The key to success in series production

Ronny Blaauwgeers - Director Manufacturing Engineering

High-tech, small series, diverse mix. That is what defines much of our manufacturing services. On top of that, we are vertically integrated. That means we can do both the machining and special processes in-house for all the parts we deliver. And the key to successful high-productivity manufacturing and the delivery of top quality Aerospace parts is CAD/CAM. Back in 2014, we developed a complete CAD/CAM strategy to streamline its implementation, so that we could always get the most out of the latest technology. It’s great to see how the strategy we developed back then is still on point and effective in our current work.

I’ve been with Aeronamic since 2012 and led the team who developed our CAD/CAM strategy. I’m currently responsible for implementing new CAD/CAM technology within Aeronamic and partnering with software and machine suppliers, research institutes and universities. CAD/CAM has a key position in our production operation and it is important to have a strategy for using it.

Before we begin series production 

The larger part of our business is based on built-to-print, which is when our customers already have a design. In this case, we use CAM to create the best possible series production process. However, using CAM is more than just coming up with the best fixtures and creating productive machining strategies based on the customers’ 3D CAD model. Our CAD/CAM engineers will create a stable production process that can, for example, run through the night by integrating measuring probes and tool-measuring lasers in the machining process. And by using the Digital Twin, we can simulate everything before we head to production, including those measuring probes and automation cycles.

Next to built-to-print, there are cases in which we can assist in the development of a design. As a Tier 2 company, we are experienced in linking design to production and service, so we understand the significance of good design, both functional and manufacturable. The best results can be achieved if our CAD/CAM team can work together with the customer’s Design team. This process often shows that 1+1 can actually equal 3. (Explain that calculation to your kids!)

Of course, this also enables us to streamline the production process. It saves customers time and money, and also shortens the time to market. We can do this for machined parts, and our conversion from 

casting-to-hogout offers our customers a more predictable supply chain. And with our integrated CAD/CAM Additive Manufacturing tools and AM equipment like the EOS M290 Laser Powder Bed Fusion machine, we can also support customers in the design phase with the manufacturing of AM parts. Our CAD/CAM AM environment and knowledge fit seamlessly with new design opportunities like Topology optimization and light weight lattice structures. 

Our CAD/CAM strategy

If you want to maintain your position as a center of excellence, you need to know how you will go about using CAD/CAM. We came up with a complete CAD/CAM strategy so we could improve the speed and efficiency of the operation, from part qualification processes up to full series production. And since we also have multiple locations, a single strategy secures our aim of “one company, one way of working”. The CAD/CAM strategy we developed takes into account Aeronamic’s business approach, developments in the industry, and the exchange of CAD data from the customer’s side, plus the latest advancements in CAD/CAM. 

In 2014, we formulated a roadmap in which we set out specific guidelines and goals until 2025. These goals were set for 8 separate Building Blocks, such as integrated 3D CAD/CAM, AM and 3D measuring, up to knowledge-based manufacturing and the all-data-managed Digital Factory. We took both small and big steps for each Building Block, but always with the end-in-mind. The most important guideline is based on moving from a history of different CAD and CAM software packages (even the best-in-class) to an integrated Siemens NX CAD and CAM environment. This means linked CAD product design geometry, fixture design and CAM operations to our virtual machines. This also results in a single version of truth and no more unnecessary data imports and exports. Having said that, before phasing out a software package, we always perform a proof-of-concept to test whether it meets the desired functionality.

Seeing where we are in 2021, I think we can say that we are more than well on our way. Because of our knowledge and experience, we even get to have some influence over CAD/CAM developments in the near future. So, in addition to the manufacturing apps we developed ourselves, we might get to see some of our desired functionalities in the standard issues of the CAD/CAM software.

We keep pace with digital innovations and the continuing release of new functionalities of our Siemens NX CAD/CAM software. That also goes for Additive Manufacturing and metal cutting. Examples include new CAM features, like adaptive 5-axis simultaneous roughing to ensure constant cutting conditions and Sandvik’s innovative PrimeTurning strategies. Combined with our state-of-the-art machinery, such as the Index G220 Multitask, Hermle C42MT and Grob G550T 5-axis milling-turning machine, we get the most out of them. And, even better, this makes CAD/CAM fun!

The next big thing 

And then… there’s always something new on the horizon. At present, we have launched a pilot in which we are gathering a lot of sensor data during the machining process. Data analysis leads to increased insight into, for example, the life of a tool. This can lead to new opportunities. Imagine that you could see the state of a cutting tool from a power or vibration sensor. Analyzing this data would not only help you to define the best cutting conditions, but once in series production, you could send a signal to the machine controller to change the tool when it reached a defined limit value. This would offer an even more stable process resulting in better quality parts, and we would get the most out of our cutting tools. 

Do you have other examples of machining sensor data which could improve productivity or product quality?

Are you an Aerospace company which wants to do a pilot project with Model Based Definition in the supply chain? Then let us know!

Are you a CAD/CAM professional and interested in our CAD/CAM Engineer vacancy? You can find more information on our Careers page:

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