PDF iconComplex Components – Simple Programming With Alphacam

Installing Alphacam helped a Swindon company overcome a shortage of skilled machine programrs, by creating optimum toolpaths for manufacturing complex scientific components. 
Scientific Manufacturing Solutions Ltd produce parts for a variety of sectors, including cryogenics, renewable energy, hybrid power and motorsport, along with a number of science-based industries in Oxfordshire. 

“It’s allowed us to fill the shop floor with complex parts and still have the capacity to program them all quickly and easily."

 Dave Kimber, Director

Managing Director Craig Soubieski says it is getting impossible to find engineers with the skills to program machines manually. “Programming our Doosan CNC machines with Alphacam helped us emerge strongly from the recession.  We certainly couldn’t have moved forwards as a business to be where we are today, without Alphacam.” 
Fellow Director Dave Kimber says: “Many of our components are used for high-end experiments. We just wouldn’t be able to machine them if we didn’t have Alphacam.” The company was established in 2010 after he and Craig saw a gap in the market for a specialist sub-contract manufacturer able to provide a total systems solution comprizing technical consultancy, advanced machining and manufacturing methods, and assemblies.
“We generally receive new components as STEP files and sometimes as ParaSolid or IGES, all of which are easily imported into Alphacam. There’s not much I can’t get up and running within half an hour, even the 3+2 programs.”
And he says the software saves them days of programming time on complicated parts. “We couldn’t produce them competitively without Alphacam...we simply take in the CAD file and highlight the features we want to machine. That gives 100 per cent reliability and the confidence that we’re producing exactly what the customer supplied on their STEP file.” 
Using Alphacam means the company can now have one person producing parts on seven machines, mainly in aluminum and stainless steel, with some exotics such as inconel. “It’s allowed us to fill the shop floor with complex parts and still have the capacity to program them all quickly and easily. I program them, and the machine operator just has to set the machines to the tooling lists I send across.” 
Alphacam drives three Doosan mills, a Doosan lathe with C-axis, and a teach lathe. While accurate Return On Investment is difficult to quantify, Craig believes it has paid for itself many times by preventing costly collisions. “When we’ve produced a program for a component we run it through the simulator, and when we start to cut metal the cutting tools always do exactly what the simulator showed us.
“So we have full confidence there won’t be a crash, even on the 3+2 machining where the machine has to home to a certain position for the tool changes. If we were doing that manually there would always be the risk of an error causing a collision that smashes the tool change.”
With investment in high-performance machine tools playing a key role in SMS’s development since the company was founded, Dave Kimber says Alphacam has been instrumental in taking them to an even higher level. 
In particular, it achieved an accurate and repeatable stable process on their Doosan DNM 650 vertical machining center, for manufacturing a diverse range of complex parts for Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire. They include high-precision rails and magnet holders for a device that produces an electron beam used in a variety of scientific experiments. The Doosan (1270mm X-axis, 650mm Y-axis, 670mm Z-axis), is equipped with an 18.5kW 12,000rpm 40 Taper spindle, a 30-position ATC and 1300mm x 670mm table. 
Working on projects for around 20 customers at any one time, Craig Soubieski says having the Alphacam 3+2 and turning packages gave them the opportunity to invest in machine tools which can all be programd swiftly and accurately, rather than trying to recruit a shrinking number of engineers with manual programming skills.  “We can train someone who has no knowledge of Alphacam, how to use it for simple parts, within a day.” 
He concludes by saying that while most of their contracts predominantly call for 2.5D, when he undertakes 3D work he finds the overall ease of drawing and programming to be invaluable. “The fact that we can create accurate prototypes in a very short time has helped us secure high-profile work and repeat business from customers, putting the company on a secure footing.” 
Operating out of 6,000 square foot premizes with 12 employees they have seen consistent growth from £500,000 turnover in their first year, to £1.2m in 2013.

About the Company

Name: Scientific Manufacturing Solutions Ltd 

Web: www.sm-solution.co.uk


Benefits Achieved

  • Saves days of programming
  • 100% confident in what they produce for customers
  • Able to train someone to use Alphacam within a day


“It’s allowed us to fill the shop floor with complex parts and still have the capacity to program them all quickly and easily."
Dave Kimber, Director


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