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Understand Smarter Toolpaths – Adaptive…

I am sorry to bring it up, but someone has to do it.
If you on a regular basis gets in contact with a CAM program or a CNC milling machine tool, you better keep reading.
They said it was for roughing and so much faster, but that was only because they did not know how to explain it to you. If you are in the game of removing metal chips, making money and at the same time take care of your endmills and machine. Then, You need to know that smarter toolpaths exist. Adaptive Clearing, Vortex, Dynamic Milling, Volumill and whatever other names the CAM companies could come up with are your answer.
If you are using any kind of professional CAM system, but still machine like it was 1996…Just watch the video…

How to Hold on to Complex Parts in You Mill

Hold on to complex shapes

It’s easy to machine a box, but what when our shapes become a little more complex?
Time to jump and attack the biggest request from my inbox.

“How do I hold on to my already machined part for the second operation?”

Here is a preview of the 3 different solutions from the video:
1 example
You flip the part over and realize that you now are having a hard time picking up for the second operation.

2nd example
When I first looked at this one, I thought soft-jaws, but ended up in a fixture. The video has the step by step.
3rd example
One of the best features in Fusion 360 when creating soft-jaws is the combine feature. You need to know about this tool!!!

Want to learn more about Fusion 360? Check out this link: challenges you!

According to my trusted source, Wikipedia, it is estimated that there was spend more than 500 billion dollars on advertising in 2010. Now as a “middle aged man”(Also according to Wikipedia) I would like to believe that this expensive, but rather often simple propaganda are below my intelligence for having much effect.

I will have to admit that a casual flipping through one of my favorite trade magazines, the advertising agent did a fabulous job grabing my attention and fully direct it to their ad.

Can you make this part?
Well there I am, kids are screaming of hunger, the dog needs go outside, and I am sitting studying an advertising showing something that is suppose to pretend to look like a manufacturing quote, silently saying to myself, Sure I can!

So I decided to record a couple of videos. One creating this part in SolidWorks, and then follow up with one that machines that SolidWorks part using CAMWorks right inside SolidWorks. But before we go any further it might be in its place to discover who is in case you are not familiar with this online tool. Explaining that the easiest and proably most accurate is to direct you to about on their website.
Can you make this part using SolidWorks?

Can you make this part using CAMWorks?

So that part was not that hard. Of course we could do that part in SolidWorks and CAMWorks. If the part had been too hard I would probably never went this far. The magic of good advertising :-).

What’s New CAMWorks 2011 Milling

We are digging deep to see what is new when CAM’ing inside SolidWorks with gold partner CAMWorks. Today we are looking at what refreshments are avaliable in the the milling corner. Also check out “What’s New General Options” and “What’s New Turning” post.
MfgView is taking over…
If you have been roaming around the CAMWorks milling options you will now see that MFgView is default instead of AFR. According to CAMWorks there improving of the algorithm for MfgView can result in 40% more feature findings than last years AFR. Now to me this has to be in the category of improvements worth a maintenance fee.

(Stealing an explanation of AFR and MfgView from the CAMWorks help)

When AFR is selected, CAMWorks analyzes the SolidWorks solid model and identifies two-dimensional prismatic and tapered wall machinable features. Except for changing the Strategy, these features cannot be edited.

CAMWorks uses an alternative method to generate features and finds additional feature types not found by AFR. Non-hole features can be edited the same as interactively inserted features.

Mirror with Climb & Conventional Control…
It is easy to mirror in CAMWorks and now you have the option to decide if you want climb or conventional on your copy. You are right…The year 2011 you should have that option, and that is why CAMWorks hands it to you.

Start Point Support of In-to-Out Optimization…
For 2 Axis Milling operations the Optimize tab is handy for automated toolpath sorting to minimize tool travel from feature to feature. And now you got this feature enhanced so it is now possible to select a start hint for these methods of optimization.

Insert Multi-Surface Feature On Insert Setup…
No doubt that CAMWorks missions is to give you the tools to quickly and easly add toolpaths to your solid model. This new feature should save you a good handful of mouse clicks on standard surface milling operations.

Insert Operation Command…
Inserting new operation from the operation tree on already calculated features has always been a clever idea, however in the past the menus where a little confusing and not user friendly at all. 2011 dishes up some nice new refreshing menus here.

Contain/Avoid Areas for Single Point Operations…
The Contain/Avoid feature is one of my favorites. It is easy sketching in SolidWorks, and with a few sketches you are controlling your toolpath areas. Having this handy option available for single point operations is not just nice, it is now a must.

