Simulating Assemblies: “Valuable Function” for Nuclear AMRC
NCSIMUL Digital Twin Ensures Nuclear AMRC Gives Clients Accurate Data
Being able to import completed NX assemblies into G-Code simulation software is proving to be a valuable time-saver for the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
NCSIMUL, part of Hexagon’s Production Software portfolio, guarantees that finished G-Code sent to CNC machine tools, is 100 per cent accurate, and collision free. “It gives us an exact representation of what’s happening on the machine. Having this digital twin is absolutely vital in ensuring cutting paths are correct,” says Tom Parkin, Production Engineer at the Nuclear AMRC.
And the software’s ability to import full NX assembly files is an added bonus. “CAM and simulation systems generally aren’t particularly user-friendly when it comes to positioning individual models. But being able to take an NX assembly, including a fixture, stock model and the final part, is particularly beneficial.
“Without it, we’d have to import single models one at a time, import the fixture by itself and position it, and import the stock model and position that in relation to the fixturing. But NCSIMUL allows us to import a full assembly file from the NX package straight into the simulating environment. From there I can select where my datum positions are, select the tooling, put the NC program in, and run the G-Code simulation. This is a great benefit to us.”
A point reiterated by Principal Production Engineer Andrew Wright. “Some of our set-ups are quite complex, in that they have multiple pieces of stock and work pieces, plus fixture items. So being able to take in a file containing full assemblies which have been designed in CAD and not have to manipulate them, saves us considerable time.”
As part of the UK's High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the Nuclear AMRC is a partnership between academia and industry, supporting manufacturers in winning work, mainly, but not exclusively, in the nuclear industry. This is achieved by assisting them to apply advanced and novel manufacturing techniques to drive up quality and drive down costs in high value components.
Hexagon products have featured extensively in the Nuclear AMRC’s machining and metrology sectors since the centre opened. “We use a large amount of inspection and non-contact inspection equipment such as scanning and structured light systems,” says Andrew Wright. “And EDGECAM is one of our principal CAM systems for generating NC files for all our machine tools. It has multi-platform support, so we can bring models into EDGECAM from any format, quickly and seamlessly.”
Wesley Tonks, Hexagon Production Software’s Strategic Partnership Manager, says: “Nuclear AMRC have been an Edgecam product user for many years and it is great to see the benefits of further product adoption as the Hexagon product portfolio grows. This is a fantastic example of how multiple products have been positioned whilst providing a manufacturing solution; enhancing product quality.
“Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence helps industrial manufacturers develop the disruptive technologies of today and the life-changing products of tomorrow. As a leading metrology and manufacturing solution specialist, our expertise in sensing, thinking and acting – the collection, analysis and active use of measurement data – gives our customers the confidence to increase production speed and accelerate productivity while enhancing product quality.”
NCSIMUL is being used as part of the Nuclear AMRC’s philosophy of assisting manufacturers to have zero prove out times on their CNC machines and analyse toolpaths in depth before putting them on to the shop floor. Andrew Wright says: “As it’s new to the UK market it appealed to us as another strand in our simulation capability” he says.
They currently have one seat of the software, which runs on their Mazak Integrex i-200 5-axis mill-turn machine tool. NCSIMUL gives the Nuclear AMRC total assurance that the toolpath data they supply to their clients is the very best to optimise their processes.
And Tom Parkin explains how he has two different ways of using NCSIMUL. As well as importing full assemblies, he also uses the direct EDGECAM interface. “I simply export the EDGECAM file into NCSIMUL, check everything’s in the right place, that the tooling and datum are both correct, and then run the simulation. If all’s well, the program goes to the shop floor.”
In line with the Industry 4.0 philosophy of smart manufacturing, the NCSIMUL G-Code simulation gives CAM programmers accurate information and technical assistance by building a virtual copy of the real-life machining environment. This digital twin eliminates errors, decreases set-up time, reduces manufacturing costs and increases shop floor productivity.
Both CAM and simulation are involved in their work with the nuclear Small Modular Reactor sector, in which they’re helping companies with product development. They’re also working with manufacturers as part of the 30-year nuclear decommissioning programme, which involves looking at ways of reducing machining time on up to 100,000 individual waste containers funded by UK taxpayers.
Summing up the importance of NCSIMUL to their operation, Tom Parkin says: “When we’re working on a prototype part with a client, we need to verify that the toolpaths we send to the machine are 100 per cent accurate. And if we’re developing a process, NCSIMUL gives is confidence that it’s going to work.”