April 19, 2012 -
WorkNC CADCAM software plays an important role in the range of digital software that Antonius Köster GmbH deploys to service its customers. The company based in Meschede, Germany, provides conceptual design, digital 3D design, and 3-axis to full 5-axis CNC programs capable of driving any of its customer’s CNC milling machines. Managing Director, Antonius Köster is a model maker and has 20 years experience in CADCAM. In 1994 he created his software engineering workshop. “
When we started, many modeling and tooling companies, despite having CNC machinery, were lacking in dedicated CAD and CAM, and our aim was to provide these services and help them implement their own software systems where required.” Due to the nature of its business as a service company, Antonius Köster relies entirely on the effectiveness of the software it uses. It runs several CAD systems including SensAble FreeForm 3D modeling software, but uses WorkNC exclusively for generating all the CNC programs for its customers. Antonius Köster has used WorkNC since 1996. He says, “
The CAD/CAM system we used at the time had reached the limits of its capabilities, making the generation of CNC programs to machine forging dies for hip prostheses very difficult indeed. We tested WorkNC and found that it could do the job easily. Three weeks later we installed our first WorkNC system and we have never looked back.”
The reliability of WorkNC has been of vital importance to Antonius Köster, especially as some of its customers can be located hundreds of kilometers away from its offices. “ WorkNC has been extraordinarily reliable.”
The market for subcontracted CNC programming has changed since the company was formed. Instead of CNC programs for mold and forging tools now the requirement is for developing toolpaths for challenging or unconventional shapes, and for CNC programs used as part of the company’s product design processes.
Antonius Köster gives two examples. “ We produced a large stylized design for a casting mold for a concrete wall and, at the other end of the scale, an injection mold for a notebook cover with a crocodile skin texture. Using WorkNC, we milled the textured crocodile skin mold in steel to ensure its functionality. The pattern depth was up to 2mm, which made the use of etching impractical and laser cutting uneconomical, leaving CNC machining as the best solution.” During the development of designs for textured surfaces, the company creates large volumes of STL data for the pattern, and surface data for the mold parting surfaces. Antonius Köster says, “ WorkNC handles the combination of STL and surface data perfectly. We have tested other systems several times and find that some fail with a relatively small 50Mb STL file. With WorkNC we have completed projects which have required STL files of over 11Gb. It is necessary to work systematically, but even with files of this size WorkNC produces reliable machining paths, impressing our customers and enabling them to successfully produce the mold.”
The majority of the toolpaths the company produces are 3-axis and 3+2 axis. Where full 5-axis machining is required for reaching into deep contours Antonius Köster uses WorkNC Auto 5, which automatically translates 3-axis and 3+2-axis programs into full, collision free 5-axis programs by just adding the tool and holder information and recalculating the toolpath. He gives an example, “ For an aerospace supplier, we machined a component which required the tool holder to move inside the part through a drilled hole so that we could mill a pocket at the bottom. Not only was the cutter moving inside the part, but the whole tool holder. This was a really challenging task.” He is impressed with the power of WorkNC Auto 5 “This is an ingenious feature. All machines are limited in their individual rotation and tilt angles and WorkNC takes into account the full kinematics of each machine.”
To work with customers at geographically distant locations, Antonius Köster needs to know details of the machines and processes to be used at each customer’s site including, tool libraries, cutting conditions and preferred machining methods. All these parameters are fed into the software before programming starts. He says, “ One reason why we have been working with WorkNC for over 15 years is the large number of intelligent milling strategies in the software. We make extensive use of its re-machining cycles which virtually eliminate air cutting.” He continues, “ I can also edit a toolpath graphically and extract elements, such as a proven milling strategy, and reuse it in a new program. This is much more complicated in other CAM systems and requires significantly more time and effort than in WorkNC. WorkNC is consistently easy to use. This is a crucial factor. Not only does milling time cost money but so does programming time."
As well as generating high quality toolpaths, the CNC code itself needs to be accurately matched to the machine to ensure that the program runs reliably on the customer’s site. This led the company to create a postprocessor tailored to each individual machine tool. Antonius Köster says, “ Most errors occur during find and replace editing operations on the NC code, so customer editing is something we avoid at all costs. WorkNC’s postprocessor can be easily modified and we have created posts for over 100 different machine and controller combinations. Sometimes we visit the customer and modify it for them on the spot. We even successfully create our own 5-axis postprocessors, which require considerably more information about the machine’s limits and capabilities. All these tasks are easily and efficiently completed thanks to the power and flexibility of WorkNC.”
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