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Shop Solutions: Cutting Tools Lead to Risk-Free Savings


Most everyone in manufacturing is familiar with the quotation: "Failure is not an option."   

That statement rings especially true with the management at Kirby Risk Precision Machining (Lafayette, IN), a parts supplier to manufacturers of diesel engines, off-road vehicles, agricultural equipment, offshore oil-drilling equipment, and power-generation equipment.

The company, which provides customers with prototypes and one-off capabilities, has staked its decades-old reputation on supplying quality products and fast, efficient service. As a subsidiary of the Kirby Risk Corp., the company has strong family ties to its good name. Jim Risk, son of the late Kirby Risk, is the current owner and CEO.

The Kirby Risk manufacturing team reviews performance of Walter's F4041 face mill and WKP35 inserts. Left to right: Colby Rodkey, Denny Matson, and Eric Kauffman from Kirby and Jeff Willey from Walter USA.Management had to confront head on the very real possibility of failure in a milling operation that wasn't performing to expected standards. "This was a very frustrating situation for us," says Denny Matson, tooling engineer at Kirby Risk. He initiated a call to Walter USA Inc. (Waukesha, WI) in search of a solution.

"The milling product we were using did not provide process reliability because of premature failure of the inserts. Inserts were chipping and fracturing sporadically, and we were unable to establish standardized tool life," Matson explains.

What's more, the cutters themselves were not performing at a rate that met the demands of the company's state-of-the-art machining centers. As part of its recent growth, Kirby Risk had made a multimillion-dollar investment in a building renovation that added 11 new machining centers, bringing the total to 18.

Compounding the situation, business orders continued to flow in, requiring faster output to meet customer lead times.

"We were also looking for improved tool life so we could manage inventory more efficiently, and minimize tool changes for increased productivity," Matson adds. So the shop managers at Kirby Risk began to look for a solution.

Kirby Risk utilizes indexable tooling for milling, drilling, and turning operations. When managers met with Walter representatives, they presented the following specific machining challenges that had to be addressed:

  • Rough-and-finish face-milling operations on a manifold used in an off-road agricultural application. The part, machined on a Mazak Nexus HCN-6000 HMC, is cast using a high-silicon, molybdenum ductile iron with 212 BHN hardness. Output on this particular application amounts to 3500 parts.
  • A rough face-milling operation for production of 350 exhaust manifolds machined on a Mazak FH5800 HMC. Material was the same high-silicon molybdenum ductile iron with the strength of 212 BHN.

Jeff Willey of Walter studied the problem and recommended a solution of the F4041 face mill with WKP35 inserts. Following test and eventual installation, the machining results produced reduction in cutting costs as follows:   

  • Insert costs per component were reduced more than 75%. The number of components/index increased from 9 to 35.
  • Machining costs were reduced and process reliability increased.
  • Speeds were increased from 700 to 900 fpm; feed rates doubled.
  • Cutting time was reduced from 47 min per part to 22.
  • Overall machining costs were reduced by more than 50%.

The Walter solution scored other impressive improvements as tool changes went from 389 to 100. Kirby was able to save 38.5 hr of production time on this part per year.

In a subsequent test on another part, an exhaust manifold, the results, as shown below, made a significant operational difference:

  • Insert costs were reduced by more than 80%.
  • Horsepower requirements were reduced from 75% of spindle load to 40% while increasing the number of teeth in cut.
  • The number of components/index ratio went from 4 to 40—a tenfold increase.
  • Overall cutting costs were reduced by more than 80%.Application shot of the F4041 face mill and WKP35 insert rough milling an exhaust manifold made from high-silicon moly ductile iron.

Machining savings were recognized as the process continued, including an increase in feed rates from 50 to 80 ipm (1.3–2 m/min) and a reduction in cutting time from 30 to 19 min. Machining costs per component for the face-milling operations decreased by about 40%. Machining capacity increased, allowing for 7.25 hr of additional machining time, and tool changes were reduced from 438 to 44 per year.

