Tools & Technologies

By William Anderson

VoluMill’s science-based toolpaths reduce machine cycle times,
enabling the production of more parts per hour.

Follow the right path to efficient capacity planning

In the manufacturing industry, capacity planning is central to any business success.

Failure to understand and determine the capacity of resources likely will lead to ineffective operations. When machine shops do not fully understand the actual production capacity of their machine tools, they must add equipment and workers to increase productivity, increasing operating costs and reducing precious floor space.

One issue that can suboptimize machine shop practices is the inefficient tool path generation from computeraided manufacturing (CAM) systems.

Most toolpaths today direct cutting tools along paths that have sharp directional changes, requiring the machines to start and stop multiple times while machining a single item. These conventional toolpaths remove material at a highly variable rate, create periods of intense tool loads to counter the effects of such periods and set milling parameters very conservatively. Conservative parameters help tools last through extreme loads but are highly inefficient for machining other regions of parts. These inefficiencies result in longer machining times and diminish productivity.

Celertitive Technologies Inc. has realized the importance of better CAM toolpath generation with VoluMill – a science-based toolpath generation technology that allows machine and cutting tools to operate more efficiently. It is an add-on to CAM software and works with any CAM system without the need for changes to existing equipment.

VoluMill directs tools along paths that are free of sharp corners and sharp directional changes, resulting in smooth processing without the need for stopping and starting. Tool loads are uniform across the entire machining of a part. The rate of material removal is controlled with VoluMill, enabling tools to cut faster and deeper with reduced stress. Tool life is extended as a result.

VoluMill's latest version, VoluMill Version 7, performs all the complex calculations necessary to determine the best toolpath and cutting approach for a part, ridding operators of the need to identify substructures such as cavities, faces, pockets, etc. It has several innovative features, such as the ability to lower the feed rate as a cutting tool enters the part and then intelligently increasing it to the target feed rate, sequencing material removal and determining cut angles in order to minimize cycle time.

Many companies have outsourced their manufacturing operations to other countries offering cheaper labor in order to reduce operating costs. With VoluMill's optimization of toolpath performance, machine efficiency can be significantly improved, resulting in increased production capacity. Utilizing VoluMill to drive better toolpath generation enables manufacturers of machined parts to realize the full capabilities of their existing resources before spending unnecessarily to acquire additional resources.

VoluMill addresses a critical component of complex CAM systems, ultimately enabling companies to achieve greater profitability and allowing them to remain competitive in a more globalized market.

William Anderson is an industrial engineer for HanesBrands Inc. and serves on the board of directors for the IISE Young Professionals.