Edited by Leslie Gordon
The Aerospace Div. of Turbocam Inc. in Barrington, Mass., where I work, and which makes turbomachinery parts, decided to use Mastercam Mill as its CNC programming package. The CAM package lets us develop our extensive library of proprietary multiaxis milling toolpaths. We also switched to the Mastercam CNC X5 Lathe package.
The X5 Lathe software provided generic posts that worked with our equipment (six lathes: three conventional two-axis machines, and three with live tooling.) Our reseller offered to help us customize these posts but we chose to do it ourselves to more quickly learn the software. The posts were user friendly and easy to customize. Working closely with our lead lathe machinist, I adapted new posts to our manufacturing floor in less than a week.
We used Mastercam X5 Lathe for awhile and then upgraded to the free X6 version, which our maintenance license let us do. Version X6 features an extensive suite of libraries for tools, inserts, and toolholders provided for by such tool manufacturers as Kennametal, Iscar, and Sandvik. These immediately made my life easier. Instead of having to model a tool in the software, all you do is enter the tool number. This saves about 5 min every time you use a different tool. For a company that writes a lot of lathe programs, those minutes quickly add up to hours and days of time saved.
Another advantage is its capability to model parts in the chuck. Frequently, the starting point for parts we make are unique forgings. Our suppliers send us the CAD files, and we use it to make an exact model of the stock and chuck jaws to give us an accurate starting point. This lets us feed the tool in close to the stock and know that the machine won’t crash. Otherwise, the program behaves as if it were cutting a standard bar of stock, but it cuts almost no air as the tool moves in to engage the actual shape of the forging. Setting up this accurate stock model is easy. It only takes about 5 min of programming time.
Additionally, X6’s stock modeling helps us be more precise by giving us a window into the state of the part after every cut, not just at the end of the program. The stock model is continually updated during programming. The program warns about undercutting or tool collisions. We frequently use the stock-modeling ability to see exactly what the tool is going to do. This lets us make corrections immediately, so we don’t have to double back from the end of the program to correct a chain of unfortunate consequences stemming from a miscue early in the program. We don’t even need to go out to the shop and watch a part being machined for the first time. Instead, the machinist and I watch a simulation in the software. He usually makes suggestions for improving the manufacturing process and productivity, helping us to learn from each other.
Not everything about Mastercam X6 Lathe is ideal. For example: Job setup sheets in ActiveReports Designer are difficult to navigate through and tough to learn. However, this minor annoyance does not detract from the positive overall contributions this software makes to our lathe operations.