Subcontractor Races to Success with hyperMILL

Founded only five years ago, PBE CNC Ltd has carved a name for itself as a specialist subcontractor in the 5-axis machining of motorsport components. Evolving at pace, the Havant based company relies upon OPEN MIND Technologies hyperMILL CAM technology to deliver components of impeccable quality.

Even before Company Founder and Managing Director Jonathan Plumridge started the business, the entrepreneur had purchased a seat of hyperMILL to offer programming services to the subcontract manufacturing sector. Using hyperMILL as a freelance engineer provided Jonathan with the means to start PBE CNC and buy his first machine, a Mazak i500 Variaxis. The company has since purchased a second i500, a Mazak VCN 430A machining centre with 4th axis and most recently a Mazak QT Compact 200L mill/turn centre.

As Jonathan Plumridge says: “The work that we do here is primarily for the motorsport and food processing industries, machining components made of aluminium and titanium in anything from 1-offs to runs of 500+.” To efficiently do this, the company has invested in multi-vices and grid plates from Lang and an Omron cobot.

Looking at why the South Coast company invested in hyperMILL, Jonathan says: “I chose hyperMILL because I used it at a previous company and it has proven very reliable with some very nice toolpaths and support is very good. The benefits I have found using hyperMILL over previous CAM systems are that it is very good at importing models, the toolpaths are generated very quickly on large parts and the 5-axis parts are rock solid. Additionally, the simulation tools are excellent and you can always be sure that the tool path will run safely providing it is run well on the screen.”

“Choosing hyperMILL over previous systems that I have used was a ‘no-brainer’. When I first started doing offline programming, I was trained on how to use hyperMILL. When I moved companies, I was trained how to use another product, so when I started a business of my own, I knew hyperMILL was the way to go because of its reliability and my previous knowledge.” The reliability and previous experience were integral in the decision to select OPEN MIND, as Jonathan adds: “At a previous company, the CAM system was responsible for a serious and costly machine collision. This collision was impetus enough for my previous employer to be persuaded to switch to hyperMILL. When a situation like this arises, it makes process stability, collision avoidance and security-critical elements in the decision process. It also creates a realisation of how important a good CAM system like hyperMILL can be.”

Discussing ease-of-use, Jonathan adds: “After the initial training, the system is very intuitive to use and all of the menus, whether it be for 2D, 3D or 5-axis toolpaths all run along the same theme, so once you know how to do one – they all follow on. The parts are very easy to set up when you follow the model and you can set the project assistant that will set your datum and stock, which you can adjust if you need. Then you can choose the machine you wish to output to, then start adding toolpaths quickly and easily.”

“Since I started using hyperMILL, I have noticed that the toolpaths are high quality and very consistent and you can customise them if you need to, to make them do exactly what you want. In the type of industry we work, that is critical because the parts have to look aesthetically pleasing – and hyperMILL gives you all of the tools to do that.”

“From time to time, I will use hyperMILL to quote parts as well. You can quickly import the model and put a few toolpaths on the job if you are unsure whether the part needs a lot of scanning. hyperMILL will give you an accurate estimation of how long the part will take to produce.”

“We have recently taken delivery of a mill/turn lathe and we have a post-processor from OPEN MIND for that machine. It enables us to program around the C-axis and this is not really any different to programming a normal machining centre. Users can just tell the system what post processor they are going to use, put the programme in – and it runs. I would recommend that manufacturers talk to OPEN MIND if they are in the market for off-line programming software as it is easy to use and the support is excellent.”

Commenting upon the relationship between OPEN MIND and PBE CNC, OPEN MIND Sales Director, Ken Baldwin says: “I have known Jonathan since he was at his previous company where he was using a different CAM system due to various reasons, he changed the CAM system there to hyperMILL because it offered a lot more safety and programme benefits. At the previous company, Jonathan brought OPEN MIND in because they had an expensive machine crash. So, the first reason was safety and hyperMILL offers a lot more security in terms of collision checking and ensuring that the toolpaths created would be the right toolpaths to give the best quality, but also be safe to run on a machine tool.”

Ken adds: “It can be quite common that when businesses start out on their journey to invest in CAM, they choose hyperMILL. It may cost more than alternative systems that are cheaper in the short term. However, when businesses have a vision of growing, they invest in hyperMILL from the start because they know that hyperMILL can grow with them as a business whether they move from simple 3-axis machining to 5-axis, mill/turn and even additive. hyperMILL will cater for everything a business needs within the machine shop, now and in the future.”

“Using a CAM system like hyperMILL, there are several benefits you can achieve in any machine shop and there may be different priorities depending on the nature of that machine shop. So, it could be that a company wants faster programming times or it may be in production where companies are producing thousands of components and they want to optimise the process. Within a CAM system, you can visualise the stock condition at every stage and have a very optimised tool path that can save those small percentages. When on a longer batch run, that can save a considerable amount of time. Manufacturers can also verify everything that is going on within the machine tool, so the tool, the holder and any kind of workpiece and workholding can be visualised in the machine so users can be sure that everything is 100% right before they start to run the program the machine. This avoids any costly prove-outs.” As a company that utilises a cobot for 24/7 lights-out production and also Lang multi-point workholding for setting up multiple parts in a single set-up, this is certainly a casing point for PBE CNC.

Discussing automation, OPEN MIND’s Ken Baldwin continues: “There is an automation package within hyperMILL that not many people are currently using. Where people struggle with automation, is that they think it is 100% automated. Automation is not always a start-to-finish process, especially when factories undertake such a wide variety of work. Automation in hyperMILL is all about picking out sections. There may be a lot of components where you do the same process on a particular type of component and that may only be 15 to 20% of the programming, if you can automate that and identify trends – that is a 15 to 20% reduction in work that doesn’t have to be done every time. That is once again a huge saving on the programming time.”

“There is already automation within hyperMILL that uses the user’s knowledge, as customers know what works on certain types of components. These features can be built in and customised to what the end user requires. There is also a lot more intelligence in tooling data and we are working with various tooling companies to get a lot more information on real cutting data and what works, and how we can get that information to automatically apply. In the next few years, manufacturers will see a lot more progress in this area as the doors to automation open in quite a big way,” concludes Ken Baldwin.

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