Here’s how ESPRIT is helping Quick Drive keep up with the constantly evolving demands and innovations of the racing industry
Quick Drive LLC is a Colorado-based manufacturer of a proprietary line of high-performance drivetrain components for auto racing. Their parts are designed, engineered, prototyped, and manufactured in-house. That’s no small feat for a company that serves customers all over the globe.
“We have clients on every continent with a racetrack, from the United States to South Africa and beyond,” says Brock Graves, Quick Drive’s owner/operator.
Brock and his team get it done using milling, turning, and mill-turn processes on a number of machines. On the Quick Drive shop floor, you’ll encounter both a Haas VF-2SS and a VF-4 vertical machining centre, a Haas UMC-750 5-axis machining centre, a Haas ST-20Y live tool lathe, a Takisawa EX-100 lathe, and a Mazak INTEGREX 200sy.
Originally, Quick Drive relied on a third-party company to produce their programming. But working with an outside agency began to present challenges as the company grew and their production increased.
“As we started to ramp up our development, prototyping and constant part changes posed a big issue with quick turnaround times. In 2017, we made the decision to bring programming in-house,” says Brock. But shifting to internal programming meant choosing a CAM software to keep up with their shop’s brisk pace.
“After shopping many of the CAM options available, we decided to go with ESPRIT,” Brock says. What was the deciding factor? “ESPRIT could offer us proven post processors generated by their team of experts to work directly with our specific machines. And the simulation capabilities were like nothing else existing in the industry.”
The sheer breadth of components manufactured by Quick Drive is one element of their success.
“We build drive units, torque converters, and specialty pneumatic products for drag racing, monster trucks, tractor pullers, drag boats, land speed vehicles, and various high-end custom vehicles,” says Brock. “Our drive unit is composed of more than 20 individual components. The most complex part is a full-billet aluminium case that starts life as a 113-pound cube. It gets machined down to around 11 pounds over the course of about 27 hours of 5-axis machine time. Our converters are made from 6061 aluminium and use a combination of ProfitMilling, trochoidal channel roughing, and the 5-axis impeller strategy to complete.”
In choosing ESPRIT to write programs for its CNC grinders and wire EDM machine, MCC Tooling found a CAM system so user friendly that the owner’s young grandchildren sometimes use it. More importantly, ESPRIT’s efficient programming is saving MCC Tooling time and money.
MCC Tooling makes and resharpens custom cutting tools, step drills, form tools and dovetail cutters, in quantities ranging from one of a kind to as many as 100 pieces, for customers in the oil, airline and medical industries. Marcus Alexander founded MCC Tooling in 1984 in Garland, Texas, with leased space and a single grinder. It has since grown into a 10-person business with a variety of machines: a Mitsubishi MV1200-R wire EDM with B-axis, a Walter Helitronic Vision CNC grinder, a Walter Power CNC grinder, a Walter Mini CNC, a TRU TECH grinder, 10 K.O. Lee grinders, a Harig surface grinder, a Gallmeyer surface grinder and a Cincinnati #2 centreless grinder. The company works with metals including carbide, stainless steel and high-speed steel.
MCC Tooling began using ESPRIT in 1999, when it purchased its first wire EDM machine, a Mitsubishi FX 10. “After hours of extensive research and vetting different programs and software, we felt ESPRIT would fit our needs and our price range perfectly,” Marcus says. “ESPRIT is user friendly, works seamlessly with our machines, and it integrates well with SolidWorks. It’s so easy that my grandchildren have come here and programmed their own things for us to cut out for them.”
In 2013, ESPRIT helped the shop move to a Mitsubishi MV1200-R with B-axis, which Marcus purchased because it could hold closer tolerances. Initially unfamiliar with the ins and outs of programming it, MCC machinists resorted at first to trial and error. ESPRIT enabled them to get up to speed quickly with the machine.
“One thing that helped us was being able to see the heads moving on the simulation in ESPRIT before running it on the EDM. This ensures we don’t waste time running an incorrect part and saves us money by not scrapping parts,” says Marcus.
The B-axis, a MMK Matsumoto, changed MCC’s world, making indexing from tooth to tooth far more accurate. MCC cuts a lot of multiple flute form cutters. Before the B-axis, making these parts took the shop several operations on different machines and a longer setup time on the EDM. Now, it takes less than two minutes to set up the B-axis, and using ESPRIT, MCC can program tools in only four additional steps.
“We can mount the tool in B-axis and walk away knowing that we’ll get the perfect tool every time,” Marcus says. “Also, with ESPRIT, we can check all the clearance and rake angles on tools to make sure they will work well and that the dimensions are correct.”
