Complex 5-Axis Programming Made Easy With Alphacam
A shopfitting company has doubled the output on its CNC router, driven by Alphacam, in the last two years.
The Wensley Group provides a bespoke design, manufacturing and installation service to the retail, leisure, education and healthcare sectors, manufacturing shop counters, pub bars and back fittings, staircases, doors and windows.
While Alphacam CAD/CAM software plays a part in the design and production process for around 95 per cent of their jobs, CNC programmer Mark Greening says it really comes into its own on 5-axis staircase work. “Even straightforward staircases can be quite complex on the CNC machine, but the bigger and more complex-shaped ones with features such as curves, tangents and scrolls, would be almost impossible without Alphacam.
“If the shop floor were to make even a simple, straight flight of stairs manually, it would take between three and four days. Using Alphacam I can do it in half a day.”
When he joined the West Midlands company around two years ago, neither their Alphacam Ultimate nor the 5-axis 36-tool Reichenbacher CNC router which it drives, were being deployed effectively. “I invested time in developing how we used the machine and getting the tooling right. We’re still improving on that, but Alphacam gives us the confidence to try anything on it.”
Five-axis work is becoming increasingly important, and he says the complexity of the shapes and curved handrails that he produces with Alphacam has surprised a number of people at the company. “Some of the designs we’re asked to work with are virtually impossible to make any other way.
“Everything I do goes through Alphacam, starting with designing the products, through to them coming off the router.” He utilises many of Alphacam’s extensive CAD features, from a very basic aspect of drawing a line, to creating a surface. “When I’ve finished the design I move on to programming with the CAM operation. We work with a selection of tools, and because everything’s done onscreen I can run a simulation to see what works and what doesn’t, before we come to the machining stage. Alphacam shows us if the product we want to cut is fully machineable.
“We can receive the work as a copy of a drawing which I then redraw in Alphacam, or the client may send a full architectural drawing where I simply break it down into the components and program them in Alphacam, or I may be asked to draw something entirely from scratch based on the client’s idea.”
Even after the program has been sent to the machine there may be occasions when it needs to be amended. “All we do is switch the toolpaths off and change the lines were necessary without having to redraw or reprogram it.”
He says many of their staircases have handrails that are twisted as well as curved, which are readily produced in Alphacam using polylines, splines and surfaces. “A lot of them need to be drawn almost freehand to produce what’s needed for the machining, and it would be quite difficult to do using a solid model package.”
Retail contracts often call for a complete shopfitting service involving counters, point-of-sale stands and window displays…and with pub refurbishments requiring bars and the full back-fitting, Wensley Group use a wide range of materials, including ply, MDF, hardwoods, softwoods, Tricoya panels and Corian. Mark Greening prefers to go on-site to personally measure up, ensuring his Alphacam drawings are accurate first time.
“If I’m given a full architectural drawing instead, I’ll break it down in to all its component parts – tops, fronts, sides – right down to the skirtings, so every component goes on to the Alphacam drawing, ready for programming with the toolpaths.”
As their work is almost entirely bespoke he is constantly called upon to produce different jobs, all with different components, so he says each job has its own unique challenge. “But being able to draw it in Alphacam and get everything right on screen first is absolutely invaluable. The software is now an integral part of our production process.”
Always using the most up-to-date Alphacam release keeps them at the forefront of CAD/CAM technology, which he says is vital to get the best out of the Reichenbacher router. And on the rare occasion they need guidance on an issue the Alphacam support team are always quick to resolve it. “One piece of 5-axis code wouldn’t work on the machine, so I sent the program to Alphacam through their support portal and they altered our post processor. We were back up and running with a perfect program just a few hours later.”
Headquartered in England, Vero Software designs, develops, and supplies CAD/CAM/CAE software radically enhancing the efficiency of design and manufacturing processes, providing its customers with exceptional value through high productivity gains and significantly reducing time to market. The company’s world-renowned brands include Alphacam, Cabinet Vision, Edgecam, Machining STRATEGIST, PEPS, Radan, SMIRT, SURFCAM, WorkNC and VISI, along with the production control MRP system Javelin. Despite the diversity of application, these solutions have one thing in common: they all address the rising challenges of achieving manufacturing efficiencies and bring huge value to the operations in which they are deployed.
Vero has direct offices in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, USA, Brazil, Netherlands, China, South Korea, Spain and India supplying products to more than 45 countries through its wholly owned subsidiaries and reseller network.
Vero is part of Hexagon (Nordic exchange: HEXA B), a leading global provider of information technologies that drive quality and productivity across geospatial and industrial enterprise applications.
For more information, please visit www.verosoftware.com.
Wensley Contracts: www.wensleygroup.co.uk