Europe’s largest paintball equipment manufacturer says using the renowned Edgecam software certainly helps them hit their targets.
Dave Long (pictured left) production manager of Arrow Precision, paints a very healthy picture when it comes to the speed and ease with which Edgecam drives their Mazak mill-turn and Haas milling machines to produce the 67 components that go into their range of paintball guns – or markers, as they are known in the industry.
He says Edgecam is particularly important when it comes to prototyping. “I design the component using Pro/Engineer, then import it into Edgecam, put our stock around it using Edgecam’s automatic stock system, then the toolpaths go on, I finalise everything, and copy it on to a 3” floppy disk, take it downstairs to one of our machines, feed it in and we’re ready to go. It’s as simple as that.” He also produces a set up sheet which he gives to the operator with the tooling list.
While he finds the code wizard useful, he also adjusts the post processors manually to ensure he gets the output that is absolutely perfect for his own specific needs.
Aldershot-based Arrow Precision is a one-stop shop for the paintballing trade, providing everything from overalls, cradles for the CO2 bottles, and the paintballs themselves – but it is their classic Sterling pump gun and Inferno semi-automatic field gun ranges that are the most complex. “We make the entire marker from scratch, we hog out billets, machine extrusions, and make the valves and regulators. We like Edgecam because it’s so fast and saves us so much time. We get everything set up on screen, take it to the machine shop and the job’s 90% or more correct straight away.”
With the Inferno being the most popular field gun in Europe, it is essential that its mechanical components are reliable in all weather conditions, so the precision engineering delivered by Edgecam is essential. Likewise Arrow’s Sterling STP is considered the “Rolls Royce” of pump guns, with Edgecam playing a major role in ensuring that it cannot be touched for finish, reliability or performance, thanks to its precision components.
And Edgecam is set to play another important role as Arrow Precision diversifies. Paintballing is generally a seasonal business, slowing down at the end of October before picking up again at Easter. “During this dead time we normally build for stock, anticipating the demand in Spring. But we’re now moving into production of new products not related to paintballing, but related to our experience with high pressure air and CO2. We’ve got the capacity, we’ve got the experience, and thanks to Edgecam we’ve got the manufacturing capability.”
He says their return on investment with Edgecam will be even more impressive as they move forward into these new areas of business. “We’ll have some serious 3D milling to do, but with Edgecam we have complete confidence that we’ll be able to do exactly what we need, so it’s an essential and integral part of our diversification programme. It’s absolutely keystone for it, as we’ll be able to use it for producing parts very quickly.”
When Dave Long joined Arrow Precision six years ago from his role as applications engineer at Hitachi, where he used Edgecam, he found he could not get satisfactory programs from the system Arrow were using. He presented a case to managing director John Brudenell-Bruce, for switching to Edgecam and quickly showed that it did a better job, and cost slightly less.
He says writing the programs longhand could take up to three days, but he produces them with Edgecam in an hour, including toolpaths, processing, checking, and running them through the part checker. It is also important for him to be able to carry out the programming offline. “Quite often the machine I use for prototyping is running production, so I’ll queue my new programs up, wait for a window on the machine and then try them out.
“Once the program’s set it’ll be issued with a setting sheet – we take the headers off the post processor with all the tooling information, then I lay them up as a Word file and transfer them.” He has around 300 mainstream production programs with Edgecam currently stored on the server.
And he says when they need to change a machine from producing one part to another, it is simple to change the program. “If it’s a mill we take the set up sheets, drawings and inspection sheets along with the program, I’ll strip off what’s on there and rebuild according to the setting sheet, set up the data and it’s ready to start.”
Once the components come off the machine they are inspected, then they’re finished with the burrs knocked off to give a uniform finish, they’re dried out and anodised, then assembled by hand.
Edgecam’s production milling features make it the ideal CAM system for companies like Arrow, as it provides a wide range of powerful roughing and finishing cycles that can handle the most complex components. High performance 3-axis cycles are complemented by a range of 4- and 5- axis simultaneous strategies that increase flexibility and efficiency of the machining process, allowing scope for the purchase of new, more powerful machines, that can be driven by the existing software.
Edgecam is, again, the ideal system to capitalise on the productivity improvements delivered by Arrow’s investment in their Mazak mill-turn machine, which enables milling and turning operations to be combined in a single setup. The system’s graphical timeline allows the operator to synchronise operations on different turrets and spindles, optimising manufacturing processes and minimising cycle times, essential to Arrow’s efficiency.
Plus, as Arrow are also considering expansion into mold and die production, Edgecam is the ideal solution for such applications, combining simple 2-axis machining functionality for plates, and advanced 3-axis machining cycles for more complex geometry.
And Dave Long has found another, immediate, added bonus with Edgecam – it helps them manufacture replacement parts for some of the machines in the paintball production line (pictured right). “Those machines can break down when parts wear out. With Edgecam we manufacture our own replacements, so it’s not only vital to our manufacturing process, it also helps keep our maintenance costs down.”