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3 Quick HSMWorks Tips (REV-1)

A few HSMWorks tips that might make you CAM life even easier

Why CNC Operators are like Fighter Pilots!

Fighter pilot
So you might not get the regular CNC junkie to drop down and give you 20, but besides physical shape, I dare to say that a day in the shoes of a machinist can be just about as exciting.

First off it is noisy; some places you might even have to operate half in the dark, and night vision is not standard gear in most shops. Then there is the equipment: if you don’t think that the thrill of a F-15 compares*, you have never pressed the green cycle- start button on a multi-axis machining center that rapids at 1200 inches per minute and does Tool-to-Tool change in under 3 seconds. It can be scary, but awesome!

Tom Cruise made it look easy in Top Gun, but besides reflective sunglasses and leather jackets, there are rules and best practices in preparing for a dogfight.
Top Gun Logo

Have you ever seen a pilot take a walk around and inspect the outside of an airplane? or how about the notorious checklist performed between pilot and co-pilot? Flaps, check – fuel, check – landing gear, check. It must make them almost roll their eyes of boredom every time. But would you ever take off in a plane where you knew they hadn’t done that test?
Here is the lesson we can learn from fighter pilots: Just like we are expecting the best performance from pilots and their dedication to do the checklist prior to takeoff, we should do the same before hitting the green cycle-start button on our CNC machines.

CNC Operators Pre-flight check list.
Take the time to walk around the machine to assure that all safety equipment such as guards are intact and doors are closed. This might also be a good time to make sure there are no oil spills on the floor or objects blocking the path around the machine.
What about maintenance? Coolant and way-oil levels should be topped off if needed.

Just like pilots, follow the checklist in the same order every time, and you will most likely have a safe landing in the end.
With the machine powered up, we can prepare for operation.

  1. Always start with the tooling. Why? because if you always start at the same beginning, and follow the checklist, chances are you will not forget an item that will cause a crash. We do not have any parachute for this trip. Gather all the tooling needed for the job prior to installing in the machine, and take the time to inspect it carefully. A magnifying glass might be a handy tool to inspect cutting flutes on endmills.
  2. Insert tooling into clean tool holders, and input measurements into tool length and tool diameter offset pages in the machine control. Remember to stay focused; this is not the time to dance to the latest iTunes or eat a sandwich. It is many times at this early stage where people get distracted and insert a value in the wrong column.
  3. Work holding. Indicate and secure vise or fixture…”Check!”.
  4. Insert stock into vise or fixture. Make sure everything is wiped clean of dirt and chips, and then pay extra attention that everything is secured and located against stops. We do not want to see anything come flying out of here.
  5. Work offset is important. G54-G55 is standard, but if you did not write the g-code, or did not double check the code, this could be a mission-critical error. Now go ahead and pick up the part. Double check, and then check again before saying “Check!”.
  6. Now you can go ahead and load the program into the control. Here is an important step many people decide to skip. Most controls have a graphic simulation option, and though it is not as pretty as in your CAM system, it is not a waste of your time. At least make sure you have an updated setup sheet, and an idea about what this program is about to do. If in doubt, I order you do the next step.
  7. This step is up to the guy who is hitting the green button. If there is a crash, you can assure that the boss will ask if this step was done. You can a) dry-run the program safe above the part, or b) use single-block command and reduced rapids.

Take a step back. One deep breath. Circle back to the beginning and run through the checklist one more time in your head. Did you remember everything?

Now tighten that seat belt, put on those cool reflective sunglasses, and press that green cycle-start button for blast off!

I challenge you…
I challenge you to print this article (including the cool images) and hang it at the machine or leave it in the break room. If your CNC Superstar does not know how to stay focused and follow a checklist, he is not Top Gun.

*Honestly, I cannot compare, but if someone can arrange for me to get a trip in a F-15, I’m in.

What’s New from HSMWorks 2015

It’s that time again! SolidWorks released 2015, and HSMWorks is assuring that your best integrated CAM option fits right in with its 2015 release.

HSMWorks 2015

HSMWorks has always stood out as a company that did not follow every other CAM lead. The fact is that though HSMWorks does release a major version every year, they also stuff new features in the Service Packs as they become available. This means that HSMWorks users actually get goodies all year round. It is also worth noting that this is the 3rd major release since Autodesk acquired HSMWorks back in 2012.