The Kirby Risk managers and operators have come to regard Walter as an ally that can supply effective machining solutions. "They were, quite honestly, our answer," says Colby Rodkey, a member of the production support team. "We were able to reduce cycle time and increase line output because of the increases in cutting parameters and stable tool life frequency. The WKP 35 grade inserts enabled us to achieve a standardized life cycle, which we were unable to establish previously."

An operation with the size and scope of Kirby Risk can't afford any sort of failure on the shop floor, managers agree. "We reviewed a wide variety of milling products, but Walter's performance trials, excellent on-site support, and superior performance where it counts—every day on the shop floor—has impressed us all," says Jim Smith, plant manager. "From tools with superior design, to tool body materials and carbide grades, Walter stood head and shoulders above the rest. We feel we have found a great partner here."

Finished exhaust manifold used for an off- road agricultural application.The future will not stand still, shop-floor personnel at Kirby Risk conclude. Faster turnarounds and increased efficiencies each year are an absolute necessity, particularly in view of the global competition for all new projects.

"New technologies and support are essential to these efforts, and companies that are going to grow will always be looking for diversified market opportunities and customers," says Eric Kaufmann, engineering/systems manager. "We need to know we can do our jobs faster, better, and more cost-effectively to stay in thisgame—and with Walter, we are succeeding."


Machines Built to Rebuild Engines

RMC Engine Rebuilding Equipment Inc. (Saginaw, MI) has been manufacturing all types of machine tools for the engine-rebuilding market for 50 years. Its equipment falls into two categories: engine rebuilding for the high-performance market including racing, diesel, small engine, and marine and production engine builders.

A visitor to RMC's website in search of the latest machine-tool technology for building and, more especially, rebuilding engines will be greeted with the latest contemporary music. "Sweet Home Alabama" is more than appropriate when you consider the demographics of the customer mix for high-performance engines used for racing of all kinds, including diesel, small engines, and marine applications.

RMC's products include highly specialized, yet off-the-shelf, solutions for complete block machining, crankshaft grinding, block boRMC machining centers are adapted with fixturing, tooling, and all the programming necessary for their intended engine-rebuild machining purpose.ring and milling, and cylinder head milling and porting. Typical machining center processes performed on an engine block, either new or one that has been run, include milling the cylinder deck, boring cylinders and lifter boxes to an oversize or a new bore size, and drilling and tapping deck holes, among others.

RMC machining centers are outfitted with fixturing, tooling, and all the programming necessary for their intended engine-rebuild machining purpose. "The application is pretty exotic because of how the blocks are fixtured on the rotary table," explains Matthew A. Meyer, general manager.

"Most rotary tables are used to rotate some sort of workpiece, whether it's a small part or a large part, on center. Automotive engine blocks are mounted on the crankshaft centerline. What happens is that all the masses of the engine block are off-center, creating an imbalance issue because of the amount of weight that is hanging off the centerline of rotation. The result is that there is a lot of stress put on the rotary table, its gear system, and the motor load," Meyer explains.
Nikken's patented carbide worm system assures wear resistance, rigidity, and the rapid speeds of this rotary table. The carbide worm system uses a carbide wormscrew and ion-nitrided wormwheel, rather than a conventional bronze or bronze alloy actuation mechanism.

"Picture a small-block Chevrolet engine, a 350 Chevy. We run a 2" [50.8-mm] bar from the rotary table to the tailstock support that goes through the crankshaft main saddle. All of the cylinder block and everything else is sitting above the centerline. Therefore, when you rotate the engine block over to bore a cylinder deck, you rotate 45° off center, and then all the weight gets shifted to one side of the rotary table and you rotate a negative 45° to do the other bank, and all the weight is shifted to the other side. An average smallblock Chevy weighs about 130 lb [59 kg], and that's actually a small workpiece. We have customers doing larger workpieces, including Mopar Hemi blocks that are 10.725" [272.4-mm] high and weigh 220 lb [100 kg]."

The forces exerted on the rotary table by off-centerline-weight distribution produced wear on rotary tables that robbed the machine tools of their longevity. "We knew that we had to find a better solution than the rotary table we were using," says Meyer. "We also had known of the quality of the Nikken rotary tables. They feature a rigid ring gear on their faceplate spindle, a carbide wormshaft, and a rigid gear-to-gear system for their motor."

