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DIE AND MOULD Bettering CNC manufacturing cycles and equipment

Dec 18, 2018

As medical devices get more intricate and bring in more cutting-edge materials, the manufacturing industry must have the technology and expertise to supply medical machining with high meticulousness that these parts entail, without compromising on quality. The article discusses two case studies from Mastercam, which showcase how CNC manufacturing cycles & equipment can be improved...

With healthcare dynamics changing and manufacturing companies facing a very competitive setting, medical device manufacturers are flowing from a transaction-based approach to an approach that involves aiming at creating value by making available medical tools that are ground-breaking. With this evolving scenario, Orchid Design and Nexxt Spine, two firms in the medical device market, used Mastercam for better CNC manufacturing equipment and reduce CNC manufacturing cycles.

Case Study 1

The first case study discusses the challenge of shortening lead time for medical part prototypes, so that customers can bring their products to the market faster. For this, Mastercam turns to its router, lathe and suite of 2-axis and 4-axis wirepaths. This provides concurrent fixture design and multiple part views. Besides, surfacing capabilities in Mastercam automatically generate contoured toolpaths. Backplot and Verify eliminate costly crashes and time consuming re-work.

Orchid Design (Shelton, CT) is a contract engineering, prototyping and product development firm serving the medical device market. When they became part of the multidivisional Orchid Orthopedics Solutions LLC, one of the first orders of business was to install manufacturing systems that mirror the equipment used in five out of nine of the corporation’s other divisions. As a result, when Orchid Design transfers a job from prototyping or short-run manufacturing to one of the corporation’s production shops, a completely validated manufacturing goes along with it. Production manufacturing can begin immediately with little or no process tweaking needed. This event triggers a whole series of steps that may include concept development, product engineering, prototyping, design modifications, based on cadaver lab tests, and small run contract manufacturing.

Versatile CAM software

Projects start in Midcoast Aviation’s engineering department and are then transferred to the CNC department in the form of a SolidWorks CAD model. These are imported into Mastercam, without the need for further modification. This procedure ensures that none of the design intent is sacrificed in transition. Sometimes, engineering of aircraft cabinetry is outsourced. In this case, the CAD models come in as CATIA or other Parasolids files. The CAM software is versatile enough to deal with any of these, without resorting to special translators

Elaborating on this, Ron Calahan, Prototype Shop Manager, Orchid Design, said, “Most of our parts are delivered in 2-3 weeks. However, it is not unusual for a customer to give us a design in the morning and expect us to have parts for him at the end of the day. Our CAM system allows us to do that.”

Precise CNC tool paths

Orchid Design uses Mastercam to rapidly transform medical designs generated in SolidWorks or Pro Engineer into precise CNC tool paths for its CNC manufacturing equipment. However, once the tool paths have been created, the company also uses CAD capabilities of Mastercam to design work-holding fixtures that allow the equipment to remove the maximum amount of material with the fewest possible set-ups.

Recently, a part that took a full 8-hour day to manufacture on the 5-axis mill was programmed in less than half that time. Orchid Design’s customer moved quickly through field trials, engineering revisions and into the marketplace. In the meantime, the firm has employed its portfolio CAM compression programming techniques over and over again to speed a steady flow of projects along similar paths.

Speaking on this, Calaham cites, “We have a 5-axis Haas mill, 4-axis wire EDM, a Prototrac CNC lathe, and a Citizen L20 Swiss turning machine. A lot of our parts come from solid models–Pro E or SolidWorks. We import them right into Mastercam and are able to create our toolpaths right away.”

Case Study 2

The second case study discusses the challenge of shortening lead times for medical device deliveries, without sacrificing quality. The solution recommended for this is Mastercam Mill, which comes with more powerful toolpaths for better programming and CNC manufacturing productivity. The simulation reduces potential for error and advanced CAM strategies optimise workflow.

Decreasing CNC manufacturing cycles

When Elsbury founded Nexxt Spine, he was determined to keep manufacturing in-house so that he could win over surgeons with fast turns of customised products and surgical instruments. A critical element of this strategy was to leverage advanced capabilities of Mastercam software in order to simplify programming and continuously decrease CNC manufacturing cycles.

Beau Riser, CNC Programmer, Nexxt Spine LLC, Noblesville, IN, spends half of his time on Mastercam writing programs to manufacture these implants and instruments. The other half is devoted to writing programs to manufacture prototype implants and instruments that are being developed in cooperation with a selected group of surgeons. To ensure that these programs are written efficiently, machined accurately, and at high production rates, Riser identified a set of essential Mastercam tools for optimising his workflow. These include:

  • Xform Project: Xform Project ensures creation of accurate geometries within the program

  • Dynamic Toolpaths: Dynamic Toolpaths are ‘material aware’ toolpaths that operate at high spindle rates with minimal tool engagement, while automatically adjusting feeds, speeds, entry points and dwell for faster cutting with less tool wear

  • Trimming: Trimming is a fast toolpath for eliminating burrs on PEEK cervical implants

  • Simulation: Simulation verifies in-spec material removal and detects interferences

  • STL Compare: STL Compare allows for the direct comparison of the Mastercam program with the CAD model for high levels of quality assurance

  • Postprocessor:Riser works closely with his nearby Mastercam Reseller to refine his post-processors, to the point where there is little to do at the machine, except set up the part and run the program

Giving his views on the enhancement in the toolpaths at Mastercam, Riser asserts, “I have been programming with Mastercam for eight years and I have seen the toolpaths improve with each release of the software. Today, the number of toolpaths I need to make a part has reduced.”

Image Gallery

  • Knee replacement

    Mastercam in use for precision machining of a knee implant

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