Bombardier Aerospace Belfast, Northern Ireland was originally founded in 1908 as Short Brothers, which secured the UK manufacturing rights to the Wright Flyer aeroplanes, thus making it the first manufacturer of aircraft in the world. Shorts were acquired by Bombardier Inc of Canada in 1989 and the Bombardier Group today employs some 65,000 staff across 5 continents. As one of the leading manufacturers of aircraft and components for the aerospace industry, the company is constantly looking for opportunities to streamline all facets of its operations.
The CNC routing machines in Belfast were driven by an ageing US-based CAM system. This had limitations that were becoming increasingly unacceptable but the cost quoted for enhancing it as required were prohibitive. A further problem was that a new Shoda TR Stack Router was being tested to work in conjunction with their existing high speed CNC routing cell and the additional cost of a new post processor and the required machine support was, once again, prohibitively expensive for the old system. Bombardier decided, therefore to examine the possibility of replacing it with an up-to-date alternative that could provide the required features and a program of benchmarking possible replacements was initiated.
In 2002 Bombardier evaluated three different CADCAM systems. Said Drew McCoubrey, CADCAM Team Leader SMPU; “JETCAM Expert scored the highest in a benchmarking test measuring a variety of factors. From a purely operational point of view, one area that JETCAM really outperformed all others was in the ease of use and the superior graphical representation. This made the programming function very simple compared to the relatively restrictive system we had previously used. The graphics associated with JETCAM were in fact far superior to any of its competitors in the benchmarking test which made it stand out from the outset.” Another factor that added further weight to the justification was that of material utilization; “In our benchmark tests we consistently saw between 10-15% savings on material, which quickly mounts up to a considerable saving.”
The system was installed in 2003, with batch processing, Automatic Free Form Nesting and JETCAM provided a direct link to Bombardier’s Production Control system to allow orders to be input electronically. The immediate benefit was a very significant reduction in programming time through the automation features provided. Complex parts that used to take ten minutes were generated in under two, with NC code immediately available for both machines rather than just one as previously. Drew attributes much of this to the system's ease of use and the programmer's ability to learn the system quickly; “Our engineers were surprised at the short duration of the training, which testified to the ease of use benefits we recognized during the benchmark test. This also meant that our staff were up and running immediately, once training was completed. We found the system simple to learn with none of the operational complexities we had experienced with other systems due to the automated features of JETCAM Expert. Features, such as the automatic internal destruct of apertures and the automatic placement of auxiliary paths, which we previously did not possess.”
For any company embarking on a project of this size there is never an off-the-shelf package to fit all of their requirements, so a degree of bespoke development is a necessity. Drew added; “Due to the high level of development we had requested to meet our needs, we had agreed an implementation plan with JETCAM that involved development on an ongoing basis while the software was in operation. JETCAM has delivered all of the enhancements requested and exceeded our expectations in the area of automatic auxiliary routing as JETCAM developed this feature way beyond our initial requirements."
"Originally we had requested that automatic auxiliary routing be developed to remove the manual requirement of specifically placing each path on a part, which we had to do on our old system. JETCAM achieved this very quickly but went a stage further by developing the logic so that auxiliary paths would not be placed around tooling tabs, which would have required subsequent removal. Due to this upgrade we realised a saving of 30 seconds per part, which equates to a potential saving of 166 hours when the total number of our parts are taken into consideration. We are continuing to realise this saving every time we process a part with JETCAM because of this enhancement.”
Support is also a major factor for any production line that relies on software and Bombardier recorded a noticeable drop in the support requirement once JETCAM was installed, as the system was much easier to use and much more stable than its UNIX-based predecessor. “The level of technical calls placed on JETCAM in the initial 6 months was approximately 60% less than on its predecessor during the same period of installation. As many of the processes within JETCAM are automated, including automatic rivet insertion and the rivets being linked to the individual part geometry which was not possible with the previous system, the types of problem that we encountered previously simply did not exist. As a result the calls were also less complex in nature and much quicker to resolve.”
JETCAM regularly releases new versions of the software, with new features covering every cutting technology. Bombardier subscribed to an annual maintenance contract, which has continued to yield additional savings. Commented Drew; “An additional benefit we received under maintenance was an enhancement which allowed us to analyse each individual machining operation. This gave us the further ability to break down the tool data individually detailing how many holes/inches had been cut together with the amount of travel involved for each tool for cost reduction purposes. This facility has provided us with data upon which we have been able to target cost reduction exercises. For example, one such exercise involved an assessment on the amount of auxiliary routing carried out and whether the elimination of the same would provide a significant benefit. The clarity provided because of this feature now permits us carry out a detailed analysis on each nest produced. One of the clearest benefits we have obtained from switching to JETCAM is the financial saving gained due to the lower cost of the maintenance, which is currently providing us with an annual saving of 50%”
Bombardier Aerospace Belfast are continuing to improve and update their manufacturing processes, with the planned phasing out of the Trumpf 260 BFZ routers, to be replaced with an additional Shoda TR Router of a different configuration. JETCAM will be used for this new installation because of the high level of support and expertise supplied with the first Shoda router. Drew concluded by saying; “Initially, JETCAM was chosen because it was viewed as technically superior in meeting our specifications at a cost effective price. We believe that this selection has been more than justified and we are now reaping the benefits of the selection. The benefits gained have been immense, as we are now programming for two machines compared to one with a 30% reduction in the programming resource, bolstered by additional material savings. This would not have been possible on our previous setup. JETCAM's expertise in CNC machining as well as software programming greatly assisted in troubleshooting some of the teething problems experienced during installation. Due to JETCAM's expertise we found that the level and duration of teething issues were also greatly reduced compared to our previous experience.”
• Replaced ageing UNIX-based system that was prohibitively expensive to upgrade
• Programming time reduced by up to 90%. Complex parts are now programmed in under two minutes
• 10%-15% material saving compared to previous system
• Enhancement received under maintenance reduced manufacturing time by 30 seconds per part, equating to a potential 166 hour saving across all parts
• Programming twice the number of machines with a 30% reduction in programming resources
• Initial technical support requirement 60% less and now minimal
• Annual support cost is now 50% lower than for previous system
For further information please contact Martin Bailey, Group Marketing Manager. Digital images are available to download from www.jetcam.com/images/cs_bombardier_pics.zip. Bombardier also has an extensive media image library for the press at www.bombardier.com – follow the links to Media Centre.