RMC chose the Nikken CNC 250 rotary tables for its engine-block blueprinting machine and Nikken's CNC 200 and CNC 321 rotary tables for its CNC head-porting machining centers.

Here's how the RMC's engineblock blueprinting machine works. It has to be able to rotate the block 360° to all points from one datum point. In the process, the block is probed to measure all key points and decide what machining is required. This machine has the ability to blueprint all aspects of the block by print locations. In the past, multiple machines had to be used, and they were only able to blueprint certain aspects and not from one datum point.

"Now, all aspects of the block can be blueprinted from one datum point, positioned, and corrected for angularity," Meyer explains. "The result is that all relationships are true and done on one machine. They used to have to take the block from machine to machine. Now it's done on one machine, so they don't have to lose the datum relationship."

Nikken's patented carbide worm system assures wear resistance, rigidity, and the rapid speeds of this rotary table. Nikken's rotary tables feature a carbide worm system that uses a carbide wormscrew and ion-nitrided wormwheel rather than the conventional bronze or bronze alloy actuation mechanism. The result is a reduction in friction and wear by as much as eight times. This reduces backlash dramatically when compared to the standard bronze wormgears. The wormscrew consists of a less brittle V-grade form of carbide. The wormgear is ion-nitrided to a depth of 0.1 mm and an external surface hardness of RC 65. These properties, as well as steel ways hardened to RC 58–60, provide the system's rigidity and longevity.


CAD-Based Inspection Saves Fab Time

For fabricators cutting and welding steel for their equipment, connecting design data to manufacturing data is an important step toward closing the loop, producing quality products, and preventing variation in final structures.

Rayco Manufacturing Inc. (Wooster, OH) has been building equipment for the tree and landscaping industry since 1978. Today, it occupies a 390,000 ft2 (36.232 m2) facility for engineering, manufacturing, and administration.

Rayco's Roger Timmons uses the Romer arm to scan a fabrication for comparison to CAD data using Delcam's PowerINSPECT software.

Rayco's products include a range of self-propelled stump cutters, a crawler line consisting of a loader and forestry mower, and brush chippers ranging from 6 to 20" (152–508-mm) capacity. The machines employ power plants ranging from 25-hp (18.6-kW) gas to 225-hp (167.8-kW) diesel engines.   

Most of the work at Rayco involves cutting and welding steel to form the structures of its equipment. As the company grew and its product ranges expanded, management decided it needed to further improve the consistency of its steel fabrications and assure their quality from the first laser cut through a completed fabrication.

Rayco's engineers use solid modeling and finite element analysis to fashion durable, ergonomic structural designs. To assure the consistent quality of its manufactured components, Rayco invested in PowerINSPECT software from Delcam International (Windsor, ON, Canada), and a Romer CimCore Stinger II portable coordinate measuring arm with accuracy of 0.004" (0.10 mm).

SolidWorks CAD model of Rayco's new C100 Crawler Frame Fixture was imported into PowerINSPECT and then used to create the inspection program.

The inspection combination has proven effective for companies like Rayco that need to be able to inspect, measure, or verify workpieces on the shop floor as well as in a metrology room. The Romer arm and PowerINSPECT were bought through Steve Young of Exact Metrology Inc. (Dublin, OH), primarily to allow Rayco to have a verification process for its welding fixtures, and to check key locations and weldments where run outs or concentricities are critical.   

Inspection equipment and processes are both undergoing rapid changes as companies move from using 2-D drawings to CAD models as the preferred way to define their workpieces. Coupled with the rising demand for companies to prove the quality of their products, this change has led to a growing demand for inspection methods that can be used throughout the prototyping, manufacturing, and assembly chain.

"Compared to the manual way most fab shops check their work, it saves us many hours, and we get more information about our production faster, so we can make adjustments quickly and accurately," says Roger Timmons, quality assurance engineer. "That's a clear competitive advantage for us."

