Total Manufacturing Solutions: cutting programming time with CAM Assist

Total Manufacturing Solutions
Chris Battelene
Total Manufacturing Solutions: cutting programming time with CAM Assist

We sat down with Chris Battelene from Total Manufacturing Solutions to find out more about how his workshop in Florida is benefitting from CloudNC’s CAM Assist solution.

- Can you tell me a little about Total Manufacturing Solutions?

We’re a job shop. We run production jobs for a number of markets, from automotive aftermarket, to aerospace and defence, and a mix of in between. We’ve been in business since 2016, and we currently have about a 14,000 square foot facility, with 14 CNC machines - 3 3-axis, and the rest 3+2, 4- or 5-axis.

- What kind of runs are you doing?

In terms of batch size, anywhere from one-offs to runs of 200 parts. Part size, some you could put 10 to 20 pieces in your hand, but also some parts might be 80-inches long.

- How did you come across CloudNC and CAM Assist?

We switched over to Autodesk Fusion about 3-4 years ago, because they just offered so many more features for your dollar and you got so much more value, especially when it came into 3+2 and 5-axis machining versus some of the competitors. And a big thing for us was there was a younger group of people using it, so there was a lot more information online.

However, even with three or four seats of Fusion on the floor, programming still became a bottleneck for parts. We had started to create templates for a lot of parts which we do that have similar features, and we would make a template and just pick new geometry, but it was kind of basic. Really, my thought was - and this was even before CAM Assist came out - how come someone isn’t using AI to program all this.

We then happened to stumble on CAM Assist online, downloaded, put it on Fusion, and basically just clicked it. And we got a part program out of it and we were able to throw it on a machine and make a good part relatively quickly.

- So how did you get CAM Assist integrated into your workflow? Was there any learning curve?

Not really. Something that slowed us down in the beginning was [integrating] tool databases and speeds and feeds, but now since [Cutting Parameters AI] has come out, that solves that problem.

Getting up and running is just a case of putting the app onto Fusion and running the app - your machine is right there, and it knows the restraints and constraints of your machines - that’s all built right into it, so it’s really just a matter of picking your setup. There might be a little bit of tweaking when you get into more complex toolpaths, such as for 3+2, and maybe you would approach [the part] from a different side. So there’s a little bit of tweaking there sometimes, but for the most part it’s point and shoot.

- How much programming time has that cut for you?

Honestly, we just ran a job for a customer where all the parts were very similar, but there were a few hundred iterations of those parts. Previously it would take me about 45 minutes to an hour to program those parts by hand, but [with CAM Assist] I could pump out the programs in 5-10 minutes.

The other huge benefit of it is that guys that don't have as much experience with programming can run a machine and make parts and understand the fundamentals of making parts. I’ve found that it helps bridge that gap in the learning curve relatively quickly.

- Can you talk a little more about that?

The nice thing with CAM Assist is it lays everything out for [the user] - so it stacks all your operations into folders instead of having a huge feature tree. Everything is laid out very neatly and cleanly, and that just brings the guys up to speed and gives them a good foundation to use CAM Assist, and be able to program on their own as well.

- How are you getting on with new features (like 3+2 axis support, and Cutting Parameters AI)?

So we're using the 3+2 and it works. Maybe there's some things that could be done a little differently maybe - maybe the AI overthinks things that could be done a little simpler, for example - but it gets you a program out of the box.

For the most part, if a guy has some programming experience, he can really just hit [the CAM Assist button], generate a program, and then he can just go back in there and fine-tune and tweak those things for his desired result, and it'll do 80% of the work in the background in a matter of minutes and lay that out. That's the big time saver.

Feeds and speeds is another huge one that’s going to make a big impact. Before, we’d have to go to an outside application, or just have to rely on knowledge and experience to get the numbers and plug them in. Now [with Cutting Parameters AI] you can tell it your work holding, you can tell it what tool you’re using, and it gives you out of the box feeds and speeds that work very well with it.

- Anything to add?

Not really. I mean it keeps getting better. The big thing is just getting guys comfortable on it and to know that they can kind of take that little bit of a hands-off approach with it and know that they're gonna get a good program.

I've got guys that we brought on recently that have 20-plus years’ programming experience, and at first they’re like - ‘I don't know what the machine's gonna do’, or’ I don't feel comfortable not knowing that the tool path is gonna be generated like this’.

But once you've run a part or two and you see what comes out - you might think I wouldn’t have thought of doing it in the same way but you do get a beautiful part out of it - and sometimes they even look a lot better [than a manually-programmed part]. They really do - it’s pretty neat.

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