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IndustryArena Forum > MetalWorking > General MetalWork Discussion > New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things
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  1. #1
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    Question New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Hi all,

    I'm new to milling metal on a CNC and am trying to figure out what I can do to improve times and boost profitability for the company. The problem is, my boss isn't very interested in having the CNCs around and only wants to use them to help out with the manual machining side of the shop in such a way that he can continue to bill at that rate. Essentially, he wants to use the CNCs as if they're just another manual machine and bill as such. He's older and if it wasn't for the owner of the company, these machines wouldn't be here. Their main purpose is to execute orders for the owner in a timely manner. I've proposed contacting some of our suppliers and getting better tools to improve cutting times drastically, and his response has basically been to tell me that making it faster cuts into the bottom line. To me, that doesn't make sense, because if we can do more work, we should be making more money, right? Am I missing something? Any advice for dealing with this situation? Is it better to stay quiet and let him run the show the way he sees fit? I feel like, in doing so, I'm voluntarily allowing a ship to sink when I could potentially make it exponentially more profitable than it currently is. I'm interested in growth and expansion and learning, not staying stagnant and doing the same old **** just because it's what we've always done.

    We currently run 2 Fadal VMC 3016Ls and SolidWorks software. I'm enrolled in the Essentials classes for both the CAD and CAM sides of the software.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Hi,
    I was introduced to a ProtoTRAK machine and I was impressed. It's is not really a CNC machine that consumes Gcode, although it can be made to do so, but rather
    a conversational programming machine. It adds many of the advantages of CNC to otherwise a manual machine. It would allow a skilled manual machinist to do a lot more
    in a given time resulting in more time billed. Additionally the machine is essentially a modified manual machine and the cost is modest. This may well be what your boss has in mind......
    extend the capabilities of his existing machinists.

    Craig

  3. #3
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    do your best with what you have if you are new, and those machines are somehow not fully loaded, you have a chance to develop

    if you wish to leave, statiscally, you may reach a place with better flow, but no one will look for you, or allow you to get out of your square, but also, you may get lucky and find something better

    there is always a way ... rest your mind, then take a decision time clears all doubts
    Ladyhawke - My Delirium, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_bFO1SNRZg

  4. #4

    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    boosting production often takes investing into quality tooling which your boss has no interest in . Usually manual areas are support and not the other way around . I may be wrong but I'm guessing your boss tried to run the mills , got frustrated and went back to what he knows .
    If the customer is happy paying the price of parts made manually then they should be happy with cnc machined parts , as should your boss since his profit margin would likely have a good lift .
    One thing I've learned is some guys and shops are stuck in their ways . Take what you can get out of it and move on once you peak , unless of course your boss changes his attitude towards cnc , then it could be a great opportunity for you .

    Staying quiet to a certain level as not to rock the boat and maximize what you can with what you have . If you can prove over time the benefits of the mills then it's easy to say " if you think thats fast then you should see what i can do with better tooling and fixturing "
    Can't argue against better profits

    btw , chances are your with guys who keep their trade secrets to themselves , keep what you learn to yourself

  5. #5
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Hi,
    most of the small parts I make are very simple, it might be op1) Surface, op2)rectangular pocket, op3)rectangular bolt hole pattern.
    Such simple jobs can, and I often do, using conversational programming, that is to say standing at the machine using a software utility to generate
    the Gcode to do the job.

    For more complex jobs then I use Fusion 360 for CAD and then CAM.

    For very simple jobs often the time taken to draw the part then use the CAM to generate the toolpath takes longer than the conversational programming
    technique. As time has gone on I have become increasingly fluent in the use of Fusion 360, and even for simple jobs the time taken to generate a job is at
    least as good, or better than conversational programming and I use Fusion ever more frequently.

    The bottom line is that the greater your fluency with Solidworks will pay BIG dividends with regard to work throughput.

    My advice would be to concentrate on the simple CAD techniques and the basic CAM toolpaths. 95% of jobs can be done with those basic tools, whereas 3D
    toolpaths take a lot longer to learn and a realistically used very much less often.

    Craig

  6. #6

    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Quote Originally Posted by joeavaerage View Post

    simple CAD techniques and the basic CAM toolpaths. 95% of jobs can be done with those basic tools

    I totally agree with this . I used to design a lot of models with mastercam . For the most part I broke everything down to 2d for cam which gave me far more control over things . Now that I'm on my own 85% of my machining is surfacing , and I use a different (more affordable) software which I have no other choice than to work directly off the model for that type of work .

    A big thing to eventually learn is program butchering if running the same parts on a regular basis , no cam is perfect and a careful eye can make code changes , programs merges etc that can add up to saved time , even 2 seconds here 5 seconds there adds up over the year and the bottom line . Obviously this takes experience and a lot of understanding of code but it comes over time

  7. #7
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Hi,
    I worked for a company that allowed me access to Mastercam. It is a true giant in the field but despite several years immersion I never got that fluent with it, and consequently
    I still did things using conversational programming because it was faster.

