Modular fixturing like the Bluco system shown here is an excellent way to reduce set-up times, cut costs, and increase flexibility
Those who manufacture precision work-holding systems have the same goals and challenges as the machinists who use them, with both groups of people striving to reduce set-up times and optimise cutting cycles while avoiding ‘crashing’ their machine tools.
Matt Grube is one of these, being a programmer for Bluco Corp
(based in Naperville, Illinois) — a manufacturer of high-quality welding tables and positioners, modular fixturing, and other time-saving work-holding systems and accessories. One of the ‘tools’ he uses to achieve these objectives is Vericut tool-path simulation and optimisation software from CGTech
Mr Grube said: “We make hundreds of standard components for our welding line products as well as our machining lines and specialty tooling. Everything is modular, making it quite easy for shops to fixture almost anything that comes their way, but there are scenarios where a part doesn’t lend itself to standard tooling and a custom solution is needed.
“It was partly the custom work that helped drive the expansion to our new facility, which houses — among our many CNC machines — a massive double-column mill, a dual-spindle lathe, and a pallet-changing horizontal machining centre.” Pictured left is a Bluco machinist adjusting a custom workpiece being machined on the company’s double column bridge mill.
Being dependent on such high-value machines, Mr Grube and the Bluco team needed a way to verify that the G-code programs and probing routines generated by their Mastercam and Productivity+ software were accurate, hence their use of Vericut.
Gene Granata, a Vericut product manager, said: “We have an optional module that is quite popular for anyone doing touch probing. Called CNC Machine Probing, it is just like Vericut simulation, enabling users to check the posted G-code for errors and verify that there won’t be any collisions. However, it also checks to make sure that the machine tool is going to respond as expected during probing routines. Avoiding collisions
“Machine probing is a great way for shops to shorten their set-up times and support unattended machining. Moreover, our CNC Machine Probing option allows programmers to troubleshoot their home-made macro routines that drive probes through their various routines. For anyone who needs to go beyond the capabilities of Productivity+ and write their own probing cycles, our module lets them verify that their code logic is sound.
“When probing for location on a block of material, for instance, they can move the part’s digital twin out of the correct position in Vericut and basically trick the macro, causing it to fail. It lets a programmer check all kinds of these scenarios in a virtual environment to make sure everything will work in the physical world.
“Like Mastercam itself, Productivity+ has simulation capabilities, but since Vericut reads the same code that the machine control reads, it provides greater visibility than either system; and while it catches crashes, it also prevents axis over-travels, gouges and uncut stock — and any parts or part features the programmer might have missed. Furthermore, for those who’ve invested in the CNC Machine Probing module, it also alerts users to any probe errors.” (Note: this information is based on material supplied by CGTech and first published in February in Manufacturing Engineering)