IMTS Insider

Sensor Company that Detects Efficiencies with New CAM Software

Category: Manufacturing Technology Mar 11, 2020


 Seismic sensing conjures a common Hollywood image where the camera zooms in on a wildly zigzagging seismograph needle, signaling the impending apocalyptic tsunami.

While oil exploration and border security might not ring your seismic bell, these two applications of seismic sensors are part of the everyday work for the 500-plus people at Geospace® Technologies, a Houston-based company that has provided advanced seismic data systems since 1980.

Velocity Into Voltage

Technically called a geophone, these ultra-sensitive seismic sensors convert movement (velocity) into voltage. As sound waves bounce back to the sensor, they move a wire coil floating in a magnetic field, which generates an electric signal (voltage).

“You can shoot seismic energy into the ground and the energy waves reflect off every surface or substance,” says Justin Henry, Machine Shop Manufacturing Manager, Geospace Technologies. Oil and gas exploration companies deploy hundreds of thousands of seismic sensors built by Geospace Technologies.

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Moving to the Esprit software enabled each turret to work continuously and make chips without colliding with another turret. As a result Geospace increased production to 221 units per day.

Moving to the Esprit software enabled each turret to work continuously and make chips without colliding with another turret. As a result Geospace increased production to 221 units per day.

In addition, solutions from Quantum Technology Sciences, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Geospace, deliver real-time situational awareness along borders, military sites, and around critical infrastructure assets. They can detect and track people walking, vehicles moving, gunshots, digging, boats, planes and drones, all of which emit vibrations that geophones detect.

“The product line delivers the only situational awareness solution with a three dimensional 360-degree detection sensitivity in air, water and the earth,” says Henry.

Killing Downtime

Innovative engineering and manufacturing are at the heart of all Geospace Technology products, and the company makes everything in-house. That includes titanium, aluminum, plastic and fiberglass parts, its own printed circuit boards, and tooling and fixturing for other departments.

For its manufacturing operations, the company employs more than 200 people and operates 33 CNC machining centers. To increase capabilities, the company recently invested in a Citizen Miyano turning center (horizontal lathe) with three turrets: upper turrets on the left and right sides and a lower turret capable of working on both sides. Each turret can bring a variety of cutting tools to bear, and they can work simultaneously when the part design allows. However, to take full advantage of those capabilities—as well as that of its entire fleet—Geospace needed to upgrade its software to the Esprit CAM system from DP Technology. Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) uses the models created in computer aid design software to orient the part within the CNC for maximum machining efficiency, generate toolpaths and control spindle speed and cutting tool feed rates.

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Titanium end caps for the OBX ocean bottom recorder.

Titanium end caps for the OBX ocean bottom recorder.

“With the three-turret machine, moving to the Esprit software enabled each turret to work continuously and make chips without colliding with another turret,” Henry says. As a result, Geospace reduced machining time on its most popular oil exploration product, the OBX line of ocean bottom recorders. Instead of taking 22 minutes, a single part takes just 6.5 minutes, enabling the company to now machine 221 OBX units per day.

“It sounds like a cliché sales pitch, but we’re always working to make our customers happy, and these are for the biggest names in the oil exploration industry,” says Henry.  “We also offer contract manufacturing services, and shorter lead times help, especially with these customers.”

Those outside of the offshore industry might not appreciate the need for timely delivery, but the cost of “missing the boat” can be considerable. According to Workboat magazine, the leading industry journal, the day rate for an offshore supply vessel ranges from $15,000-$22,000 per day. If a batch of bottom recorders doesn’t make it to the dock on time, it either sits idle until the next scheduled boat or incurs extra shipping costs (and that doesn’t take into account the need to reschedule all the personnel involved).

Seismic Improvement

In an even bigger boost to overall operating efficiency, Esprit CAM software also enables Geospace to switch a part to a different machine at a moment’s notice. Previously, if a machine dedicated to a particular part was booked, the company would scramble to identify capacity, then waste hours trying to reprogram another machine.

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By simultaneously bringing multiple cutting tools to bear, Geospace reduced machining time of this OBX end cap from 22 to 6.5 minutes.

By simultaneously bringing multiple cutting tools to bear, Geospace reduced machining time of this OBX end cap from 22 to 6.5 minutes.

“We have templates set up in Esprit for all of our CNC systems,” says Henry. A template contains all the essential information about a particular machine’s capabilities, the tooling with which it is loaded and other specific functionalities the CAM software needs to know to be able to drive the system.

“All we need to do is change the template, and the Esprit CAM software will post code that actually works without needing modification. It’s just been a night and day difference being able to respond to urgent customer requests.”

Never Stop Learning

With Esprit software in place, Geospace is now implementing machine-monitoring software to monitor such activities as cutting cycle time, downtime and overall equipment efficiency.

“We want to get machine data analytics that help us determine how to move parts around and optimize production,” says Henry. “Having a feel for something doesn’t give you solid numbers; real numbers give you real dollars. It’s a constant learning circle. That’s also the biggest reason I go to IMTS—to find out what I don’t know.”

Although Henry is only 32, he already has three IMTS shows under his belt. “There is so much there, so I go for the whole week. I learn about technologies that help us constantly push boundaries.”

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