DP Technology, a leading developer of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, announces a new update to their popular New ESPRIT series. The New ESPRIT 4.6 includes features such as turning toolpath enhancements, support for contour-type features in pocketing, and automatic tool orientation for 5-axis toolpath, improved support for multi-spindle and multichannel machines, and a new connection to the Machining Cloud tool catalog.
Version 4.6 includes a series of toolpath enhancements for turning cycles. These enhancements will reduce perishable tooling consumption, minimise intervention from the machine tool operator by creating more predictable machining processes, and reduce the need for manual NC code editing, further improving users’ efficiency.
The new support for contour-type features in pocketing allows users to use ESPRIT’s ProfitMilling cycle to rough out a profile without creating extra boundary geometry. Programming is easier, faster, and it enables automation with KnowledgeBase (KBM) integration. KBM is a centralised database that supports consistent institutional knowledge across an organisation.
5-axis composite automatic tool orientation is a new programming method for the composite cycle. “This is a big leap forward for simplifying 5-axis programming and improving toolpath continuity,” says Yijun Fan, Director of Product Marketing at DP Technology. “It makes it much easier to program 5-axis composite, especially in parts with hard-to-reach areas.” Automatic orientation gives precedence to toolpath continuity, creating a better surface finish on a completed part.
ESPRIT 4.6 enables support for multi-spindle machines with off-center sub-spindle with X-axis slide including machines with tailstock and sub-spindle mounted on the same X-axis slide.
Multichannel machines can be controlled with a new interactive method that synchronises motions within a cycle. This new method enables advanced optimisation for shaving seconds off the program of a high-volume production lathe.
Machining Cloud is the fastest way to find, select, and assemble tools from leading tool manufacturers. ESPRIT improves the connection to Machining Cloud with a simplified workflow and with the introduction of a new job manager for full control over the import of the tool assemblies.
Hexagon AB, a global leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions, has announced the signing of an agreement to acquire D.P. Technology Corp. (“D.P. Technology”), a leading developer and supplier of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology. The ESPRIT CAM System, its flagship solution, is the smart manufacturing solution for any machining application. Supporting any class of CNC machine via a common interface and workflow, it provides high-performance CNC machine programming, optimisation, and simulation for a broad range of precision manufacturing applications. Well known for its machine-optimised, edit-free G-code (toolpath), ESPRIT leverages a digital twin simulation platform to model the finished part, tools, and CNC machine. AI-based algorithms eliminate manual data input and provide machine operators with greater assurance of what will happen on the shop floor. The result – simplified programming, increased tool life and utilisation, reduced cycle times and improved productivity. “D.P. Technology is an innovator with a strong focus on building smarter, data-driven manufacturing solutions. When combined with our production software portfolio, it cements our market-leading position in CAM, particularly around CNC manufacturing processes, and accelerates the development of our Smart Manufacturing portfolio,” says Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén.
“Additionally, the D.P. Technology team has built excellent working relationships with leading machine tool providers and other manufacturing technology experts, which will prove invaluable in our open and interoperable manufacturing ecosystem approach.”
DP Technology engineers have worked with Willemin-Macodel to develop highly optimised support within their ESPRIT CAM software to drastically improve the user experience and programming efficiency for the MT series, including output of machine-optimised, edit-free G-Code.
Willemin-Macodel is a supplier of made-to-measure machining solutions for complex, very high precision workpieces offering high added value in industries like watchmaking, jewelry, medical, aviation and more.
Due to the innovative configuration and complexity of certain millturn machines (508MT, 508MT2 X400, 408MT), programming and simulating using conventional computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software can be a challenge. Without the right software to drive those powerful machines, it is difficult to fully utilise their capabilities and realise their complete benefits.
Some of ESPRIT’s key capabilities for these machines include:
Create and sort operations in the required work coordinates
Optimise simulation to match the output NC code and actual machine behavior
Display various operation information to make programming in ESPRIT easier
Provide a simple interface to set global machine settings
Offer an easy way to mount vise jaws on the turret
Offer a quick solution to mount chuck and collet on the main and sub spindles
Allow programming of tailstock engage and disengage cycles
Enable programming of vise steady rest engage and disengage cycles
Let the user flag a milling operation as a cutoff operation
DP engineers also worked closely with Willemin machine specialists to create a turn-key digital machine package, consisting of post processors and virtual machines for the MT series. This eliminates the time spent on editing the G-code and streamlines the machine setup and first article run off for the end users.
Here’s a look at how a tool and die maker reduced time to machine die form plates from 11.3 to 4 hours.
