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[8/25/2020] Given the current state of affairs in 2020, maintaining a competitive advantage and turning a profit for machine shops is precarious in an industry fraught with challenges such as supply chain issues, shifting demand, offshoring of milling and machining work, and a labor shortage/skills gap. In fact, precarious might be an understatement! Added to all of this is the recent COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world, and predictions that U.S. manufacturing activity will continue to contract as the outbreak imparts negative pressure on the economy. The bottom line is that shop owners are facing unprecedented challenges to their livelihoods, so whether or not a facility is using its resources in an efficient manner is of the utmost importance.
At Advanced Precision Machining (APM), our Colorado machine shop is no different. After inevitable operational slowdowns earlier this spring, and with careful planning, we’ve ramped up to full capacity with strict health and safety guidelines in place. Our ownership and CNC machinists have established new best practices within our rearranged milling and machining facility, and we are now tasked with operating in more efficient and cost-effective ways. Due to recent events, the precision manufacturing market currently is more competitive than ever, and we must put our business in a better position to meet the rising demand for more parts. Near the top of our priority list is reducing downtime (machine and employee) and production delays.
Today’s technologically advanced machine tools utilized by machine shops like APM have provided us with the ability to further streamline our operations and maximize productivity, but the demands placed upon equipment, and the fabrication of more complex part geometries, meaning that errors in the actual milling and machining process have the potential to become more commonplace. Milling, turning, grinding, and measuring machines are at the very heart of the precision machine work, but they rely on critical, cutting-edge software and CNC programming to run successfully. Creating and entering the correct code is part science and part art, and is always subject to human input. Inevitably, errors can and unfortunately do occur. Because CNC controls follow programming instructions to the letter, mistakes often result in serious consequences – from ruining parts to crashing tools into workpieces destroying expensive spindles or worse, causing damage to expensive equipment. All of this leads to costly downtime, production delays, and lost revenue.
The use of CNC machine simulation software solves this problem and is an essential tool for machinists, ensuring 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 its utilization, a machine operator enters the applicable CNC program, the geometry of the part, the tool being used, other applicable parameters, then runs it. The simulation software being used shows all the machine motions thus enabling any errors to be seen beforehand. Input errors are surprisingly common in programming processes, 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 enables 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.
Need help with an upcoming project? APM’s machine shop is operating at full capacity, and our reputation for quality parts, on-time reliability, and exceptional customer service cannot be matched! We're happy to discuss any machining needs you may have. Call us at 720-885-9411 or send us an email.
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 and a partner began 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.