So besides being able to run inside the latest SolidWorks 2015 release, here are my 3 favorite highlights for HSMWorks 2015.

High-end Roughing Strategy
If you have not had a chance to see Adaptive Roughing in action, you really owe yourself an opportunity to take it for a spin. The 2D Adaptive roughing strategy is available with the free downloadable HSMXpress version, and both the 2D and 3D versions have gotten some nice, new, shiny functions.
Roughing strategies have been becoming really popular, of course, because of cycle times, but also because they have significantly increased tool life with better toolpath algorithms.
In this version, the users have better control with a “Stay-down level” tab, taper helical ramps and a support function to avoid chatter and reduce tool wear.

More CPU Power
I love technology!
In this version, you get support for the latest Intel Xeon Processors, configurable up to 36 total processor cores in one system. (Everyone who wants one of those, raise their hand!)
There is a lot of software that can only use one core of your system. It’s like a bottleneck; all the data has to swim down this one core no matter how many you have on your system. HSMWorks is different: you can actually have the system processing toolpath on a roughing strategy while you are modifying or applying the finishing toolpath. The end result is less time wasted waiting on the computer.

Better visual performance for Simulation
I hope CAM developers never feel they are done with the simulation aspect of their software. This is the last step before code gets posted and if you have ever been the one who has to press the green button on a CNC machine, you know those machines move fast and do exactly what you tell them to do. Simulation is critical!
In this version, you get faster results in “Fast 3D Mode”, a favorite if you are doing those big toolpath calculations for molds and other complicated surface stuff. Also, the “Simulate” function that is available in HSMXpress has improved toolpath position and visualization.

I think this is a great release with many more enhancements than mentioned here. The developing team is focused on making a great quality product that will strengthen users in manufacturing.
If you want to see more about this release check out for links to download both the free HSMXpress 2015 and 30 day trial for HSMWorks 2015.

Check out this video from Autodesk CAM’s Youtube channel.

Why Integrated CAM and Free 2.5 Axis Milling

“With regard to excellence, it is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it.” –Aristotle

Every single morning people are waking up with new ideas for greater and bigger things; things to be imagined, things to be designed and things to be created.


Integrated CAM:
With integrated CAM you no longer sacrifice flexibility, performance and ease of use.
Integrated CAM has a continued workflow between your CAD and CAM. This assure that your designers, engineers and machinists has the best CAD tools available to design the parts, jigs and fixtures, and also has a robust CAM containing roughing and finishing strategies that assures high quality precision machined parts done right.

Free 2.5 Axis Machining:
The next generation in manufacturing is innovative problems solvers, and they demand high quality CAM tools that are also easy to use.
Why not provide a tool for everyone to see for themselves?. With full functional 2.5 Axis free downloads that show designers, engineers, and even veteran CNC programmers that integrated CAM not only makes sense, but you shouldn’t settle for anything less.

3 reasons for the Designers and Engineers.
• Seamless Workflow.
• Model Associativity.
• Managing fewer files.

3 reasons for the CNC Programmers and Machinist.
• Proven Multi-core CAM Technology.
• Adaptive Roughing Tools.
• Advanced Toolpath Strategies.

To get all above, one option is Autodesk CAM.
With Inventor HSM, Fusion 360 and HSMWorks, you have a tool that will take your design and let you create high precision parts the same day you install the software. It is simply flexible, high performance and easy to use yet powerful.

To learn more:
CAM for Inventor
CAM for SolidWorks
CAM for Fusion 360

Free CAM:Delcam for SolidWorks Xpress

I guess it is alright being late to the party if you are the only one who knows there is one.
Delcam for SolidWork Xpress (DelcamXpress as I choose to call it) has been out since May 2013 but hasn’t gotten nearly the same attention as when HSMWorks released their free version back in 2011. With HSMWorks being bought by Autodesk one could question how long this product will be supported on the SolidWorks platform, and therefore a look at this 2.5 Axis Free CAM might be in its place.

1st thing to point out is that DelcamXpress does all its work in a SolidWorks Assembly mode. This gives you the option to also include fixture, vises, tables etc.
I also like to point out that the software easily takes you through the steps of selection your stock (Solid Body, Bounding Box, Bounding Cylinder, Selected Edges and Centered Block) and gives you really good options to select and control your pickup point(Work Coordinate, G54 etc).

