Getting The Job Done

This computer-aided manufacturing software package that generates simultaneous two- through five-axis NC tool paths and provides parametric 3D modeling. All geometric modeling and tool path functions are fully associative.

Case Study From: 4/15/2000 Modern Machine Shop

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Wing skin panels

This is one of the many wing skin panels manufactured by N.M.F. Canada for the aerospace industry.

Five-axis gantry

The five-axis gantry is capable of machining components up to 60 feet long and within very precise tolerances.

N.M.F. Canada is strategically located in the heart of the Canadian aerospace community in Mirabel, Quebec, near some of the world’s largest aerospace companies, including Bombardier Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Bell Helicopter and many others. N.M.F. Canada fabricates the aluminum skin that covers the structural skeleton of airplane wings. “Our determination to ‘get the job done’ is simple; once price is established, ‘quality and on-time delivery’ is non-negotiable,” says David F. Cook, President of N.M.F. Canada.

Building of the modern, 100,000 plus sq. foot wing skin manufacturing facility began in 1992 at the request of Bombardier. Phase III included the addition of 45,000 sq. feet and the installation of a 10,000 rpm, three spindle, five-axis Cincinnati Gantry milling machine. The five-axis gantry is capable of machining components up to 60 feet long and within very precise tolerances.

“We needed a system that we knew could ‘get the job done’ and that had a proven history of successful five-axis installations,” says Michael Deshaies. “Our goal was to have programs ready to go when the machine hit the floor.”

The team selected NCL multi-axis machining software from NCCS (Newport Beach, California). NCL is a computer-aided manufacturing software package that generates simultaneous two- through five-axis NC tool paths and provides parametric 3D modeling. All geometric modeling and tool path functions are fully associative. A change to the model results in an immediate change to corresponding tool paths. NCL also supports full parametric programming where a family of parts can be machined by simply modifying user-defined variables. NCL is suited for environments where design changes are frequent and machine time is critical.

NCL supports many five-axis machining options, which gives N.M.F. the flexibility needed to machine the components in the most effective way possible, says Mr. Deshaies. “In addition, NCL is able to utilize CATIA models, which is how many of our customers supply us with engineering data.”

The process involves reading the customer-supplied model into N.M.F.’s CATIA system where additional manufacturing data may be added and tooling can be designed. The models are then brought into NCL where three-, four- and five-axis tool paths are produced. Finally the NC programs are simulated and verified before sending them to the machine.

The process enabled N.M.F. to meet its goal of being fully production ready when the five-axis gantry went online, complete with a backlog of five-axis NC programs.

The three seats of the NCL software continue to help N.M.F meet its production requirements. “In addition to being able to create virtually any toolpath strategy we want, NCL enables us to fully optimize our programs for maximum machine efficiency,” says Mr. Deshaies. “The software is open and flexible, allowing our programmers to easily make changes to previously programmed tool paths, optimize feedrates at critical locations, and change cutter parameters, all without having to re-select geometry or re-enter redundant information. We have been able to optimize our programs, reducing machine time by up to 40 percent from the initial prove-out.”

The company does not plan to quit now. Through innovation and application of technologies such as NCL multi-axis machining software, N.M.F. hopes to one day design and build the shape of wings to come. MMS

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