The need to inspect parts and tools a number of times in multiple places within the manufacturing chain requires software products that can be used on a variety of different inspection hardware platforms. Delcam's PowerINSPECT allows Rayco to inspect against any of its CAD data anywhere in the shop, a definite advantage over traditional 2-D inspection methods.

Advantages of the CAD-based inspection for Rayco in its fabrication of a variety of fixtures include:

  • Rapid alignment and inspection of user-defined sections, plus the ability to inspect along the edge of a part.
  • Inspection features are automatically created from CAD nominals.
  • Manipulation of the CAD data includes reverse side for sheetmetal.

The PowerINSPECT has a simple user interface which is intuitive and easy to use. "The learning curve was very short, which let us get the most from the measuring arm in the shortest possible time," says Timmons. "I also like being able to import our 3-D Solidworks models directly into PowerINSPECT, and overlay what we measure right with the model, which reveals immediately where any discrepancies may be."

The Romer arm is the mouse for the inspection routines, so it is easy to see what the progress is graphically. PowerINSPECT's onscreen feedback and detailed graphical displays give Timmons immediate feedback for each measured point. Inspection reports can be generated automatically in a customized format to include pictorial, tabulated, and statistical data. Any discrepancies can be identified at a glance.   

"Five minutes with PowerINSPECT saves an hour on the assembly floor," Timmons says. "We can make adjustments before the components get into the assembly flow." Timmons is in the process of creating a library of the company's welding fixtures—virtual masters—to which he can compare future work and audit fixtures on a 90-day rotating basis.

The inspection setup is very portable. The PowerINSPECT software is loaded into a laptop, and the Romer Stinger measuring arm can be moved to any place on the manufacturing plant floor that it is needed.

Model RC16.5-CA is the newest addition to the Rayco Chipper Line of products for the tree and landscaping industry.The inspection process saved Rayco time and money when it revealed that the runout on some of the feed wheels used on its chippers was not acceptable. Detecting the situation prior to assembly saved the 1.5–2 hr it would take to remove and replace a bad feed wheel.

In another example, the C frame for one of its crawlers was exhibiting a twist during assembly. "We measured it during welding, and found that the fixture needed correction. We inspected 100% until the problem was solved. And now it's on a three-month audit cycle," Timmons says.

For the past year, Timmons has concentrated on fixture and critical-part inspection, but he plans to move more into inspection of hydraulic tubing—and there is a lot of it on the bigger machines. The key is that the face seals must be absolutely perpendicular to the tube centerline in order to avoid leaking and undo stress on the tubing.

A vendor with a Romer arm and only scanning software wasn't able to measure the tube fabrication and compare it to the design, but could only look at the end of the tube. With PowerINSPECT, Rayco completed the inspection in about 10 min, first touching off the face of the seal, and checking the rest of the tubing from there by comparing it to design data. It can inspect all tubing to assure proper sealing, and therefore ensure reliable operation in the field.

Rayco did not have a dedicated quality department until about three years ago. "Today, we inspect critical parts and all fixtures on an audit basis," Timmons says. "We inspect cutter wheels—the focal point of Rayco machine's tree or stump-cutting function—and check for machining accuracy, which helps us put out a high-quality, high-functioning product for our customers."

Rayco also uses the machine for troubleshooting out on the assembly floor to determine why a part may not be fitting perfectly, before it goes to assembly. "We can do this in about 10 min, a time saving of up to 1000% compared to a manual method, and there's still a lot more I could get out of the arm and the PowerINSPECT software. It has been an awesome acquisition and has saved an enormous amount of time," Timmons concludes.


Sculpting Dental Products With CAM

Agile CAM software helps dental equipment manufacturer get to market faster with better ergonomically designed products.

Producing patterns and part prototypes used to be a bottleneck in the product-development cycle for A-dec (Newburg, OR), one of the largest US dental equipment companies. That isn't the case anymore. Components that used to take several weeks for evaluation are now routinely produced in a week or less. The resulting manufactured piece almost always represents a more faithful representation of the intent of the designers.

The transition to a more agile response for product development parts began seven years ago when the company decided to replace the CAM software it was using for production machining. Senior model maker Ken Chamberlain says that Mastercam Version 8 from CNC Software Inc. (Tolland, CT) was chosen and that the software, now Mastercam X, has grown to eight seats used both in the product development and toolmaking departments.

