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Fibreworks co-owner Joe Hofmann said, “In 2012, we decided to take destiny in our own hands and purchase a five-axis router and CAM software,” and now use Mastercam CAD/CAM software from CNC Software Inc. (Tolland, CT).


A Different Level “Today, instead of just making a composite part, we can design, develop, and manufacture. That includes machin- ing all the tooling, molds, and patterns in-house and the manufacturing of parts. We are essentially a one-stop shop,” Hofmann said. “We take on a lot of projects where we can provide engi- neering support from the structural analysis simulation side to design and put the whole composite package together. This is what large OEM customers are looking for. This is the type of resource that was previously available only in Europe. It did not exist here before at the level we do it now.” Fibreworks does all of its design work in CATIA, putting it on the same page with designers from major OEM race teams. CATIA data can be flowed seamlessly into the struc- tural analysis package, which is an essential tool for assess- ing how the geometry of lightweight components contribute to strength. Once the design has been optimized, the same CATIA data also translates directly into Mastercam, where it is used as the basis for creating patterns and molds.


Fast Track from Concept to Part “When I first started here, the owner asked which CAM system we should get, and I suggested Mastercam because it goes from a concept on the screen to a part faster than any software I’ve ever used,” said lead programmer Alan Craw- ford. “To me, it is more of a machinist’s software. There are a lot of software programs that try to do things for you, what is called feature-based programming. Mastercam can do that, but in those cases, it makes a lot of assumptions about what the tool should be doing. I am more of a control person. I want to be in complete control of what the tool is going to do. I don’t want to sit there and try to trick the software into doing it with a feature-based program.” Total control of the tool makes it possible to create the complex, free-flowing organic geometries that are so essential for imparting strength into lightweight composite structures. For example, Fibreworks ships a high volume of race car seats every year, and creating these geometries for five-axis


machining has made it possible to meet SFI and FIA standards with structures substantially lighter than aluminum. This capa- bility also allows them to create safe seats that allow the driver to have a lower center of gravity as he sits in the vehicle. Control is also important because everything the company does is time sensitive. If a part comes in from a racing manu- facturer, it wants it in days, or a week at the most. Once Craw- ford has brought the design in from CATIA, he will jump right into programming. Soon, he will have the tooling board up on the machine and while the router is making the roughing cuts he will be completing the program so that no time is wasted. As Fibreworks became more adept at using its CNC manufacturing capabilities, the company began expanding its uses. For example, a significant number of metal parts for such applications as threaded metal inserts are now being produced in-house with Fibreworks’ own CNC equipment. Trimming of composite parts that once consumed numerous man-hours has also been automated using Mastercam’s trim- ming toolpaths.


Traction for Growth


The types of parts racing teams are looking for continue to expand. Seats and helmets are now routine. The aero kit, composed of any body parts that are painted, is wide open for composite parts. Even NASCAR rules have changed, opening the door to such innovations as carbon- reinforced metal hoods. Under the hood, turbo plenums, ducts, pipes, and other air-moving devices are in greater demand as long as they can stand the temperatures and pressures. “Because we offer a unique resource to companies that


are seeing the benefits of high-performance composite parts, we are starting to get a lot of traction from aerospace and satellite companies, which are outside of our normal arena but offer us an additional path for growth,” Hofmann said. A major focus for Fibreworks in 2017 is to capitalize on these opportunities by moving to a new 20,000 ft2 (1858 m2) plant and installing two more advanced five-axis routers. This will boost existing capacity by about 50%. As for lead times, Fibreworks is doing its best to keep pace with a very demanding customer base.


Edited by Yearbook Editor Bill Koenig from information supplied by Fibreworks.


37 — Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing 2017


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