CNC programmers at die manufacturer EXCO Engineering are phasing out several CAM software programs in favor of the flexibility and capability they can achieve using Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM system. Their decision followed a six-month evaluation of products from six different CAM developers to determine how they could help EXCO achieve higher productivity and finished product quality.
Based in Newmarket, Ont., EXCO Engineering designs and produces large high-pressure diecasting dies for customers like General Motors, Ford, and Daimler AG. For decades, it has been one of the foremost tooling suppliers to the worldwide automotive industry, designing dies for engine blocks, transmission cases, and instrument panels. To ensure the accuracy and functionality of its dies, EXCO makes extensive use of CNC equipment, including machining centers, large boring mills, and CMMs.
Delcam was willing to prove the value of its software by providing training during EXCO’s evaluation. They also introduced EXCO programmers to other PowerMILL users to engage them on some of the most useful practical applications.
In some early tests with PowerMILL, EXCO demonstrated productivity improvements — up to three times — for some parts, reducing programming time for a large insert from a week to one day, in one example.
A significant benefit in the PowerMill program is the collision avoidance, which allows programmers to cascade down with a shorter tool assembly so that large areas of a die can be cut safely before moving to a longer tool. Another bonus is that, for all roughing strategies, PowerMILL orders toolpaths so that air moves are reduced significantly. Such sequence improvements also make the rest-roughing toolpaths more efficient.
Users can edit toolpaths quickly by picking any part of a toolpath, deleting it, and leaving the rest of it intact. EXCO programmers found that any changes to competing CAM programs required them to re-calculate everything, which could take five to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the file.
One big change has been the addition of semi-finishing operations to the machining sequences. “Previously, we did not semi-finish because it greatly increased our programming time,” explained Gabor Vincer, new project engineer. “Now, we can program roughing, semi-finishing, and finishing fairly quickly, and run the programs more smoothly. PowerMILL helps us control material removal rates at each stage. Tool life has improved and the programs run faster.”