Anotronic has long been established in subcontract and sales of EDM and ECM, but it found more and more customers were requiring complete manufacture.
Martin White, production director at Anotronic, said: «We had a particularly tricky part to manufacture, which we used as a benchmark. Within half an hour of downloading a demo version of SprutCAM, I was able to program the part myself.»
«Dave Pearson, from SPRUT Technology, then visited our site and we were machining the part within an hour of his arrival,» White added.
Since then, Anotronic has expanded its machining capacity to four four-axis Hurcos with Nikken rotary tables and a new five-axis Hurco VM10U in November 2008. The company has just installed the latest version of the software, SprutCAM 7. This enables it to produce five-axis toolpaths as well as achieving rotary milling by simultaneously controlling the C-axis of the Nikken rotary tables on its four-axis Hurcos.
«We can rough parts, which would normally require long tool lengths, by using rotary milling techniques on the four-axis machines, thanks to the rigidity of the Nikken tables, and then finish them on the five-axis machine,» said White.
The advantage of this process for Anotronic is that fewer setups are required to finish the job and much greater tool life can be achieved. One of the company's jobs has been reduced from nine operations to three, thanks to using four- and five-axis methods.
White added: «The instability of long tool lengths on some jobs resulted in short tip life, making it impossible to make a profit. By using rotary milling and five-axis machining we can make these jobs pay. The power of SprutCAM makes this a practical solution for us».
Much of the company's work comes from the medical, power generation, aerospace and oil-field industries, so it is frequently working with Inconel, titanium and stainless steel. Batch quantities range from 10 to 100 parts and lead times are short, so the ability to program parts quickly and effectively is very important.
White continued: «The programs we create in SprutCAM can be switched between any of our Hurcos, giving us maximum flexibility. We also merge the complex toolpaths created by the software with the canned cycles available on the Ultimax controls. This enables us to optimise our programs and makes it faster and simpler to make small changes on the shop floor. Without SprutCAM, our customer's delivery schedules would have been unachievable.»
CAD data sent to Anotronic by its customers goes straight into SprutCAM, which has an extensive range of translators included. The software is tolerant of small gaps in the model and is also able to automatically ignore holes, saving the time required to patch over them. Trochoidal milling paths can be switched on or off, as can climb milling, giving users a significant amount of control, which is especially important for tough materials such as Inconel and for complex part geometry.
Anotronic particularly likes the software's ability to reapply existing toolpaths to new geometry. The benefit for the user is that once the best method has been established, the next part can be programmed in seconds.
White is also impressed with the support.
«The software is really easy to use and learn. Anyone with an understanding of machining can work it. SPRUT Technology is really helpful and knowledgeable and quickly responds to any queries we have. There is also an extensive library of video tutorials available to make it even easier to operate,» he added.
One of Anotronic's considerations when purchasing SprutCAM was cost effectiveness.
White concluded: «The software is much lower in cost than some of its competitors and easily does everything we want it to. You get the whole package, including three, four and five-axis milling, turning and wire erosion without any hidden extras. Ongoing support is inexpensive too, giving you access to the help desk and software upgrades — SprutCAM 7 processing is even faster. We are delighted with it and it has made a big difference to our business,» he finished.