Founded in 2016, Deeside-based HSM Components, a sub-contract machine shop, has recently invested in hyperMILL CAD/CAM software supplied by Open Mind Technologies
. Specialising in the manufacture of bespoke components for customers across a wide range of industry sectors, the company recently reached the capability limits of its previous software – and that is where the hyperMILL CAM system has come to the rescue.
HSM Components managing director Steve Rigby said: “In comparison to our previous system, it is like comparing a Ferrari to a pushbike! The old software was more geometry-based, so if you had a complex part then it really did become an exercise in CAD skills. Now, with hyperMILL, it works off surfaces and surface edges, so it is all model-based. There is also a lot more functionality to the system. Initially, I found hyperMILL a learning curve as it is more advanced, but the more time I invested in the system, the more I got to grips with it — the possibilities for our business are now incredible.”
The Flintshire manufacturer recently won an order to manufacture big-bore billet engine blocks on Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engines for a motorsport customer and the challenging project also required specialist tooling to machine the engine blocks from aluminium 6082 billets.
Mr Rigby said: “I wouldn’t have been able to take this part on with the old software. HyperMILL has helped immensely and made this project possible. One of the biggest positives is the hyperCAD-S system from Open Mind. When you come to doing off-line programming, not everything is straightforward. Very often you have to do quite a bit of CAD work, such as creating surfaces and containment boundaries. With the hyperCAD-S system within hyperMILL — it is very easy to use and it has excellent surfacing tools.”
Recalling the implementation of hyperMILL and integrating it into the business, Mr Rigby explained: “As I don’t have five-axis capabilities, Open Mind can provide the exact modules required. This makes it more cost-effective for me as a small business owner. Despite the high-quality reputation of the brand, the purchase price was on par with other systems.
“The Open Mind team were extremely helpful and said that they could strip out any particular modules that we may not need. Having to learn a new CAM system is a challenge, especially with a suite like hyperMILL that has so many features. Our initial strategy was to re-programme existing legacy parts that we were already running with our old software.”
“I noticed a huge reduction in cycle times straightaway and surface finishes are much better with hyperMILL. Additionally, the cycles are more efficient, and we are cutting less ‘thin air’ than we were with the previous system — hyperMILL is just better all around, which is something we would expect from a more advanced system. It really has hit the mark and given us what we needed.”
HSM Components encountered several challenges with the motorcycle engine block, such as machining water jacket slots around the cylinder bores as well as the machining of a pocket at the end of the cylinder head for the cam chain. The water jacket slot is 6mm wide and 50mm deep. The pocket for the cam chain goes all the way through the engine block and has tapered walls. Both required specialist tooling and creative machining strategies that were a breeze with hyperMILL.
Mr Rigby continued: “This customer is a specialist race-engine builder that we already manufacture several products for. They brought a new project to us to manufacture small batches of five-off cylinder blocks to meet the requirements of its global customer base. Previously the company had been using overseas manufacturers with a minimum batch quantity of 10-off and a longer lead time. By working with HSM Components, this customer can reduce their order volume, inventory and lead times.”
“With regard to the aluminium engine blocks, each one requires 10hr of machining with four individual set-ups. To support this project, we had to manufacture special fixtures, acquire bespoke tooling supplied by Quickgrind and adopt a leading CAM system from Open Mind, but the benefits for the customer have been significant.”
Machined on a three-axis Hurco VMX42, programmed with hyperMILL and subsequently adding specialist cutting tools - this combination has helped HSM Components to minimise the cycle time for these challenging engine blocks.
Mr Rigby concluded: “We initially completed three engine blocks as a trial for this new customer and by improving the quality and lead time of these parts, we are now working on another batch of five engine blocks. The tool paths with hyperMILL are also improving our surface finishes.
“The opportunity for HSM Components is to now manufacture additional components for this customer that sells spare parts and builds bespoke motorsport engines for everything from grass track racing and hill-climbing to performance vehicles that are exported worldwide.
“By using the high-end hyperMILL CAM system in conjunction with the specialist cutting tools from Tewkesbury-based Quickgrind Ltd
, we have little doubt that we can facilitate all the needs of this client.”