In 1965 Donald Welbourn, Director in Industrial Co-operation at Cambridge University, had the vision to see the possibility of using computers to assist pattern makers to solve the problems of modeling difficult 3D shapes.
Today we take for granted 3D modeling, in 1965 only crude 2D drawing systems were available using terminals linked to large main frame computers.
Initial work was sponsored by the Science Research Council but finding money to support the development was a constant problem for Donald Welbourn. In 1973 Donald persuaded his friend Lord Caldecote, then chairman of the Delta Metal Group and an ex-Cambridge engineer, to send Delta graduate engineer Ed Lambourne to work on the development of DUCT at Cambridge University Engineering Department, ultimately leading to transferal of the system into industry. In 1974 Donald also obtained sponsorship from Control Data in Europe in the form of access to their powerful time-sharing computing resources. Control Data offered DUCT initially on its time-sharing bureau service, especially to two of its largest German customers Volkswagen and Daimler Benz.
In 1977 a new department called Delta Technical Services was formed in Birmingham to continue research, but it remained difficult to justify the technology as computers were slow and expensive and the available software had few automatic features although it was straightforward to use.
In 1982 mini computers with much more power at less cost started to appear. This was a major step forward and by 1984 the technology began to be competitive with traditional methods. For many years aircraft had of course been designed using computers, but now it was becoming possible to economically design saucepans and other domestic products with complex 3D shapes using a computer.
When Donald Welbourn retired in 1983, DUCT development continued at Cambridge together with the small team established at Delta in Birmingham. By 1984 the Birmingham team was larger than that at Cambridge and the unique features of DUCT began to be recognized. It was one of the very few systems developed from the beginning to design and machine products. The equal emphasis on design and machining made it different from its competitors and this was appreciated by the users. Most other systems had developed 2D drafting first, followed by 3D modeling with machining added later.
Since 1977 the demonstration activity had gradually been developed with additional machine tools being installed and a sub contract programming service being added. This was now a separate commercial activity, which by 1985 employed 15 people. This direct practical experience was very helpful in defining needs and proving solutions.
In 1989, the company was bought from the Delta Group in a management and employee buyout led by Managing Director, Hugh Humphreys. The company was renamed Delcam International in 1991 and changed it’s status to plc (Public Limited Company). A move to a new purpose built building in Small Heath Birmingham was completed in October 1991.
In July 1997, Delcam plc was floated on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM). In preparation for this, Delcam UK was established to spearhead UK sales and customer support. Overseas activities continued to develop, with strong emphasis on joint ventures, especially in the Americas, Europe and the Far East. Delcam now had more that seventy sales offices worldwide and has a wholly owned subsidiary in the USA, exploiting the country’s massive complex manufacturing market.
The Power Solution
During 1998 DUCT was gradually replaced with a new incorporated range of products, which covered the full manufacturing cycle from conceptual design through to manufacture. Delcam’s Power Solution range of products, which built upon the functionality of the DUCT suite, incorporated the latest user interface technology and offered users many new benefits. Delcam’s commitment to providing the best tools for our customers lead to the development of these individually ‘Best of Breed’ products, which were developed to combine seamlessly and give a truly integrated solution.
Delcam’s Power Solution Software
Delcam currently operates throughout the Americas, Europe, the Far East and Australasia using a tight-knit network of regional headquarters and sales offices. Regional Offices, for example Delcam Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary in Canada, offer support and assistance to the numerous sales offices within their area who are each able to concentrate on certain markets and locations. Delcam has several wholly owned Sales offices around the world, for example Delcam Malaysia offers the same service to those Sales Partners in the Far East. This strong structure includes over a hundred sales offices all working together to promote Delcam products and offer local support and training to Delcam customers.
In addition to the development, sales and support of software, Delcam is unique in being the only international CADCAM software supplier with its own plastic toolroom. Based alongside the company’s development headquarters in Birmingham, UK, the centre houses some of the latest machining and inspection technology from manufacturers such as Mecof, Anyak, Matsuura, Bridgeport, Renishaw and POLI. The main aim of the facility is to allow comprehensive real-world testing of software before it is released to customers. However, it also operates as a working toolroom which is profitable in it’s own right.