Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Ltd. (Sheffield, UK) manufactures large components including turbine shafts and steel mill rolls. The company supports seven CNC machines which are fed by a computer on the shop floor. That computer is connected directly to a computer in the drawing office, giving complete control over each part being machined. In the past much of the company's 3D work had to be subcontracted, which meant transporting the parts, some massive, to other premises so that they could be dressed.
In an effort to improve efficiency, Sheffield decided to install AlphaCAM with the Advanced 3D Milling and Advanced Lathe modules from Licom (Westborough, Massachusetts) in July 1998. "A benefit of AlphaCAM is that machining of parts can be simulated on the screen," says Steve Ashcroft, senior production engineer. "This is a big help when planning our production."
After AlphaCAM was installed, the average setup times were reduced from 50 to just 14 hours, a time savings of 72 percent for the large machines. AlphaCAM has also helped cut parts closer to the finished profile with greater accuracy. Even when considering the size of the parts being manufactured, the accuracy is to within 0.1 millimeter.
Since AlphaCAM has been commissioned, the 3D work, which was formerly subcontracted, is dressed in-house, reducing turnaround times, giving Sheffield more control and providing customers with a better service. And just five months after the first copy was installed, Sheffield bought a second copy of AlphaCAM CAD/CAM software.
AlphaCAM has been changing recently. All AlphaCAM modules will have VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) integrated into them, according to a new agreement between Licom and Microsoft. Together with the powerful API (Application Programming Interface), VBA opens up AlphaCAM as a powerful programming engine to anyone who wants to take advantage of it.
Licom designed the software with user-friendliness in mind, recognizing that engineers have jobs to do and do not want to become computer wizards to do them. The software is modular to ensure the right solution is provided for each individual requirement. In addition to VBA, the functionality of AlphaCAM includes Automatic Feature Recognition, associative toolpaths, extensive tool and material libraries and NC code output to any CNC machine.
Licom AlphaCAM CAD/CAM software is compatible with all CNC machine tools and offers modules for 2D and 3D milling and routing, turning, 3D engraving, punching, wire EDM, laser, flame, plasma and water jet cutting.