Paragon Medical – Southington, formerly known as Economy Spring & Stamping, is a manufacturer of precision and custom wire forms, metal stampings, coil springs, tubular components, and product assemblies, serving medical, pharmaceutical, aerospace, and industrial markets. To stay competitive, the company invests in the latest manufacturing equipment – including two Citizen 7-axis Swiss-type turning centers boasting 400W L2000 laser cutting systems.
The company manufactures complex parts, such as two concentric tubes used in the medical industry for administering fluid to incisions. The outer tube requires a 0.172" outer diameter (OD) and a 0.158" inner diameter (ID), while the inner tube requires a 0.152" OD and a 0.128" ID.
The front end of the inner tube is marked by several intricate shapes, including two boot-shaped features precisely placed 180° apart. The inner tubes require drilling 22 0.007" diameter injection holes in a helical pattern. There’s also a 12" slot in the part that’s longer than the total travel of the lathe.
Programmers previously used the machine control to program this and other similar parts. They entered manual commands for the laser and to coordinate operation of the two spindles. After completing these steps, programmers weren’t sure of accuracy or collisions until they ran the part for the first time.
Balancing operations between the machine’s two spindles was also difficult. Programmers couldn’t determine whether it was efficient to perform turning and drilling on the main spindle and perform a secondary operation on the sub-spindle at the same time. One spindle often sat idle until the other finished its operation, costing the company money.
“We decided to switch to Esprit CAM software because of its support for the latest machine tool features and its powerful simulation capabilities that enable us to optimize the program without taking up valuable machine time,” says Dale Akerley, advanced manufacturing department leader at Paragon Medical – Southington.
Akerley began programming the tubes with Esprit by importing the SolidWorks computer-aided design (CAD) file that was provided by the customer. Importing the part geometry saves time and minimizes errors by ensuring the program matches the customer’s original vision. Esprit then analyzes the imported geometry and automatically recognizes all the features, such as the holes and boots mentioned earlier.
Akerley selected each feature of the part and picked a tool to machine from a graphical representation of the Citizen Swiss lathe. The knowledge base, included with the software, automatically generates typical machining parameters including cutting speed, feed rate, and depth of cut. Both the detailed features on the front end of the part and the holes were produced by the laser – which can produce nearly any geometric shape to an accuracy of 0.00001". When the company first began using the laser, it wasn’t supported by any computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, so it required time-consuming manual programming.
Esprit sent a technician to the company who spent days working with Akerley to develop a post-processor that automatically generates the instructions needed to set up the laser and perform the machining operations. With the post-processor in place, programmers treat the laser as if it were an ordinary cutting tool. The Esprit software then automatically generates the G-code instructions for the laser and metal-cutting operations needed to produce the part.
Akerley tentatively assigned the operations to spindles and simulated the complete machining operation so he could visualize exactly how the operations were flowing and determine if any time was being wasted.
“We can reorder operations, move operations from one spindle to another, and sync operations so they start at the same time with a few clicks of a mouse,” Akerley says.
He used a regrip operation to move the stock from the main spindle to the sub-spindle so the 12" slot could be fully machined.
“Switching to Esprit reduced the time required to program these parts from about 3 days to 1, and we have achieved proportional time savings on a wide range of other parts,” Akerley says. “This represents a major time savings and the time required to test the program of the machine is also greatly reduced because simulation helps us nearly always get the program right the first time. We have also achieved significant cycle time reductions by identifying idle time during the simulation and modifying the program to make it more efficient. Switching to Esprit has helped us significantly increase the efficiency of our machining options.”
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Marubeni Citizen-Cincom Inc.
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