Medical Technology made in Lemgo
The secrets of complex manufacturing: hidden in the post-processor, but visible in the simulation
Development meets production: NCSIMUL SOLUTIONS in seamless CAD / CAM integration on the PTC platform
Gebr. Brasseler, leading manufacturer of rotating dental systems and other technical medical instruments, has integrated its product development and production into a continuous CAD/CAM process. With NCSIMUL Machine, the company has been using a standardized simulation solution since then – used also for sophisticated tool machines and multi-axle long center lathes. The software's key advantage: The simulation is based directly on the G-code, which is the only way the complex manufacturing data, stored in the post processor, can be perfectly incorporated into the simulation.
Delicate drill bits, extremely fine root canal instruments, and complex gear geometries - this is the world of Gebr. Brasseler GmbH & Co. KG. With its over 10.000 products, the Komet brand, belonging to the global family business, is one of the world's leading manufacturers of rotary instruments and systems for medicine and dentistry. The Lemgo production site mainly produces items for customers in the dental field. Medical instruments, as well as an increasing number of customized products as well as tools for the industrial jewellery manufacture round out the product portfolio. Quality, precision, and innovation have been the company's characteristics since its inception in 1923. A production of these smallest precision instruments requires great care and accuracy and therefore, places high demands on the machines and machining programs used.
As an innovation-driven company, Gebr. Brasseler regularly faces the challenge of continuing to develop new - often customized - products and launch them into production. Until recently, this was a repetitive, often grueling and time-consuming process. There was no continuous integration between product development and manufacturing, both of which used their own systems. The designs were created using different software systems. Additionally, there was no common NC solution in the production. Only occasionally it was possible to fall back on manufacturer solutions using efficient programming software and integrated simulations. Often, however, the G-code was written by using an NC program editor and then tested on the machine. Because of this the related machines often risked to be unavailable for production for a longer time – a fact, that was considered too cost- and time-consuming by Gebr. Brasseler.
By 2010 the time was ripe for a fundamental change: The aim was to overcome these integration gaps with the introduction of a seamless connection to CAD/CAM development and programming. To find the appropriate software, a benchmark was initially taken. A decision was made in favor of the software solution from PTC, which included Creo, CreoNC, and Windchill as well as the additional simulation solution NCSIMUL Machine from SPRING technologies.
The project was implemented by the system's vendor and PTC Platinum Partner INNEO Solutions - expert in efficient product development (CAD/CAM and PDM/PLM) and IT systems. The pilot phase began in the autumn of 2011. After extensive preparation and testing by the key user team, the new system was successfully launched in all divisions at the end of 2012. Werner Würfel, IT Systems Team Manager and Global Project Manager for the introduction of CAD/CAM and PLM solutions, explained: "In each case we made new post-processors with integrated simulation available for the entire production and trained all the staff working in production and product development. A total of 20 virtual NCSIMUL machines have been developed." Meanwhile, the seamless CAD/CAM integration is in use at Gebr. Brasseler, running on more than 100 machines.
Time saving: 26 percent
The entire product development process has been different ever since. Instead of design drawings, 3D models are directly created ready for production. Manufacturing information about so-called user-defined features already flows into the product design. The most important goal of saving time and money through efficient processes has been achieved: By switching to CAD/CAM programming, up to 26 percent of the required time can be saved in the development and implementation of new products.
But there have been far more improvements than that. The new technology has promoted knowledge sharing and communication within the company: "From the very beginning our developers now sit down together with the CAM programmers in order to consider the necessary manufacturing information. Difficulties are clarified and solutions found in advance, before the product goes into initial production stages," says Würfel.
Complex information from the post-processor is included in the simulation
With the help of the simulation, CAM programmers can check the G-code directly for collisions and identify production routes and times. Initially a 3D model that is used can be improved directly as a result of the simulation. Gebr. Brasseler's programmers particularly use this advantage in the development of new complex gear geometries, in which they virtually check whether the new manufacturing process has indeed ultimately generated the desired geometry.
The crucial factor is that with NCSIMUL Machine, simulations can be done directly using G-code: As precision manufacturers, the Lemgoers work with sophisticated niche technologies such as multi-channel long automatic lathes and tool grinders, which are not yet completely supported by the used Creo software. "Therefore, we have programmed important information such as the automatic allocation of axes to channels and the coupling and synchronization of the axes to the post-processors,' said CAM administrator Viktor Olfert. It is mandatory for this information to be included in the simulation - and with NCSIMUL Machine this is a given.
NCSIMUL Player allows machine setup and preview at the touch of a button
The machine set-up is facilitated by the simulation solution. Before the introduction of the CAD/CAM integration, the corresponding programs had to be written and the generated program checked, corrected and tested again for syntax errors. Instructions had to be printed out. The machine programmers were busy for a good 2-3 days. During the trial run, the machine operators were regularly hard pressed and had to be extremely careful and vigilant to react immediately in the event of a failure or an impending collision.
Today, not only does the virtual machine simulation rule out a collision in advance, but the machining program also optimizes tool paths, resulting in lower run times. The design can be reviewed for geometric deviations via target/actual comparison with the virtually finished product. With the help of NCSIMUL Player, the machine programmer can observe the entire process as an interactive 3D film and then start the setup. Moreover, because all the data is stored in the Product Lifecycle Management system (PLM), it is depicted in a version-safe format, which also guarantees that only the corresponding released version is used.
Living processes - foundation for the future
The results, and above all, the higher quality achieved through the simulation and optimization of production processes, has convinced the experienced staff of many years at Brasseler. The company relies on their know-how and training - with its own coaches, NCSIMUL licenses and ongoing in-house training courses.
Prospective machining and industrial mechanics are, from their second year of training, already coached in the systems and simulations and later have the opportunity to further train as CAD/CAM programmers. They are certainly in demand: At the medical technology specialist, there is also expected a radical change and a dynamic development of production models. Brasseler's R&D together with research institutes deal intensively with the future of this industry. They are concerned with how IoT research and Industry 4.0 can be used for their own added value, but also other topics like sensory data can be incorporated into CNC manufacturing in the future.
Currently, however, the development of further NCSIMUL machines remains topical, be it about the 6-axle tool grinding machines developed in our own machine engineering shop, or new long center lathes. With this in mind, Lemgo welcomes the fact that SPRING Technologies is expanding its presence with know-how and qualified employees located in the German offices offering comprehensive support.