Founded five years ago, PBE CNC has carved a name for itself as a specialist subcontractor in the 5-axis machining of motorsport components. The Havant-based company now relies on Open Mind Technologies’ hyperMILL CAM technology to deliver components of impeccable quality. PES hears more.
Even before PBE CNC founder and managing director Jonathan Plumridge started the business, the entrepreneur had purchased a seat of hyperMILL to offer programming services to the subcontract manufacturing sector.
Using the CAM software as a freelance engineer provided Mr Plumridge with the means to start PBE CNC and buy his first machine, a Mazak i500 Variaxis. The company has since purchased a second i500, a Mazak VCN 430A machining centre with 4th axis and most recently a Mazak QT Compact 200L mill/turn centre.
“The work that we do here is primarily for the motorsport and food processing industries, machining components made of aluminium and titanium in anything from one-offs to runs of 500 plus,” Mr Plumridge explains.
To efficiently meet its objectives, the company has also invested in multi-vices and grid plates from Lang and an Omron cobot.
“I chose hyperMILL because I used it at a previous company and it has proven very reliable with the ability to produce some really good toolpaths,” Mr Plumridge continues. “Equally as important however is the fact that Open Mind’s support has been excellent.
“The benefits I have found using hyperMILL over previous CAM systems are that it is very good at importing models, the toolpaths are generated very quickly on large parts, and the 5-axis parts are rock solid. Additionally, the simulation tools are excellent and you can always be sure that the toolpath will run safely providing it is run well on the screen.”
Learning from experience
Mr Plumridge originally trained using hyperMILL but a bad experience at another company using a different CAM product convinced him that it was the right choice for his own new business.
“At a previous company, the CAM system was responsible for a serious and costly machine collision – which was impetus enough for my previous employer to be persuaded to switch to hyperMILL. When a situation like this arises, it creates a realisation of how important a good CAM system like hyperMILL can be.”
He adds: “After the initial training, the system is very intuitive to use. All menus, whether it be for 2D, 3D or 5-axis toolpaths, run along the same theme, so once you know how to do one, they all follow.
“The parts are very easy to set up when you follow the model and you can use the project assistant to establish datums and stock – which you can adjust if you need to. Then you can choose the machine you wish to output to and start adding toolpaths quickly.
“Since I started using hyperMILL, I have noticed that the toolpaths are high quality, consistent and customisable. In the type of industries we supply, that is critical because the parts have to look aesthetically pleasing. HyperMILL gives you all the tools to do that.”
Occasionally PBE CNC also uses hyperMILL to quote for parts as well as it can give an accurate estimation of how long a part will take to produce.
Post processing options
“We have recently taken delivery of a mill/turn lathe and we have a post-processor from Open Mind for that machine,” Mr Plumridge continues. “It enables us to programme around the C-axis and this is not really any different to programming a normal machining centre.
“Users can just tell the system what post-processor they are going to use, put the programme in – and it runs. I would definitely recommend that manufacturers talk to Open Mind if they are in the market for offline programming software.”
“It’s quite common that when businesses start out on their journey to invest in CAM, they choose hyperMILL,” comments Open Mind sales director, Ken Baldwin.
“It may cost more than alternative systems in the short term – however, when companies have a vision for growth, they invest in hyperMILL from the start because they know that it can grow with them as a business, whether they move from simple 3-axis machining to 5-axis, mill/turn and even additive. HyperMILL will cater for everything a business needs within the machine shop, now and in the future.
“Using a CAM system like hyperMILL, there are several benefits you can achieve in any machine shop whatever the different priorities. So, it could be that a company wants faster programming times or it may be in production where companies are producing thousands of components and they want to optimise the process.
“Within a CAM system, you can visualise the stock condition at every stage and have a highly optimised toolpath that can save those small percentages. When on a longer batch run, that can save a considerable amount of time.
Manufacturers can also verify everything that is going on within the machine tool, so the tool, the holder and any kind of workpiece and workholding can be visualised in the machine so users can be sure that everything is 100% right before they start to run the programme on the machine, avoiding any costly prove-outs.”
As a company that utilises a cobot for 24/7 lights-out production and also Lang multi-point workholding for setting up multiple parts in a single set-up, this is certainly a case in point for PBE CNC.
“There is an automation package within hyperMILL that not many people are currently using,” Mr Baldwin continues. “Where people struggle with automation, is that they think it is 100% automated. Automation is not always a start-to-finish process, especially when factories undertake such a wide variety of work.
“Automation in hyperMILL is all about picking out sections. There may be a lot of components where you do the same process on a particular type of component and that may only be 15 to 20% of the programming. If you can automate that and identify trends, that’s a 15 to 20% reduction in work that doesn’t have to be done every time. A huge saving on programming time.
“There is already automation within hyperMILL that benefits from the user’s knowledge, as customers know what works on certain types of components. These features can be built in and customised to what the end user requires.
“There is also a lot more intelligence in tooling data and we are working with various tooling companies to get more information on real cutting data and what works, and how we can get that information to automatically apply.
“In the next few years, manufacturers will see a lot more progress in this area as automation opens up in a big way,” Mr Baldwin concludes.