“Designers often come up with parts that are difficult to manufacture. Edgecam’s powerful 5-axis capability overcomes that for us by producing good, reliable NC code to machine complex components.”
Those are the words of John Tolson, Technical Director at specialist aerospace subcontractor Phoenix CNC Engineering. Ninety per cent of their work is manufacturing aerospace components and order books are growing at a considerable rate.
“One of our main customers use Catia to design their components, and Edgecam’s associativity with those models reduces errors. And driving a 5-axis toolpath around that model is absolutely invaluable to us”
John Tolson, Technical Director - Phoenix CNC
Managing Director Glenn Richardson says in particular they will be working on one customer’s aircraft, and changing focus from a speedshop to more long-term strategic work. The company has recently been acquired by Universal Engineering, which he says guarantees substantial investment to keep Phoenix ahead of the game.
Currently operating out of 16,000 square foot premises on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border, they are looking at the possibility of moving into a purpose-built 40,000 square foot complex in the next two years.
Annual turnover now stands at more than £6m and at least 20 batches of parts are produced daily. “We manufacture hundreds of different types of components, and there can be over 1,000 job cards going through the factory at any one time.” Their leading edge and trailing edge milled parts are predominantly airframe components for Aircraft wings; mainly bracketry for ribs produced from aerospace spec aluminum and titanium.
Phoenix recently added a further two 5-axis CNC machines to their tally of 22 machine tools comprising DMG Mori Seiki, Haas and Hardinge, driven by the game-changing Edgecam CAM software. John Tolson has used Edgecam from Vero Software, and its predecessor, Pathtrace, for more than 25 years, and now finds its powerful 5-axis capability to be particularly important.
“For example, if a component has a number of holes around a particular bracket, we have to write several different programs for a complex component on a 3-axis machine, and we may be cutting it in four or five operations. But this can be done in just one set-up on our eight 5-axis mills, reducing setting errors and saving a considerable amount of time.”
This is achieved through a number of aspects: Orienting the tool to maintain optimum tool-to-part contact at all times improves surface finish and extends tool life. Also, 5-axis machining improves access to undercuts and deep pockets. Tilting the tool or component allows shorter series tooling to be employed, eliminating the need for secondary setups. And as the cutter can be presented to the component at any angle it reduces the amount of fixturing required.
Another important consideration for John Tolson is the ability to seamlessly import third-party CAD files. “One of our main customers use Catia to design their components, and Edgecam’s associativity with those models reduces errors. And driving a 5-axis toolpath around that model is absolutely invaluable to us.”
A second piece of software from the Vero stable helps Phoenix to comply with the aerospace industry’s demand for traceability. The Javelin production control system is the mainstay of their office and shop floor procedures. Production Planner Gary Jordan says: “As well as running Javelin on a number of computers in the office, we also have a full license in the inspection department, and three Shop Floor Data Capture terminals in the production area.”
As Javelin has its roots in the aircraft industry, he says it was the perfect robust system for assisting their move away from being a “speed shop” to focusing on long term projects.
“Complete traceability is non-negotiable to the aircraft industry, which makes Javelin’s powerful Materials Control function essential to our success. Because Javelin fully integrates everything we do, we’re using it to purchase all materials to the correct specification, and issuing the planned release of materials from our stores to the job card, along with the Goods Received Notes for all materials. This means we can provide complete traceability, which is a massive selling point for us.”
Javelin’s Shop Floor Data Capture function lies at the heart of their production process. It shows the status of every job on the shop floor, and gives the ability to drill down to all the key information. This is particularly valuable when customers ask about their job.
Shop floor workers log on to Javelin with their own personal bar code; then a particular job and operation. “Each job usually has at least two milling operations, some will have three, some four, all of which are captured on Javelin. Logging all operations in this way, which only takes seconds, keeps us in complete control of every aspect of production.” SFDC also enables them to pull up the status of each CNC machine, either by operator or work center, showing whether they are setting or machining.
Glenn Richardson concludes: “One customer has 15 years worth of orders ahead for its new aircraft, and Edgecam and Javelin ensure we have the opportunity to be part of that.”
About the Company
Name: Phoenix CNC Engineering Ltd
Business: Specialist Aerospace Subcontractor
- 5-axis machining improves access to undercuts and deep pockets
- Produces good, reliable NC code to machine complex components
Comments“One of our main customers use Catia to design their components, and Edgecam’s associativity with those models reduces errors. And driving a 5-axis toolpath around that model is absolutely invaluable to us”
John Tolson, Technical Director - Phoenix CNC