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The 5-axis CNC machine while cutting sample aerospace part,turbine in the light blue scene

Image: Adobe Stock

Aerospace Manufacturing Maximising the use of simulation software

Jun 16, 2017

NC verification and simulation software has been used by aerospace manufacturers for long, yet some NC programmers do not take advantage of the benefits it can offer. The article highlights the required strategies and techniques to go ahead with NC simulation for aerospace manufacturers.

Given the expense of each part machined, NC simulation is generally regarded as an important step in the machining process. Simulation checks each machining operation as it is programmed, or as a final check after the programming is finished and post-processed for the specific machine. It’s typically a quality checking process that ensures the part is cut as expected from the generated NC programs, without the risk of a machine collision.

These are valuable uses that justify software cost, often many times over. However, some resourceful companies have discovered that simulation software can be used to benefit their shop in ways that others overlook, sometimes even in ways that were unintended by the software developer.

Evolving strategies and techniques

One of the easiest ways to get more from simulation software is to simply use it. Test new, unproven, machining strategies virtually as an analysis laboratory. Other than the time required to virtually create and test new methods, there is no physical cost. An NC programmer can try and fine-tune radical new ideas several times over. A few hours spent trying out different methods could potentially save many hours of machine time, reducing tool and machine wear, wasted materials, energy costs, and human fatigue.

CAM vendors are developing new 5-axis strategies which are more complex; they are also developing new 5-axis roughing strategies that are improving the process of machining. New processes and new techniques must be employed and 5-axis machine simulation software that accurately represents each 5-axis machining cut in great detail will provide the necessary confidence to succeed. This also allows for new invention, experimentation and success with new techniques.

Removing the fear of multi-axis machining

CGTech, the developer of VERICUT software, has encouraged its customers to push the software to its limits. This can be well described using an example involving a creative NC programmer for a large aerospace engine manufacturer. They were looking for a faster way to make the leading edge of a titanium fan blade, and the NC programmer theorized that a new machining method could make the difference they needed.

Traditionally, the process for making the part takes many hours using a grinding technique. The NC programmer believed the part could be created using a 5-axis mill, but he knew he would need to convince his management before tying up the expensive machine for many hours cutting a test part. By using VERICUT to simulate the process, the programmer was able to create a video/review file to prove the process would work.

According to the Association for Manufacturing Technology, 5-axis mills and mill/turn machines have increasingly become popular, for a good reason. They enable the manufacturer to drastically reduce machining time and the number of set-ups required to complete a job. Simulation software takes the fear out of programming a multi-axis machine. When an NC program can be simulated, from the same code that will be sent to the machine, there is no excuse for not taking full advantage of a 5-axis machine’s capabilities.

Opting for the right machine using virtual simulation

The aerospace manufacturer working on the leading edge took the idea a step further. After proving the 5-axis milling process could work, they were ready to order production machines. Rather than simply picking the machine from a catalogue, they designed the machine in their simulation software, where they had already proven the process would work. These files were then sent to the machine tool builder who built the machine exactly to their specifications as described in a virtual machining simulation.

Another leading aerospace company created programs for more than 200 parts and proved their utility using virtual simulation software even before the arrival of machines on their shop floor. All the machines ordered were built using virtual simulation software and all NC programs were proved on a virtual machine. The machine loading plan was also prepared, thanks to accurate cycle times provided by simulation software. Once the machines arrived, they cut the parts without any further delay.

Summary

By maximising the use of simulation software, shop floors don’t need to wait for NC programs. There are always opportunities to improve an existing process, and simulation software can help by giving the NC programmer the freedom to try practically any machining technique in a virtual world. Only creativity and a good virtual platform are required to accomplish the job!

Source: CGTech India Software Solutions

Image Gallery

  • VERICUT Force™ from CGTech is a physics-based optimisation method that determines the maximum reliable feed rate for a given cutting condition based on the following three factors: maximum chip thickness, maximum allowable feed rate, and force on the cutter

    Image: CGTech

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