Advanced Precision Machining

Reducing Downtime and Production Delays With CNC Machine Simulation Software

[12/13/2015] Maintaining a competitive advantage and turning a profit in the precision manufacturing industry is difficult in an environment filled with challenges such as offshoring of milling and machining work and finding qualified CNC machinists to fill the current skills gap. Advanced Precision Machinings’ Colorado machine shop is consistently tasked with operating our facility in more efficient and cost effective ways. Reducing downtime (machine and employee) and production delays is most often at the top of the list. Advances in CNC machine tool technology and the demands placed on equipment by more complex designs on parts to be machined mean that errors in the actual milling and machining process have the potential to become more commonplace. CNC programming is part science and part art, but is always subject to human input. Inevitably, errors can occur during the programming process and because CNC controls follow the instructions given in a program to the letter, mistakes made will have serious consequences – from ruining parts, to crashing tools into workpieces destroying expensive spindles or worse, causing damage to expensive milling machines.

The use of CNC machine simulation software is an essential tool in a machinist’s toolbox to ensure that numerical controls are programmed accurately and parts are machined correctly the first time. Advances in software development now allow for the simulation of all parts and operations of a CNC machine, interactively displaying the material removal process of a numerically controlled program. To breakdown how it works, a machine operator enters the applicable CNC program, the geometry of the part, the tool being used and other parameters then runs it. The simulation software being used shows all the machine motions thus enabling any errors to be seen. Having errors is surprisingly common, and thinking that CAM generated g-code software would never make a mistake is inviting trouble. Top of the line simulation software such as CGTech’s Vericut and MasterCam Verify for example, can detect possible machine part interference, workpiece errors, invalid codes and much more.  

Instead of verifying and proving out a part manually in a time consuming mock cycle on the machine shop floor, today’s CNC machine simulation software has enabled faster setups and reduced downtime. The simulation and detection of programming errors, potential collisions between machine tool components and other areas of inefficiency, including optimal cutting speeds, has been a game changer for the precision manufacturing industry. To operate more efficiently and cost-effectively, simulation software is the machine shop ticket to reduced CNC milling times, crash prevention and the elimination of prove-out processes without further burdening staff, or taking on new staff in today’s trying labor environment. If your bottom line needs improvement, then CNC machine simulation software should be at the top of your shopping list.

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About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised on the emerald isle of Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he partnered with his friend and colleague, Kirk Tuesburg, currently APM’s machine shop manager, together launching what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.

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