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ZF Friedrichshafen is utilising Edgecam computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system in the manufacture of parts including transmission systems, axles, shafts and housings.

The company is a supplier to domestic, commercial, construction and agricultural manufacturers.

Peter Robl, production services team manager in the location of Passau (for 12 A-division plants) demonstrates the role Edgecam plays in the process of manufacturing parts to customers when they visit ZF factories.

He said: ‘We discuss our performance in the 3D CAM field so customers are fully aware that Edgecam has enabled us to move on from the traditional way of working with 2D drawings to 3D models.

‘It’s important they know that we now work in a 3D and a virtual area, and that our computer-integrated manufacturing means their components are produced to the highest quality.

‘Edgecam was the only system that delivered the process automation tools we demanded during our evaluation of 10 CAM solutions.

‘The degree of integration and interoperability we achieve between Edgecam and our corporate CAD solution Pro/Engineer enables us to take component designs and automatically generate and apply optimised tool paths,’ he added.

Robl said that the fact that the Edgecam product team has a good understanding of the problems and issues facing ZF’s intensive manufacturing process has developed and speeded up its NC programming.

In addition, he dedicates considerable time in explaining to ZF’s programmers and machine operators about the role Edgecam plays in the overall NC process chain.

With ZF having a total of 84 users working on 52 seats of Edgecam, the software drives more than 400 CNC machines across manufacturing plants – mainly three- or four-axis milling centres and lathes with two spindles and two turrets from a number of different manufacturers.

In addition, five-axis and turning-milling machines are programmed by Edgecam.

Johannes Fuerst, production services engineer at ZF, said it is vital for the smooth running of the factories that Edgecam can run different manufacturers’ machine across a range of cutting technologies.

ZF’s Edgecam modules include Ultimate Milling and Ultimate Turning, Solid Machinist, Strategy Manager, Solid CAD/CAM, Five-Axis Simultaneous Milling and NC Simulation, ensuring it is able to machine high-precision parts.

It has generated around 2,200 Edgecam programs in total, many of them using more than 100 tools and with more than 1,000 instructions.

Before Edgecam, production planners had to use 2D drawings because their previous 2D CAM system could not process 3D CAD data.

Now they can directly load the Pro/Engineer CAD models using Solid Machinist.

Edgecam also gives planners additional options for rationalising every individual processing step, and because of its full associativity with the CAD mode, 100 per cent error-free data transfer is assured.

For Max Weishaeupl, the simulation feature is of vital importance.

‘With the user being able to simulate how the part, the fixture, the tool and the machine will all combine to carry out the programming before the actual production run, gives us confidence to press the button to start the manufacturing process knowing we’ve created safe, to 99.9 per cent collision-free CNC programs,’ he said.

The Edgecam postprocessor is also important for the complete process.

Many things, such as syntax check for the controller, proofing the limits in the working room, output cycles for this machine and longhand for the other machine, helps to avoid machine errors.

The compatibility for the posts is necessary for the in-house process because a considerable amount is changed on different machines in the production.

Product variation means about 600 setups are needed daily, with changes of workpieces, tools, equipment and NC programs.

Edgecam enables this logistical challenge to be met with speed and accuracy, ensuring the efficient machining often of just-in-time batches comprising between one and 250 units.

ZF’s day-to-day Edgecam requirements are managed by the software’s reseller in Germany, Cipro, which as also instrumental in its implementation and assisting in processes, along with user training.

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