Your selection for toolpaths is pretty basic. “Hole” and “Face” should be easy enough to understand.
“Side” is side milling, but also here you can select SolidWorks sketches as such you can borrow with “Convert Entities” and of course create your own.
“Feature” toolpath can be used to quickly select your cuts if the SolidWorks model has been created with machine intent. Such as a cut in SolidWorks is also directly a mill pocket.
Last one is “Setup” this option will let you create more than one setup (Have not tested to see if this could be used for an indexing move).

Creating toolpaths and navigating through the menus has a nice flow to it. The biggest thing is you are picking the same faces to machine as was created doing the design, by selecting those SolidWorks faces. No Import/Export into another software, conversion of data etc.

For my short dry-run all the normal parameters (or Attributes as Delcam calls it) for adjustments was found easy at hand, and the tool manager has a good starting point of tools with options to add your own.

DelcamXpress has similarities to the SolidWorks FeatureManager Tree. Easy to oversee and you can drag and drop operations.
Also worth to note that the stock removal simulation is pleasant to the eye.

DelcamXpress even has gouge protection as I might experienced once or twice 🙂

Free learning tools are right at hand via the SolidWorks taskpane and Delcam’s yourtube channel. With a list of very useful videos getting you up quickly.
I believe you get what you pay for most of the time, but it has been proven that plenty of people can get by with free CAM. I think that is awesome! So if you are tinkering around with things where this would be a fit, only a little learning time will be needed to be machining steel.
Another thought could be you are a standalone kinda CAM guy who would like to see what all of this integrated CAM is about.
All I can say is go download it. It is free

SolidWorks Composer on the Shop Floor

Ready to drop playing weekend photographer/Microsoft Paint amateur to get the message across, and instead handle your communication with the shop floor a lot faster?
SolidWorks Composer…
Advertised as a technical communication tool most people are probably thinking instruction manuals as you get them with your latest IKEA purchase. I believe SolidWorks Composer is one of those tools that when you have it in house your will find other projects to use it on.
On the Shop Floor…
Check out this short video

DFMXpress=Your FREE Design For Manufacturing Consulting inside SolidWorks

It will happen, one day you will receive a part that is nearly impossible to manufacture. Not because the part is on the “top secret out of space” difficult level, but because something as simple as an unexperienced engineer/designer did not realize that there is some physics rules that apply to make a design that actually can be manufactured in a very competitive industry.
SolidWorks has a nifty tool that pretty quickly can run an analysis on you part, and provide you with some feedback on some possible manufacturing street bumps, or should I say stop the design in its tracks before its manufacturability becomes too costly.
DFMXpress belongs to the Xpress family that you will find right at top of your Tools dropdown menu right inside SolidWorks.
Who should use this…
This tool is seamlessly integrated into SolidWorks, and will give you an opportunity to apply some basic sets of rules for drilling, milling, turning, sheetmetal and even give you a thickness analysis of a injected plastic parts. This tool was created, fed and raised for manufacturing!
So this tool should defiantly be on the list of CAM programers who gets designs handed to them, and/or if you are one of those young unexperienced engineer/designers…well, this can safe you from having one of those grumpy machinest yelling at you.
What is some of the things it does…
Figuring out how to use it could not be more simple. In SolidWorks go to your Tools dropdown-> Select DFMXpress and when it open in your left panel, Go to the settings tab, select your application, and set your parameters.
DFMXpress has parameters like…
  • Hole Depth to Diameter Ratio.
  • Mill Tool Depth to Diameter Ratio.
  • Minimum Corner Radius (Turn Part).
  • Minimum % Bore Relief (Turn Part).
  • Hole Diameter to Thickness Ratio (Sheet metal).
  • Recommended Bend Radius (Sheet metal).
What really rocks is that if your start looking in the DFMXpress help section you will find what for many has been hard earned advice.
I think we sometimes forget some of these tools excist. Tools that could improve the bottom line should get a fair trial or the result can be loosing parts to the scrap bin.
This being the Xpress version there is a big brother with more options and strength. We will visit DFMPro later for review.

SolidWorks World 2012…Sunday: Partner Pavilion and Fabulous Tweetup

Good morning
As my eastern standard ~apparently well adjusted~ body things 4am. is rise and shine on a Monday morning. Tooo early to really give a good and well thought encounter of my 1st. SolidWorks World Sunday afternoon and evening. I thought I would do the old trick of a picture is worth a 1000 words, and attach as few comments along the way.