Feedrate Changes without Toolpath Regeneration…
Sure a nice touch that you don’t have to wait and struggle with toolpath regeneration every time you decide to change your feedrate or spindle speed.

VoluMill Highspeed Roughing…
This is an option…an option you will have to pay $ for. This is something you should look into if you are doing a lot of material removal . I am planing on a dedicated post about this feature in the future, until then check out there website.

Defiantly some new and improved features that should make for some faster programing. Picking the “Insert Multi-Surface Feature On Insert Setup” and “Contain/Avoid Areas for Single Point Operations” as my favorites.

The CAMWorks Handbook (Milling)

To wrap your head around modern CAM options and functionalities can be a frustrating task, especially if sitting in front of a computer with a waiting CNC machine sitting on the shop floor hungry for some NC code.
It dosent really matter if you are a seasoned CAM guru changing CAM system or a new CAM guy privileged to enter the Computer Aided Manufacturing world, somehow you need to travel down the street of learning.

CAMWorks just added its first book for the toolbox of learning tricks.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book about a month ago for evaluation with two task ahead. One as to decide if this book possible could be used as education material for our CAMWorks classes at CADimensions, and two for me to write a review here. So lets get to it…
The book is written by Mike Buchli, a 11 year veteran Application Engineer at one of the top US SolidWorks resellers Tridaq. Mike is an Elite AE since 2009, a title SolidWorks only hands out the Navy Seals of SolidWorks swordsmen. But probably more important for the level of integrity of the book, Mike is also a certified CAMWorks knight. To make a long story short, Mike knows what he is doing when it comes to CAD and CAM.

When it comes to CAM there is really not many different roads to choose from. 2D or 3D and how many axis, but as you head down the road you will find that modern CAM packages offer a overwhelming amount of options and switches.
I really like how the book starts out in a “Best Practice” how and about the basics of creating toolpath. Starting with the 1st few lessons gives some basic CAMWorks skills with added tips and information.

…This is also a good time to point out, that when CAMWorks runs feature recognition it isn’t reading the actual features created in Solidworks. CAMWorks looks at a solid as one piece of geometry, and then divides out the pieces to create features that CAMWorks can process. This is also why it is possible to use “feature recognition” on components that is imported into SolidWorks from file types like “igs” and “step”…

From there on the book switches from more a piece of learning material to a “Handbook” or should I say helpful “desk reference” that digs deep down in the different options. Covering from 2.5 axis through 5 axis milling.

As Mike say in his introduction…

…The idea is to not only learn CAMWorks, but have a quick, easy to use reference guide that can be utilized in the everyday workplace…

I will have to say that Mike has exactly done that.

So unless you totally rule CAMWorks and memorized all the tips, tricks and option I will recommend you check out

Mastercam Feature Based Machining for real people.

With Mastercam Feature Based Machining the toolpaths are created using features from the solid, and the operations are automatically generated. This should result less programing time and also give less skilled programmers an advantage.

But does it work? the answer is yes, as long as you are gentle with the selection of parts. When it was first added to the Mastercam toolpath selection it was quickly judged as a incomplete enhancement that further more became a advertising joke when posted on youtube “So easy a 6 year old can do it“.

Now anyone with a little CAM knowledge and common sense, will realize that there is a lot more to programing CAM than throwing toolpaths around. But Mastercam Feature Based Machining menus are geared for easier understanding, and could give you the opportunity to have less skilled people programming rough operations for mold cavities, and prepping baseplates.

A example of a simple part could be a plate with some counterbored holes, tap holes etc.
This plate is modeled up in Solidworks2010, shot thin with holes right out of Solidworks Hole Wizard, and would be a candidate for Feature Based Drilling.

The new tree-style menus in Mastercam is defiantly preferable over the old “tap” style. There have been some discussion on the forums about the order of the tree, and I also believe they need a remodeling. But from a standpoint of ease, well I wish the direction for putting Walmart furniture together was this easy.

The menus for Selecting how to treat the different holes analyzed in the solid are pretty straight forward.

You have plenty control over how you want to entry/exit, material leftover and rough and finish your counterbores.

With settings and parameters set, it is time to let Mastercam grap some of that CPU you got there on your desk. You will see that Mastercam creates operations like if you had done it the “old fashion” way. Folders for the different drilling and circle milling operations, each containing the different tool sizes etc. (17 in this case).

