Designing the world’s largest CNC metal spinning machine

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Designing the world’s largest CNC metal spinning machine

MJC Engineering & Technology

Case Study

Talk about a big project

MJC Engineering & Technology

World’s largest CNC metal spinning machine designed in Solid Edge

Complexity of customer machinery requirements handled with new 3D CAD system

No other company would bid on the job. One competitor even said it couldn’t be done. But engineers at MJC Engineering & Technology Inc. (Huntington Beach, California) forged ahead anyway and created the world’s largest computer numerical control (CNC) metal spinning machine – a 55-ton, 80-foot long device that FIBA Technologies (Westboro, Massachusetts) now uses to spin steel tubes into seamless, integrally forged gas and chemical pressure vessels. Engineers at MJC modeled every piece of the machine, called the OSC 24300, as a digital assembly using Solid Edge® software. MJC’s vice president and general manager, Per Carlson, says Solid Edge was crucial for the project. “Solid Edge was not only invaluable for the design of the machine,” notes Carlson. “It was also helpful in convincing FIBA that our company, which is relatively small, could handle the challenge.”

When FIBA was looking for a supplier for the metal spinning machine it had in mind, the requirements were daunting. Metal spinning is the process of forming a piece of flat sheet metal over a three-dimensional pattern while it spins on a machine tool similar to a lathe. The forming is accomplished by applying pressure to the metal as it spins. FIBA makes tube trailers that are used to transport chemicals and gases under pressure, such as oxygen and nitrogen. The company needed a metal spinning machine that could spin tubes up to 24 inches in diameter, with a 11⁄2-inch wall thickness. But the requirement that really made this job challenging was that the machine had to be able to handle tubes up to 40-feet long.

Self-taught CAD

Carlson, the lead designer on this project, had used AutoCAD® sofware in the past, but had upgraded to solid modeling several years earlier as the complexity of his company’s designs increased. Carlson originally selected SolidWorks® software, but he sent it back after realizing how difficult it was to use. “SolidWorks had too many pop-up menus and you were always having to confirm and constrain everything you wanted to do,” he explains. When he saw how much more intuitive Solid Edge was, he purchased it instead. “I believe, at that time, Solid Edge required 30 percent fewer keystrokes so you could work much faster,” Carlson adds. “The software wasn’t always interrupting your flow.” Carlson taught himself to use Solid Edge by using the manuals and tutorials that came with it. Within three weeks, he was using Solid Edge to make production drawings. Even back then, the software paid for itself with the first design.

One of the main benefits Carslon experiences from Solid Edge is the ability to quickly create 3D images that illustrate design concepts. “Concept drawings for the customer and prospect reviews take two hours with Solid Edge, instead of two days with AutoCAD,” Carlson says. In the case of the CNC spinning machine for FIBA, Carlson took advantage of the visualization capabilities of Solid Edge even prior to getting the job. “I modeled the concept in Solid Edge and then created about 20 3D images showing the machine from different angles and zooming in on areas of special interest. This gave FIBA an idea of how we planned to do things,” Carlson says. “We’re not that big of a shop. We’re in a 12,000-square-foot building. These images really boosted their confidence in us.”

While Carlson designed FIBA’s machine, he frequently generated images from his Solid Edge assemblies and showed them to others in the company. “This is where Solid Edge is so incredible. In very short time you can model something that looks like a machine, and then you can go out and show people the images and get their feedback,” he explains. “I got very valuable feedback early-on, because people could understand what they were seeing in those images.”