Some companies have a name that is intentionally meant to be unique. Others have a background story that is just as interesting as the name. Tim Fulton, founder of Phelan, CA-based Alien Machine Worx (AMW), is in the latter camp, having believed from day one that AMW would be “making things out of this world.”

In reality, AMW started manufacturing custom, one-off CNC parts when it opened in 2002. Within two years, the company began to fabricate ductile-iron differential covers for off-road vehicles. These covers keep wheels turning and protect gears from dirt and moisture. AMW also makes rugged and functional covers for vehicle components like breather manifolds, hubcaps and shifting knobs.

Increased business in early 2018 forced Fulton to find a way to improve machine shop and product-development efficiency. However, his search ended quickly after learning the benefits of adding Dassault Systèmes SE’s SolidWorks CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software to AMW’s existing SolidWorks CAD and SolidWorks Simulation programs.

“Having access to integrated CAM capabilities has really made a difference in helping us launch our product line, and fulfill orders quickly and cost-effectively,” explains Fulton. “I love SolidWorks CAD, so I knew CAM would make a dramatic difference when it comes to tool-path programming and facilitating design changes.”

According to Fulton, without an integrated CAM system, it can take four hours to program a tool path for machining. With it, AMW can program and turn around a quote on a part in 45 minutes. SolidWorks CAM also maximizes machining uptime and enables the business to quickly turn quotes and parts around—even those the shop has never seen before.

“When a design change is requested to a part that has already been programmed, we only need to make a change to the CAD model because the programming automatically updates,” notes Fulton. “With other systems, that change would require going back to square one and reprogram the entire tool path.

“This gives us a real competitive advantage because most machine shops add programming time to their quotes,” continues Fulton. “But, we don’t have to charge for programming time at all.”

Other things Fulton likes about SolidWorks CAM are its intuitiveness and capability to capture technical knowledge on frequently run or difficult-to-machine parts. This information is then stored in the CAM database, making it easily available to all AMW employees, regardless of their level of experienced with CAM software.

Employees only need to select information on similar parts or a specific part and apply it to the model they are working on. This maintains quality while saving time. As proof, Fulton cites a tripling of AMW’s machining throughput in recent years, leading to a doubling in machine shop size.

For customers who have sketched their ideas out on paper, it’s easy to use the software to model the part and produce the data from which it can be machined,” says Fulton. “Our products are selling, our contract machining business is growing, and SolidWorks CAM is helping us both manage and sustain this growth.”

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