Manufacturing is changing and by that, we’re not talking about the shift from subtractive to additive, it’s the realisation of the value of combining both to create a new breed of hybrid technologies and solutions.
Since the 1960’s, CADCAM solutions provider, Delcam has positioned itself with a central role in the UK manufacturing landscape. What sprung from a vision to use computers to assist pattern makers in modelling difficult 3D shapes has grown to comprise more than 30 offices across the globe providing design, manufacturing and inspection software solutions to a variety of industries.
Bart Simpson, Business Development Lead at Delcam is an aeronautical engineer by trade but after 20 years at Delcam has found himself on the customer facing side of the engineering spectrum. Establishing his career at BA and moving through the ranks from Delcam’s customer training team, Bart’s says his varied background gives him that first-hand customer-focussed insight to provide users with the right software solutions to fit their needs.
“What we’re really interested in is not just delivering software products to people but delivering solutions which are really a combination of the software and the applications.”
Last year, Autodesk completed its acquisition of Delcam to continue its expansion into manufacturing and fabrication and help deliver a better digital manufacturing experience. Back then it was hailed “the biggest news story in the history of CAM” and for a cost of £180 million, was the largest acquisition to have ever been signed of in the CAM industry. Bart says the union of the two couldn’t have been a better fit or arrived at a more crucial time.
Delcam helps create advanced manufacturing solutions to improve productivity.
“It’s a really interesting time for Delcam and Autodesk,” Bart explained. “We’ve each been thinking about these changes which are coming on in the technology front. We’ve each been approaching them historically from different parts of the process – Autodesk on the design side and Delcam very much on driving machines to make parts. Now what we can really see is that each has got to be thinking about the other.”
The last few years have brought about some interesting projects for Delcam from producing Olympic medals with the Royal Mint to the RAWFEED project with Airbus and Cranfield University. Describing their initial involvement as “almost back to front”, one of Delcam’s most recent missions was the Bloodhound Project, a global engineering venture, using a 1000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt to inspire the next generation into STEM subjects, a project which has been met with immense enthusiasm as they’ve taken it on the road to schools.
After hearing about the project on the radio, Delcam knew they had to get involved but they soon discovered their products were already being put to work by a Delcam customer. After digging a little further and learning more about their education initiative, the company put its name to the project and set about helping the team to come up with solutions for more complex automotive parts that hadn’t yet been tackled, one of which was produced in collaboration with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield.
Bloodhound project - the 1000 mph car.
However, it’s not just industrial engineers that are embracing the amalgamation of these technologies and Bart has seen the Delcam product range applied in environments from automotive and aerospace with the RECLAIM initiative down to more commercial products like custom flip-flops. It’s all about finding out which processes should be used and where.
“You have what you could class as your traditional or early adopter technologies looking at using a cool new technology for manufacturing right the way through to what are almost startup businesses who are looking at new novel products for people right at the other end of the spectrum so I think you’ve got a real broad cross section of organisations who are picking up new technology.”
One area Bart was keen to talk about was the development of UK manufacturing. UK software is driving manufacturing on a global scale with 85% of Delcam software revenue coming from abroad. Based in Birmingham, the company is keen to allow customers to come in and have a look at its advanced manufacturing facility, a unique environment featuring six 5axis machine tools designed to replicate the same commercial pressures that customers may face and ultimately develop new processes to help solve their manufacturing challenges. Delcam is also interested in helping tackle the manufacturing skills shortage and its investment into the next generation of engineers goes much further than school STEM projects as the company has on average around 15 people come through the doors on summer placements and graduate programmes to help provide them with the skills for this next wave of manufacturing.
Delcam's unique manufacturing environment enables them to create custom solutions for customers.
“I think generally there’s far more interest in manufacturing than there was maybe 10 years ago,” Bart explained. “Really what we’re always impressed with is how quickly we can get those people involved with looking at new manufacturing technologies and processes and I think there is very little fear with many of those people about getting involved with technology.”
For the engineering industry, its been said there’s a lot of “reinventing the wheel” as designers and manufacturers find themselves tackling the same questions and resolving the same problems. As manufacturing techniques progress, our design goals are changing so we’re no longer designing parts specifically for a traditional process but rather because we want them to have certain properties.
“These are processes which we can then standardise and automate in our software tools which we then supply to a much broader cross section of the manufacturing industry,” Bart commented.
It’s not just about designing new processes, it’s about driving efficiencies and productivity and that means investing in processes, software and people to get the most out machine hardware.
Bart, added: “We’re providing people with the intellectual muscle to drive those machines but we’re continuously trying to understand more about the manufacturing processes and new technologies. When we deliver those software products to people we’re actually improving the productivity of that big piece of capital equipment.”
To find out more visit Delcam on Stand J17 at TCT Show + Personalize 2015. REGISTER FOR FREE HERE.