Note: This article originally appeared as a Case Study From: 5/1/2016 Modern Machine Shop, Edited by Emily Probst , Associate Editor
VIDEO NOTE: Scroll to the bottom of the page for a behind-the-scenes look at 5th Axis, and hear Chris Taylor talk about how Hypermill software has helped his company.
From day one, 5th Axis Inc.’s business strategy has been to take advantage of the most advanced software, equipment and technologies available so it could competitively enter demanding niche markets like aerospace, medical and other challenging high-tech industries.
However, during the company’s entry into five-axis machining, co-founders Steve Grangetto and Chris Taylor realized their CAM software had major shortcomings—machining collisions were common, and they weren’t able to realize the full potential of their machine tools. Using Hypermill from Open Mind Technologies AG of Wessling, Germany, the company achieves faster run times, better surface finishes and overall better quality
Business grew dramatically during the company’s first three years. To meet the growing demand for complex, five-axis machining, 5th Axis purchased a new high-performance five-axis machine to accompany its original Haas machine. However, during programming, the company realized the shortcomings of its existing, mainstream CAM software. Along with unexpected machining collisions, the company couldn’t fully utilize the speed, capabilities and potential of its new high-end machine. That’s when Mr. Grangetto and Mr. Taylor decided to give Hypermill a try.
For instance, five-axis machining greatly improves part precision by eliminating alignment errors that are introduced in standard machining when a part is removed and refixtured in another orientation. It is also extremely time-efficient, because most or all of the work is performed in a single setup with no delays while waiting for an operator to unload, reload and reposition the part.
Stepping through the tool path to watch it remove material and verify that it clears the machine without any collisions is a valuable time-saver. “I do not have to walk out to the shop floor and manually look inside a machine with coolant flowing to check clearances,” he says.
By controlling the amount of volume or the angle of the cutter’s engagement, the cutter can loop into a corner. The Maxx Machining roughing module extends tool life, and machining time is reduced by 30 to 75 percent by maintaining a constant chip load, Mr. Levine says. 5th Axis can use Hypermill Maxx Machining on materials ranging from aluminum to hard materials like Inconel because its high-speed machines are fast enough to keep up with the rapid toolpath motion that is generated. “The bottom line is that using Hypermill Maxx Machining results in super-efficient and fast tool paths,” Mr. Norton says.
Open Mind uses internal experts to develop postprocessors, which it considers to be a core technology of the company. The customized postprocessors have configurable parameters that enable users to control their particular environments. This means that the core mathematics and the basic structure of the post are created and locked down by Open Mind, but 5th Axis can change certain parameters, which influence the locked portion.
According to Mr. Levine, “Some companies give the customer a tool kit and the ability to build their own post, but those guys are not there to write postprocessors; they are there to cut metal. Also, writing the entire postprocessor is too much for the original equipment manufacturer that has to ensure compatibility with various CAM software products. An alternative approach is to give the customer no control, but then they would have to call back to the service supplier to make custom changes. Our combination of locked and open is not entirely common, and we believe it gives customers the best of both worlds.”
The high-quality tool paths, advanced CAM software capabilities, postprocessor support and skilled technical support give 5th Axis the confidence to take on ever more challenging jobs that require programming complex parts, Mr. Taylor says. “With Open Mind’s help, we never burn money getting stuck on a job. Their contribution has been a really big part of the growth of our business.”
We are very excited to announce a new partnership with 5th Axis Workholding located in San Diego, CA. 5th Axis has created a very nice dovetail workholding system for use in 5 axis milling and can also be used in turning. Please give them a big welcome to out family of principals!
5th Axis Workholding was created out of shear necessity. When Co-CEO’s Steve Grangetto and Chris Taylor started 5th Axis Inc. in 2005, they immediately recognized the need for quality workholding that addressed many of the common issues machinists encounter when moving into the 4th and 5th axis machining.
“Fixturing may be the ultimate in problem-solving,” he continues. “If you don’t start with a good, solid fixture – in either 3- or 5-axis work – you’re not going to end up with a good part. More axes just add more layers of complexity.” “A lot of people still aren’t used to thinking in 5 axes when it comes to fixturing,” observes Chris. “They often design them to get a part on and off quickly, without stopping to think about clearance issues.” In 5-axis work, A- and B-axis movement can seriously impact Z-axis clearance. Careless designs invite costly crashes. Longer tools lessen some clearance issues, but introduce problems of their own.
“Fixturing may be the ultimate in problem-solving. If you don’t start with a good, solid fixture – in either 3- or 5-axis work – you’re not going to end up with a good part. More axes just add more layers of complexity.” “When the fixture is right at the beginning,” Steve continues, “we can let the machine take care of most other problems. But, there are one or two areas that require further attention . . .”
At the September 2014 IMTS show, Emmett Quigley, the Manager of the Airborne Instrument Development Lab at NASA Ames Research Center, was looking for a modular workholding system that would help him to quickly change over the fixturing on his table to meet the lab's demands of rapid prototyping and development.
