Cutting Tool Engineering
June 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 6

Do you believe in magic?

By CTE Staff

Nathan.tif
Courtesy of DP Technology

Programmer Nathan Ellinger uses ESPRIT CAM software from DP Technology to program a part for machining on a DMG/Mori Seiki NT-1000 mill/turn machine at Single Source.

A job shop can seem like a magical breeding ground. After all, job shops turn daydream concepts into physical parts—with nary an abracadabra to boot. Single Source Inc. is one such place where parts are born.

Founded in 2001 by co-owners Tom Moore and Greg Singleton, the North Liberty, Ind., manufacturer specializes in producing fixtures and tooling for the automotive and other industries, as well as medical implants and instrumentation. “We like to lead with quality, and quality is everything,” Singleton said. “We see that the industry is changing and, considering the competition and economy, we have to find ways to set ourselves apart.”

That requires machining increasingly complex and challenging parts quicker and less expensively. “If our pricing is not right, we won’t even get a shot at the job,” Moore said.

To tackle those demands, Single Source decided to purchase its first mill/turn machine about a year ago. After researching its options, the shop purchased an NT-1000 multitask machine from DMG/Mori Seiki USA Inc., Hoffman Estates, Ill. According to Moore, Single Source’s relationship with DMG/Mori Seiki and Ellison Technologies, an equipment distributor and provider of engineering services in Warrenville, Ill., led to the purchase. “What those guys do for us is exactly the way we like to approach and do work for our customers,” he said, noting that Single Source has since purchased a second NT-1000. “It’s striving for the highest quality, best product and best support.”

The shop also needed software to program parts for multitask machining and drive the mill/turn machine, and the involvement of DP Technology Corp., the Camarillo, Calif.-based developer of ESPRIT CAD/CAM software, with the machine tool builder influenced Single Source’s software purchase. Moore added that DP Technology also has a similar approach to customer relations.

“Mori Seiki and ESPRIT teamed up on developing the programming software,” said Nathan Ellinger, Single Source programmer. “It made it easier for us to talk to that machine.”

In addition to 2 weeks of software training at DMG Mori Seiki University, Ellinger noted that a DVD series about the program is available to provide instruction.

With its multitask machining system in place, Single Source realized the benefit of completing a part in one setup and not having to transfer the workpiece from machine to machine. For one fixture-intensive part, the shop went from seven setups to one while reducing the time to complete the part from about 5½ hours to an hour, according to Ellinger. “That’s one example of how the machine has made manufacturing easier.”

He added that ESPRIT played a significant role in enhancing the machining process because of tools such as feature recognition, enhanced cutting tool control and machine simulation. With feature-recognition capability, the software automatically recognizes specific part features by reading the solid model and isolating features, which saves time, especially when creating toolpaths for parts with complex shapes, according to Ellinger. When a user selects a hole, for example, the software recognizes the hole size but provides the option of describing it differently, such as a tapped hole of a specific size. “From there, the software pulls your drill, chamfer tool and tap, or tools for whatever processes you want, and you don’t have to make a separate toolpath for each one of those,” he said.

In addition, the software also recognizes a feature’s planes. When machining multiple faces on a part, ESPRIT automatically creates each plane. “All you have to worry about is how you want your tool to go across it,” Ellinger said.

On the other hand, manually creating a plane might require four or five mouse clicks, which isn’t significant for a simple part with few planes. But those parts aren’t what Single Source typically faces.

One automotive part with a series of serrated teeth, for instance, includes 30 planes for just the teeth—a minimum of 150 mouse clicks. “Literally, with ESPRIT, it is two to three mouse clicks instead of hundreds of mouse clicks,” Ellinger said. “If the part took 6 hours to program, you could knock off a good half hour of that just from the automatic plane creation and the fewer mouse clicks required.”

After the software outputs the G code for a toolpath, the software provides “the ability to control that toolpath in some amazing ways,” Ellinger said. That includes being able to change machining parameters in the middle of a cut and perform roughing and finishing operations in any order to maximize productivity and tool life.

One of the more impressive elements of the software is the machining simulation feature, according to Ellinger. Because the machine builder teamed up with the software developer, the CAM program came with a complete model of the mill/turn machine, including all chucks, the back spindle and the B-axis head. “If the machine had a turret on the bottom, the model would have that. It’s a very accurate, true-to-life simulation,” Ellinger said. “I feel confident that when I’m done programming, even though I may not have done everything perfectly, I won’t have a crash at the machine.”

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