A-dec has a three-tiered design process for new products. Chamberlain explains that first he programs his CNCs to make parts or patterns for look-and-feel evaluations of the design. The next round of developmental manufacturing is for structural assessment. In the final round, the A-dec product development team evaluates the new product design for aesthetics, overall functionality, and structural integrity.

As the due date for one of these development reviews draws nearer, the pace of work to meet the deadline seems to grow exponentially. The review process for dental chairs ultimately involves about 30 people representing engineering, marketing, and manufacturing at A-dec.

A-dec's supervisor of engineering services, Ken Dana, cites the companys dental chairs as an example of products with agile responsiveness to design modifications. The company is pushing the envelope with Euro designs featuring numerous precise (i.e. sculptured) surfaces for patient comfort and lots of open space to provide better access and working comfort for dentists and their assistants.

The dental chairs have about 50 components that are thoroughly designed for functionality, structural integrity, aesthetics, and manufacturability. When a product like this is in one of its evaluation phases, CAM programmers like Chamberlain work nonstop to produce patterns and parts for the new design modifications. Chamberlain, who is responsible for making parts on MAG Fadal and Mori Seiki VMCs, works with Mastercam using two monitors to give himself a larger work area. Sometimes, he actually needs both monitors for programming two parts simultaneously to keep the process moving.

Within the past year, A-dec has upgraded its Mastercam licenses to X2, which includes an interface that Chamberlain can customize to put all the tools he routinely uses within easy reach, and a suite of high-speed toolpaths. This suite not only improves manufacturing productivity on the mills but also allows Chamberlain to produce high-fidelity parts with smooth, seamless transitions that nearly duplicate the 3-D CAD model. Chamberlain says that when he made the switch from Mastercam 9 to X, the software was so different he went through an awkward state that lasted about a week. After that, he never looked back.   

Features of the CAM software that help Chamberlain respond expeditiously to design modifications include:

Sculpting surfaces: In the past, Adec would make wooden patterns of its sculptured chair components. When the curves in the design were changed, it could take weeks to get a new pattern that would not always reflect what the designer had in mind. Now the prototype components are cut from wood or aluminum and alterations to the sculptured surfaces are made easily.

Overlaying toolpaths: "With each developmental milestone, the product becomes a little more complete and a little bit more intricate," Chamberlain says. "Often, I'll keep the old file and lay the new one right on top. The program is already there. I just recreate the toolpath. That saves a lot of time as opposed to starting a whole new session of Mastercam and selecting new tools, starting from scratch. A lot of times I will use the same operation but I'll just change the geometry. That also saves a lot of time."

Surface blending: "With the sculptured surfaces, you're not dealing with the perpendicular or parallel surfaces, you are blending one curved radius into another curved radius and possibly into a third, so it's tremendously difficult to create. Not all software out there is able to do those kinds of shapes well. Mastercam provides tools that allow surfaces to blend into seamless curves," Chamberlain explains.

Eliminating secondary operations: Precise control of the toolpaths, especially at the transitions, makes it possible to eliminate secondary operations like polishing of molds or sanding of castings. Not only does this save time, but also in the case of the castings provides better structural integrity because excessive sanding can degrade the model.The A-dec 500 Trim Dental Chair Design Cycle offers streamlined access for the dental team and, at the same time, comfortable seating for patients. Mastercam X2 CAD/CAM software reduced the turn-around time for modified prototype parts by about 20%.

High-speed savings: Time and dollar savings also accrue once the CNC equipment begins manufacturing the new part design. "The high-speed toolpaths are just awesome," says Chamberlain. "I use them all the time. Two things happen—I get more time with the tool cutting as opposed to air moves." Chamberlain doesn't have data, but he thinks his CNC machines are producing parts about 25% faster using the high-speed toolpaths. "I have also noticed better tool life because the CNC toolpaths make smoother transitions in and out of the cut."