Demanding design requirements for future development
Quigley had several initial requirements:
Emmett looked at a couple of systems but post IMTS only mPower had followed up with the information he needed to start the design. He found that the Modern Industries mPower modular tombstones and fixturing systems would meet his needs, but would need some customization to truly get the maximum use of his machines table space and travels. The mPower system was to be implemented on two machines to begin with. The first would be the labs workhorse, a Deckel MAHO DMU70V. The next machine would be a Deckel Maho MH600C Universal Milling Machine. The MAHO is unique in that it has both a horizontal and vertical spindle as well as a full fourth axis capability.
After several email exchanges and design discussions with regional manager Chris Savolainen and Ron Bemis, the Application Engineer at Modern Industries the team spent from from October 15th through 17th reviewing the various part shapes and size requirements to define the subplate hole locations that would provide the very best versatility to meet the needs of the lab.
It was decided to go with 2" x 2", 1/2 -13 bolt hole pattern in 1.5 “ thick aluminum plates. However they needed to modify the DMU plate by adding the through hole so they can reach the table with their tool setter. Quigley then need to duplicate the plates in steel.
The final requirement was that the lab needed to have the locating/clamping features below the surface as these plates will need to be surfaced from time to time.
Due to budget constraints the system had to be developed with consideration for the longer term lab requirements so that it could eventually expand for upcoming new projects. Preparing for the unknown problem has always been part of the mission at NASA so long term contingency planning is the norm.
In June of 2015, phase one of the project was implemented on the Deckel Maho DMU70V machine.
Quigley's thoughts on the implementation thus far:
According to Savolainen "NASA's Airborne Instrument Development Lab at Ames really considers both current needs and future needs when they look at workholding systems. The machines and equipment have to be versatile enough to handle current projects but also new research projects that might not even exist until 10 or 15 years from now. They really put a great deal of thought into products before they get them and it's actually a real pleasure to work with engineers who plan and think so far into the future!"
BIG Kaiser brings flexible workholding to 5-axis machine tables by surrounding Unilock zero-point quick-change receivers with a grid pattern. The benefits of 5-axis machines are greatest when workholding is based on the size and shape of the workpiece instead of the limitations of the table interface. By providing multiple workholding opportunities, Unilock users quickly integrate most workholding products and keep their machine spindles up and running.
Providing BIG Kaiser with a drawing of your machine table (or the make and model number) is all it takes to get started. Clients can also request production drawings or use third party suppliers. BIG Kaiser offers several flexible machine table interfaces, some of which can be delivered as turnkey solutions. We can pull workpieces down onto the table to maximize the available envelope, or elevate workpieces for complete 5-sided access.
To be competitive in today's market, all machines need efficient workpiece handling. Efficient part loading systems are always included in the acquisition of high-volume manufacturing cells but all too often getting fixtures on and off the CNC milling machine is forgotten. In today's market, time is money. The UNILOCK system from Big Kaiser removes set-up time and replaces it with production time.
How it works
The UNILOCK utilizes spring pressure to drive wedges against a tapered wedge lock (clamping knob). Air pressure is used to compress the springs, releasing the wedge lock. Clamping is achieved by bleeding the air pressure out of the chuck. To facilitate palletization, the clamping knob is attached to a base plate, fixture or directly to a workpiece. The result is quick and repeatable clamping.
During day-to-day use, chucks can be cleaned with compressed air. The fit between the clamping rams and the chuck body will not allow air pressure to push chips inside of the chuck. If you get chips in the clamping pocket, simply blow them out with an air gun. When open, the wedges completely retract. The one-to-one length to diameter ratio of the pocket is easily blown out. There is no need for a vacuum. The 40mm tall by 40mm diameter clamping knob is extremely stable and can double as a foot when moving fixtures and workpieces around the shop. You will not need protective sleeves or special shelving when storing or transporting UNILOCK palletized fixtures or workpieces. Male and female threads are available in multiple sizes.
Fixtures and many workpieces are easily adapted to the UNILOCK clamping knobs. Tremendous savings are available if the fixture or workpiece can be reoriented
or transferred to machine additional faces while remaining attached to the UNILOCK clamping components. On horizontal machines with columns, fixtures can be rotated 90 degrees or moved to the top. Transferring fixtured parts through as many operations as possible eliminates additional fixtures and clamping/unclamping time. Less clamping and unclamping of parts also reduces scrap and improves feature-to-feature accuracies.
Once you grab the part, you can use the UNILOCK to send it to as many operations as possible without removing the part from the fixture. UNILOCK positions and clamps from one face leaving the other faces available for machining. Rotary tables, angle/sine plates and multi-sided tombstones facilitate part reorientation for subsequent operations.
Give us a call if you have an workholding application that costing you money and let's see if we can come up with a UNILOCK solution
Have you seen the Big Kaiser UniLock? It's a great modular workholding system for quick changeover and quick location. We're finding that alot of our customers who are using it are telling us that it's been a real time saver for workpiece set-up and changeover especially in the short delivery small lot size repeat jobs. The great thing about it is that it can be moved from a CNC Vertical Mill to a CNC lathe and then onto a Horizontal CNC with no real loss of data points from re-clamping.
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