Delcam’s FeatureCAM cuts programming times by up to 75%

With Delcam’s FeatureCAM, programming times at Vector Tool have been reduced significantly

Since changing to Delcam’s FeatureCAM knowledge-based CAM system, Vector Tool & Engineering has reduced programming time for feature-intensive 2.5D parts by 50% to 75% and for less feature-intensive 3D parts by 25%.  This adds up to a lot of savings for the mouldmaking company that generates an average of 240 new programs every month.  In addition, machining time has been saved by the software’s more efficient rest-machining and trochoidal-milling capabilities.

Located in greater Kansas City, Missouri, Vector Tool & Engineering offers complete engineering and fabrication of injection moulds and tooling for the plastics industry, as well as contract machining for the aerospace industry.  The company is a subsidiary of Peterson Manufacturing, a leader in safety lighting products for the automotive and heavy-duty truck markets since 1945.

While Vector Tool continues to see growth in new mould builds, the company also carries out extensive revision, rebuild and maintenance for its customers both inside and outside the Peterson Group.  This combination of work requires fast reaction times to keep customers up and running.

"Our business has become more and more competitive, and CNC programming has always been a very critical factor for us,” said Randy Bennett, Lead Programmer for Vector Tool.  "We felt that we needed a major improvement in efficiency that we were not getting from our previous software.  The thing that sold us on FeatureCAM was its ability to automatically recognise features such as holes, pockets, bosses and slots, in 3D solid and surface models.  This means that we don’t have to deal with each individual surface but can program features instead.  This is much less time-intensive because there are far fewer features and because the inherent commonality of features means that they can often be programmed from libraries.”

After the design phase is complete, the company’s CNC programmers begin by importing the component.  After the programmer is satisfied with the way that the features have been defined, the next step is to pick tools, and speeds and feeds, for machining each feature.  The natural repetitiveness of features means that it is often possible to pick a tool and machining conditions from a similar example that has been machined previously and saved in the software’s library.  Many parts also have multiple copies of some features and in this case the relevant program can be copied easily to each location where it is needed.

Dave Kennedy, CNC Manager for Vector Tool & Engineering, said that Delcam does an excellent job of supporting FeatureCAM.  "Delcam showed a willingness to listen right at the very beginning when, instead of presenting a canned demonstration, the demonstrator asked for one of our part files and programmed it in front of our eyes,” he said.  "The support team responds to our inquiries efficiently and, in the few cases when they don’t have an immediate answer, they get back to us very rapidly.”

"Our switch to FeatureCAM has helped us improve our programming efficiency greatly,” Mr. Bennett concluded.  "The productivity of our programmers has been increased substantially, especially on the feature-rich 2.5D parts which constitute the vast majority of our programming workload.  We have only used the new software for a few months so we believe that we should be able to achieve considerable additional productivity gains.  We have also seen significant reductions in cycle time, especially on 3D parts, and surface finish has also been improved.  Delcam staff represented the product very accurately.  It does everything they said it could do.”