Dec 5, 2011

Delcam for SolidWorks used to make powerboat engine in five weeks

Delcam for SolidWorks, Delcam’s integrated CAM system for SolidWorks, has helped Stamps Engineering Services to program and machine hundreds of components for a 12-rotor Wankel engine in just five weeks. The new engine will provide around 3,000 horsepower to power offshore powerboat racing catamarans at speeds above 200 mph.

"The large number of parts and their geometric complexity created a very difficult CNC programming challenge,” Mr. Stamps claimed. "Our original approach was to hire a contract machining firm but we talked to several companies and they told us the job was too difficult for them. Using conventional CNC programming software, it would not have been possible for an organisation of our size and resources to build a prototype of this complexity. However, by using the feature recognition and toolpath algorithms of Delcam for SolidWorks, we were able to write programs for, and build, the hundreds of machined components of the motor in only five weeks.”

Stamps’ client’s team is looking to overthrow the dominance of the turbine engine in offshore powerboat racing by harnessing the known advantages of the Wankel engine. "Clearly a prototype was needed to prove out this new concept,” Mr. Stamps said.

An opportunity arose to obtain time on a Haas VF4 four-axis machining centre. The challenge then boiled down to producing the CNC programs for all of the motor parts. "The motor presented an enormous programming challenge,” Mr. Stamps remembered. "There was a large amount of very complex geometry that needed to be brought over from SolidWorks to the CNC programming environment. A huge number of features had to be converted into toolpaths. Yet we also needed the ability to create our own geometry in areas where the model did not provide the right definition. Delcam for SolidWorks was the only tool that met all these requirements.”

Mr. Stamps used the system’s automatic feature recognition to generate toolpaths for most of the parts. On more complex parts, he used interactive feature recognition, which works by selecting a feature and directing the software to recognise it. The advantage of this approach is that Mr. Stamps could watch the feature being generated and make adjustments as necessary. In the most difficult cases, he added in manually the geometry needed to make the part correctly. After completing the program for each part, the software’s integrated simulation module was used to check the toolpath and dimensions of the finished part.

"I was able to completely program and build each part of the motor in the five weeks that we had allotted in our schedule,” Mr. Stamps concluded. "Delcam for SolidWorks was instrumental not only in getting this job done fast but in getting it done at all. I don’t think we could have done it with any other CNC software that I am familiar with. Delcam for SolidWorks provided every capability that we needed to handle the toughest programming tasks.”