Numerical Control Computer Sciences (NCCS) has announced that an updated version of the Aerospace Application Library (AAL) will be included in NCL V9.7, the latest release of the company’s multiaxis machining software. The AAL extends the capability of the CAM software to address specific requirements unique to the manufacturing of structural airframe components. It is an open-source set of routines that facilitates both tool path and geometry creation for features common to airframe components, such as contoured flange tops, joggles, closed angled walls, and tooling tabs.
"Most CAM systems offer a generic set of machining and geometry construction routines,” said Dave Schultz, Manager of CAD/CAM Applications at NCCS. “The user must then choose how and what routine to apply to any given situation, even if the end result is not necessarily what is desired. The AAL offers solutions that are designed to address specific tasks that are commonly required in the manufacturing of complex airframe components. As a result these tasks are easier to perform, produce more efficient and consistent results, and in many cases can be semi or fully automated.
“For example, the creation of tooling geometry and associated tool paths is always a challenge. Using the AAL, the user simply selects an ‘attach’ location and the system automatically creates a ‘tooling tab.’ Because the system ‘knows’ the purpose of this geometry, tool paths associated with the tabs are automated. All hole-making, facing, and cutoff operations are automatically performed. The user can even perform custom operations on one tab and automatically apply it to all tabs.”
The AAL is open-source, which means users can modify existing routines to conform to their unique shop practices or add proprietary capabilities invented by their own staff.
“When we first started the company, we evaluated and even tried to employ generic CAM products,” said Rich Faustini, President of CNC Solutions, a Florida-based CNC programming service bureau. “Functions like the automated roughing worked well, but the devil is always in the details. These systems simply did not offer us the flexibility and control we needed to satisfy each of our customer’s specific requirements, especially in the areas of finishing and five-axis machining. Based on feedback from our customers, we have customized and extended the AAL to provide us with a unique set of tools that can be found in no other CAM product.”
Users of generic CAM products have no distinct advantage over competitors who use the same products, as they are all using the same routines, Schultz said. “AAL users not only benefit from the provided task-specific solutions but can add capabilities that only they can perform.”
Lucy Butler, Director of Peak NC Ltd., a U.K.-based CNC programming bureau, said: “We use the automated routines to handle the most common operations for regularly occurring features and employ unique machining strategies that we define ourselves for more complex details. With this added flexibility, our programmers can very easily adapt their machining methods to suit the needs of a particular client, machine tool, or component. This helps us maintain an advantage over our competitors who are limited to using only the functions provided with their system.”
AAL users can use any combination of standard functions or AAL functions to program a detailed tool path—for example, the finishing of a pocket. That set of instructions can then be saved as a new function and applied to similar pockets to reduce programming time.
The ability to capture manufacturing methods enables a shop to develop standard procedures that produce consistent results regardless of who creates the NC program.
“Experienced programmers can create an optimized tool-path strategy and save it as a new function,” explained Schultz. “The new function can then be employed by less experienced staff to achieve the same expert results. We continually update the library with contributions made by our own staff or submitted by our users. Thus, it is a collaborative effort with input from some of the best minds in the industry.”
Among the enhancements for NCL V9.7 AAL:
• Improved approach and transition motion when machining flange top features, leading to a reduction in cycle time
• An efficient, high-speed “kellering” function for finishing contoured walls
• Improved efficiency of the multiaxis corner reduction function (rest machining), reducing cycle times by up to 20%.