Case Studies: Customize on the Fly
One would think that in today’s world of computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines producing custom-machined parts would be incredibly fast and easy. But it is not always so.
“The key problem is setup,” says Ron Bemis, product engineer for Modern Industries Inc. (Erie, PA), provider of various services to the manufacturing industry, as well as workholding tools. “The time required to set up for each machining operation can absolutely kill productivity.”
Fortunately, using VX Corp.’s (Melbourne, FL) VX CAD/CAM, Modern Industries created the mPower line of workholding tools. With a precision fixturing and mounting system, modular tooling columns and indexers, it is now possible for Modern Industries to slash setup time for its customers by as much as 80%.
Tool of Choice“We originally bought VX two years prior to the mPower project,” Bemis says. “Our toolmakers used-and continue to use-VX to build our fixtures in 3-D, to make sure there isn’t any interference when they do machining or hold the part. It is very helpful to find out about interference ahead of time.”
When Modern Industries began to get involved in the mPower project, it had to convert all the original drawings into VX. This was because the inventor had created the drawings in another computer-aided design (CAD) package, and it could not create computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs for machining the parts, which VX can do easily.
But that was just the beginning of the VX advantage for Modern Industries. “Sometimes customers want a turnkey product. They want everything for a new machine, including fixtures for new parts, and they want it done all at once,” says Bemis. “VX makes it easy to pull it all together, get it done quickly and get it done right.”
At other times, customers are adopting the mPower system for the first time and want to make sure that they will still be able to use the fixtures in which they already have considerable investment. “In that case, I use VX to lay out the mPower base plate to make sure the customer’s existing fixtures are still compatible,” says Bemis. “Usually I just need to know the hole pattern in their existing fixtures to design a plate that fits. Sometimes a plate that we already make will do the job.”
mPower is a modular system, similar to Legos, that fits together so that everything is properly aligned and positioned in the same way every time.
“mPower has become an ‘ongoing design,’” Bemis says. “When customers need something special, I bring their project into VX, even if it was designed in another system. Then I can quickly browse through the layers of their previous projects and select the components that fit, check for interferences and quickly send off a new setup. Thanks to the speed of VX and the versatility of mPower, I can often have the work completed for them in a matter of hours.”
The impact on customers has been substantial. For example, previously it took one machine shop a full day to do the setup and change from one machine to another for machining a series of parts. Now, thanks to mPower, the same changeover is accomplished in about an hour.
“VX has had a substantial positive impact on our business,” says Bemis. “VX lets me create custom products on the fly for customers as they need them, and it’s easy to confirm they will be right the first time.”