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Aesseal, a mechanical seal manufacturer, is using Seiki Systems software to reliably feed CAM programmes to its CNC machine tools.

Aesseal holds an enormous component stock level, typically six to 12 months’ worth.

As the seal design is kept modular, the parts can be rationalised to expedite final assembly.

Aesseal bought Seiki Systems Networked Manufacturing System to get the CAM programmes for the seal components onto the shopfloor.

Aesseal now uses it across all three UK sites to feed CAM programmes to the CNC machine tools.

Aesseal’s 30-strong design team uses Solid Edge to model customer-specific seals.

Following approval from the customer, the CAM department then uses Siemens NX v5 (Unigraphics) software to write the machining code.

The seal is then transferred through Seiki Systems DNC to the machine shop.

The software links over Aesseal’s WAN to shopfloor-based PCs, where the Seiki Systems HMI looks after a number of machine tools in a cell.

The engineer will look at the job list and pull programmes down as the machine and raw material become available.

Stuart Welsh, head of IT at Aesseal, said: ‘For the past six years we have also used Seiki Systems monitoring to get information back from the machine tools so we can understand the utilisation of the machine shops.

‘The Networked Manufacturing System provides real-time data capture of the shopfloor utilisation for the 60 multi-axis turning and milling CNC machine tools we operate in the UK.

‘Even the manual and semi CNC machines used for material preparation, such as sawing, are part of the data capture loop.

‘We then use the scripting within Seiki Systems software to use robust logic functions to determine the machine status.

‘We know the status of the programme, if it has been downloaded, and if the job changes then the machine must be in set up.

‘A cycle start will show the end of set up and cycle-stop puts the system into waiting.

‘The software’s scripting language allows us, in conjunction with Seiki Systems, to write this logical sequence.

‘The software is very good at allowing you to link into other external systems, so it can hook into the product data management (PDM) and document management system and even the ERP system via Seiki Systems front end.

‘So the shopfloor has the visibility of the job required, the drawing file, the model of the part and any supporting information, such as critical set-up information.

‘Tool lists are also shown along with visual aids to depict how the tool should be assembled and how it should look on the machine.

‘This gives the engineer on the machine the confidence that the machine tool is set correctly and that the process will cut the material right first time.’ Seiki Systems software also allows the machinists on the shopfloor to feedback information about how well the CAM programme works.

It interrogates the use of the CAM programme so that any pertinent machining information is passed back to the CAM programmers.

For example, it may indicate something simple such as the need to reduce the feedrate slightly when machining phosphor bronze, to avoid tool chatter.

Welsh said: ‘It is good information that has significantly reduced scrap levels since it has been in use.

‘For example, we machine specialist chemical resistant alloys for certain applications such as Ferralium super duplex stainless steel or Hastelloy-C nickel-chromium-molybdenum alloy.

‘Until you start to cut the material, you do not get a feel for how well it machines in deep bores or internal undercuts and so on.

‘This communication backbone is invaluable with new products being introduced.’ Understanding the machine utilisation captured by the Seiki NMS system from a shopfloor management perspective is important to the future investment plans the company has.

It provides hard data on machine capacity limits, which become vital as more and more customised seals with increased complexity and tighter tolerances are manufactured.

The ability to interrogate data that has been collected in real-time directly from the shopfloor provides a direct link between shopfloor activities and top-floor production-driven business processes, enabling the company to execute the manufacturing process more effectively and profitably.

As Welsh said: ‘We have recently acquired new machines to meet the demand for more complex components.

‘A nine-axis Mori Seiki mill-turning centre allows both ends of a seal to be machined in one hit.

‘This reduces the set-up time because all of the tools are available and reduces the machining time as the part comes off complete.

‘As we condense the time needed to get into production, it becomes even more important to know how long the machine cycle actually takes for accurate overhead recovery, to know that we are making a profit.’ The Seiki NMS software supports this functionality by providing an immediate, dynamic and visual picture of production activities by collecting data from and reporting on shopfloor processes.

Automatic collection of productive and non-productive events occurring on the resources is captured to build a record of each operating condition or status change as it occurs.

All the data collected is date and time stamped (including the duration of each event) and can then be viewed as an event list or exported for further analysis.

Recovering overhead costs, such as the operational costs and depreciation of the machine tools, allows Aesseal to accurately cost the components and therefore set the selling price of the seal.

As the product range expands, it becomes more important to cost accurately.

Seiki’s Machine Utilisation Analysis module generates performance reports that are populated from data derived from the machine monitoring and shopfloor data collection.

The reports are configurable so it is possible to undertake a detailed analysis of the entire shopfloor, an individual cell or even drill right down to the individual resource.

It is then simple to identify trends in production, compare actual versus planned times and even see how many hours the machine tool has spent in maintenance during the month.

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