Click image to enlarge

by Kip Hanson

The Problem 
New machine, increasing part complexity required new toolpath software

The Solution 
New CAM software to generate complex toolpaths 

GibbsCAM makes toolpaths the easiest part of lights out machining at BC job shop

Redline CNC, a precision machine shop in Surrey, BC, has a reputation in the Canadian manufacturing community for delivering quality parts, on time and at competitive prices. At least some of that success can be attributed to its CAM software. Founded in 1998, Redline was soon facing new sales opportunities, tight deliveries, and increased part complexity. With the purchase of a twin-pallet Matsuura RA-3F, it needed a CAM package to program it. Owners Lyle Hystad and Paul Mowat boarded a plane to Chicago and attended the IMTS show. They saw many good CAM systems, but settled on Gibbs. "Our first machine was an old Hurco BMC-20 with an Ultimax control, so we were already used to conversational programming. We wanted a CAM product similar in function," says Hystad.  

As Mowat explains, it didn't take long for Redline to see value from its software investment. "I was the first Gibbs user at Redline. We got the software back to the shop and had it installed, but I didn't want to wait for training. I just started playing around with it." Mowat says they were generating NC code within days. "It was very easy to pick up. I eventually took the advanced training course, but not until several months later. That's a pretty good indication of how intuitive this program is."

Redline has come a long way since then. From its humble one-machine beginnings, Redline has since moved to a 7000 sq ft facility that houses a variety of high end CNC equipment, from a Doosan 2000 SY twin spindle mill-turn machine to the flagship 34-pallet Matsuura horizontal machining cell. "We use Gibbs throughout the shop," says Steven Glover, programmer at Redline. 

The bulk of Redline's work is for the high tech industry. "We do a lot of camera housings for biomedical applications, components for scanning electron microscopes and such, as well as a fair amount of machining for the aerospace and semiconductor industries," Hystad says. Most of the parts are made from 6061-T6 aluminum, copper alloys, or engineering plastics such as ABS and Nylon. "We're pretty much a non-ferrous shop."  

Those materials' easy machinability certainly helps with lights out, but there's a lot more to it than that. Mowat, who has focused much of his effort towards developing this capability, explains that Redline's success in unattended machining comes from predictable programming, tight process control, and a good bit of technology. "All of the machines are equipped with laser calibration, tool breakage detection, and tool life management."

That success took a number of years to develop. "We started with the MAM, our first 11-pallet machine, and actually camped out here for a few nights, just to make sure everything ran properly. Today we're running unmanned on four horizontals, with a total of 55 pallets. We literally flip the switch at 3:30 in the afternoon and run flat out until 5:00 the next morning. Very rarely do we have any hiccups." Hystad seconds that, pointing to Redline's capability to machine 200-300 different part numbers each night, in lot sizes as small as one piece. "The sheer number of different parts coming off the machines each day is phenomenal."

Someone has to program all those jobs, however. Luckily for Glover, GibbsCAM allows Redline to hit the switch and go in most cases. And since the shop does an initial run during the day, it gives the owners an opportunity to check the code before turning it loose at night. "All of our parts are proven out during the prototype stage on our day shift. If there's potential for a long run job, that gives us a chance to really tweak things so it can run unattended."

One thing that makes programming less of a chore is a good post-processor. This is especially important when something out of the ordinary comes along. "We had one job where we needed to use a gun-drill," Glover says. "That meant sending the drill into a predrilled starter hole before turning on the spindle and coolant. That's something most posts don't do."

As Mowat points out, this is what makes GibbsCAM predictable. Where some shops would get around the gun-drill problem by directly editing the G-code, this is a big no-no at Redline. "The Gibbs files are gospel to us. Any changes made to our machine processes go through the .vnc file. If we find the code isn't exactly what we need, we have Gibbs develop a new post-processor. That way, anyone in the shop can generate code and it always comes out the same way."  

This last point is a big one. With the challenge faced by most shops in finding good people, a reliable and easy to use CAM system goes a long way towards ensuring a surprise-free day. "We moved to Gibbs because it was easy to learn, and more intuitive to someone who hasn't run a CAM system before," Hystad says. "That makes a huge difference to us."

Thanks in part to GibbsCAM, Redline can sleep through the busiest part of their production day. SMT

Kip Hanson is a contributing editor.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Redline CNC


Chatter-free machining of aluminum

A demonstration of Iscar's new four-flute ChatterFree solid mill line of cutting tools cutting aluminum.

Ontario: A True Star

Investing in advanced technology to grow 

Fast Metal

If, like Canadian company Hyphen, you are setting up a workshop providing prototype parts, you simply cannot ignore the desirability of or the demand for the mechanical qualities of milled and turned metal.

Meeting in the Middle

by Kip Hanson

Hybrid machine tools present manufacturers with unique challenges as well as opportunities 

Mazak launches digital customer extravaganza

Mazak has launched a three-pronged holistic digital customer experience.

Bombardier's CSeries: Test confirm fuel efficiency claims

Tests on Bombardier Aerospace’s much talked-about CSeries aircraft prove what the company has claimed all along: this new “green” aircraft is indeed a fuel efficient design that offers a 20 per cent fuel burn advantage and significantly reduced emissions.

High school students join Sandvik for Manufacturing Day

Ontario high school students joined Sandvik Coromant Canada for Manufacturing Day to gain some insight into manufacturing and consider it as a career choice.

Remote machine monitoring now on DMG/Mori Seiki machines

As of June 1, 2013, all new DMG/Mori Seiki machines equipped with MAPPS control with an MTConnect Standard V1.1 compliant MTConnect Adapter.

$11 M expansion for Quebec aerospace manufacturing shop

Alta Precision, a Montreal machine shop serving the aerospace manufacturing industry, has doubled its operation to meet growing demand. The modernized $11 million project has seen the CNC manufacturing business go from 40,000 sq ft to 80,000 sq ft. The company held an inauguration on June 21. Alta Precision will be featured in Shop Metalworking Technology's upcoming August issue.

Hybrid multi-tasking machining technology

Mazak North America and Lincoln Electric partnership: The VC-500A/5X AM with HWD incorporates innovative Hot Wire (HWD) additive manufacturing technology that Mazak developed with Lincoln Electric.

Grinding software acts as analysis hub

The latest release of software maker ANCA’s CIMulator3D tool simulation software for grinding has an upgraded interface with fresh colors and icons and is even easier to use with intuitive functionality. 

Boeing creates lightest metal ever using additive manufacturing

Microlattice is the lightest metal ever made. At 99.99 per cent air, it's light enough to balance on top of a dandelion, while its structure makes it strong. Strength and record breaking lightness make it a potential metal for future planes and vehicles. Learn more about Boeing Innovations at

Your business: Certified to fly

by Tim Wilson

Getting approval to machine aerospace parts worth the effort

Jumping into the Melt Pool

by Kip Hanson

Will hybrid additive CNC machine tools become the new norm of manufacturing?

Success in "a Difficult Business"

by Mary Scianna

The problem
Grappling with offshore competition

The solution
Investing in machining centres, multi-tasking and automation

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn