Delcam’s PowerMILL helps Pentaxia meet the composites challenge
After retiring from the rail industry, Stephen Ollier and his wife invested in their composites engineering company, Pentaxia. Today, with the support of Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software, the company is going from strength-to-strength.
Stephen Ollier established Pentaxia in 2008 when he was asked to help some former colleagues that had started a precision engineering business. He recalls: “They rented a five-axis machine tool and set up a business, but they had not had much experience in running a business, so they asked me if I wanted to join. I admit I found retirement a bit boring so I joined.”
Originally located in a rented building with no running water or toilets, after six months the decision was taken to look for new premises. “In the beginning our customers were small composite companies,” he said. “We supplied them with patterns and always focused on providing a reliable service. This was appreciated and we started to progress strongly.”
By the second year, the company had two machines and decided to start looking at composite moulds and tooling for the aerospace industry. The business was also steered towards investing in composite component manufacturing and it now runs a full-service composite facility.
Today, the company employs 57 staff and has one of the largest five-axis facilities in the UK, with five five-axis and two three-axis machine tools installed in a 7,000 sq ft workshop. The site also has two autoclaves, a new Langzauner composite press, four clean rooms, a full inspection facility and new paint/lacquering booths. The IS0 9001 approved company also has AS9100 aerospace accreditation, and works with many of the leading Formula One teams, luxury automotive brands and aerospace companies.
“As Managing Director, I see my job as always providing the right equipment, the right machines to the right people,” Stephen Ollier explained. “We have never been afraid of investing in the business and a key part of the investment is software; we started with Delcam and today we have three seats of PowerMILL, supported by VERICUT CNC simulation software.”
Every machine tool is programmed off-line using PowerMILL and the post-processed NC code is then taken straight into VERICUT. “Using both software systems provides us with accurate run times. Although not perfect as they cannot predict everything, it is within five or ten per cent. This is important to our production planning as we have run uninterrupted jobs for up to sixteen hours,” Mr. Ollier stated.
Pentaxia’s Production Services Manager, John Bates, and Production Manager Machining, Daniel De Cecco, selected PowerMILL. “Back in 2008, as the company started on its steep growth curve, we evaluated a number of the leading CAM systems available,” recalled Mr. Bates. “We had some limited experience of Delcam from previous employers and, on testing, it offered us all of the capabilities we required with a simple, user-friendly interface.”
“Some of our employees have undertaken the Delcam 3-axis and 5-axis training courses, which provided a very good introduction to the system,” added Mr. De Cecco. “Subsequently, we have then tailored our own training relevant to the type of work that we do. However, on the occasions where we have required support with a new strategy or any problems we have encountered, Delcam has been very helpful and quick to respond. These are important considerations when you are up against delivery deadlines and you need to get a job programmed and on the machine.”
“We often produce complete suites of tools and we are very competitive on the machining side,” he added. “For the majority of the components we produce in the composite business there will also be an element of machining required, such as trimming and drilling. We are unusual in that we offer a single source solution for the composite components industry, from design to prototype tooling and components right through to finished part supply.”
Many of the jobs produced by Pentaxia are unique and a majority of the files are received as solid models, with the occasional 2D drawing. As a ‘batch of one’ there is a high degree of variation and also complexity for most of the work. Here, the ongoing development of Delcam’s software comes to the fore. As John Bates comments: “We only use a small percentage of strategies that are available in PowerMILL; the development of just those strategies over the years has really helped us to speed up our programming time, allowing more jobs to be put through our machine shop.”
The software’s comprehensive range of high speed machining and multi-axis toolpath strategies allows users to tackle the most difficult and challenging parts while achieving faster machining times, reducing tool loads and producing smoother surface finishes.
“Delcam is a great investment, particularly for any company starting out with CAM software due to its user friendliness and the good support,” said Mr. De Cecco. “In comparison to a lot of the other CAM software systems I have experienced, PowerMILL seems to be much easier to navigate through the menus, and the way the process of creating programs is set out follows a straightforward, logical process.”
“Using Delcam has helped us to grow and to be able to run efficiently,” added Mr. Ollier. “Anyone looking to take their business forward needs to be using every available tool and I see PowerMILL as an essential part of our future.”
“One of the key things for us to do is move composites into the more cost-conscious markets,” he concluded. “The challenge is to get production costs down and volumes up. We are always looking at ways to be more competitive and cost-effective. Delcam is providing us with the support needed to run our sophisticated machine tools to the best of their ability to help achieve this goal.”
For further information on Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software, please contact: -
Peter Dickin, Marketing Manager
Direct phone: 0121 683 1081 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Heath Business Park,
Birmingham, B10 0HJ, UK
Captions: Delcam’s PowerMILL is used to program all the machine tools at Pentaxia