The Partner Pavilion opens…
I am sure you have been to a car show or maybe even a trade show in the past. A lot of sparkling lights and smiling faces. The SolidWorks World Partner Pavilion is located a couple of floors above that. If you walk in here with any thought of CAM on your mind, you are for sure going to have a big smile on your face. Simplest way to say it is that they are all here.

I did not have time to talk to each of them, and some of them defiantly deserve a revisit. But one thing is for sure, these people came prepared and ready to show some cool stuff.
There is of course many other partner product here at SolidWorks World, luckily for this rookie I have a few more days, and therefore also more Partner Pavilion stuff I can share here. 🙂

Fabulous Tweetup…

I have learned from reading all the great SolidWorks blogs in the past that it is not just what happens at the convention center that makes this the huge success of an event. 8:00pm at Hilton and the opportunity to meet old and new faces from the social media tool twitter.

Ya! I’m @Lars_cadcam on twitter but be careful of following me there, as Mr.Gebo, SolidWorks Eastern User Group Representative and last years SolidWorks User Group leader of the year experienced, I am the guy who want to shake your hand and say hi once or twice :-). You have to promise me that if you are here at world, you will say hello if our path crosses.

CAMWorks makes eDrawings one cut better

One of my favorite features in CAMWorks is that the stock manager automaticly displays the minimum requried stock size needed for your part.

This feature itself might not seem as very magically fantastic. However I can not count how many times someone have shouted FIRE because ordering of material had been forgotten, and promised delivery date now is in jeopardy. Causing me to scrable solid parts and measuring tools to get the numbers on paper. Feeling the pressure as a mistake of wrong size material would never be forgiven.
So maybe this simple tool could be lifesaving after all :-).

Now since eDrawings is also a Geometric product like CAMWorks you can actually inject this automatically stock boundary into this easily share able format.
Highlight the Stock Manager in the CAMWorks Feature Tree, and the stock boundary will display around our SolidWorks part in the graphics display. Then the next step is choosing “Publish To eDrawing” on the CAMWorks Command Manager, and now you have easy Markup tools* to quickly add dimensions and notes.

This can be a great tool for shops where ordering of stock is a yellow sticker with what looks like a doctor note handed to a secretary.
Just imagine how cool you would look sending an eDrawing with measurement, stock boundary and notes along with the quote, making everyone’s life’s easier.

*Markup tools is part of eDrawing Professional that comes standard with SolidWorks Professional and Premium

What’s New CAMWorks 2011 Turning.

This is the third and final CAMWorks What’s New 2011, and we are talking turning baby! Though this list a smaller than the milling, I think you will find a couple of things that will make you happy if turning is your thing. Also check out previous “What’s New General Operations” and “What’s New Milling”.
User Defined Turn Inserts…
This should help putting a smile on your face. We can now draw up our custom lathe inserts in SolidWorks and use them for accurate verification.

(~We will look into this defining custom tooling stuff in the near future~)

Enhanced Turn WIP Support…
The use of WIP (Work In Progress~A live stock calculation method) for decreased rapid moves in turning is pretty cool. You now actually have multiple options to determine how the previous operation’s WIP model is considered for the current operation.

Turn Rough Leadin/Leadout…
You now have some more control over how your lead-in/lead-out gets applied doing your roughing operation. I have to admit that I am not lathe knowledge enough to pin point where this has its big advantage, so I would sure appreciate if someone with the knowledge could share it in the comment section.

Turn Insert Angle Clearance…
I think this option is pretty handy doing roughing. Now say goodbye to unnecessary insert vibrations and insert life. Put in a insert clearance angle, and CAMWorks will walk off the part in an angular path reducing the amount the insert gets buried perpendicular surface.

Turn Simulation Cross Section….
This is intersting. The CAMWorks What’s New document states this is a new function. I am not sure… I Thought this was available in the 2010 package. Should it has stated “Improved” instead of “New” or am I just loosing my mind? I’ll might have to contact For now lets just pretend that I am wrong… :-).
So this new 2D Planer section view is the most accurate of the section views in simulation. (From CAMWorks What’s New…)

Because this section view is 2d planer, the accuracy of the display more closely resembles actual machining results.

And if Compared is used the results are also based on the same 2d section.

I think this was some alright lathe enhancements to close out our “What’s New in CAMWorks 2011” Someone might ask about…WEDM…Sorry folks, nothing new there for this year…Should there have been?…What’s needed?…Let the sparks fly!