A trend our Swiss CAD/CAM team is observing is hurting far too many shops: too much inaccuracy in G-code post processing for Swiss-style machines. Exact Swiss post processing saves programming and machining time, which means saving money. If it takes two hours to program a part in CAM and then the programmer has to spend another half hour editing that program, they’re wasting time. Nobody wants to get 80 percent through a programmed part on the machine only to have the alarm sound due to a programming error.
The good news is this common scenario can be resolved. Every Swiss shop should examine its post-processing G-code accuracy. Code accuracy is becoming more important as the complexity of Swiss-style machines, and their parts, increases. Using a post processor to generate code keeps programming structure uniform. Introducing manual edits to already written code risks transposing numbers or making typos that could cost the shop unnecessary time. Not only does inaccurate posted code waste time, it can also cause tool breakage and, in the worst-case scenario, crash the machine.
For example, we had a customer who was cutting a part prior to purchasing Mastercam’s Swiss Solution. The cycle time exceeded 12 minutes. After installing a proven post processor, they programmed the part again and were able to safely adjust operations to run more efficiently. In the end the same part was running complete in six minutes. Over a run of 10,000 to 20,000 parts, the savings are significant.
The Importance of Training Information
To achieve the desired accuracy, a strong relationship with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and plenty of testing are critical. When interacting with customers and OEM application engineers, it’s important to get training information from the machine tool builder. If they teach customers a specific way of programming, then that can be incorporated into the post processor. All benefit when everyone is aligned to processes and NC code formatting.
First-time Swiss users have a lot to learn: how to program a specific part, how the machine operates, how to run the most efficient cycle time, etc. If they have a good understanding of M- and G-code, some of that pressure is relieved if they are producing accurate G-code for an unfamiliar machine.
On the flip side, many shops are experienced with different brands of Swiss-style machines. Once a part is programmed for Brand “A,” it is usually quick to switch post-processors to Brand “B” by changing the tool station numbers and specific machine setup information.
Short- and Long-Term Benefits
The short-term benefit of accurately post processed Swiss G-code is the ability to program a part and run a machine with confidence, all while saving time and money. The long-term benefit is program continuity, which can affect everything from company growth to recruiting.
When grappling with employee turnover, shops can hire people with different machining and CAM backgrounds without sacrificing the code. Many shops today have a dedicated programmer, a set-up person, and an operator, and those jobs overlap very little, if at all. Some shops even have multiple people in each position. If the code being produced from the CAM system is the same, regardless of who is working on it, the results at the machine are generally safer and faster.
If you use a post-processor to drive NC code for your Swiss-style machines, don’t settle for “close enough.” Work with your machine builder and post supplier to output accurate G-code. The cost savings will surprise you!