A Scottish engineering company says they experience a real ‘Wow’ factor when the market-leading CAM software Edgecam helps them produce a complex new part.
Subcontract machine shop Bridgeforth Engineering manufacturers precision components for oil, gas and renewable energy companies such as Aker, FMC Technologies, Oil States, First Subsea and Paradigm. They say they have won business which would have been impossible to undertake if they did not program their CNC machines with Edgecamn.
Engineering manager Ian Forsyth (pictured far right, with industrial engineer Billy Anderson) says while Return On Investment is impossible to quantify, using Edgecam meant they have moved into new manufacturing areas, producing far more complex components than before. “Edgecam has proved to be a very worthy tool, producing a tremendous number of different, high quality, precision parts. When we reach a milestone with a particularly complex part that we’ve got absolutely right thanks to Edgecam, it gives us a genuine ‘Wow’ factor.
“We stand back after they’re completed and we feel so proud to have produced something so complex.”
Working mainly in the mid envelope range, a 1-metre cube is their preferred machining size.
Components include casing hangars, tubing hangars, drill hole openers – which go down oil wells to widen out the hole thousands of feet underwater (pictured right) – and upper and lower bowls for First Subsea's Ballgrab gripping system used for top drive units (pictured below).
In the three years Bridgeforth have been using Edgecam, industrial engineer Billy Anderson says it has been a real revolution for them, because the parts he is being asked to produce are getting increasingly more complex.
“Draftsmen and design engineers are the first to admit that the capability to model nowadays has made their drawings become more complex. In some cases people are designing components using models without thinking about the machining aspects. And if we didn’t have something as sophisticated as Edgecam to generate tooling, machining strategies and the programs for toolpaths, we simply could not undertake the work.”
If a customer supplies them with a 3D model it goes straight into Edgecam Solid Machinist, but mostly they get 2D drawings which he converts into solid models using Edgecam Solid Modeler. The software was tailored to Bridgeforth’s individual requirements, meaning he can ensure a highly productive, smooth and seamless progression from design concept through to finished component model and detail drawing. He then loads this data directly into Edgecam Solid Machinist, where automatic feature recognition quickly identifies machinable features, and then creates the most appropriate tooling and generates accurate toolpaths.
Edgecam drives machines for Bridgeforth from four different manufacturers, cutting a variety of materials including super duplex, stainless steel, alloy steels and plastics. Billy Anderson says it is very quick and easy to move a program from one machine to another. “Before Edgecam, if I was moving a program I’d have to do a lot of editing and it would be quite an ordeal. Now, however, it’s a very quick turnaround, as I simply post process it to another machine.”
Around 200 Edgecam programs are stored on their server, with the number of tools for each program ranging from 10 to upwards of 50. Larger programs, with many thousands of lines of code, are run on two MTE Universal Bed Mill machining centres, while other programs are post processed to two Kia horizontal machining centres with a fully programmable 4th axis, a Kuraki 5-axis horizontal borer and a Giddings & Lewis horizontal borer.
Bridgeforth evaluated a number of machining software systems, and say they chose Edgecam because it was user-friendly and comprised all the features they felt were important. “For example, the ability to compile tool sheets ‘on the fly’ is extremely beneficial,” says Billy Anderson. “Compiling tool sheets in our previous CAM system was very time consuming, involving a lot of cutting and pasting. But Edgecam sets up every single tool we need behind the scenes, which speeds up the process considerably. As soon as we select a tool we know it’ll be on the tool sheet without us having to do anything else.”
Edgecam also eradicated a problem Bridgeforth had using their previous CAM system, with proving out contour heads for profiling. “There were always difficulties with the cutter and the amount of compensation, even with a facing head, but Edgecam has taken that problem right out.”
Operating from 21,000 square foot premises in Inverkeithing, Fife, with 46 employees, Bridgeforth’s high precision components are used both onshore and offshore, on the surface and underwater.