hyperMILL helps Maztech speed through Covid-19 project
COVID-19 ventilator parts ready for machining
Close to ‘Motorsport Valley’ in Letchworth, Maztech Precision Engineering was founded just six years ago by Wayne Bouchier to specialise in multi-axis CNC machining. During this period, the company has earned a reputation for producing quality components for a diverse and growing customer base, specifically in the aerospace, automotive and Formula 1 markets. Now, with the F1 teams so heavily involved in the Coronavirus (Covid-19) ventilator project, reputable technology partners like Maztech are now making parts for ventilators.
“My strategy all along has been to invest in the best machinery, the best CAD/CAM software, the best tooling, the best workholding, the best of everything. This is because I believe it all plays a role in producing the highest quality parts. I think the quality of our parts is a reflection of what we’ve got here on the shop floor; the Mazak machining centres, ITC cutting tools and of course the hyperMILL CAM system from OPEN MIND Technologies,” says Wayne Bouchier, the 31-year-old Maztech managing director.
It is this strategy that has now seen Maztech become involved in the government response, winning an order to produce 7,500 aluminium tube manifold components. The company is currently running its four Mazak machining centres 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Maztech has four members of staff and a prestigious client list that is largely attributed to the philosophy of investing in the best. It recently invested in its fourth Mazak machine, a VariAxis i-300 AWC 5-axis machine that boasts 32-pallets and tool storage capacity for 145 tools for continuous round-the-clock production. This has proven priceless during the race to produce ventilators.
Compared to its previous CAM system, Maztech witnessed a multitude of benefits by converting to hyperMILL. Wayne Bouchier continues: “The main benefits are the sheer number of options in terms of available strategies to machine parts. In the past, we have wanted to do jobs in a particular way and the CAM system has prevented us from taking our chosen strategy, this isn’t the case with hyperMILL. It can be the most frustrating thing, as an engineer when you know exactly what you want to do, but your CAM package won’t allow you to do what you want. Now, every job that I want to program in my particular way, I can. This is saving us a huge amount of time in both programming and machining times on the shop floor.”
The Covid-19 response
Discussing the race to produce ventilator parts and how hyperMILL has helped, Wayne Bouchier says: “The tube manifold is a relatively simple 3-axis part, but with such quantities we needed to design new fixturing to conduct multiple setup machining. Using the Linear Pattern feature in hyperMILL, we have been able to effectively ‘copy and paste’ the machining cycle from one position to the next on our machining centres. On one of our machines, we now have 16 WNT ZSG4 vices with suitable fixturing setup for non-stop machining. The hyperMILL programme for each part is simply ‘copied and pasted’, not just across each fixture, but also across all of our machines.”
Wayne Bouchier continues: “hyperMILL also has all the modern up-to-date programming strategies within hyperMILL MAXX Machining, such as trochoidal milling and Arbitrary Stock Machining. This is a massive benefit for us as we machine a lot of stainless steel. The reduction in machining times with hyperMILL MAXX Machining can be huge. The Arbitrary Stock Machining module enables us to maintain a constant load on the spindle and tool to maximise material removal rates. Equally important is the fact that this is also prolonging tool life and improving surface finishes by retaining an even chip load.”
Likewise, the Z-level finishing module within hyperMILL enables Maztech to retain a continuous Z-axis movement when undercutting pockets and waterline machining, thus ensuring optimal surface finishes. This is complemented by the 5-axis SWARF module that tilts the cutting tool to the desired angle during 5-axis machining of angled walls within pockets. By tilting the cutting tool, the end user can increase the engagement between tool and component, further increasing stock removal rates, extending tool life and surface finishes significantly.
“The new strategies are improving our cycle times by at least 20 percent on most components and significantly more on heavy stock removal parts,” says Wayne Bouchier. “Our tool life has also been hugely improved. We have doubled the turnover and output of our business in the last three years, but our tooling costs have remained relatively constant. While this is largely credit to the cutting tool vendor, the new hyperMILL strategies have contributed hugely by increasing engagement and reducing tool loads.”
From a programming perspective, the office functions have been streamlined significantly, As Wayne Bouchier recalls: “Our programming times are at least 35-40% faster with hyperMILL. One example of this is the Mirror function within hyperMILL. More than 30 percent of our work has a left and right-hand variant, for these parts hyperMILL and its Mirror function is slashing programming times from hours to minutes.”
For Maztech to produce complex components with confidence, its engineers have modelled all workholding accessories, such as all vices, vice jaws and chucks, and created a template for each. “With hyperMILL, if you put good data in you get good data out. If you set up your tools exactly as they are set up in hyperMILL, run a collision check and the software says that there is no collision, you’re 99 percent guaranteed there won’t be a collision.”
“So, when you first programme a job, you open the template and select the vise and the jaws and pull that into your job. Straight away, you are collision checking against your vice and jaws as your machine is modelled up. Especially on the 5-axis machine with its tilting spindle, you know that the spindle isn’t going to catch a table, as its collision checks everything.”
Wayne Bouchier concludes: “I think without a decent CADCAM package you could have the best machine in the world but, if you’ve got nothing to drive it, it’s an absolute waste of time.”