Jun 27, 2011

Delcam's FeatureCAM enables move to 3D machining

After adding Delcam’s FeatureCAM feature-based CAM system, Bruce Waugh has been able to move into 3D machining in the one-person machine shop, Waugh Machine, he runs in his garage in Camp Verde, Arizona. Until two years ago, he turned down jobs involving 3D parts because he was unable to program them. Now he can produce any part that fits within the capabilities of his two Haas Minimills.

In addition, the feature-recognition capabilities within the software have reduced the time required to program typical 2.5D parts from one hour to ten minutes.

There is a common misconception that only large companies can benefit from introducing CAM software. Examples like Waugh Machine prove that even the smallest operations can also boost their capabilities and productivity with these systems.

"FeatureCAM has changed the nature of my business,” claimed Mr. Waugh, who has been a machinist for 35 years. "Because I can now do more complicated parts, I have been able to raise my rates while running my machines at full capacity. My customers are more than happy to pay my new rates because I am able to deliver a higher level of quality on more difficult jobs.”

Mr. Waugh’s two main customers are a large medical-device manufacturer and an aerospace subcontractor. "The aerospace manufacturer usually gives me drawings,” he said. "Sometimes these are up to 60 years old.”

"The medical-device company used to give me drawings as the starting point for contract machining jobs,” he added. "One day, the customer told me that it was going to do away with drawings and begin providing CAD files. I saw this as the writing on the wall for 2.5D programming and made the decision to upgrade to FeatureCAM with its feature-recognition and 3D-surfacing modules.”

Mr. Waugh now regularly produces parts with profiling and 3D surfaces. "I get several parts a month with 3D surfaces and I enjoy doing them,” he said. "I also do many parts I could have done in 2.5D in 3D. It may take a bit longer because I use a small ball-nose end mill rather than a larger radius cutter but 3D often lets me produce the entire part with a single tool in a single set-up. This means I can set the machine up and let it run while I do other things such as quoting a job or programming the next part. The ball-nose end mill also provides a better surface finish than the radius cutter.”

FeatureCAM has also substantially reduced the time required to program 2.5D parts. "It used to take about an hour to program the typical 2.5D part,” explained Mr. Waugh. "The automatic feature-recognition capability of FeatureCAM reduces programming time to only about ten minutes. It’s impossible to make this kind of comparison on 3D parts because I was never able to program them before I had the software. Now, I can program 3D parts almost as quickly.”

"I upgrade to the latest version of FeatureCAM each year and there are always interesting improvements to the software,” Mr. Waugh concluded. "My investment in FeatureCAM was one of the best decisions I ever made.”