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Rdan backs Henderson Fabrications

Metalforming Machinery Makers' Association : 18 November, 2006  (Company News)
Flexibility and responsiveness are two key attributes for any sheet metal work sub-contractor aiming to succeed in today
At the heart of its capabilities is industry-leading CAD/CAM software from Radan Computational. Located on the northern outskirts of Northampton, Henderson Fabrications has grown consistently since its formation in 1973.

The company produces everything from walk-in cabinets for voice and data systems, to high precision components for radio controlled model cars. It supplies products in materials ranging from aluminium, brass and copper, to steel, stainless and coated alloy; and is equally happy manufacturing prototypes and one-offs, as producing batches of several thousand parts at a time. Like many other sub-contractors, Henderson Fabrications is asked to look at applications that can vary from micro components on the one hand, to complex assemblies up to several metres long on the other. “Our success is based on working closely with customers, in order to understand their true requirements,” says Henderson’s Technical Director, Andy Lantsbury. “In effect, that means becoming part of their own product development team and providing design and prototyping services on the shortest of deadlines, if necessary. “A central part of our ability to turn work round quickly is investment in high capability production machinery, backed by state-of-the-art design to manufacturing software systems from Radan.”

Henderson Fabrication services around 100 active accounts at any one time. But, back in the mid-1990s, its resources were much more modest, with Mr Lantsbury personally typing in G-code to programme the company’s earliest NC machines. An off-line programming system subsequently improved matters. But the breakthrough came in 1997 with the purchase of an Amada Aries punch press. “This held many more tools than our previous machines and extended our capacity to 2500 x 1250 mm sheets,” notes Lantsbury. “But in order to realise its full potential, we clearly needed to match the press’s capabilities with a top flight CAD/CAM system.” “After evaluating two or three alternatives, we soon settled on Radan as our preferred choice. Its track record in the sheet metal working sector is excellent and indeed, the company has established itself as something of an industry standard, with a fully developed PC-based product range,” he adds. “Our initial installation, based on Radraft and Radpunch modules, not only proved to be more accurate, but at least five times faster than our previous methods.” 18 months later, Henderson made a further leap forward, when the company upgraded to its first Radan 3D system. “It revolutionised the complexity of the jobs we could take on,” acknowledges Lantsbury. “Today we work exclusively in 3D, because it is just so much quicker. Previously, we would have to calculate flat part developments by hand. Today, it is all done automatically, incorporating company-specific bend allowances. What’s more, we can now nest parts and produce programmes based on our in-house tooling library, all at the touch of a button. “The Radan system helps us to add value to customers in other ways too. For example, by running the software’s assembly clash detection checks, we can easily verify designs on screen before they are signed off for production.” The ability to accept customers’ product information in the widest variety of formats further demonstrates the flexibility of Henderson’s services. The spectrum extends from emailed DWG or DXF files, to paper based drawings and free-hand sketches, which are all input to the Radan system before processing. Once verified, the design data is converted into fully-specified NC programmes in a matter of moments, complete with automatic clamp avoidance and the tagging of nested products, ready for transfer to Henderson’s production machines by DNC link. “Simple parts can often be designed and programmed in less than 10 minutes,” says Lantsbury. “and even complex assemblies, with as many as 100 individual components, will normally be completed in a couple of days.” Not that the benefits of the Radan system end there.

According to Lantsbury, the software is also used to produce folding sequences and general assembly drawings for the company’s shop floor fabricators. “It’s all part of our drive for right-first-time products in the shortest possible leadtime,” he continues. “Over the years, we have built very strong working relationships with our major customers and aim to produce samples for them in less than 24 hours. We simply couldn’t achieve this without the CAD/CAM system’s advanced 3D capabilities.” Lantsbury is equally complimentary about Radan’s product support and service. “The software has been designed for ease of use and each module can be quickly tailored to individual requirements. Our maintenance agreement also ensures that we receive regular updates, which invariably contain several new productivity features,” he adds. “Just as importantly, we always receive a prompt response to any support queries; which mirrors our own attitude towards customers. “Overall, the Radan system provides the speed and accuracy we need to maintain our competitive edge. This is the key issue for us. Why? Because as sub-contractors we are only ever as good as the latest job we’ve delivered to our customers.”
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