Groupe Beneteau Reduces Manual Processing by 60% With Automated Boat Machining

Luke Edwards March 4, 2021 3 min read
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Groupe Beneteau is a manufacturer of luxury yachts and sailing boats based in France, with operations in Poland, Italy, and the US. Hulls, decks, and other boat components must be machined using CNC machines due to the fibreglass material’s thickness and strength. To machine by hand would take too long, and the health and safety impact on employees would be too great.

Due to the length of composite parts produced (up to 17m), these parts can twist when placed on their stands. So, running standard programs would result in windows and storage holes being machined in the wrong places.

To overcome this challenge, Groupe Beneteau uses Autodesk Fusion 360 with PowerInspect to create local alignments for the individual cuts. Using On Machine Verification (OMV), they can take data points on the boat components and calculate the required machine coordinate system to machine the components accurately. Toolpaths are created using Autodesk Fusion 360 with PowerMill and run with a modified machine coordinate system produced from PowerInspect.

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Using PowerInspect to calculate transforms is much faster than attempting to datum an alignment using manual methods—it typically takes only a few minutes to import point data and calculate the transform. Many customers using this automated method can save hours or even days over manual methods.

Another challenge Groupe Beneteau faces is that each boat is produced to an individual customer’s specifications. Each component requires different cuts to be made depending on the order details. To overcome the challenge of machining only the cuts required and to ensure the correct alignments are loaded into the machine for the correct programs, Groupe Beneteau came to Autodesk to automate this system.

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Using a combination of PowerInspect and Autodesk Manufacturing Automation Utility (a tool used by Autodesk’s Global Consulting Delivery team for automating machine tool operations), Autodesk created a simplified front-end application for Groupe Beneteau. This system allows the operator to select the boat type and serial number before running the automated system.

The automated system communicates with the machine tool to run the correct probing programs for the component to first locate it and then inspect it. The probing results are automatically read back from the machine before being run through PowerInspect to output the alignments.  Any alignments out of tolerance are alerted to the operator before the toolpaths are loaded into the machine tool and run automatically.

Scrappage of a large hull component would potentially cost Groupe Beneteau thousands of Euros, so the parts must be machined correctly and to tolerance. Additionally, the manual rework of parts is time-consuming and raises health and safety issues, so the parts must be machined correctly the first time with no mistakes. Finally, if the system were not fully automated, the operators would be required to copy files back and forth between the machines and update offsets manually. This process would be time-consuming, with a risk of mistakes. 

Through automation, Groupe Beneteau has reduced the number of manual steps from 15 down to six, completely removing the possibilities of mistakes. As well as reducing the time it takes to produce a finished part, they have also increased the time the machines are left to run large parts unattended from three hours per part to four hours per part. This gives the machine operator more than two hours per day back to complete other tasks such as part handling and finishing and taking better care over machine maintenance and process improvement.

Do you work with an advanced manufacturing process that could use optimizing and automating? Explore the benefits of manufacturing capabilities in Fusion 360 here.

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