    I now use Fusion 360. Its good, not as good as Mastercam, but it is simpler and after two-three years I'm gaining fluency which allows me to use it profitably even on simple jobs.

    I suspect Solidworks is much like Mastercam, extremely good, but also very VERY detailed which makes for a steep and long learning curve. This may make it hard to gain fluency,
    but fluency is still the goal.

    Just recently I expanded my Fusion 360 subscription (from $500/year basic to $2100/year basic plus machining extensions) which now allows for toolpath editing. Very few of my jobs
    are production runs so I seldom use toolpath editing to save on cycle time. I often build toolpaths out of simple 2D and 2.5D paths, and sometimes excluding part of a toolpath to avoid
    some feature on the part is required, and toolpath editing is good for that.

    Craig

  8. #8
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    As time has gone on I have become increasingly fluent in the use of Fusion 360, and even for simple jobs the time taken to generate a job is at
    least as good, or better than conversational programming and I use Fusion ever more frequently.
    if i may, that does not mean that the fusion is ok, but that the conversational is weak ... a good conversational can not be beaten by cam, unless for some complex tasks; thus even a complex task can be parameterized for conversationals, as to mention, for example, the hobbing function for an okuma machine

    please, don't get me wrong, i don't reffer to your fusion skills ( which, by the way, are astonishing ), but simply to the conversational quality

    I may be wrong but I'm guessing your boss tried to run the mills , got frustrated and went back to what he knows
    who knows ? sometimes, as a boss, there is no time, or free mind, to get into learning the cnc; age may be also a factor
    Ladyhawke - My Delirium, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_bFO1SNRZg

  9. #9

    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Quote Originally Posted by joeavaerage View Post
    Hi,
    I worked for a company that allowed me access to Mastercam. It is a true giant in the field but despite several years immersion I never got that fluent with it, and consequently
    I still did things using conversational programming because it was faster.
    I've often found myself at the machine hand coding because it's much quicker and easier then going to the office to draw and cam out code , especially on lathes .
    Conversational definitely has it's place . A library of macro programs or routines with changeable variables, also makes it easy to merge a bunch of stuff together to create a solid program .

    Mastercam is a giant in it's field for sure , unfortunately so is it's price . I seriously miss it for designing because it was powerful and the cam was great , but I dislike anything after x3 . Fusion seems a bit cumbersome to me on the cam side which I think solidworks uses the same cam system ( though I may be wrong ) . Bobcad does what I need it to do for my products and I own it with one price vs subscription based which I feel has too much control on their side

  10. #10
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Hi,

    if i may, that does not mean that the fusion is ok, but that the conversational is weak
    I did not claim the Fusion is great, if I had my choice, I would have Mastercam. What I did say was that I have become fluent enough that using Fusion is a viable option
    to using conversational programming. My estimate, strictly a personal opinion, is that for basic CAD/CAM Fusion is easier to learn than Mastercam.

    For advanced toolpaths like HSM, toolpath simulation, toolpath editing and so much more, Mastercam is in a class of it own.

    Mastercam is a giant in it's field for sure , unfortunately so is it's price
    Regrettably you are so correct. In my earlier post you see that I had bought Fusions Machining Extensions, and the Extensions are actually three times the price of
    the basic Fusion subscription. My subscription as it stands at the moment (Basic plus Machining Extensions) is $2100/year. The Machining Extensions include four and five axis,
    collision avoidance, HSM toolpaths etc, so a very worthwhile package despite the cost.

    At $2100/year Fusion approaches the annual cost of a single seat of Mastercam. If it weren't for the initial purchase price of Mastercam I would have called Mastercam competitive,
    as it stands the initial purchase means that I can only dream about Mastercam. Shame.

    a good conversational can not be beaten by cam, unless for some complex tasks; thus even a complex task can be parameterized for conversationals,
    I use Mach4 and the conversational module is MachMill for which a $75 license fee applies (perpetual). It is not by any means the best conversational programming tool out there.
    I have used ProtoTRAK and a Siemens 840D in conversational mode, so my experience of conversational programming is limited. While MachMill is lesser performing
    than either ProtoTRAK or Siemens neither is it too shabby and certainly is attractive at only $75.00.

    Where I find conversational programming less than optimal is where say you have a keyhole pocket. This can be accomplished with an intersecting circular pocket and a rectangular
    pocket. The only drawback of that approach is the in the intersecting area the toolpath sends some time not producing chips. For a small part, or a one-off job such
    a drawback is immaterial, but if this is an often-repeated toolpath it becomes bothersome, and for a genuine production toolpath just unacceptable. In these situations a good CAD/CAM
    solution, not necessarily a world leading giant beating solution, for which you have confidence and fluency is essentail. The more fluent the more occassions it can be applied to
    effect.

