How Applied CAx Boosted Efficiencies for a Top Aerospace Supplier

Crunching the numbers on CNC programming time

chart v02“Don’t turn off the machines.” That’s a sign that could be posted across the Pacific NW. When a shop is making aerospace parts in a multi-state operation, the manufacturing team doesn’t get to stop and analyze their methods. But recently Applied CAx helped a great team do just that with a focused site review.

We didn’t just guess in the dark. We crunched the numbers on potential labor and programming hours they could save along the way. Our review team spent the day capturing their processes and set up a high-level overview of their issues.

Over half a dozen CNC programmers and manufacturing engineers led us on a tour of their customized 5-axis machines. With an operation split across the west, there were some overarching processes, but each operation had its own programmers with their own culture.

Since then our 3-phase plan has identified the areas where automation development, training, and mentorship can get them to a better place.


PHASE ONE: Process Audit

In phase 1, we audited internal programming, setup and data integrity. We found large swaths of areas where NX is being used inefficiently and found the following numbers:

·       landing gear 1000pxTheir team isn’t using geometry groups. By utilizing geometry groups properly they can streamline toolpath creation and potentially save several hours per project by reducing total number of steps.
Potential Improvement: 10% reduction in programming time

·       Programming style is out of date. By updating their programming style, they’ll see improved programming time (less clicks) and toolpath efficiency with cleaner toolpaths that look at solid model and limits potential crashes.
Potential Improvement: 15-20% reduction in overall programming

·       Not using master model approach effectively.
Potential Improvement: 5-10% reduction in programming time

·       Poorly imported surfaces.
Potential Improvement: 60-70% reduction in programming time for complex surfaces

·       Not using CAD to modify geometry for manufacturing.

·       Lack of Synchronous Modeling


PHASE TWO: Programmer Mentoring and Methods Improvement

Next up in our plan is phase 2, which has our team members returning for onsite mentorship for five days. We’ll provide over-the-shoulder assistance as needed to their current projects, specifically when it comes to Feature Based Machining (FMB) creation and template creation. We’ll also help with data set & programming transition in greater detail and give recommendations for template creation and streamlining. Issues fixed in phase 2 are:

·       Overly complex NX component file structures.
Potential Improvement: 30% reduction in programing setup

·       Not using FBM for similar features, pockets, holes.
Potential Improvement: 75-90% programming reduction on features with hundreds/thousands of similar features

·       Improper standardization.
Potential Improvement: new programmer onboarding & training reduced from days to hours

·       Under-utilization of templates

·       Continue the master model refinement from phase 1


PHASE THREE: Process Automation

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Finally, our phase 3 plan would spin out of the results of phases 1 and 2, giving us a chance to provide a more detailed assessment. Without giving away too many details, a short-list of items in phase 3 could focus on:

·       Tool list is currently in an external database

·       Currently using many GRIP routines.

·       Not using custom environments

·       NX machine simulation


We here at Applied CAx have helped a number of customers who have reached "artificial ceilings." Utilizing our experience, staff of trained professionals, and our own in-house manufacturing experience, Applied CAx has developed our Audit/Remedy Practice specifically target to stalled processes. We help companies assess their situation and identify the low cost/high return changes that blast through these artificial ceilings and gain new levels of productivity and competitiveness. Expect no less, after all, we do this everyday.