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CAM System Slashes CNC Programming Time

Originally Published MPMN June 2003

PROFILE

CAM System Slashes CNC Programming Time

A fabricator of implant components reports 80% productivity gain

Kelly Donoghue

Esprit's hybrid solid-modeling program enables users to import models directly from a customer's CAD software.
(click to enlarge)

Conventional CNC programming methods can delay production and increase a product's time to market. In a competitive market, that was not acceptable to U. Klein GmbH (St. Ingbert, Germany), a contract manufacturer that specializes in producing components for medical OEMs. The firm recently switched to a CAM system, which has enabled it to slash programming time for complex parts by as much as 80%. "The time savings have been fantastic," says CNC programmer Ralf Merz. "We reduced the programming time for a medical knee implant from one week to five hours." Not only has the switch proved to be less time consuming, but the new system has increased accuracy and control over the machining process, thereby improving the quality of the finished product.

"In the past, we programmed our CNC machining centers by developing macros that performed common machining functions," says Merz. "Then we built our programs using these macros. This worked well with basic components, but was very time-consuming with the complicated contours that the medical device industry has begun to use in recent years," he adds. On several occasions, Merz notes, the company had to refrain from giving customers a price quote because engineers were unable to write a G code, or CNC program, for the job within a reasonable time frame. U. Klein had little choice but to upgrade its programming capabilities.

Using DP Technology's Esprit CAM system, U. Klein GmbH was able to reduce CNC programming time for the machining of a complex implantable part such as this from one week to five hours.

In its search for the appropriate CAM system provider, U. Klein turned to DP Technology (Camarillo, CA; www.dptechnology.com). "We selected the Esprit CAM system from DP Technology because it provides a solid-modeling environment that is capable of defining the most complex geometry and an open architecture that offers enormous flexibility," Merz explains.

"The Esprit advanced hybrid solid-modeling kernel enables U. Klein to import intact files directly from a customer's CAD software, while the program's universal postprocessor automatically produces flawless G code for the CNC machines," says DP Technology vice president Chuck Matthews. U. Klein had been designing parts in Solid Edge based on sketches or blueprints provided by the customer. Now the company is able to import the Solid Edge files directly into Esprit, with all of the solid faces trimmed and in the proper orientation.

Merz explains that there are no limits to the shapes that can be designed using the system. The CAD software automatically detects and corrects gaps and duplicates in the geometry during the import. An automatic editing process reduces programming time by eliminating the need to manually define the geometry of a certain part. The operator can print out a simulated image for customer approval and then specify the tools to be used and the cutting speeds and feeds. Because most of the parts are machined from solid blocks of metal, Merz often uses Esprit's automatic roughing capabilities to produce tool paths that quickly remove the bulk of the material from the workpiece. He then defines the finishing cuts and simulates the machining operations on-screen to ensure that the machined part matches the design. Within a few hours, the G code can be created to produce the part.

"This new CAM system has helped our company to compete in a challenging market by allowing us to program any part, in considerably less time than our competitors require," Merz concludes. "Esprit enables U. Klein to accomplish its primary goal as a contract shop that helps customers bring new ideas to market faster than the competition."

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

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