Monday, February 13, 2012

CAD/CAM Overkill ... What?

No one can deny that CAD/CAM is a powerful tool. Without it ... many of the products and designs we have today would not have been possible. BUT ... in some instances, that power and complexity can actually be a detriment to productivity and efficiency.

When we refer to CAD/CAM Overkill ... what is it exactly that we mean?

Think about this example ... a part is about to hit the shop floor's VMC. The machining consists of a simple profile cut ... a round pocket with a bolt hole circle at the bottom. The kind of programming done in 95% of shops every day. What happens next?

In the CAD/CAM World ...

The first thing that is required is a drawing ... or perhaps the the customer has supplied a sold model. First ... a solid model .... REALLY? Do we need a solid model for a part like this? Or a CAD drawing ... again, do we really need to spend the time creating a pretty CAD drawing. If you are living in the CAD/CAM world ... yes. Nothing happens without a drawing. In either instance ... an experienced CAD/CAM "guy" is required.

In the CAD/CAM world ... next comes the selection of tooling ... the creation of the program ... the posting of the program for the desired machine and control ... deliver the G code to the machine for set-up.

After test cutting ... some changes are required which means maybe some re-drawing ... re-posting ... all done by the CAD/CAM "guy" only. Don't even go to "We'll have to run this on the "other" machine."

All of the above is being performed by the high priced, experienced CAD/CAM "guy". In your typical small manufacturing environment, this simple programming job is tied to maybe one or two people who have the experience to operate that company's specific CAD/CAM system. If they decide to seek better fortunes elsewhere ... the job search begins for someone with experience in that company's specific CAD/CAM system ... or hire someone who requires training to adapt their knowledge to that company's specific CAD/CAM system.

In the REAL WORLD ...

Using a programming system like Kipware® conversational from Kentech Inc. ... the first thing that happens is the boss gives the print to a machinist ... maybe someone who is not a great CNC programmer ... but a good chipmaker. He pulls up the conversational menus, completes the plain and simple on-screen questions, and creates an efficient G code program quickly and easily.

Every shop should have or does have an experienced chipmaker on the shop floor ... oftentimes not so capable of creating a G code program from scratch ... maybe capable of editing G code. A tool like Kipware® conversational is just what they need to go from an editor to a programmer.

Since the software uses generic G code ... it is most likely compatible with any machine on the shop floor. If some specific requirements are needed ... an add-on tool like Kentech's KipwareXC® application ... can convert the standard G code output to another format. KipwareXC® only requires the G code program ... better than any post-processor system. So the job comes back next month but needs to run on the "other" machine. Anyone can take the proven G code ... run it through KipwareXC® and have it auto-converted to the "other" machines format. Better yet ... KipwareXC® can accommodate any G code ... any machine format ... no CAD or CAM file needed. That means that program you wrote 2 years ago and for which no CAD/CAM file can be found can be converted as well.

Now we are not saying that shops do not need a CAD/CAM system. What we are saying is that the CAD/CAM system is not the most efficient tool for EVERY job.For the programming that is done in 95% of real world shops every day ... CAD/CAM can slow down the programming process ... and oftentimes eliminates good chip makers from that programming process ... creating bottlenecks and holding your shop floor hostage. A tool like Kipware® conversational gives the shop floor the power and flexibility to have multiple chipmakers creating the everyday programs ... and leaves the CAD/CAM guy for the more complex, 3D, mold work ... if that ever comes down the road.

CAD/CAM OVERKILL .... just think about it the next time you have to create a G code program.

Could your CAD/CAM system actually be costing you money?