Alan Richter

Cutting Tool Engineering

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Software

Stepping Up to the Challenge

Ansco Machine Co. is a family-owned job shop specializing in milling and turning. Ansco primarily serves customers in the steel mill, energy, automation, fluid power, liquid natural gas, oil and gas, and offshore drilling industries.

Ansco, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, opened in 1991 with two Bridgeports and a handful of manual lathes and vertical turret lathes (VTLs). A few years later, the company acquired its first CNC machine, a 1979 Warner & Swasey 2SC, thrusting the company into the world of CAD/CAM software.

Ansco initially programmed with a simple 2D lathe package. Despite its simplicity, the software served the company well until Ansco began to expand and its needs became more complex. After outgrowing its original building and moving twice, Ansco now employs 50 people and has 14 CNC lathes, seven horizontal machining centers, five VTLs and four vertical machining centers in its 38,000-sq.-ft. facility.

As Ansco’s projects grew larger and more complicated, the company knew that it needed a better way to program its large mill-turn VTL machines. “We were having to do manual code edits on every feature we made,” said Dave Sterling, applications engineer and the son of Ansco owner Mike Sterling. “I used to write main and subprograms by hand in order to use the machines’ polar interpolation feature. This was OK for straightforward parts, but having to create an individual program with hand edits for more-complicated parts consumed an excessive amount of time.”

For this fan-type inducer, Ansco Machine used ESPRIT CAM software to program the part on a DMG Mori DMU 65 monoBLOCK machine. Images courtesy of Ansco Machine

Ansco began the search for a CAM system that would allow its applications engineers to be more flexible and efficient—a process that took a few years. On several occasions, Dave Sterling and his colleagues met with Dan Frayssinet—president of DP Technology Corp., Camarillo, Calif., which develops ESPRIT CAM software—and members of the ESPRIT sales team. They discussed the mill-turn issues that Ansco’s simple software couldn’t handle. In the end, it was ESPRIT software’s ability to program complex mill-turn parts using subprograms that turned Ansco into a customer. Its initial purchase was for three seats.

Then, Ansco received an emergency inquiry from a customer in the liquid natural gas industry. The customer needed an order of fan-type inducers within a week. Ansco had made a few similar parts in the past using one of five Makino HMCs, but the process was painstaking. Sterling would machine one side of the part, make a nest for it, then cut the back. This method worked well enough but wasn’t ideal.

The new inducers could be programmed on an HMC. However, the parts’ complexity would require knowledge of 5-axis machining, which Sterling didn’t have. He called ESPRIT. Two days later, he was on a plane to Charlotte, N.C., to get one-on-one training that would enable him to do 5-axis programming on Ansco’s 4-axis Makino machine. Ansco completed the order in time and went on to use the same method for a number of other parts.

Later, Ansco needed to undercut a more complex inducer and realized that a 4-axis machine wouldn’t do the trick. The company considered contracting the work to another shop but ultimately invested in a DMG Mori DMU 65 mono-BLOCK to complete the job.

Ansco Machine Applications Engineer Dave Sterling stands next to a suction manifold and the company’s DMG Mori DMU 65 monoBLOCK. Images courtesy of Ansco Machine

“ESPRIT was key in my success at 5-axis milling,” Sterling said. “Right out of the box, I had a solid model of the machine, a predefined template and a factory-tested post-processor. The installation engineer was skeptical at first and said, ‘No post is perfect right out of the box.’ But the more parts we machined, the more we realized that the ESPRIT post really was just that good.”

Sterling added that with so many variables in programming a new machine, having a reliable post-processor is important. The most recent 5-axis program he ran had 5.5 million lines of code. “I couldn’t make sense of it even if I wanted to,” he said. “But having a reliable simulation and a post I could count on let me focus on workholding, tooling and the actual machining of the part. If it happens on the screen in simulation, it happens on the machine. That’s huge for us.”

Having a reliable post-processor, accurate simulations and attentive customer service—not to mention the ability to easily write millions of lines of code—lowers Sterling’s stress level. It also lowers Ansco’s engineering costs and the time spent on projects.

END USER: Ansco Machine Co., (330) 929-8181, www.ansco-machine.com
SOLUTION PROVIDER: DP Technology Corp., (800) 627-8479, www.espritcam.com
CHALLENGE: More efficiently program large mill-turn vertical turret lathes.
SOLUTION: CAM software that can program complex mill-turn parts using subprograms.

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Alan Richter

Editor of Cutting Tool Engineering magazine
Phone: +1 847-714-0175
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www.ansco-machine.com