Off-line Programming With CAD/CAM Saves Time And Frustration For Job Shop

This shop knew it needed CAM software, but didn't know how it would find the time away from its machining in order to learn new software.


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Mark Virtue is the owner of CPM Machine, a job shop in Denair, California. For many years he programmed his machines by hand, simply looking at the prints and calculating tool paths at his machine. At times, he would spend as many as 6 hours creating a program for some complicated geometry. Even more time and expense would be required when this manual approach left him making an error that might scrap the part. Aware that he was losing money every time he programmed a part in this way, he knew he needed to reduce his programming time. The problem was how to achieve this time savings without committing a great deal of additional time to learning and implementing a CAD/CAM system.

CPM Machine provides components primarily for the robotics industry. The shop has three milling machines, three lathes and a phone that is typically ringing off the hook. Mr. Virtue is quite busy these days.

He understood that efficiency could be improved by programming parts at his computer using a CAD/CAM system while the machines were running. However, he feared that in order to program in a CAD/CAM environment, he would have to struggle through the complicated terminology. Either way seemed unproductive—taking time away from his current work to learn complicated software would cut into his productivity, but not doing so would force Mr. Virtue to continue to spend hours manually programming tool paths. It felt like a “lose-lose” situation.

Therefore, when Mr. Virtue got demonstrations from several CAD/CAM systems, he focused on his own lack of knowledge of CAD/CAM. He looked for the help and support he would require in order to program efficiently.

Mr. Virtue selected GeoPath software from SolutionWare (San Jose, California). He says he chose this system because he felt it was the easiest to use of the CAD/CAM systems he had seen. Also, after speaking with the application engineers, Mr. Virtue felt confident he would be supported if he got in trouble. “To me, it’s about people,” he says.

Mr. Virtue is now more competitive than ever. He no longer spends 6 hours programming at the machine. Instead, he gets each program done in minutes, leaving more time to get quotes to prospects and quality parts to customers. Without any change to his staff or equipment, the shift to offline programming has made his shop more successful.