The switch to agile, user-friendly CAD software has reduced product development part manufacturing costs. More importantly, it has given A-dec the ability to reproduce components that more faithfully represent the changes, even intricate ones, that have been made in the CAD model. Surfaces that could not be produced with CNC equipment previously have now become a reality because of newfound control over the toolpaths.

Finally, the turn-around time for evaluation parts for product development has been substantially reduced. Dana believes that a 20% reduction would be a conservative estimate. As a result, design modifications are rarely, if ever, bottlenecks in A-dec's product development cycles.


High-Torque Machining in Silicon Valley

A Silicon Valley contract manufacturer is using high-torque machining capability to capture work ranging from aerospace components to medical devices.

It's a frequently recurring afterhours event at MJB Precision (Campbell, CA). Before Mark Bamberg closes the doors of his job shop for the night, one of his machining centers begins cutting 760 little housings out of 60 x 30" (1524 x 762-mm) plate-stock. Later, in the dead of night, the eight-hour cycle is finished. If a tool should break, a load sensor sees the problem and the toolchanger is instructed to retrieve a tool for another operation. The machine skips the prior part worked on since it may be "wearing" a tool that broke off in it, or have other damage.
MJB can machine the tough exotics, such as Inconel, Monel, and high-nickel parts for its defense and medical-device customers—materials that many shops won't touch.

Next morning, Bamberg's company may be setting up 46" (1168-mm) OD titanium satellite aperture-filter rings on the same machining center. Or they could be hoisting a 2700 lb (1225-kg) machine base onto the bed. These are the types of applications where the 40-taper, 10,000-rpm high-torque spindle really shows its stuff, hogging material and changing tools quickly with optimized chip-to-chip time. Profiling is accomplished with 1.25" (31.7-mm) OD roughing end mills, at 200–250 ipm (5–6 m/min) or more. Several hours later, the details are all machined and the job is done. Rigidity-enhancing machine features, such as boxways, are critical because the part is very heavy, and so are the cuts.   

"We can get pretty aggressive with our 6535," says Bamberg, referring to his MAG Fadal VMC. "Most of my competition can do a part the size of your hand, but not everybody can do a part the size of your desk. Our Fadal high-torque machine has a big enough work envelope to give us this versatility. We can take the side doors off and handle a part up to 14' [4-m] long before we hit the wall of the building. And we can make heavy cuts and maintain a good finish—more so than with a linear guide machine."

The XYZ travel of the MAG Fadal VMC 6535 is 65 x 35 x 34" (1650 x 890 x 863 mm). The 22.5-hp (16.8-kW) spindle motor delivers 220 ft-lb (298 N•m) of peak torque and maintains consistent torque over the full rpm range from 10–10,000 rpm, with closed-loop feedback. MAG Fadal also builds a 50-taper, 6000-rpm version, the VMC 6535 HTX, that ups the torque to 441 ft-lb (598 N•m) but the 50-taper factor limits the feasible spindle speed to 6000 rpm. The HTX is equipped with a Fadal Fanuc 18i-MB5 control.

Bamberg stresses that the size range of his seven machining centers has positioned his company where he wants it to be. MJB's customer base includes manufacturers in the defense, aerospace, machine tool, semiconductor, and medical device industries. MAG Fadal VMCs currently operated at MJB include the 3016, 3020, 4020, and 6030, as well as the high-torque 6535 models.

Jobs range from parts for military ground-support equipment and satellite devices to components for laser-cutting machines. And the semiconductor work "runs the gamut," according to Bamberg. Batch size is from hundreds or thousands of production pieces to one-off machine bases and prototype work. Value-added manufacturing engineering and part programming is another advantage.

"We are also certified Mil-45208-A, and not many shops in the valley have this," says Bamberg. Certification from the audit, which is renewed annually, helps MJB win defense work, and is a credential that is a competitive advantage when selling their services to any industry.

MJB opened its doors in 1995 with a used Fadal 4020. "All of our machines have performed well and have been a good value, starting with our first machine, a used 4020, that is still running reliably today."