Burr OAK Tool Inc. produces dies used to manufacture two types of fins for window air conditioners: evaporator fins on the side of the air conditioner inside the window, which transfer heat from the inside air to the cold refrigerant flowing through the evaporator coil; and compressor fins located on the side of the air conditioner outside the window, which move heat from the now hot refrigerant to the outside air. Burr OAK Tool dies progressively stretch and reform the fins through a series of metal forming operations that extrude and reduce the thickness of the fins. The very complex geometry of the dies must be controlled within +5/-0 ten thousandths of an inch in order to meet fin tolerances.
Simulating machining operation with ESPRIT.
Until recently, the company finished and semi-finished form plates on a grinding machine because its machining centres could not hold the required tolerances. It took 9.2 hours to produce form plates with a waffle form and 11.3 hours for sine wave form plates. Burr OAK Tool recently purchased a Mazak VTC-800 4-axis vertical machining centre with the goal of reducing machining time for these dies. The new machine is much more difficult to program than any of the machines used previously by the company. Adding to the challenge is the fact that parts are designed in 2D because they have so many holes and other features that it would take prohibitively long to design them as solid models.
David Schwartz, CNC Programming Manager for Burr OAK Tool.
Back in the mid-1990s, Burr OAK Tool used a CAM software package that did not accurately simulate machining operations. The company mounted many of the parts it machined on workholding devices called tombstones, and it was not unusual for a spindle driven by a new program to crash into a tombstone, which often required expensive repairs.
“We switched to ESPRIT CAM software from DP Technology because it accurately simulates the machine, spindles, tools and workpiece in real-time operation,” said David Schwartz, CNC Programming Manager for Burr OAK Tool.
After the purchase of a new 4-axis machining centre, Burr OAK Tool programmers attended ESPRIT training for the Mazak VTC-800 and the company purchased a Solid Mill Free-Form 3-Axis add-on for one of its ESPRIT licenses.
Completed fin die.
With ESPRIT, Burr OAK Tool programmers detect crashes and gouges during the programming process before downloading the program to the machine. ESPRIT’s simulation capabilities have eliminated crashes while substantially improving the productivity of the company’s programming team. Over the time it has used ESPRIT, the company has reduced its programming team from 13 to six people through innovation while substantially increasing its programming volume and capabilities.
The first step in programming the form plate is importing the 2D models that contain the part definition. Only a few clicks are needed to extrude the 2D models to create the 3D surface geometry. The next step is to define features such as holes and bosses which map into machining operations. Burr OAK Tool programmers currently perform this step manually although in the future they plan to investigate the automatic feature recognition capability of ESPRIT. Burr OAK Tool programmers use ESPRIT’s mill between curves feature to define the surface to be milled.
Fins produced on Burr OAK dies.
Most machining operations are performed with the spindle tilted at 30 deg with respect to the workpiece because ball nose end mills perform better when cutting on their sides than on their points. The milling operation is typically run at a 250 inches per minute feed rate and produces an 8 ra finish, which matches or even exceeds the finish produced by grinding. This new procedure works so well, they were able to eliminate a separate roughing operation on the vertical machine centres and go directly to a tilted head semi-finishing operation on the VTC-800 that leaves only 0.002 in for the finish. A small ball nose end mill removes the last 0.002 in.
ESPRIT simulation automatically identifies any moves where the spindle or tool passes too close to the part or machine. The programmers closely compare the simulation results to make sure it matches the design spec. As a final step, programmers use the ESPRIT post-processor for the Mazak VTC-800 to produce code that runs perfectly every time. Thanks to its accurate simulation and code, Burr OAK Tool programmers feel confident enough to run lights-out even with high precision, single run, custom parts.
“We have reduced machining time to 3 hours on the waffle dies and 4 hours on the sine wave dies, substantially reducing the cost of producing these critical tools,” Schwartz concluded. “Programming the form milling operations on the dies takes only about 2 hours, which is remarkably low considering the complexity of the part. We are confident that once we fully incorporate the capabilities of ESPRIT into our programming methodology, we will be able to reduce fin die programming time to only 1 hour.”
Knowing all the additive manufacturing constraints and challenges, the ESPRIT CAM team has been engaged in national and international research projects to develop dedicated toolpath simulation solutions for additive technologies. Article by Clément Girard, Product Manager for Additive at DP Technology.
Figure 1: Additive Manufacturing Toolpath Simulation with ESPRIT.
While additive manufacturing (AM) has been around for the last 20 years, it is only in the last several years that metal AM has taken off. One of the key enablers for this new technology is material extrusion, more commonly known as 3D printing. While jetting technology (material or binder) is more suitable for 3D printing polymer and charged materials, engineers commonly apply power bed fusion (PBF) or direct energy deposition (DED) for the AM of metals.
All AM processes have some common characteristics. They use a power source, usually a laser or electron beam or a welding arc, and a material carrier, typically powder or wire, to build a three-dimensional object from a computer-aided design (CAD) model by adding molten material layer by layer. Powder processes most closely resemble traditional sintering processes, while wire processes (also called wire arc additive manufacturing) most closely resemble traditional welding.
