From Start to Finish
Sterling Technologies, Inc., has utilized EDGECAM to ensure efficiency for more than a decade.
Shaving minutes and increasing quality is the goal of every manufacturing business, which is why having the right tools for the job can be the only way to get a fledgling business off the ground.
Such is the case with Sterling Technologies, Inc., a Morrisville, Vermont-based job shop that serves a handful of industries, including energy and medical, and turns out parts that are “smaller than a breadbox.”
“The majority of our work is for the semi-conductor industry, including machinery and testing equipment for the medical industry,” says Co-owner Jeff Walker.
Walker and his business partner, Michael Boudreau, were childhood friends who followed similar career paths: Boudreau specialized in design and manufacturing, while Walker worked in the model shop at IBM for 20 years.
When the two ultimately accepted positions at the same company, the pair put their heads together and soon had a new goal to achieve.
“We had all these ideas of things we wanted to do,” Walker says. “We decided that, if we wanted to pursue those interests, we’d have to do it ourselves.”
“We got EDGECAM because there was no learning curve and I knew we would get the help we needed as we added machines. With EDGECAM, I know what I’m going to get — always.”
Jeff Walker, Co-owner
When Sterling opened its doors 10 years ago, the doors were that of a garage. The first business space in which it operated was just 526 square feet, but Walker and Boudreau were able to hire two employees. When the company was moved to a third location, they hired two more and, today, they have a staff of 10. Walker handles the manufacturing end of the workload, while Boudreau oversees business and customer service.
Knowing he’d need a powerful computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) system to be competitive and turn a profit, Walker acquired the EDGECAM solution by Vero Software.
“One of the first things I had to do 12 years ago, when I was hired at my last company, was find a new CAM package for them and implement it,” Walker says, “and that system was EDGECAM.”
In choosing a solution for his own business, Walker chose EDGECAM for its ease of use, functionality, and the strength of EDGECAM support.
“The first thing we bought was EDGECAM when we started our own company,” he says. “We got it because there was no learning curve and I knew we would get the help we needed as we added machines. With EDGECAM, I know what I’m going to get — always.”
Sterling is primarily a milling outfit that machines a wide range of materials, including titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, plastics, ceramics, tool steels and nickel alloys.
The majority of machine tools utilized by the company are Haas mills, though it also houses a 5-axis Mikron mill. While the company does perform some simultaneous 5-axis milling, the majority of its work is conducted in 3+2-axis, during which the cutting tool is locked into a fixed position as the two rotational axes move. Some of Sterling’s machine tools have been fitted with trunnion tables to make the conversion from three axes to five.
Sterling saves time and increases accuracy by utilizing the functionality within EDGECAM that is specific to the company’s needs.
“One of the things we really liked about EDGECAM is that we use Renishaw probing and, for quite a few years now, they’ve had Renishaw probing cycles built right into the package,” Walker says.
EDGECAM supports Renishaw probing part setup cycles, which can be integrated by simply adding an additional toolbar to the user interface. This supports all data-offset part-position requirements that can be a prerequisite to cutting.
“Having the probing cycle built into the software saves us a lot of time, because we would have to make a subprogram by hand.”
Walker also uses the EDGECAM Code Wizard, a feature designed to allow programmers to easily write post processors, to customize his posts. Walker typically writes his posts with EDGECAM reseller Joe Sanders of M2 Technologies to ensure that the final product is flawless.
“We write a basic post together and then we work with it a little bit to get changes made,” he says. “When the post comes out, it’s ready to go to the machine with no hand editing. Our parts change all the time. Revisions are made and we repost the code quite a bit, so having to rewrite all of that would be a problem.”
Walker also utilizes EDGECAM CAD Links, which allows the CAM and CAD packages to work even more closely together.
“EDGECAM opens SOLIDWORKS files, but the use of the CAD Links provides even more information,” Walker says. “It passes all of the information to EDGECAM, including the coordinate planes.”
Elements such as solids, fixtures, and stock can be defined within the package and transferred seamlessly to EDGECAM. With the use of CAD Links, the EDGECAM feature finder is able to interpret additional vital data.
“This application saves an imported assembly and records thread data, so when using the ‘feature find’ to identify tapped holes in EDGECAM, it will do that, but the CAD Links will tell you if those holes are threaded,” Walker says. “It can keep you from missing something. This saves a lot of time.”
Walker also credits EDGECAM’s ability to create dynamically coordinate planes for increasing programming efficiency in the shop. EDGECAM allows the programmer to create construction planes (CPL), used to define a local coordinate system at any orientation to the world axes, by dragging the CPL marker from the screen and onto a face, vertices, or edge.
Once the marker has been put into its desired spot, it automatically snaps and re-orients. Furthermore, dragging the marker over the model instantly offers options of alignment and location, making it simple to find the desired orientation.
“That’s a big time saver for us,” Walker says. “Every facet you want to turn to, you have to have a coordinate plane.”
With more than ten years of EDGECAM experience under his belt, Walker has been pleased with the continued upgrades and enhanced functionality that the software has provided throughout the years.
“There’s always something in there that makes something we do go more easily and work better,” he says. “It helps us do a better job.”
About the Company
Name: Sterling Technologies, Inc.
Business: Manufacturing primarily for the semi-conductor, medical and energy industries.
- Easily write post processors with Code Wizard
- Built-in Renishaw probing cycles
- Faster and easier programming with the use of CAD Links
"We got EDGECAM because there was no learning curve and I knew we would get the help we needed as we added machines. With EDGECAM, I know what I’m going to get — always.”
Jeff Walker, Co-owner