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Vector Tool and Engineering has reduced the programming time for feature-intensive 2.5D parts by 50-75 per cent since changing to Delcam’s FeatureCAM knowledge-based CAM system.

Since the changeover, the mould-making company has also reduced the programming time for less feature-intensive 3D parts by 25 per cent.

Machining time has been saved by the software’s more efficient rest-machining and trochoidal-milling capabilities.

Located in greater Kansas City, Missouri, Vector Tool and Engineering provides the complete engineering and fabrication of injection moulds and tooling for the plastics industry, as well as contract machining for the aerospace sector.

The company is a subsidiary of Peterson Manufacturing, a provider of safety lighting products for the automotive and heavy-duty truck markets.

While Vector Tool continues to see growth in new mould builds, the company also carries out extensive revision, rebuild and maintenance for its customers both inside and outside the Peterson Group.

This combination of work requires fast reaction times to keep customers up and running.

Randy Bennett, lead programmer for Vector Tool, said: ‘We felt that we needed a major improvement in efficiency that we were not getting from our previous software.

‘The thing that sold us on FeatureCAM was its ability to automatically recognise features such as holes, pockets, bosses and slots in 3D solid and surface models.

‘This means that we don’t have to deal with each individual surface but can program features instead.

‘This is much less time intensive because there are far fewer features and because the inherent commonality of features means that they can often be programmed from libraries,’ he added.

After the design phase is complete, the company’s CNC programmers begin by importing the component.

Once the programmer is satisfied with the way that the features have been defined, the next step is to pick tools and speeds and feeds for machining each feature.

The natural repetitiveness of features means that it is often possible to pick a tool and machining conditions from a similar example that has been machined previously and saved in the software’s library.

Many parts also have multiple copies of some features and, in this case, the relevant program can be copied to each location where it is needed.

Bennett continued: ‘Our switch to FeatureCAM has helped us improve our programming efficiency greatly.

‘The productivity of our programmers has been increased substantially, especially on the feature-rich 2.5D parts, which constitute the vast majority of our programming workload.

‘We have only used the new software for a few months so we believe that we should be able to achieve considerable additional productivity gains.

‘We have also seen significant reductions in cycle time, especially on 3D parts, and surface finish has also been improved,’ he said.

Delcam supplies software and services that help manufacturing companies to maximise their profitability by increasing productivity, improving quality and reducing lead times. The company is the world's largest specialist supplier of computer-aided machining software, with its PowerMILL, FeatureCAM, Partmaker and ArtCAM programs making up the most comprehensive range of CAM systems from any developer.

This broad selection allows Delcam to offer a CAM system capable of machining virtually any product, in any material on any type of equipment. Delcam also develops product design, tooling design and quality control programs. The unique Tribrid Modelling approach to design incorporates solid modelling, surface modelling and triangle modelling in a single program, enabling complete design and reverse engineering projects to be undertaken without transferring data between software.

Delcam's Powerinspect offers fast, reliable comparison of parts, prototypes and tooling against CAD data on all types of inspection equipment and even on machine tools. This versatility has made it the world's leading hardware-independent inspection software. Related programs are available for checking machine tool set-up and part location. Delcam software is used in over 80 countries worldwide by around 40,000 organisations, from large multi-nationals to small sub-contractors, in industries including aerospace, automotive, dental, engineering, footwear, medical and toolmaking.

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