Uni-Fab Industries, Inc.

Precision sheet-metal specialist Uni-Fab Industries, Inc., uses the specialized machining strategies of SURFCAM Traditional to help provide comprehensive service

Hard at work amid the bustle of the San Francisco Bay Area are the employees of Uni-Fab Industries, Inc. The company is composed of several departments, including lasers, press brakes, CNC machining, welding, surface finishing and assembly.  The company’s  breadth allows UFI to deliver comprehensive services and eliminate outsourcing.  Uni-Fab serves customers in the semi-conductor, calibration, automotive, electronics, medical, and construction industries. 

For the helm at UFI, maintaining quality in both customer and employee relationships is paramount. “As manufacturers, we all have the same equipment and same basic knowledge, but our leg up is our investment in our people,” says President/Director of Engineering Bud Rogers. “Investment in our employees also leads to a better outcome for our customers.”

“SURFCAM has everything I need to quickly create any type of toolpath I’m after.  With SURFCAM, I can put together exactly the machining strategies I need to face the challenges we have.”

Gregg Aanestad, CNC programmer

One of these employees is CNC Programmer Gregg Aanestad. Aanestad has been with the company for five years and he programs using the SURFCAM Traditional application by Vero Software.  “SURFCAM has everything I need to quickly create any type of toolpath I’m after.  With SURFCAM, I can put together exactly the machining strategies I need to face the challenges we have.”

Among jobs for the company’s machining department is work that pertains to completed or in-process assemblies: “We make our share of fixtures, assembly-modifications, and assembly-attachments, in addition to a large workload comprized of stand-alone machine parts.” Aanestad was happy to be interviewed and was likewize ready with a few “stand-alone” parts to sum up what he has enjoyed while programming with SURFCAM Traditional.

“We recently put together an order for 20 sets of these black Delrin parts®.  The side sections of these parts finish with radii that are undercut when viewed from the top of the open cavity. In addition to being undercut, the radii faces are also angled in X and Y to fit with a mating part.”

To machine these side features in the same set up as that used to machine the pocket, Aanestad made use of what is offered in SURFCAM Traditional’s Advanced 3-axis menu.  “Each of these combo undercut-and-3D side features was milled with a teardrop endmill and a single toolpath.”  The ability to do this saves Aanestad time and provides just what’s needed. “Using the 3D undercut machining, I’m able, in this case, to machine with two fewer setups,” he says. “It’s just a very handy, simple-to-use toolpath that does something really complex.”

These same Delrin parts display yet another of SURFCAM Traditional’s time saving abilities: “Transform Toolpath.” This application facet offers several options for altering existing toolpaths. Among them is the “mirror” option, which is used to produce a toolpath mirror image of previously generated toolpaths. “SURFCAM will allow a mirror, so I can program one toolpath and then — rather than having to program the second one — SURFCAM makes it easy to do a mirror transformation,” Aanestad explains.

UFI’s workload likewize includes part orders that require a significant amount of thin-wall machining, which can make maintaining part stability and ensuring quality a major challenge, Aanestad says.  SURFCAM Traditional offers pocketing strategies for machining these thin-walled parts, including an option to machine pockets in increments to support an even weight distribution.  

“Parts like this aluminum piece can be tricky to do. With SURFCAM’s pocketing options, I can either machine all of the pockets one by one, or machine them simultaneously one Z-level at a time for each pocket,” he says. “In that case, you can step down .030 and then go on to another pocket. It keeps a solid base on the bottom so that the wall is supported. With one toolpath, I can get all the pockets cut while keeping a base.”

Aanestad also takes advantage of the TRUEMill machining cycle, an optimized roughing toolpath in SURFCAM Traditional that can be completed with a one-step 3D roughing through pre-finishing operation. This specialized toolpath creates uniform step height across all surfaces, regardless of how many tools are used, while removing material at significantly faster rates and depths of cut.

“TRUEMill comes in handy when you have deep Z cuts to make,” Aanestad says.  “With helical entry and engagement angle control, you can program a large vertical portion of the cutting tool. These facets allow you to then ramp up feeds and speeds.  Parts like this 316 SST part are perfect to rough out using TRUEMill.” Moreover, he adds, the TRUEMill cycle is easier on machinery and cutting tools than traditional roughing approaches. “It’s just a wonderful toolpath for time saving and tool saving.”   

When it comes to verifying toolpaths before code is sent to the machine, Aanestad uses SURFCAM Traditional’s powerful simulation capabilities to ensure that mistakes are corrected in time.  The dynamic control that he has over layers and masks — which can be used to highlight mistakes, part features, and more — makes it easy to see errors. “If you’ve done something wrong, SURFCAM will show you your mistake in the program.”

While using a CNC program that helps programmers pinpoint and subsequently correct errors is a major advantage, it also helps to have support staff readily available to assist when glitches arise. Aanestad notes that the SURFCAM Traditional support staff have been reliable and responsive when he’s reached out for help.

“They’ve been terrific,” he says. “Every time I’ve called, they have responded very promptly to address my questions and, if needed, an application engineer would set up a remote Web session on my PC to see what I need help with.

“The application is great to work with.  It was no surprize to me to see a recent customer satisfaction survey conducted by Bob Warfield’s CNC Cookbook placing SURFCAM first. I was happy to be interviewed to say thanks for both the application and the support.”

Aanestad learned SURFCAM by way of courses taught by Ashley Long at Hayward’s Chabot College.  Aanestad likewize learned in a 2-day traveling course offered by the SURFCAM team.  Finally, Aanestad explained that he has learned from SURFCAM’s on-line tutorials, and the help of friends who know the program well.  

About the Company

Name: Uni-Fab Industries, Inc.

Business: Precision sheet-metal

Website: uni-fab.com


Benefits Achieved

  • Greater ability to eliminate outsourcing while remaining competitive and ensuring quality
  • Part challenges are solved with specialized machining cycles
  • Simulation capabilities ensure that error-free code is sent to the machine


“SURFCAM has everything I need to quickly create any type of toolpath I’m after.  With SURFCAM, I can put together exactly the machining strategies I need to face the challenges we have.”

Gregg Aanestad, CNC programmer


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