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Quick UK uses Alphacam’s integrated CAD/CAM software to machine aluminium and carbon-fibre components for remote-control model helicopters.

According to Quick managing director Budd Boulton, Alphacam – part of the Planit Group – is key to the company’s success in getting to market first with a new product.

The company, founded in 1982, manufactured the UK’s first commercially available radio-controlled model helicopter kits from aluminium, steel and carbon fibre.

Then, 15 years later came the onset of cheap, plastic helicopters from China, added Boulton.

‘We decided to specialise in producing high-precision upgrade components for the plastic helicopters, reverse engineering them to give them much better performance,’ he said.

Boulton added that the drawback with the standard plastic components on the cheap helicopters is that there is too much flex in the control system.

‘If you have a 90deg bell crank that’s transferring a load from the servomotor to the rotor head, you can be putting 5-10kg of torque through it.

‘Plastic ones tend to flex, so the way the helicopter flies can be improved considerably by making those components more rigid,’ he said.

Quick manufactures its components on five CNC machining centres, all driven by Alphacam.

Two are vertical Dugards, one with a 1,000mm bed and one with a 600mm bed, and three Austrian Emco multi-axis turning centres with driven tooling and Y-axis turrets that are used for the more complex components.

Boulton said that, as Quick only has two operators, it is important that Alphacam can drive all its machines.

He added: ‘Using only one piece of software means the operators have become very proficient with it, and we don’t have to swap software between different machines.

‘This is particularly valuable on the milling machines because many of our components are very small.

‘Typically, we may machine around 400 at a time, and the pocketing feature on Alphacam gives us the ability to effectively produce the machine code for one, and then we populate the whole sheet with multiple items, which is obviously much quicker for us.

‘On the turning centres, we have three machines with very similar capabilities, and it is so convenient being able to choose any one to a do a production run.

‘It means we don’t have just one machine that produces a particular component.

‘We can very quickly put it onto any one of the three, so we can usually keep all three machines running with very little downtime.

‘The speed with which Alphacam produces programs is also important.

‘Generally, we can take a new component from the design stage to producing the prototype within 24 hours and, if all’s well with it, it goes into production immediately, which is absolutely vital, as is generating the toolpath offline,’ said Boulton.

This means that Quick can correct any issues before spending time on the machine.

The Alphacam CAM/CAD software is used in the manufacture of many types of components, from simple routed parts to complex, five-axis components.

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