CAM System Cuts Aerostructure Programming Time In Half

During the recent economic downturn, this aerospace manufacturer decided to invest in a new CAM system to improve its competitiveness when demand returned. NCL CAM software from Numerical Control Computer Sciences (NCCS) enabled the shop to cut programming time by 50 percent.

Case Study From: 11/15/2007 Modern Machine Shop

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Stainless steel rib

Arden Engineering specializes in machining structural aerospace wing parts such as this stainless steel rib.

NC tool path

This screen shot depicts the NC tool paths of a structural aircraft component using NCL V9.5.

Arden Engineering specializes in engineering, programming, machining and assembling structural aerospace components. Established in 1979 with only 10 employees, Arden has grown to more than 110 employees occupying a 66,310-square-foot manufacturing plant in Orange County, California. The company manufactures parts for commercial, military and regional jet aircraft as well as space vehicles for 21 customers in 30 locations worldwide.

However, the company’s growth hasn’t always followed a smooth ascent. During the recent economic downturn, the company recognized it needed to invest in new technology to become more competitive and prepare for the customer demand to return. Arden chose not only to update its CNC equipment, but also to invest in NCL part-programming software, a CAM package developed by Numerical Control Computer Sciences (NCCS).

NCL software is designed to cut complex parts for the aerospace, turbomachinery, power generation, tire mold and composites industries. It generates simultaneous two- through five-axis NC tool paths and provides parametric 3D modeling. All geometric modeling and toolpath functions are fully associative, so a change to the model results in an immediate change to the corresponding tool paths. This makes the software well-suited for environments in which design changes are frequent, the developer says. The software also supports full parametric programming, through which users can machine a family of parts by simply filling in a form.

Arden says it chose NCL primarily for its macro capability and tool control. With a library of aerospace application macros already preloaded, the company was able to cut its programming time by 50 percent. In addition, the software’s five-axis roughing capability enables automatic calculation of contoured or rectangular stock models, allowing Arden to quickly rough large, imported models. The system calculates the extent of the area to machine, minimizing programming time and reducing inefficiencies.

The company says NCL’s discrete control of the cutting motion is critical for successfully programming its five-axis machines. The software allows programmers to control the entry, the exit and the stepover moves in between. Also, its simultaneous five-axis machining capability allows the company to save time by machining complex aerospace parts in a single setup. This feature also enables faster and more efficient machining of structural parts such as bulkheads with deep pockets, the company says.

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