Automate with CAMWorks


For startups and small businesses alike, CAMWorks offers a myriad of benefits, specifically in reference to the Technology Database (TechDB) and Automated Feature Recognition (AFR). When compared to lights out machining, these two facets offer comparable value or greater. Although decision-makers in the manufacturing space are eager to automate 360° of their processes, incremental automations are key to making progress. Overall, it’s important for teams to identify which aspects of their production cycle can be automated to yield the highest ROI. The following blog post will focus on leveraging CAM automation for the purposes of reducing human error, clearly defining a strategy, and ultimately, scaling.

Mitigating Human Error

All throughout the manufacturing process, human error has the potential to degrade quality, consistency, and safety. Fortunately, systematic processes can be implemented to reduce the chances of human error. Small volume, high turn operations such as DEVELOP LLC are intimately familiar with the challenges posed by human error, implementing fail-safes to reduce the likelihood of accidents and costly mistakes as much as possible.

Even on a small scale, DEVELOP strategically maps out and combats human error. Large-scale operations without a strategic plan to mitigate human error, however, are likely to repeat the mistakes of the past. CAMWorks TechDB remembers the specific processes and strategies you use in your manufacturing process and applies them via AFR. In turn, you can focus on any unique part features that are not within your TechDB. As a result, you can scale repetitive processes through automation without increasing the risk of human error.

When considering which processes to automate, the standard feeds and speeds applied to your tools are generally a sound starting point. Afterward, you might consider automating the operations your most common tools are used in. For example, bottom finishing, which requires minor tuning and tweaking, can largely be automated. More particularly, inherently risky operations such as roughing or 3D finishing can be made safer through automation, enabling teams to safely produce higher volume as they scale.

Machining: An Artistic Process

Machining is both an art and a science. If, for example, two parts were given to two different machinists, they would likely use two different machining processes based on the tools, machines, and shop practices they are either accustomed to or have available. Unless a common TechDB is used, the process can vary dramatically. In fact, many shops place a high level of pride and emphasis on reviewing various parts and determining the best process moving forward. While differing processes are not inherently wrong, their cost-effectiveness and a range of other measurable factors may vary dramatically. Recognizing that the artistic process behind machining contains a significant amount of subjectivity, DEVELOP leverages the following metrics to standardize the process.

Making Sense Out of Subjectivity

  • In many cases, seasoned machinists can determine how a specific program is tuned based on sound. Even the manner in which the ground trembles tells a story of its own. When listening for audio, many machinists will tune into the output of High-Speed Machining (HSM). Here, the optimal RPM is based on the highest value your spindles and other tools allow, while the optimal flute length wears out the entire flute to achieve a consistent load on your spindle (as close to 100% as possible) using the VoluMill software.
  • Traditionally, mirror surface finishes are the mark of a successful machining process. At the same time, some of the best parts are those that stand out even before reaching the shop floor. Unique industrial parts created by designers, engineers, and machinists can include checkered effects from a face mill, large scallops with a ball nose, overfed hognose finishes, and beyond. Regardless of the design, repeatability is key, not just via a saved tool path, but also with the tools themselves. For example, the angle of a 3D surface must be accounted for properly.

Factoring In Quantifiable Metrics

At scale, quantifiable metrics become easier to calculate. On the other hand, small businesses, especially those that are newly established, can benefit from focusing less on costs and more on part production. After all, growing your customer base, developing a process list, expanding your tool crib, and turning a profit each takes time. If a shop or manufacturer is caught up in analysis paralysis, they may be distracted from creating output (the same output that yields data in the first place). While automations can help expedite the scaling process, fine-tuning can only take place once there is data to fine-tune.

Businesses in the position to optimize should consider the following costs:

  • Spindle Time – Spindles are notoriously expensive, especially spindles that are either inactive or use an ineffective RPM and tool combination. The right TechDB can not only help optimize your existing spindles, but also save the optimal tool path. TITAN, a new addition to the CAMWorks and SOLIDWORKS strategy, is worth reviewing for more information.
  • Consumables – The cost of a machine pales in comparison to the cost of workholding and tooling. As an initial investment, the machine may seem more expensive. Over the long haul, however, recurring tooling expenses add up. Although these expenses can quickly become unwieldy, they should not be cut at the expense of quality. While costly, the right tooling and operation strategy can prevent rework while carving out your edge against peer competitors. Inadvertently, shops that cut costs on consumables end up paying in other ways, including defects and rework. Not to mention, quality tooling may last longer, meaning that shops can save by not purchasing as frequently.
  • Labor – Developing the optimal strategies and processes can be both time-consuming and challenging to communicate, especially for complex operations such as 3D surfaces. In the face of programming, setup, workholding, changeover, cleanup, and beyond, consistency goes a long way. Additionally, communication can be the make or break between effective asset utilization or inefficient workflows. That’s why DEVELOP leverages non-verbal CAD-CAM communication, sketch naming, MBD, and now, color coding for industrial design surfaces to ensure clarity and efficiency at every turn.
  • Rework – Rework isn’t just costly: it’s time-consuming, frustrating, and resource-heavy. At the same time, rework can throw your production schedule out of sync, causing delays that degrade your client relationships. Until you have rework on your plate, you might consider the peer review process unnecessary. Unlike rework, however, peer reviews are predictable, have set upfront costs, and align with your schedule. In turn, you can avoid rework, make tangible improvements, and create a more consistent working environment. Overall, a stitch in time saves nine, which is why peer reviews may be a sound strategy.

Smarter Manufacturing through CAMWorks

By using CAMWorks, DEVELOP has mitigated human error, accounted for the most subjective aspects of machining, and optimized quantifiable costs such as spindle time, consumables, labor, and rework.

This adaptive automation software helps accelerate the machining process, improve tool life, facilitate clearer shop-wide communication, and automatically integrate changes and design updates. As DEVELOP grows, CAMWorks will continue to play a pivotal role in scaling without sacrificing quality.

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