The Sweet Sound of Modern Manufacturing

In the early 1960’s Hartley Peavey had a dream. But practically no one, in or out of the manufacturing industry, shared his vision. In fact, people thought it was a crazy idea to start a musical equipment manufacturing business. Despite the lack of encouragement, Peavey launched Peavey Electronics in 1965. Today the company employs 2,400 people, has 33 facilities totaling 2.5 million sq. ft. of manufacturing space, and is the largest manufacturer of musical instruments and portable sound equipment in the U.S. The company’s product line includes mixing consoles, powered mixers, power amplifiers, speakers, microphones, and amplifiers for guitars, basses and keyboards. Peavey also produces musical instruments, including guitars (both electric and acoustic), basses, keyboards, and drums.

The past 30-plus years have brought many changes to the company and its manufacturing practices. As the millennium comes to a close, Peavey is now one of the few remaining guitar manufacturers in the United States. Throughout the company’s phenomenal growth and success, the company has remained faithful to Hartley Peavey’s original dream – to manufacture the best quality instruments and musical equipment for musicians everywhere. To stay competitive and give its customers affordable products, Peavey blends the best elements of traditional craftsmanship and modern technology (such as CNC machinery and state-of-the-art manufacturing software) into every product produced.

“We rely heavily on CNC machinery to provide quick turn-around on machined parts,” explains Ken Chappell in the company’s engineering services department. “All our engineering functions, including CNC programming, are done here at our headquarters in Meridian, Mississippi. We have approximately 12 different CNC machine centers located in four plants throughout Mississippi.” Considering Peavey’s broad product line, any particular CNC machine center may run three or four separate different products on any given workday. For this entire operation, Peavey employs only two CNC programmers who support the entire product line. In order to keep up with the work load and to make sure that the programs they send to the different machining facilities are correct, the programmers use CATIA® CAM software (Dassault Systems) and VERICUT.

VERICUT is software that enables NC programmers to virtually eliminate the process of manually proving-out tool path programs by simulating the machining (material removal) process on a computer. The program simulates milling, drilling, turning, wire EDM, and mill/turn machining operations using both G-codes and CAM output. With VERICUT, programmers can correct errors and remove inefficient motion before sending part programs to the shop.

“We quickly saw the value of a machine simulation package such as VERICUT after a mishap with our Heian NC-442PF Twin Table Router.” In order to substantially reduce the size of their programs, they manually edit the NC code to breakout and create subroutines. During one of these editing sessions, they accidentally misplaced a G90 record. “This single misplaced line of code kept the machine in an incremental coordinate system while we were sending absolute moves,” says Chappell. “This was obviously not a good situation. The machine was moving in all sorts of unintended ways!” They had to go back into the program, find the error, correct it, and then test it before they could resume production. That mishap resulted in reduced productivity for a number of days. “After that, we quickly acquainted ourselves with VERICUT using the CGTech video training sessions. Now VERICUT is a permanent part in our departmental procedures at Peavey.”

One of the main reasons Peavey chose VERICUT is because of its ability to simulate the actual CNC machine center. “You see what the machine center is going to do before it costs you lost stock, lost machine productivity, utilities, travel, support wages, or even possible machine damage and operator injury,” says Chappell. “We also liked the fact that VERICUT has a dedicated CATIA interface. CATV makes VERICUT extremely easy to use within CATIA. You can generate a VERICUT model effortlessly since it uses our CATIA geometry.” The ability to export STL files has also come in “quite handy in getting show-prototypes built on short-order.”

The EVH Wolfgangâ Special, an extension to the Edward (Eddie) Van Halen signature line of guitars, gives a good example of how VERICUT is used on a daily basis. “The CNC programs for the EVH are very complex,” says Chappell. “It took approximately 10,000 total lines of CNC code just to get the proper neck shape Eddie Van Halen wanted.” Manually checking a program this size is a tedious, practically impossible, task for a two-person programming department. Furthermore, Peavey prefers to use its machining centers for production work. Checking programs on the actual CNC machine centers is costly and slows production.

“Using VERICUT, we easily caught a number of programming errors on that job – things like feed rates settings that were too high and motions that would have gouged the part –simply by running the program, viewing the output, and reading the log file.” Gouges are easily detected in VERICUT, and an error such as a high cutting-feedrate is shown in red. “VERICUT also records all the errors into a log file. We always use this file just in case an error occurred too fast to detect visually.”

In addition, VERICUT was able to simulate multiple machine programs in the one model. “We were able to combine the initial neck shaping program and final finishing program to give us a complete picture of the final EVH Special neck.” After the machining simulation was complete and they had a ‘virtual part,’ the programmers used VERICUT to analyze the model to make sure all the dimensional properties were accurate.

All this took just a couple of hours – much less time than would have been required to verify all the programs through a traditional prove-out process. “Without VERICUT, we would have had to verify the programs on the machine, find the mistakes, re-program, and re-test. Each iteration would cost Peavey several thousand dollars in implementation costs – much too costly under any manufacturing environment. But with VERICUT, we did the whole thing in a few hours, and the programs ran correctly on their first attempt.”