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April 1, 2003

4 Min Read
CAM software choice is right...twice

This South African product developer’s CAD/CAM system is playing an ever more critical role, particularly as its moldmaking business grows.

tooling1.jpgThe product development business Mirko Tappero started as a solo operation outside Johannesburg, South Africa in 1990 found a ready market, and it grew quickly, eventually adding moldmaking to its stable of capabilities. Four years later, the growing company became Novate Industries. With growth came the need to replace the original CAD/CAM system, but not for the usual reasons.

This system was state-of-the-art when acquired, and was costly. It was also tough to learn and hard to use. Because of its high price, few systems entered South Africa, so it lacked needed tech support. Worst of all, it continually made mistakes, especially in CNC programming. The computer system was clearly holding the company back, so Novate went shopping.

A Thorough Search
“Over a period of a year, we explored every well-known CAD/CAM system,” Tappero recalls, “but it was only toward the end of the selection process that Delcam, or Duct as it was then known, made it onto the scene.” After much evaluation and a trip to Delcam’s U.K. facility, Novate bought it. The principal reasons were its overall CNC programming performance and ease of use, and Tappero says it certainly helped that Delcam’s system cost significantly less than its predecessor did.

Novate liked PowerMill CAM software for its consistency and ease of use. None of the Novate users, including Tappero, has yet to find a piece of machining that PowerMill cannot execute. This is significant, since the variety and complexity of Novate’s products can challenge any CAD/CAM system.

For example, Tappero says Novate’s most ambitious project to date is a Steritubs medical waste management, tracking, and processing system, for which Novate won the 2002 Design Institute of South Africa Award. Electronic tags are embedded into a range of securable transport containers specially designed for sensitive and/or hazardous waste. The product provides a closed loop system for total management of a biohazardous waste stream that can pose serious risks to health care workers, patients, and communities.

While Novate’s products are vast and varied, the range of options within PowerMill initially may also seem somewhat intimidating, according to Tappero. There can be a dozen or so ways to achieve the same end, but he says the system is easily learned, and the flexibility those choices create let Novate achieve virtually anything it wants with PowerMill. Or almost anything. Tappero shares a joke circulating around Novate that the company was sold short because the system lacks a significant function: “We have yet to succeed in getting PowerMill to gouge,” he says.

tooling2.jpgThe Right Choice, Again
Since its founding, Novate has expanded from one person in a 2000-sq-ft shop to a staff of 34 professionals. It is part of South Africa’s Intellectual Capital Group (ICG), which, like Novate itself, is dedicated to turning ideas into products. Marrying its strategic management and financial strengths with Novate’s technology, the group can turn any concept into reality in a very short time. Despite—or because of—the emphasis on product design and development, Novate Industries can now also be called one of South Africa’s leading moldmakers.

The recent growth in Novate’s moldmaking activity, which Tappero describes as intense, has not changed the company’s art-to-part focus, nor its versatility. In fact, Novate recently designed and commissioned a production facility for medical syringes with an annual capacity of 200 million units/year.

However, increased toolmaking business impelled Novate to re-evaluate its mold design and manufacturing technology, including the CAD/CAM system, which is now more important than ever. Was the software choice right, and is it still? To be certain, Tappero and his crew once again thoroughly checked every package available, and then opted for another seat of Delcam PowerMill (CAM) and PowerShape (CAD).

The recent upsurge in tooling work has also led to an increase in what Tappero smilingly refers to as “the dreaded IGES file.” He means a “dirty” or damaged file, and says the ability to handle such data is an area where PowerShape has excelled for Novate. Besides the ability to import cleanly, PowerShape also allows manipulation of the resultant surfaces.

Tappero says it’s difficult to recall the time before PowerMill, but he feels safe saying Novate is processing cut files in a fraction of the time it took with the previous software package—with a rework factor near zero, barring occasional human error. As an experiment, Novate gave a trusted contractor a piece of geometry and asked him to split the geometry into core and cavity. The contractor, using different software, did not work on it full time, but perhaps 60 percent.

“It took him about two weeks,” says Tappero. “It took me 20 minutes to achieve the same thing using PowerShape.” Besides the productivity increase, Tappero says there is a noticeable improvement in the quality of life in the mold shop, which is always under pressure to deliver faster.

Contact information
Novate Industries (PTY) Ltd.
Modderfontein, Republic of South Africa
Mirko Tappero
+27 (11) 609 2155
[email protected]

Delcam Inc., Windsor, ON
(800) 664-3506
www.delcam.com

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