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Anchor Manufacturing Group Inc., (Cleveland), a producer of metal stampings and assemblies, aims to produce on-time, quality parts to specifications at the best price. The company's facility near Cleveland Hopkins Airport, which includes technology in welding and assembly, metal stamping, die building and die repair, multiple coordinate measuring machine (CMM) inspection stations, and powder coating, occupies approximately 340,000 square-feet in two facilities on more than 20 acres.
Anchor measures parts with CMMs and rebuilds fixtures continually as part of the measurement process. The company found itself with an influx of business that required a more repeatable, quicker way to rebuild its fixtures.
"Before, we were doing a hodgepodge of pieces, parts, magnets and clamps," says Mike Kalich, senior CMM programmer for Anchor. "We needed something that had documentation that we could trace, something quick, repeatable and that would be easy to build."
Kalich began researching different modular fixturing and software available for CMMs. He finally decided on Rayco fixturing and a 3-D fixture modeling software, FixtureBuilder, from R&R Sales (Grand Haven, MI). FixtureBuilder is integrated with CAD software from IronCad and can create Rayco fixture setups for documenting and off-line programming.
"Obviously, everything is cost based, and [R&R Sales] came through with a really good price," Kalich says. In addition, FixtureBuilder offered all the components and details Anchor needed to build their different fixtures, Kalich adds.
The modeling software allows operators to drag and drop fixture components to the plate while displaying X and Y hole locations for easy positioning. This ease-of-use was one of the reasons Anchor decided to implement FixtureBuilder, Kalich says.
While CAD software may not be unique, says Larry Ray of R&R Sales, FixtureBuilder's documentation abilities are. "We [created] software that was easy enough for anyone to do it. The heart of it is that when you hit that ‘Build it' button, you can create a fixture in less than five seconds," Ray says.
Kalich says that at first, he was skeptical about needing the documentation, until he realized the time and effort it could save. "The graphics allow you to visually see the fixture once you've documented it and the text that comes along with it is easy to follow," Kalich says. An option allows operators to customize the documentation pages to match the company's names. In other words, says Kalich, the software gives Anchor the flexibility to rename components.
In addition to time savings and ease-of-use, Ray says that FixtureBuilder also can reduce errors from a CMM operator hand drawing a fixture, as opposed to building a fixture via software. "Users can quickly do the documentation that in the past would be done with paper and pencil. There is no supplement or comparison to how FixtureBuilder can do documentation," Ray adds.
Implementing FixtureBuilder was a smooth process, according to Kalich. Ray of R&R held a three-hour, in-house training session for Anchor employees. R&R also provided a toll-free number to the company in case of questions or problems. "They were extremely helpful," Kalich says.
With the help of FixtureBuilder, Kalich estimates that Anchor saves anywhere from five minutes to a half hour per fixture setup. "It increases our productivity immensely because the old way, we had to tear down an old fixture and build a new one. Instead of tearing down and building, I can just swap out parts instantly," Kalich says.
Another benefit Anchor found is that FixtureBuilder's documentation capabilities allow non-CMM trained operators to build their own fixtures and run their own parts, according to Kalich. "We print out all the documentation and put it in a book. [Operators] can go to the book, look up the part and know exactly what components and locations to build," he says. "So with minimal training, the non-trained CMM press operators are able to build up their fixture without having extensive training because of the documentation." This prevents having a skilled CMM staff member on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, says Kalich, which in turn helps Anchor save money. And in an industry where process improvement initiatives take a front seat, every minute and every penny counts.
• The CAD-integrated software allows operators to drag and drop fixture components to the plate while displaying X and Y hole locations for easy positioning.
• Operators can customize documentation pages, for example, with the company's name.
• Time savings is estimated at five minutes to a half hour per fixture set up.
• With minimal training, non-CMM trained operators can build their own fixtures and run their own parts with the software, eliminating the need for a skilled CMM staff member on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.