Each method has advantages and disadvantages. For example, powder processes tend to have better surface quality—owing to the small size of the powder particles—but material loss can be high (as much as 80 percent when the tool is inclined in 5-axis applications). Wire processes lose less material, but the deposited bead tends to be larger, leading to a “rougher” surface quality. Powder processes require the use of shielding gas, as do some wire processes.
It is also important to remember that parts built by additive processes today more closely resemble raw stock of a particular shape than they do machined parts. This means that secondary subtractive processes are almost always needed to achieve the final part. Hybrid machines with both additive and subtractive capabilities may be an answer to this. However, because additive parts can take a considerable amount of time to make, it is generally more effective to machine additive parts in a separate CNC center.
Who Can Benefit from AM?
Figure 2: 3-axis tested part with acute angles, slopes and pocket to show ESPRIT Additive capabilities. Programmed with ESPRIT, Courtesy – Mazak, Okuma, G6SCOP/Grenoble University
Currently aerospace, aviation, medical, energy, and defense are the main industries at the forefront of AM. For aerospace and aviation, AM’s ability to build complex, weight-saving shapes makes it a natural choice.
Particularly interesting for the medical field is AM’s ability to create custom shapes to match the morphology of each patient. These and other industries can also benefit from using additive processes to repair tools or parts made of costly alloys, or to apply coatings to tools.
The Challenges of Additive Toolpaths
Multi-axis additive toolpaths can be more difficult to program than those of a comparable subtractive operation, as additive toolpaths introduce a new level of complexity. For example, executing a toolpath twice in a subtractive process typically causes no issues, as the tool simply passes through air. However, the same toolpath in an additive process collides with recently deposited material, crashing the machine or re-melting the material, leading to an overheated deposition.
Optimal additive layers are not always planar, but creating non-planar additive layers is more complex than making non-planar subtractive cuts—the additive toolpath must consider support for such layers, which may involve an existing substrate or built-up additive material.
The additional complexity goes beyond just the toolpath, however. Additive processes require knowledge of the material, the power source technology, the proper temperature and rate of bead deposition, and the use of shielding gas. In some cases, separate controllers add complexity, as in the case of wire arc AM where a welding controller may handle the wire supply feed separately from the machine controller.
Accelerating Smart AM with Simulation
Figure 3: 5-axis valve tested part. Done on Yaskawa robot with Fronius head in G-SCOP/Grenoble INP. CAD Design made by G-SCOP/Grenoble INP.
Knowing all the additive constraints and eager to provide new technologies to their end users, the ESPRIT CAM team has been engaged in national and international research projects, in collaboration with the research centers or companies primarily in the aerospace/aviation and energy industries, to develop dedicated toolpath simulation solutions for additive technologies. Today, these teams continue to contribute to additive technology research, providing a powerful tool to continue building knowledge.
Last year, in close collaboration with Mazak, ESPRIT conducted tests to validate additive toolpath trajectories (Figure 1). These tests have validated cycles on 3-axis and 5-axis machines and have shown good results. Testing continues to evaluate promising AM and robot technology.
Additive Simulation Validation
Two parts were chosen to validate 3-axis and 5-axis applications, respectively. The 3-axis part was designed to validate simple trajectories and the behavior of material deposition on acute angles. To achieve this, the part included spikes, slopes, and a pocket feature in the middle. Figure 2 shows the additive part as built in a Mazak Variaxis J-600 machine. The main idea was to test hybrid capabilities by building an additive stock in the basic shape of the part and then finishing it with subtractive machining.
To test a 5-axis cycle, the team selected a valve part. Similar to the 3-axis part, the idea here was to build a custom stock in the basic shape of the part to save money, material, and time over using bar stock. Figure 3 shows the additive stock as built.
Both of these test parts were built using a Variaxis J-600 machine and a Yaskawa robot with a Fronius head and wire arc AM technology. In both cases, the ESPRIT team found that fine-tuning of the job parameters is the key to a good deposition, with good results close to the simulated trajectories shown in Figure 4.
Additive Processes and ESPRIT
Figure 4: Additive Manufacturing Simulation for Direct Energy Deposition (DED). CAD Design made by G-SCOP/Grenoble INP
In the CAM environment, simulation of additive cycles lets end users verify additive toolpaths, including the results of thermal simulation and dwell time. Incorporating the full machine environment in the simulation has the added benefit of machine-aware capability, detecting and avoiding collisions in the virtual environment before they cause problems in the real world. As the technology matures, so too will CAM. By being on the ground floor and developing additive CAM technology in lockstep with the additive industry, ESPRIT shows strong promise to remain on the leading edge.