    Craig

  11. #11
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    thanks everyone for the replies and input. I'd be interested to eventually learn how to use the conversational features of these machines, but unfortunately i don't have anyone here to teach me any of that. what i do understand is cad/cam tech, although it may take me a week to get my head around some basic features. each program is different in its own way, and i'm grasping what i need for this job so far. i'm also enrolled in the essentials classes to get a much better, guided grasp of the software. so for the moment i think i'll take metalmayhem's advice and keep it to myself for the time being. get what i can out of it and possibly look at other opportunities if i'm unable to convince my bosses to get with the times.

    age and the decades he's been in the industry are the biggest problem. he's older and stuck in his ways, not interested in doing things different because they still work, to some degree. i'm just not sure how to connect with him in a way he understands to help him see that there's an untapped mountain of profit in these machines if he'd invest the time and money we need to get higher quality tooling. don't get me wrong, we've got probably 50-60 different tools, varying brands, but a lot of variety for different applications; but for instance, we're using a 9/16 high speed steel bit to cut a channel in aluminum bar right now, and it would be better to use carbide, but he's not concerned with the upgrade. stuff like that. it just doesn't click with me why someone would voluntarily choose to keep a 20 minute per program run time, instead of chopping that down to like 6. i've explained it, he understands the difference in tooling. he's been doing machining for 30+ years, he just doesn't think there's profit in the CNCs, and it doesn't register with him that i ran a CNC router for my last employer and paid it off in 11 months.

    i think i'll stay to myself, learn everything i have the opportunity to, and see what else the future may hold for me. possibly somewhere else. thank you everyone for your input and time.

  12. #12

    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    For a lack of better words your boss is a fool . He can't be that ignorant to not understand the benefits to cnc , unless he fears it would make him obsolete which has happened in many shops . Over the yrs I've worked with many exception manual machinists , out of fun they've called me primadonna and I called them dinosaurs . Except one fact remained - I could do their job and they couldn't do mine and they knew it .

    At the end of the day your new to this and everything moving forward is a stepping stone . You'll be learning the hard way which might be a good means to get your feet wet (if your boss allows) vs working in a production shop where you'd be pushing the green or red button for the first while .
    Even with what you have to work with - look at what you can improve , better programming , eliminating/reducing unnecessary operations , machining multiples at a time , and proper fixturing (I'm betting there are old kurts on those tables) . Little improvements can make massive differences with what can be done .
    If they are stuck on hss tooling then I would hope they are at least using niagara at which they make good roughers . With decent roughers you can get a fair removal rate which will help gain you some time

  13. #13
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Hi MN - Companies have a thing called "culture" every company has a different culture and especially private companies that have owners. The company is sort of an extension of the owner. In my younger days I'd try to make everything faster and better and this usually created issues with companies. Some have good attitudes to "continuous improvement" and "lean manufacture" and eliminating waste and time etc etc. So if you push your boss and company to do stuff against its culture you will be unsuccessful, you may even become an internal issue. Its tough to be a trail blazer when no ones interested. So do what you can, make small improvements with the stuff you can control and over time you may impress the owner enough to be given some chance at bigger projects. If your really keen to change the world then you need to find a company that is happy to consider changes and empower people to do these things. The in-word is "nimble or agile companies" Change costs $$$ even small changes you may think will be good can take time and effort and failures to get right. Companies would prefer to mince along down the known path if everything is working "normally". They will only spark up and look for bigger solutions if times get tough or some sort of opportunity arises but they have to use the CNCs to achieve it, then if your competent and confident you can step in and be the white knight to take the company to new horizons. Just be careful and don't fail if this is the scenario. That's embarrassing and fatal to your position... So as the Buddhist's say take the middle road, be patient, learn as much as you can, be situationally aware and become very competent and slowly slowly the world will start chasing you... Peter

  14. #14
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    Where I find conversational programming less than optimal is where say you have a keyhole pocket.
    hy joe irregular shapes are handled harder by mill conversationals, and may fail, while they are easier to manage on lathe conversational; there are more milling stragies than lathe strategies, so there is a bigger chance that a mill conversational won't deliver a task as expected

    i think you can use the keyhole test as benckmark for conversationals

    i think i'll stay to myself, learn everything i have the opportunity to, and see what else the future may hold for me. possibly somewhere else. thank you everyone for your input and time.
    hey miilingnovice develop yourself, create conection with other skilefull workers arrroung you, and get the best from each one

    reach that moment, when you take all production done in a week ... and make it again in a saturday, in a few hours, then show it to your boss, show how the tools still hang on ... try to do this results speak for themselvs; manage the costs yourself ... blow his expectations; if he still won't open his eyes over the next days, then move on

    normally, is hard to do so when you are at begining, but considering that you have to beat a hss aproach ... i think you can take the production of 2 weeks, and get it done in a long saturday; no one can argue results and a list with real costs / kindly
    Ladyhawke - My Delirium, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_bFO1SNRZg

  15. #15
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    Re: New to CNC Milling, trying to improve lots of things

    I don't know if someone here needs end mills or not, I'm manufacturer of end mill, I want to find distributors in US. Here our website, http://zjkxptools.en.alibaba.com We'll offer some free samples, we're using imported grinding machines , own brand and also accept OEM. I want to get partners and enjoy the business together. Whatsapp:+8615024371293 , email: george.chen@kx-tools.com

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