Teenaged Jamie Yelle daydreamed as he pushed a broom across the floor of his father’s machine shop. As he cleared a path through aluminum chips, filings, and scraps of metal around the machinery, he imagined what the company would look like if he were at the helm. As far as he was concerned, the sky was the limit for their family-owned company that first opened its purpose-built facility in 1976 near Seattle.
Later, as a graduate of Washington State University, Jamie took over the business from his father, Ron, and became president. The company name, Royell Manufacturing, is a contraction of founder Ron Yelle’s name.
Royell is going strong 40 years later and rose from a small business to a Tier 1 manufacturer of structural components, kits and assemblies to the commercial aerospace industry. In its state-of-the-art Everett, Washington facility, product is machined and fabricated from aluminum, titanium and specialty alloys for large commercial, regional and business aircraft programs.
“We make door components, interior components, wing and nacelle components pretty much for every aircraft—you name it—from the 737, 787, all the way up to the new 777x,” said David Parkhurst, Royell methods engineer. “We also work Second Tier for major aerostructure businesses who are supporting the Airbus A350 nacelles and other key 787 programs.”
The Royell business plan was to innovate and evolve, operating on the leading edge of manufacturing technology, using lean methodologies to streamline its production and link the shop floor with its administrative offices.
Machining advancements were a necessary element of the company’s growth—from its roots as a detailed component supplier and maker of minor sub-assembly products to a manufacturer of complex aerospace assemblies. Beginning with vertical equipment, eventually transitioning to intricate 5-axis machinery, Royell required operating systems that could match the demand.
That’s where Mastercam CAD/CAM software from CNC Software came in. It transformed Royell’s capabilities.
“Royell was working on a really complex part that should have been machined as a 4-axis or a 5-axis part. Our programmers couldn’t get the motion they needed using the CAM software we had at the time,” Parkhurst said. “We purchased Mastercam in 2007 and took our machining to another level. That’s where we became successful developing live rotary toolpaths on a 4-axis machine for the first time, and from there we pretty much advanced and cut our teeth with our first Matsuura MAM72-63V vertical 5-axis machine.”
Royell’s capabilities have grown with the advancement of the machinery it has put into operation.
It was one of the first aerospace manufacturers to employ the Swiss-made STC800X—serial number 001—by Starrag Machine Tools, which is a horizontal head table 5-axis machine with a 30,000 rpm, 160 horsepower spindle.
Royell also incorporated the German-designed Grob G551 and later the G751, evolving its operation from vertical 5-axis to horizontal 5-axis machines. Royell currently has 13 5-axis machines in service.
“The Grob machines are incredible,” Parkhurst said. “Their two rotary axes are on the table, but the table can machine upside down. So, you can have the part upside down while you’re machining, and chips will fall just like rain. I believe Royell was one of the first of two companies to own a G751 on the west coast.”
When it came time to develop the 5-axis post, Parkhurst turned to his colleagues at Mastercam Reseller MCAM Northwest who worked closely with Grob’s U.S. team, allowing the company to keep production rolling continuously.
Parkhurst explained that advanced CAD/CAM software like Mastercam to control their advanced machines is essential to their business and keeping their competitive edge sharp. Because company president Jamie Yelle grew up in a machine shop, he has the understanding to be successful in the industry and to support Royell’s customers. The company needs to be on the industry’s cutting edge, otherwise market competition will overtake them. “Cycle time is critical but so is releasing parts,” Parkhurst said.
In many important ways, he said, the CAD/CAM software is the most critical tool Royell has for machined parts.
“We use everything about Mastercam,” he said. “One of the things we do appreciate with the software is that it’s a one-stop-shop. We can program our vertical 3-axis and our horizontal 4-axis, as well as our vertical and horizontal 5-axis machines while supporting our lathes and mill-turns. We have all the capability we want in one software.”
A critical component of Royell Manufacturing’s success is the diversely talented team it relies on to keep it a market leader.
Cross-training employees on a variety of machines is a strategic focus; this particular software enables this, which, in turn, gives Royell an advantage.
It also makes company initiatives like rapid execution and implementation of new parts smooth.
“Mastercam has given us the ability to create template files to allow our programmers to be successful out of the gates with things like operation libraries for dedicated equipment, our cutting tool libraries for our different materials and different machines,” Parkhurst said. “We build those up front and have those files all ready to go for the programmer so it’s kind of a process of really just importing the model and applying prudent methods that we have. We like to think that we can both engineer and release new parts to production within two weeks. It’s incredible with regard to high-speed machine motion.”
He said this software works for Royell because its programmers are machinists first. They come up from the manufacturing floor, gaining experience with machining parts first, leading to understanding of production floor expectations.
“They understand what efficient toolpaths and stable processes are, so when they start to use Mastercam, they really develop an appreciation for the flexibility it has,” Parkhurst said. “They learn to machine, then they learn to prove out, then they learn to program, and because of that, they’re able to go down to prove out their parts themselves.”
Parkhurst enlisted the help of Mastercam reseller MLC CAD Systems to provide training. MLC CAD’s Jason Koger, a machinist himself, visited the shop for on-site instruction, in-person Q&A sessions, and to show the newest features in the software’s 2020 edition.
“What we’re seeing more and more is the demand from our customers to turn parts quicker and to be competitive on pricing—which means being competitive on reduced cycle times,” said Paul Kennedy, a CNC programmer at Royell. “It presents challenges within engineering, such as thin walls and complex geometry with small corner radii. Mastercam’s capabilities on 5-axis machining, coupled with the technology of equipment that our owner has invested in, have allowed us to really explore eliminating work holdings. We’ve eliminated taking a part from one vise to a fixture and then from a fixture to another vise. What’s great about Mastercam is it has the ability to do that, depending on the part and the access to it.”
The software’s tool libraries help Royell push their Dynamic toolpaths for quick precision milling in hard to reach pockets and achieve tight tolerances measured in microns in sensitive and expensive materials like titanium.
The high speed toolpaths enable Royell to harness dynamic motion and maintain optimal angle engagement of tools, or what in Mastercam vernacular is called “radial engagements.”
“What’s great is when it comes to machinist’s best practices our programmers understand that you want to have a consistent angle of engagement on the tool,” Parkhurst said. “So when it comes to cleaning out corners, we can go to our operations library, look at feeds and speeds and cut parameters that we use—for, say, a ¼-inch ball nose end mill that is extended out two inches out of the holder—and we know that when we use that same rest mill toolpath, it’s going to maintain the angle of engagement no matter what geometry we throw at it. With the 2D, high-speed toolpath libraries, we know that if our boundaries are correct and our stock is accurate, when we import a model and want to rough it down to size, we can quickly create the geometry we need then point and click. That toolpath is going to be successful, and the spindle load is going to be maintained throughout the cut.”
For Parkhurst, Kennedy and their colleagues at Royell Manufacturing, the combination of technology, innovation, precision, and a teenager’s sweeping daydreams are more than making piles of aluminum chips. It’s about being an industry leader with eyes aloft—not just watching airplanes in flight.
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