Corporate Industries

Delcam’s FeatureCAM gives five-axis profit in four months


With Delcam’s FeatureCAM, Ed Padgett has made his new five-axis machine profitable in four months

Padgett Machine has turned a profit on a new five-axis machine in just four months thanks to Delcam’s FeatureCAM feature-based CAM system.  The AS9100-compliant machining company of fifteen employees based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, recently added a five-axis Haas machine and moved up to the five-axis version of FeatureCAM.  It was already using the software across the range of other CNC machines in its shop.

"Adding this capability has put perhaps 35% onto our gross sales,” claimed company president Ed Padgett.  "Four months into this new line of work and we are already profitable with it.  That would not have been possible without FeatureCAM.”

"Using FeatureCAM’s five-axis capabilities allowed us to hold the part so that we can machine on the top and four sides in one setup, saving us quite a bit of time and providing much better results,” said Mr. Padgett.  "In a three-axis machine, it would take eight or nine setups for some of the parts that we can now do in one operation.”

Shops like Padgett are the backbone of the aircraft-maintenance industry.  95% of its work is for military aircraft.  Most of it starts with an old drawing, sometimes more than 50 years old.  "It may take ten to fifteen hours per part to develop the geometry and load all the dimensions, but FeatureCAM lets us quickly build the features of the part in order to generate the CNC program,” said Mr. Padgett.

The FeatureCAM edge is important.  "We have to be competitive against many other approved vendors every time a job is offered or I lose my business,” Mr. Padgett stressed. "So far, we have been able to keep our niche, working in heavy maintenance programmes for military aircraft.”

One of Padgett’s recent jobs included 75 different replacement parts for F-16 jet fighters.  Among the most complex were sixteen supports holding the wings.  Each had a different surface where it had to meet the fuselage of the plane.  "The surface on this critical part is accomplished with just one command in FeatureCAM, saving me a lot of programming time,” commented Mr. Padgett. 

Padgett also provides parts for B-52 bombers.  "It’s mind-boggling how they built more than 700 of these planes in the 1950s, without the benefit of CNC,” said Mr. Padgett.  "The process code for just one of the parts we are working on is over 160,000 lines.  FeatureCAM processes it in less than 20 seconds.”

Another use for FeatureCAM is in helping to build quotes.  "Scheduling is always a big issue with our customers,” explained Mr. Padgett.  "With FeatureCAM, we can do this quickly and efficiently, and at less cost.  I can do a time study that will be accurate to within 2-3% of what it will cost to produce a part.”

According to Mr. Padgett’s experience, "If you do not have CAM software, you cannot be competitive because these programs cannot be written manually.  You would be out of business before you got it done.”  Far from being out of business, Padgett is planning its next expansion.  The company has purchased land adjoining it existing site and is ready to double its plant size.