Polaroid Improves Manufacturing Output By Leaps And Bounds

The problem with Polaroid's previous approach to using the manufacturing function of the CAD system or a CAM product to create tool paths, from a machining perspective, was that tremendous training was required first to understand how to work in solids as well as how to use the MCAD product and the CAM machining software.


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Polaroid (Cambridge, Massachusetts) offers a wide range of easy-to-use imaging products—from instant cameras and film to advanced digital imaging. Up until about two years ago, Polaroid engineers used an MCAD product that the company had standardized several years prior to revitalize its CAD/CAM systems. Back then, to machine 3D parts, Ernie Harrington, a technical specialist responsible for computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) in the company’s model shops, used the manufacturing function of the CAD system or a CAM product to create tool paths. The problem with that approach, from a machining perspective, was that tremendous training was required first to understand how to work in solids as well as how to use the MCAD product and the CAM machining software. The process can take up to a couple of years to achieve proficiency and improved productivity. “In our situation, it was imperative to understand the CAD product in order to use the manufacturing tool,” says Mr. Harrington. “That scenario was frustrating.”

The company migrated from its MCAD system to SolidWorks (Concord, Massachusetts) about two years ago. Not long after Polaroid switched CAD systems, Mr. Harrington started looking for a new CAM product. “After we saw SolidWorks and realized how easy it is to use, we got very excited,” he says. “Since it’s part of my job to keep up with new technology, we wanted to find a CAM product that was as easy to learn as SolidWorks, yet powerful enough to do everything that we needed it to do within the SolidWorks environment. We were well aware of the issues associated with transferring files in and out of the various systems that we were using in-house. If conversions weren’t quite right, geometry got lost and had to be painstakingly recreated. As a result, we insisted that the next CAM package would work inside SolidWorks,” Mr. Harrington recalls.

Mr. Harrington evaluated competitive packages and even spent time and money on off-site training for one of them. He was not impressed with most. Mr. Harrington decided to try one seat of a commercial CAM software package. “That product was as easy or easier to use than the other CAM product and offered more functionality,” notes Mr. Harrington. The software did not handle 3D work, but fortunately Mr. Harrington and his team weren’t doing much 3D work at that time. “However,” he says, “we knew that working in a 3D environment was imminent.” So he continued his search to find another product.

When Polaroid heard about CAMWorks (Scottsdale, Arizona), it immediately purchased the first release of the software after reviewing the demo. Speed, ease of use, simple operation, and user friendliness are benefits of CAMWorks according to Mr. Harrington. “So much of our work involves making very small parts,” he says. “Standard machining practices don’t always work because we might not have enough wall thickness to give the part support to machine it. We have to approach these types of jobs a little differently. With CAMWorks you can, and you don’t have to be a computer guru to figure out how to do it. There’s no need to know or understand anything about machine CNC controllers. CAMWorks tackles any type of job including complex ones and automatically figures out how to approach it and machine it.”

Time saving is the biggest benefit of using CAMWorks at Polaroid. To machine a simple part using a traditional CAM system would entail creating geometry and determining if the geometry violates any areas. With more complex parts, that process can take up a few days. Using CAMWorks, a 3D surface such as a ramp or dome is simple and easy to machine. The software knows where all the other surfaces are in the part. It simply cuts the part. “You just touch it, tell it to do it, and it’s done. To say it’s 50 percent or 100 percent faster doesn’t do the product justice. CAMWorks is 1000 percent faster than doing it the old way. We can react to our customer much more quickly.”

The company started with one seat and has since converted it to a floating license and purchased four more seats. “We will be installing more CAMWorks down the road, as well,” notes Mr. Harrington.

He adds that every CAMWorks release has been enhanced and loaded with useable features. Any bugs that were reported to TekSoft are addressed in subsequent releases. CAMWorks enables Mr. Harrington and his team to deliver parts to its internal customers as quickly as possible. CAMWorks is one tool that is allowing Polaroid to meet tight product development deadlines. MMS

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