Product Details Supplier Info More products

AIM has invested in a series of five-axis CNC machining centres and Hypermill CAD/CAM software from Open Mind Technologies to support the change in its business model.

Aerospace subcontractor AIM strategically changed its business model from large production runs to intricate batch manufacture.

The company’s diverse range of machinery investments enables it to produce anything from 6m parachute rails to small complex components that demand five-axis machining.

The AIM business model now sees it conducting research and development projects, repair schemes and the updating of commercial and military aircraft with particular emphasis on airframe structures.

To meet the demands of the aerospace sector to manufacture intricate components with rapid turnaround times, AIM acquired three Mikron and one Hedelius five-axis machine and then loaded the machines with high-specification tooling from Iscar to meet the capabilities of the high-speed machines.

Despite the investment, there was still a bottleneck with part programming.

‘We knew that our CAD/CAM package was not suited to five-axis applications and it could meet the performance of our machines, so we looked for an alternative,’ said Rob Kendall, managing director of AIM.

In July 2009 AIM acquired two seats of Open Mind’s Hypermill system and with new package updates imminent, the company sent its staff on training days in September.

Despite staff still being in the familiarity stage, Kendall said: ‘Our five programmers’ confidence in Hypermill and our five-axis capability is growing and we are moving more parts from our three-axis machines to five-axis daily.

‘Our production times are up to 50 per cent faster on our five-axis machines and while set-ups and the elimination of second operations is a major contributor, it is Hypermill that has enabled us to move parts across with confidence,’ he added.

The problem prior to the introduction of Hypermill was the previous CAM supplier had difficulty providing post-processors for the company’s diverse range of machine tools, which immediately caused issues.

Open Mind supplied post-processors for all machines.

In addition, if any five-axis part programs were broken into during production, the CAM system had anomalies where it would not pick up exactly where it had stopped.

This inevitably caused positional issues and scrap.

To emphasise the cost of scrap, AIM manufactures components from expensive aerospace grade aluminium, titanium, steels and carbon composites.

This cost is highlighted when some parts require more than 10 hours machining with some three-ton billets being machined to a finished weight of 315kg.

With such instances, it is clear why staff had a lack of confidence machining five-axis parts with the previous CAM system.

Kendall said: ‘We now produce three to four times more part variations than 10 years ago.

‘This means more set-ups and smaller batches of typically five to 30 parts, which causes issues when most parts are complex and demand multiple set-ups.

‘Our previous CAM system was holding our machine shop back and we did not have the confidence to fully utilise our five-axis machines.

‘Since the introduction of Hypermill, we are continuously loading the five-axis machines with more jobs to reduce secondary operations and improve cycle times.

‘To demonstrate our cycle time benefits, we have taken one job from a three-axis machine and moved it to a five-axis centre and this has taken set-ups from seven to two and cycle times from 3.5 to 1.5hours.

‘Another cycle time has fallen from eight hours to five with another job falling from 3.5 to 2.25hours.

‘While these savings are partially down to the machines and respective set-ups, none of it would have been possible without Open Mind.

‘We run one shift with lights-out machining gradually increasing.

‘This rise in unmanned machining is credit to the confidence in Hypermill and its remarkable collision avoidance.

‘Hypermill has enabled us to improve cycle times by upwards of 50 per cent, reduced programming times, and improved confidence, surface finishes and product quality.

‘It has also cut finishing operations such as deburring,’ he added.

Open Mind Technologies

OPEN MIND Technologies AG is a leading developer of CAD/CAM software and postprocessors for designing and manufacturing complex moulds and parts. OPEN MIND offers an extensive range of products, from 2D feature-oriented solutions for milling standard parts through to software for 5axis simultaneous machining. With their hyperMILL software, which is used in the automotive, tool and mould manufacturing, mechanical engineering and aerospace industries, OPEN MIND Technologies AG is represented in all the important markets in Asia, Europe and North America.  

OPEN MIND’s solutions feature a user-friendly interface and the largest range of 2D, 3D and 5axis modules available to users. In addition, the company delivers a fully integrated product concept encompassing CAD solutions, plug-ins, interfaces and postprocessors that cover the entire manufacturing process from design to manufacture. We take our innovative ideas, long-time CAD experience and milling expertise and create technologically sound CAM strategies. OPEN MIND has made a name for itself internationally as a pioneer in innovative 5axis technologies. What makes OPEN MIND and its products special is the unique blend of computing and production expertise, experience and vision, and international character and individual service. This combination of qualities results in a constant stream of new ideas that help companies optimise their production processes.  

View full profile