Using Vericut's OptiPath software, BAE Systems optimizes machining center speeds and feeds to increase its production of aerospace components.
BAE Systems of Filton, U.K., was already doing everything it could to meet Airbus's increasing demand for aluminum A-frames. Material for the parts arrived on a JIT basis — preblocked, skimmed, and drilled — ready for fixturing on the shop's Cell F comprised of Mori Seiki SH-50 machining centers. So the only alternative to increase production was optimizing machine feeds and speeds.
With the help of a software provider and tooling company, BAE started over-riding various control parameters and incorporating new tooling to machine at higher feeds and speeds. Kennametal supplied tools with longer flute lengths that took greater depths of cut and produced better surface finishes, while CGTech Vericut added tool-path-optimizing software.
Vericut's OptiPath software reads the NC toolpath file and divides motion into a number of smaller segments. Because it mathematically subtracts the material cut from the model, the software always knows the depth/width/angle of cut and the amount of material removed. Where necessary and based on the amount of material removed, OptiPath assigns the best feedrate for each cutting condition encountered. It then outputs a new tool-path identical to the original but with improved feedrates.
The shallower the cut; the faster the feed. And to keep material cutting rather than tearing at these accelerated rates, the spindle speed ramps up accordingly. For deeper cuts, the software applies the reverse.
With CGTech software, BAE gets the best out of its NC programs, says Matt Godfrey, EIT team leader at BAE. "We didn't have to change the part programs whatsoever. OptiPath takes care of feedrates — we simply cap programs at a 7-m/min feedrate to stop thin cuts from ramping up to 16 m/min. This produces acceptable surface finishes for aerospace work. The original program cut at around 1 m/min."