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Delcam’s FeatureCAM helps cut aerospace delivery times by 60%


With Delcam’s FeatureCAM, Bob Lewis Machine can take on more complex parts and deliver them more quickly

A combination of Delcam’s FeatureCAM feature-based CAM system and two new five-axis machine tools has reduced the delivery time on a typical challenging part for the aerospace industry by about 60%, according to Bob Lewis Machine Co President, Jeff Lewis.

Bob Lewis founded his eponymous company in 1975 in his garage in Torrance, California, with a Bridgeport mill and three drill presses.  Over the years, the company added more equipment and moved to progressively larger facilities up to its current 10,000 square-foot facility in Gardena, California.  A comprehensive CNC programming department was added to support the growing number of CNC machining centres before Bob Lewis retired in 2001 and Jeff Lewis took over the management of the company.

Jeff Lewis explained that the company philosophy was "to take on work that others will not do”.  To support this approach, the company substantially improved its machining capabilities a few years ago by purchasing two five-axis CNC machines.  However, the CNC programming software being used at the time was not able to fully access the capabilities of the new machines. 

"I spoke to a friend in the area that owned several five-axis machines and he recommended FeatureCAM strongly,” Jeff Lewis remembered.  "He told me that, by automating many aspects of the programming process, it simplifies the task and makes it much faster.  He also said that Delcam provided excellent technical support.”

With such a strong recommendation, the company had no hesitation in purchasing FeatureCAM.  It soon found that the new software made programming easy, even for the most complicated parts, for machining on both the new five-axis machines and the existing three-axis equipment.

By taking full advantage of the five-axis machines, the company is now able to reduce the number of set-ups required to machine complex aerospace parts from ten or twelve to two.  This is because both the part and tool can be moved so that the cutter can access the part from nearly any angle.

The company now has six networked computers running FeatureCAM that are used to generate programs for all sixteen of its CNC machine centres.  With the software, programmers at Bob Lewis Machine can access every capability of the five-axis machines, including drilling holes at multiple angles in a single set-up and machining surfaces at compound angles.

The company now saves substantial amounts of time and money that were previously spent building fixtures and changing the part from one fixture to another.  Relationships between different features within complex parts can now be held much more closely than in the past by machining them in the same set-up.

"Our use of FeatureCAM and five-axis machining has substantially increased the capabilities of our company,” Jeff Lewis said.  "By reducing the number of set-ups on the typical complex aerospace part, we dramatically reduce the amount of time required to make that part.  FeatureCAM provides a major contribution by making the machines perform to their full capacity while also reducing programming time.”

"We could not be happier with the service and support we are receiving from Delcam,” he added.  "When Marcelo Hermosillo, our Operations Manager, had issues in dealing with a particularly complex part, he contacted the FeatureCAM support team.  They responded quickly and showed him a new way to tackle the problem that he had never seen before.”

04 March 2014