"The profitability factor is what sold us on the Fadal 6535. It's a cost-effective machine that keeps us competitive in the marketplace, and its box-way design gives us the productivity and accuracy we need. Repeatability is right around 0.0002" [0.005 mm]. The thermally-controlled ballscrews [Fadal's Cool Power] keeps everything stabilized when we go from cool mornings to hot afternoons here." Double-mounted extra-large 63-mm ballscrews also help to ensure accurate positioning.

MJB can profitably cut machine bases on the 6535 that weren't feasible on its smaller 6030. The rigidity of the 6535, with its wider columns, saddle and base, and the fast spindle allow the cutting speeds to go up 10–30% over the 6030.

"The material removal rate improvement with the high-torque machines is radical. You can see the role of rigidity, when you're cutting fast, in the part finishes," Mark Bamberg explains. "We can machine the tough exotics, too, such as Inconel, Monel, and high-nickel stuff for our defense and medical-device customers. Many job shops won't touch these materials."

Virtually all machining program preparation is done off-line by two full-time programmers at MJB, with frequent use of DNC drip feeding of data to the Fadal machine controls. "My whole crew on the shop floor and in the office are a huge asset to this business. Our machine operators average 5–10 years of experience each, and they're a hard-working group of guys. The Fadal machines have been the other major part of our success. The old cliché is that you have to spend $9 to make $1. It's true, but when you focus on getting the most machining capability for the money, then you're creating the best situation for making money," Bamberg concludes.


Product Design Creates Easy Line

Prima Industries (Correggio, Italy), founded in the early 1980s, has evolved from a plastic-moldiPrima simplified the number of dimensional variants for EasyRack by incorporating an adjustable mechanism in the design that allowed standardization of 90% of the production while allowing for customizations requested by manufacturer working in various industries to a supplier of components and systems for heavy-duty vehicles.

Today, the company is one of the leading suppliers in the field of components for industrial vehicles with a market presence in 63 countries.

Prima is evolving in its role as a subcontractor and dedicating itself to the development of new systems and products. As part of this evolution, the company performed an internal restructuring in 2000–2001 that included the implementation of the NX digital product development solution from Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX).

Prima's products are characterized by the brand name of "Easy" because they are easy to use and convenient to set up. Developed using the NX software solution, these products include EasyDoor, a pneumatic opening and closing system for the doors of luggage compartments, and EasyStop, an intelligent wireless pushbutton unit that allows the reduction of expensive cabling operations inside vehicles.

The newest addition to the Easy family is EasyRack, a luggage rack designed for different types of uses. For this latest project, Prima's goal was to simplify the number of dimensional variants by incorporating an adjustable mechanism in the design.

This would allow the company to standardize 90% of the production while allowing for customizations requested by customers. Prima sought to reach its goal by establishing an adaptable shelf design that met strength requirements and by offering an easy assembly capability.

The company developed the Easy-Rack using NX functionality for surface modeling, solid modeling, and structural analysis. "NX's user-friendliness, which we had already experienced with the EasyDoor project, allowed us to face this new challenge with the belief that we could achieve all the goals we set for the product," explains Lorenzo Beltrami, Prima's technical manager.

Engineers used NX Nastran to verify the framework of the luggage rack. Using the analysis results, they were able to optimize the rack design, fine-tuning both the profile and the material distribution. "It was an excellent final result both in terms of the performance profile and the material distribution. It was an excellent final result both in terms of the performance profile as well as the economic aspect, considering the time saved on the design and material of the prototype," Beltrami says.

NX Nastran software is a stand-alone solution that supports the whole company. Installed on a network server, it is able to support a variety of users, sites, and preprocessing and postprocessing applications. NX Nastran offers companies requiring a single, flexible, solid cost-competitive solution for finite element analysis a wide range of simulations and has a high level of interoperability with various CAE solutions. NX Nastran supports a common simulation structure across the entire digital prototyping process, ensuring consistency and easy access to the results of the digital simulations.

The use of NX Nastran helped Prima engineers optimize the rack project to achieve a versatile product with a high technological content. In general, NX software enables the company to respond faster to the various customer requests. "The reduction in bidding and development time makes us more competitive by allowing us to quickly offer a suitable solution to customers," Beltrami says.


This article was first published in the March 2008 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 3/1/2008

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