Tom Pochciol, Manthorpe Engineering business director, says: “What differentiates us as a company is the complexity of the components that we machine. They can be large and awkward in shape. We might, for example, be working on the engine casing for a jet or the particularly tight tolerances of a bearing system. A human hair is approximately 60 micron in diameter and we regularly have to achieve measurement accuracy to 5 micron. Achieving tight positional tolerances is even more challenging. We need a CADCAM technology that’s both powerful and flexible.”

Manthorpe Engineering uses NX software from Siemens PLM Software, delivered via software partner TTL (01844 296650). TTL customised the post-processors, configured software and delivered user training for the company, a process that has proved a happy one, according to Pochciol, who adds: “It is very important to get the right post-processors for each machine and then fine-tune them. Our contacts at TTL have been very helpful and continue to provide us with support whenever we need it.”

Customers usually design components and send in both 3D and 2D information. The design evolves as Manthorpe Engineering adds specialist expertise to improve manufacturability and shorten timescales.

Steve Lee, manufacturing engineer at Manthorpe Engineering, explains: “One of the first things we do using NX is to make sure that we can optimise the design for manufacture. Time on the machine is money and if we can find any areas of the design that can be improved, we have a conversation with the customer, interrogate the model in NX and manipulate certain features, if necessary. We can iterate with the customer very quickly to ensure that the production process is the most cost effective and time efficient.”

Lee collaborates with other staff to plan the manufacturing schedule and programming of machines, which run day and night. “We use information gained from NX to apply times to each toolpath operation. Even at a very early stage, before we have won a contract, we can gain a clear idea of how long a job will take to complete and can let our estimators in the sales department know. Once we have actually won a job, we use the information from NX to define the manufacturing method and set up the machining program to select the right tools.”

According to Lee, a key benefit of NX is the ability to keep track of, and graphically represent in 3D, the in-process state of a workpiece relative to the raw material stock; this feature is said to be critical for effective mill-turning strategies. NX CAM automatically generates an in-process workpiece model to provide seamless transfer of workpiece configurations between milling and turning operations.

NX also enables toolpath simulation, an important feature when cutting expensive materials. The integrated machine tool simulation is driven by output from the NX post-processor, rather than just toolpath data, to create a more accurate level of program validation.

Pochciol concludes: “We differentiate ourselves by specialising in the technically challenging side of manufacturing and stay ahead by investing in our machinery and our people. There is no way we could create the shapes we now do without NX. It is an enabling technology for modelling and developing complex methods of manufacture, and it allows us to work in very close partnership with our customers. We have strong ambitions for the future and, along with the skill of our engineers, NX is central to our business.”