takes production to the next level
Krueger machining LTD | Tecumseh, ON, Canada
The shop's new CAD/CAM software makes producing complex cuts easy
Located in Tecumseh, Ont., Krueger Machining has provided turning and milling services to manufacturers and fabricators throughout the region for 25 years. Billed as a job shop, the company is willing to take on any new projects regardless of the industry. Its largest customer is a feed mill manufacturer that builds and repairs feed mills for the farming industry. The shop also has taken on some work for a manufacturer that makes skate sharpeners for the NHL and one that makes gas tanks for trains.
“We are a typical job shop,” said Craig Krueger, vice-president. “And while we started as a small machine shop on a farm, we have grown over the last five years, adding more CNC machines and staff and moving to a new location. We cut a large array of parts at our shop and are focused on offering three things well: quality, price, and delivery.
With five lathes and three mills, including one 5‑axis, the shop set out to diversify its capabilities and take on new and exciting projects. This also pushed Krueger Machining to invest in advanced CAD/CAM software. Initially the shop was working with software that was heavily skewed toward lathes. But as the work favoured more 5‑axis machining, the existing software just couldn’t cut it.
“We were not happy with what we were working with,” said Krueger. “About a year and a half ago, we tried out a number of different options. It wasn’t until we tried OPEN MIND Technologies’ hyperMILL® that we really found something that solved our problems and worked exceptionally well for us.”
“One of the advantages of hyperMILL® is that hyperCAD®-S is built right into it and works in tandem with it. This makes it easy to manipulate surfaces and change features or geometry to get the right toolpath. This just made the whole process work better.”
Krueger Machining was looking to take on a project for a manufacturer that wanted a very small mold for producing yogurt containers.
“This project presented a new challenge,” said Krueger. “What was different about the project was that the manufacturer required a three-layer mold. For yogurt, the container needs to have additional layers to prevent the contents from spoiling. The inside and outside layers were for a white material and the middle for a black material to prevent light from getting in. However, these small parts had some complicated spiral-type mold surfaces.”
At the time Krueger had difficulties with the two software options he was working with on the 5‑axis machine.
“I couldn’t get the proper features working with one software, and the other I couldn’t even get to work at all,” he said. “I had to send it to the developer to try and produce something for me, and even they struggled. From what I understand, it was sent all over the U.S. to have experts look at it. I did get some programs back and they were OK, but that process just wasn’t sustainable.”
It was at this point that Krueger decided to find a better option and reached out to OPEN MIND Technologies. To his surprise, the next morning he received a program back for the project that was exactly what he was looking for.
“There was a family of parts for this project, so we needed additional programs, which is why we decided to invest in hyperMILL®,” said Krueger. “They showed me how to take this highly complicated part and program it properly. After a couple of tries, I was able to do it on my own. And while we didn’t end up getting this job for other reasons, it has opened a lot of doors for us.”
The CAD/CAM software Krueger was originally working with presented many challenges for the shop. One of the biggest issues he faced was with adding or changing surfaces and modifying the 3D model.
“In order to get the correct toolpath we needed, we often would need to change the surfaces,” said Krueger. “This was very difficult with our existing software. One of the advantages of hyperMILL® is that hyperCAD®-S is built right into it and works in tandem with it. This makes it easy to manipulate surfaces and change features or geometry to get the right toolpath. This just made the whole process work better.”
Krueger also noted that the strategies available within the software were much better suited to his needs. Everything within the package was much easier to control and change, and the ability to select different 5‑axis calculations was beneficial.
“Before hyperMILL®, I started out with very simple software that was quick to work with, but was very limited in its capabilities,” said Krueger. “For example, if I needed a spiral mold or a program where the tool rotates around the part in a smooth manner, well, it just wasn’t possible. The next software I worked with was very powerful, but what I found was that for simple parts, it was very tedious and took me forever to program. I actually timed myself and it took me three times longer to program a simple part on that advanced software than with the simple one.”
When Krueger began using hyperMILL®, he was able to program very simple parts quickly as well as tackle those complex components and operations with advanced features. He added that it was quick and easy to get the code he needed for all types of parts.
Of all the features found in the new software, collision check is one that Krueger is particularly happy with.
“It’s so easy to use, significantly easier than with past software I’ve worked with,” he said. “I’m also very happy with the way the software deals with stock models. Rather than having a single one, I’m able to make an infinite number of stock models that can be paired with operations. This gives me more options when I’m programming. It makes it so much easier to fine-tune everything and to perfectly define the machine and set it all up. I found with some of the other software, I often tried to cheat because it took extra-long to get everything defined properly; now I don’t need to.”
Another growth opportunity for Krueger has come from the ability to perform tangent plane machining, which is one thing hyperMILL® is known for, with Emuge-Franken circle-segment end mills (also known as conical barrel cutters).
“That surprised me a little,” he said. “The very first time we did this, I assumed it would take quite a bit of time to get the operations in order and the code dialed in for it to work. However, when I selected the tangent plane machining operation and showed the software where I wanted to machine on the part, it was just a click and it made the calculation. In less than five minutes I got full 5‑axis tangent plane machining code for the circle-segment cutters.”
There are very few software companies out there that can offer this type of programming option, and even fewer that have a dedicated operation for circle-segment cutters. Krueger noted that the previous software he worked with required him to speak to experts to find cheats and workarounds to get what he needed.
The tangent plane machining with a circle-segment end mill was used for a production job that the shop took on that required about 80 components to be produced using this advanced feature. Krueger also used the hyperMILL® MAXX Machining package for high-efficiency roughing.
“The hyperMILL® MAXX Machining package offered higher metal removal rates and worked really well for this project,” he said. “But now I use it all the time, along with the collision check. From the get-go, the software was so easy to use and I was able to pick up lots of new and advanced features relatively quickly. It’s not like other software out there that can be quite complicated to work with and requires significant training. I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and we’ve been able to take advantage of some of the more specialty features to help set us apart.”
By Associate Editor Lindsay Luminoso (www.canadianmetalworking.com)