User Story

Polaroid : CAMWorks

Polaroid offers a wide range of superior, easy-to-use imaging products -- from instant cameras and film to advanced digital imaging. Ernie Harrington is a technical specialist responsible for computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) in the company's model shops.

Up until about two years ago, Polaroid engineers used a very popular MCAD product that the company had standardized several years prior to revitalize its CAD/CAM systems. Back then, to machine 3D parts, Ernie used the manufacturing function of the CAD system or a popular CAM product to create tool paths. The problem with that approach, from a machining perspective was that tremendous training was required first to understand how to work in solids as well as how to use the MCAD product and the CAM machining software. The process can take up to a couple of years to achieve proficiency and improved productivity. "In our situation, it was imperative to understand the CAD product in order to use the manufacturing tool. That scenario was frustrating." says Ernie.

The company migrated from its MCAD system to SolidWorks about two years ago. After Polaroid switched CAD systems, Ernie started looking for a new CAM product. "After we saw SolidWorks and realized how easy it is to use, we got very excited," notes Ernie. "Since it's part of my job to keep up with new technology, we wanted to find a CAM product that was as easy to learn as SolidWorks, yet powerful enough to do everything that we needed it to do within the SolidWorks environment. We were well aware of the issues associated with transferring files in and out of the various systems that we were using in-house. If conversions weren't quite right, geometry got lost and had to be painstakingly recreated. As a result, we insisted that the next CAM package would work inside SolidWorks," recalls Ernie.

Ernie evaluated competitive packages and even spent time and money on off-site training for one of them. He was not impressed with most. With CAMWorks still in its infancy, Ernie opted for one seat of a commercial CAM software package. "That product was as easy or easier to use than the other CAM product and offered more functionality," notes Ernie. The software did not handle 3D work, but fortunately Ernie and his team weren't doing much 3D work at that time. "However," says Ernie, "we knew that working in a 3D environment was imminent."

Then, along came CAMWorks. Polaroid immediately purchased the first release of the software after reviewing the demo. The company started with one seat and has since converted it to a floating license and purchased four more CAMWorks seats. "We will be installing more CAMWorks down the road, as well," notes Ernie.

Ernie says that every CAMWorks release has been remarkably enhanced and loaded with useable features. Any bugs that were reported to TekSoft are addressed in subsequent releases. Ernie says, "They really listen to their customers." CAMWorks enables Ernie and his team to deliver parts to its internal customers as quickly as possible. CAMWorks is one tool that is allowing Polaroid to meet tight product development deadlines.

CAMWorks benefits
Speed, ease of use, simple operation, and user friendly are terms that come immediately to mind when Ernie contemplates CAMWorks benefits. "Using CAMWorks," says Ernie, " you can do anything you want any way you like. So much of our work involves making very small parts. Standard machining practices don't always work because we might not have enough wall thickness to give the part support to machine it. We have to approach these types of jobs a little differently. With CAMWorks you can and you don't have to be a computer guru to figure how to do it. The technology is so easy to learn. Polaroid users adapted to it very quickly. There's no need to know or understand anything about machine CNC controllers. It's so intuitive. CAMWorks tackles any type of job including complex ones and automatically figures out how to approach it and machine it. It's very flexible."

Time saving is the biggest benefit of using CAMWorks at Polaroid. To machine a simple part using a traditional CAM system would entail creating geometry and determining if the geometry violates any areas. With more complex parts that process can take up a few days. Using CAMWorks, a 3D surface such as a ramp or dome is simple and easy to machine. The software knows where all the other surfaces are in the part. It simply cuts the part. Ernie says they've realized time savings in the thousands of percentages. "You just touch it, tell it to do it, and it's done. It's that terrific. To say it's 50% or 100% faster doesn't do the product justice. CAMWorks is 1000% faster than doing it the old way. We can react to our customer much more quickly."

Trends in the marketplace
"Technology in general is growing by leaps and bounds. In terms of manufacturing, to meet time to market demands everything has to be done more quickly. The only way to accomplish that is to increase your capabilities. Machines have to move faster and machine parts faster. In order to do that, companies have to use NC capabilities. Hand cranking is history. You can't do it and make time any more even on single parts. The process is much faster using products like CAMWorks. I can make a single part faster than hand cranking it without breaking a sweat."

Polaroid's CAMWorks reseller Access Manufacturing Systems and CAMWorks provider TekSoft have been very responsive to Polaroid's requests for information. Ernie says he speaks person-to-person to representatives of both organizations. He's asked TekSoft, for example, for modifications to a post processor and the request was addressed immediately. If Polaroid needs additional training, Access Manufacturing Systems is quick to react and provide on-site training at Polaroid's convenience. Access also implemented the CAMWorks system at Polaroid. "The whole process has been a dream," says Ernie.

Author: Laura Carrabine

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Page last modified on March 3, 2000
Copyright 1999, 2000 by John Stark