roughs out the parts on a Mazak FJV-3580 vertical machining centre and performs finishing operations on a Mazak Nexus vertical machining centre.
"We were able to program these parts with the CNC software that we used in the past, even though it was not very intuitive,” said Mr. Steele. "Roughing operations were relatively slow because the tools spent much of their time cutting air.” The problem with KAAP’s previous software was that each successive cutter traced the complete path of the part profile, even where was nothing for it to cut, either because the section had already been finished or because the cutter was too large.
Kobe Steel’s Japanese operations had successfully programmed this type of part with PowerMILL and recommended that KAAP try the Delcam software. "One of Kobe Steel’s programmers from Japan visited us and showed us how to use PowerMILL,” said David Taylor, an engineer at KAAP. "Despite his limited English, he was able to teach us to use the program without a great deal of difficulty. We liked the way the user interface is laid out.”
Later, KAAP programmers had two days of on-site instruction from one of Delcam’s PowerMILL trainers. "As we got to know the software better, we were impressed with the large number of powerful machining strategies that it offered to help optimise cycle time and the accuracy of our machining operations,” Mr. Taylor added.
Mr. Taylor said that PowerMILL’s simulation capabilities are also superior to the previous software. This gives the operator extra confidence by predicting axis reversals and surface quality. The simulation often indentifies opportunities for improvement. Then the programmer can easily change or reorder operations to prevent crashes or reduce cycle time.
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