Between The Lines - CATIA productivity benefits delivered across industries

Written by: Dassault Systemes UK Ltd | Published:

A supplier of machining programmes has built its business using Dassault Systemes technology to create a bridge between design and manufacturing.

Panorama Group based in Preston NW England is a supplier of Computer Numerical Programmes (CNP) to the aerospace industry. The company's customers include BAE, Magellan and JHE and they are currently working on aircraft ranging from the A380 to the Joint Strike Fighter.

The company provides CNP that allow 5-axis machines to manufacture designs that have originated from Dassault Systemes CATIA. Typically a component design will be issued to Panorama, which uses CATIA to generate machine tool code for the machining centres used by OEMs.

Time Machine
Gary Singleton, a Panorama Director, explained the company's work, "It is possible to use CATIA to programme a machine's tool cutter path and this is a semi-automated function of the DS PLM programme set. However, there are several ways to manage the operation of a 5-axis machine and our specialisation is to develop a methodology that saves machine-operation time. The importance of this is that it allows more throughput, less manual operation and consequently reduced unit cost."

Panorama works closely both with its customers and machine tool makers to extend its understanding of manufacturing methodologies. This has led to considerable production benefits and machine-time savings. Gary commented, "On a recent job for a major aerospace OEM we managed to cut production time from 23 to 4 hours and on another from 100 to 20. This kind of enhancement can be achieved by making improvements to the CNP that lead to more cutting action and less 'air-time' - which achieves nothing."

In the Fix
Another area where production can be improved is through better fixture design. Panorama has 4 designers using CATIA to design for fixtureless machining. Gary explained the significance of this part of the business, "Part of the methodology that leads to improved machining is to reduce the number of stages and times that the workpiece has to be repositioned. If one of these stages can be removed the timesavings can be considerable and the whole workflow improvement very cost beneficial. Part of our methodology is to use CATIA to design snap off fixtures, 10 thousandths of an inch thick, that hold the workpiece optimally then simply snap off once the piece has been machined. The exact position of the fixtures can affect not only the efficiency of the machining operation but can also the size of the required billet, and with the cost of aluminium and titanium rocketing all material reduction strategies pay a good dividend."

Helping Hands
Panorama is expanding due to the recognition of cost savings that it delivers to the aerospace industry. Their current 4 tool designers and 5 NC programmers are soon to be augmented with more staff equipped with Dassault Systemes PLM software to take on more work orders. The supplier of the original system, Desktop Engineering is on hand providing technical and practical support to Panorama, as it has done in the past. Geoff Haines, Managing Director of Desktop Engineering, and his support teams have worked closely with Panorama to ensure that it continues to provide the highest level of benefit to its customers.

Geoff commented, "Panorama uses its considerable experience and expertise to deliver the best possible services to its aerospace customers. By exploring and utilising optimal methodologies and proficient use of CATIA, the company has secured a strong position for itself in the industry. Desktop Engineering has been able to complement Panorama's work by bring its own understanding and skill to the task. Our broad industry experience has been valuable in this since we have transferred methodologies and techniques from other sectors particularly the automotive industry."

He continued, "Our CADCheck support service allows us to conduct one-to-one web conferences with Panorama and if necessary operate their computers remotely. This allows us to see their screens, drive their programmes and introduce improvements where possible. Each engineering sector has its own methodologies and techniques and it is gratifying to be able to deliver these across industries. For example a technique for machining a cylinder head, a complex operation in the automotive sector, may be transferred to drilling a pocket on an aeroplane component, and the ability to do this with a shorter cutter, running at higher speed, may lead to reduced cycle times.

Position of Advantage
Gary Singleton added, "Many designers do not fully understand the manufacturing process and equally manufacturing engineers may not be fully cognisant about design. Our work provides great benefit since we stand between the two disciplines and by partnering with Desktop Engineering are able to deliver a broad set of widely gathered advantages to our customers."

Panorama is able to use CATIA technology to reduce material weight and volume, increase machine operating speeds, and take time out of the manufacturing process to reduce component cost while making better usage of capital equipment. Using Dassault Systemes technology, Panorama is able to communicate these design improvements to its customers so that iterations can be included in their master 3D models and any consequential changes made to the design.

In conclusion Gary Singleton said, "Panorama is positioned between manufacturing and design to bring benefits to both. The use of DS technology, and an understanding of its application have brought us to a strong position in the aerospace industry and the delivery of business benefits both to our customers and ourselves. There are always improvements to be made to any process, our aim is to find them, communicate them to our customers and thereby deliver maximum engineering advantage."

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