The cost of large envelope CNC machines typically runs well into six or even seven figures.
Thistle Rose Holdings Ltd in Skipton have adopted an emerging technology -robotic arm machining – to create a machining cell that can machine 6m x 1.8m x 1.8m for a total investment, including specialist software for around the cost of an entry level 2m 2.5 axis table.
The hardware involved in the cell was relatively straightforward to select and configure, but the software choice was more problematic.
As Managing Director Peter Occardi says “There is lots of CAM software available primarily written for gantry machine X,Y,Z,A,B,C movements. The problem with a robotic arm is that to move say in X+ requires all 6 axis to work in harmony – this is a tough call for most CAM software.”
Thistle Rose Holdings evaluated and tested eight different software packages before selecting SprutCAM. Why SprutCAM? Peter has very sound reasons. “As we looked at using a robotic arm, it became clear that simulation was an absolute necessity to ensure that the robot didn’t collide with itself or produce singularities. Only 3 pieces of software evaluated these phenomena.”
There are better-known names in Robotic Software, but after evaluation, SprutCAM came out on top. “With very large parts to machine, our toolpaths can run into kilometres rather than metres”, says Peter, “We found that SprutCAM calculated the toolpaths and robot axis up to 10 times faster than the competition, meaning our engineers are not watching the ‘toilet swirl’ all day long.”
Thistle Rose were productive within hours of SprutCAM installation. SprutCAM was the clear leader based on functionality after the Thistle Rose evaluation, but price always plays a part. Peter was pleasantly surprised when he finally compared like for like costs of SprutCAM to its competitors. “We all receive ‘demo software’ then find out that to actually attain that level of function requires several pricey bolt-ons.” says Peter, “The delight with SprutCAM was that 5-axis, complex blank, cell simulation, toolpath optimization, postprocessor coding etc were all in the basic robotic package. Comparing like-for-like, SprutCAM was the best economic choice as well as the best for functionality and performance.”
What about support? Surely the ‘big boys’ will have this licked? Peter doesn’t think so. “I would rarely shout from the rooftops about support, but I will with SprutCAM. Throughout evaluation, commissioning, post install, training etc support from Sprut Technology UK has been superb, for once I don’t grudge paying an optional maintenance fee!”
Thistle Rose are extremely happy with their SprutCAM purchase and the tools and efficiency within the Software. As an expansion path there is even the possibility to utilise the licence with other machines, which all bodes well for the future use of the software by Thistle Rose Holdings Ltd.
Peter Occardi Managing Director.
Tel: 01756 795771
SprutCAM from SPRUT Technology (UK) has helped Anotronic expand its conventional subcontracting business
Anotronic has long been established in subcontract and sales of EDM and ECM, but it found more and more customers were requiring complete manufacture.
Martin White, production director at Anotronic, said: «We had a particularly tricky part to manufacture, which we used as a benchmark. Within half an hour of downloading a demo version of SprutCAM, I was able to program the part myself.»
“Dave Pearson, from SPRUT Technology, then visited our site and we were machining the part within an hour of his arrival”, White added.
Since then, Anotronic has expanded its machining capacity to four four-axis Hurcos with Nikken rotary tables and a new five-axis Hurco VM10U in November 2008. The company has just installed the latest version of the software, SprutCAM 7. This enables it to produce five-axis toolpaths as well as achieving rotary milling by simultaneously controlling the C-axis of the Nikken rotary tables on its four-axis Hurcos.
“We can rough parts, which would normally require long tool lengths, by using rotary milling techniques on the four-axis machines, thanks to the rigidity of the Nikken tables, and then finish them on the five-axis machine,” said White.
The advantage of this process for Anotronic is that fewer setups are required to finish the job and much greater tool life can be achieved. One of the company’s jobs has been reduced from nine operations to three, thanks to using four- and five-axis methods.
White added: “The instability of long tool lengths on some jobs resulted in short tip life, making it impossible to make a profit. By using rotary milling and five-axis machining we can make these jobs pay. The power of SprutCAM makes this a practical solution for us”.
Much of the company’s work comes from the medical, power generation, aerospace and oil-field industries, so it is frequently working with Inconel, titanium and stainless steel. Batch quantities range from 10 to 100 parts and lead times are short, so the ability to program parts quickly and effectively is very important.
White continued: “The programs we create in SprutCAM can be switched between any of our Hurcos, giving us maximum flexibility. We also merge the complex toolpaths created by the software with the canned cycles available on the Ultimax controls. This enables us to optimise our programs and makes it faster and simpler to make small changes on the shop floor. Without SprutCAM, our customer’s delivery schedules would have been unachievable.”
CAD data sent to Anotronic by its customers goes straight into SprutCAM, which has an extensive range of translators included. The software is tolerant of small gaps in the model and is also able to automatically ignore holes, saving the time required to patch over them. Trochoidal milling paths can be switched on or off, as can climb milling, giving users a significant amount of control, which is especially important for tough materials such as Inconel and for complex part geometry.
Anotronic particularly likes the software’s ability to reapply existing toolpaths to new geometry. The benefit for the user is that once the best method has been established, the next part can be programmed in seconds.
White is also impressed with the support.
“The software is really easy to use and learn. Anyone with an understanding of machining can work it. SPRUT Technology is really helpful and knowledgeable and quickly responds to any queries we have. There is also an extensive library of video tutorials available to make it even easier to operate”, he added.
One of Anotronic‘s considerations when purchasing SprutCAM was cost effectiveness.
White concluded: “The software is much lower in cost than some of its competitors and easily does everything we want it to. You get the whole package, including three, four and five-axis milling, turning and wire erosion without any hidden extras. Ongoing support is inexpensive too, giving you access to the help desk and software upgrades — SprutCAM 7 processing is even faster. We are delighted with it and it has made a big difference to our business”, he finished.
A & P Engineering: SprutCAM Expert was the right choice
We have been using the SprutCAM Expert software for about 10 months now, and it has exceeded our expectations.
We had previously purchased another Cad/Cam system, and this had proved unreliable and difficult to obtain any useful support, so when we were offered a job that required 3D machining, we were naturally hesitant about using our existing system and decided to look at some alternatives.
After looking at several systems we decided to trial the SprutCAM Expert system and were very impressed with the speed and ease at which we were becoming familiar with the system and we felt that the SprutCAM Expert was the right choice.
With no formal training, and a few phone calls to Sprut Technology”s support line, we were up to speed very quickly and had the first batch of 3D work completed.
The SprutCAM system has allowed us to take on more complex work from new customers and has integrated within our day to day running very smoothly.
When you look at this system compared to others on the market which cost significantly more, you can appreciate what value for money this system really is. We cannot praise the support from Sprut highly enough. They have always answered our questions promptly, and in a “down to earth” manner.
Although we purchased SprutCAM for our 3D work, we now use it for pretty much all our 2D work as well.
coupled with the Rhino 3D cad system that was purchased at the same time for part manipulation and design, this is a very versatile and powerful package which is very easy to use.
Andy Brain Managing Director, A & P Engineering