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DutchAero protects its machine tools and optimises production thanks to VERICUT

An established user of CGTech’s VERICUT NC verification and simulation software, DutchAero bv has also seen the important benefits of the company’s OptiPath machining optimisation module.

Since 2004 Eindhoven-based DutchAero has been an autonomous part of the Italian company Avio. Originally part of the manufacturing and engineering expertise organically developed by Dutch multinational Philips, DutchAero was sold to this leading Italian aerospace company. Today the company employs about 100 highly skilled staff at it 2,000 m2 advanced machining facility.

Predominantly the company produces aero engine parts which evolved from an early involvement with aero structures. These were machined from aluminium, however today most of the material being cut on the shopfloor is titanium and Inconel as well as many other heat resistant superalloys (HRSA). “Engine parts have steadily increased and now only a small segment of what we machine falls into the structural component category. For example, we produce components for the F136 engine for the Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft. These are fairly significant components with machining cycle times covering multiple shifts,” explains Patrick Delisse, HSM CAM Engineer.

Major aero engine manufacturers such as GE, Rolls-Royce and Snecma rely on DutchAero’s support for both civil and defence projects. And, for over a decade, the company has relied on VERICUT NC code verification software from CGTech.

Patrick Delisse recalls that during the mid 1990’s the company started to produce more complex aluminium structural parts. “To produce these efficiently we required more complicated machine tools, so we invested in 4-axis Makino. Later 5-axis simultaneous milling was also installed. We needed VERICUT to provide confirmation of the error free programming of the tool path, to protect both the raw material/component and the machine tool. The use of VERICUT is now mandatory, and no programs are released to the shopfloor without first being verified by the software.”

CAD/CAM data comes from the company’s Siemens NX (Unigraphics) software, while VERICUT provides an independent verification and simulation that the toolpaths run gouge-free and that the machine’s axes movements do not cause any collision between its structure, the workpiece, fixturing and cutting tool.

Machine simulation is very important for DutchAero and the latest machines installed, a Breton 5-axis turn-mill machine and a StarragHeckert STC 5-axis machine that produces blisks are all modelled in VERICUT. CG Tech created the latter, while the machine supplier provided the model for its machine and Patrick Delisse added the dynamics. He says: “We used to do all development in house, but these days we work on close cooperation with suppliers. With the functions of a 3-axis it wasn’t too complicated, but for 5-axis it becomes very complicated so we use the skill and knowledge that CGTech has to provide us with this simulation support.”

DutchAero’s large Pietro Carnaghi VTL is also modelled in VERICUT, as this lathe can change cutting heads from horizontal to vertical VERICUT is able to get the tool in the correct orientation to completely simulate any machining operation it carries out. Tool management software comes from WinTool and the cutting tool assemblies are modelled as accurately as possible for use in VERICUT. The verification software can also import models from manufacturers such as Sandvik, that publish tool definitions on the internet.

Patrick Delisse uses VERICUT interactively on his PC, as he explains: “I run VERICUT from line to line until it encounters an error, which is modified and stepped to the next error, and so on. Finally, I restart VERICUT and run it through again to ensure the code is problem-free. I usually do this overnight so when I come in the following day and the code is all correct, it can then be issued to the shopfloor.”

Although VERICUT can be used to show simulations of the setup procedures on the machine tools, it is not a function used by DutchAero. However, the operators do come into the programming office to view the VERICUT record animation files so they know what to expect when a new job is running.

This is an important consideration because the company trusts VERICUT’s capability. “We know how to cut various super alloys, we know the correct speeds and feeds, and with the trust we have in VERICUT we have minimised on machine prove outs. Now the only stipulation for the first part run is an operator and NC programmer has to be present.”

DutchAero also uses CGTech’s OptiPath machining cycle time optimisation software, which adjusts NC program cutting speeds to make the machining process faster, more efficient, and of higher quality. The software works on a simple premise. Based on the amount of material removed in each segment of the cut, the software calculates and inserts improved feed rates where necessary. In areas of light material removal OptiPath speeds feed rates, and decreases the feed rates as more material is removed. Without changing the cutting tool trajectory, the updated information is applied to a new tool path.

OptiPath is selectively used, Patrick Delisse says they make judgement calls on which parts to run through OptiPath. “Some project parts have been running for a couple of years, even a small reduction in the cycle time provides a worthwhile return as you keep on making that saving,” he says. “Usually we shave a significant percentage off the machining cycle times. And, it’s not just the time that we save it is also the cutting tools and the reduced stress on the structure of the machine tool. Generally tool life is extended when a NC program has been optimised and more often than not the surface finish is improved.”

DutchAero currently has six seats of the very latest version of VERICUT, four of which have full machine simulation capability, as well as two OptiPath licenses. Of course, any manufacturing software is only as good as the support available and Patrick Delisse is keen to point out that CGTech’s has been absolutely first rate. He is an active participant of CG Tech’s technical forum. “About once a week I do a quick check to see what is happening, it’s very useful and it’s always nice to hear someone else’s thoughts about things,” he concludes.

Article published in Machinery Aerospace Supplement, October 2012 [PDF]

Article published in DEVELOP3D, June 2011 [PDF]