Many shops still design parts on 2D CAD systems and manually write NC code for cutting the parts. Baker Drivetrain Inc., a company in Haslett, Mich., that manufacturers custom motorcycle parts, says it recently migrated away from these methods to a 3D CAD and CAM package that work together. SolidWorks Corp., Concord, Mass., provided the design software. Delcam Inc., Windsor, Ontario, furnished the manufacturing software, FeatureCAM.
"Our 2D system couldn't handle increasingly complex designs, such as a recent prototype shift drum. And it was taking me two to three days to write the 10 to 15-page-long NC programs," says head machinist Tom Peek. "I was cutting and pasting a lot. Also, the part had to be scrapped if I made even one little decimal-point error."
Peek says using SolidWorks and FeatureCAM has eliminated this hassle. For example, the shop used the software in the design and manufacture of a new Torquebox heavy-duty transmission. It has wider gears and bigger center distances than previous transmissions to handle bigger custom-bike engines, some with displacements as large as 150 in. 3
"We machined the case from a solid billet of 6061 aluminum into a boldly contoured shape with ridges, peaks, lobes, and areas cut around bolt holes. The 3D software easily handled the design," says Peek, "And Solid-Works models pipe directly into FeatureCAM. It identifies such CAD features as holes and slots and then determines rough and finishing operations. The software also selects tools, calculates feeds and speeds, and generates the NC code, which I can tweak if necessary. Instead of days, it took me 30 min to put the program together."