In case of a change it is nice you now have the option to decide if you want to dick into the standard toolpaths parameters or conveniently select the FBM folder at the top of the Operation Tree and get back to the Feature Based Machining menu.

Feature Based Machining should not be forgotten as an option to quickly create less complex toolpaths in our everyday lifes. With these toolpaths options being promoted right along “Mastercam for Solidworks” you must believe that Mastercam is going to do there best in continuous improving them.

Esprit, CAD/CAM ready for the future.

I had the pleasure a few weeks ago sitting through a 45min webinar presented by David Bartholomew from DP Technology. The title was “Boost your productivity with Esprit”.
(DP Technology, developers of Esprit is one of the major CAD/CAM software in the world)

David started out with numbers describing that Esprit at this point distributes in 80 countries and available in 15 different languages, but also pointing out with the speed of computer technology there is no time for a company like theirs to lean back and enjoy the numbers. DP Technology is aware of the challenges ahead, and is ready to be part of “hot” topics such as cloud technology where the muscles of CAM will be hanging above processing toolpaths and creating NC-code.

A major tool builder did research on where the cost and hold up in the manufacturing process is, with the results aiming at CAD/CAM responsible for 20-85% of the headaches. But with a business model wrapped around being able to adapt and change on the fly. Esprit has tools as patented 5-axis composite technology and edge cutting multitasking swiss style turning, which has proven to be steps ahead of the competition.

The cool thing about this presentation was that you really got the feeling that DP Technology wants to be right there alongside their costumers providing the tools need for companies to be on the cutting edge of technology. I think that webinars are a refreshing way to reach out to existing costumers compared to the sometime long winded newsletters.

Is that a shipping crate or a 5axis machining center

When buying a 5axis compatible machining center you better have you priorities straight. 1)$Money$ 2)accuracy 3) machine travel etc. The actual visual machine design should not be that important.
Then again, if you pay $500.000 for a machine wouldn’t it be appropriate that someone in the design department at least spend an hour or two on the visual eye candy. I have to admit that I care about how the overall machine floor looks, and I know I am not the only one.
Here is 10 different machines picked for comments.


There it is, a 5axis out of Taiwan. I think we can agree that this is pretty dull. You got to wonder if the 2 shades of gray really are the designer reaching his highest potential or if they ran out of one shade.(After making that comment I would like to note that I do notice how the dull color matches my blog theme, Yikes)


A big machine coming from Italy. From the picture it looks like it is hard to operate the control while looking through the glass, and the 2 gunslinger air hoses on each side makes me wonder if Clint Eastwood will step out of this box.


This machine has defiantly come a long way since there famous “knee mill”. But from a design standpoint a couple of colored stripes just ain’t doing it.


This is my favorite, Big windows, big doors for easy access. Modern machine control what looks like a LED monitor attached.


The red color defiantly stands out and the stainless curved door handle could have been stolen from a modern shower door at Bed, Bath and Beyond. The control looks kinda boxy, don’t you think?


Just a reminder what standards we should hold when talking design and quality, pretty sweet looking eh :-).


White, White, White. 1st hand experience with the Kita. Great machine accuracy, but design is 0. Absolutely boring. And over the years that machine will turn white with a dust of dark grain. Ugly!


Not a watch or chocolate but a Schweiz 5axis machining center. From the picture it almost looks like it got tinted windows, what would be weird. But the angulared front does give it some caractor.


You have to applause the color selection on the Matsuura, it stand out compared to the competition. But the cross hatched windows are in my opinion not more than a visible barrier and the doors are to narrow.


American NASCAR Star Tony Stewart in front of the Haas VF2 limited colored racer. A low priced machine, but a design favorite from a operators standpoint. Big windows and a operator friendly control, attachments etc.


Another machine with a solid reputation, but can we agree that without a single curve the bordeaux color is not going to carry this design?.

As the 5axis leaves the catwalk
I am pretty sure that I will never be asked to be a judge in any style or fashion contest, and as I pointed out in the beginning; Style, color and design is not a determent factor when purchase a 5axis machine. But never the less I do find it interesting to line the different models up and compare what the different manufactures have designed.

MastercamX4 is Downloadable


I am not sure you actually can say Downloadable, but what….

CNC Software made there latest release in the Mastercam series available for download today on……….Yep MastercamX4 is official.
6 month since MastercamX3 Maintenance Release 1, so what have CNC Software been up to these months?

Dynamic Gnomon
Starting out with the “What’s New” pdf, it is pretty clear what CNC Software is selling this release on, and from 1st look of things this is a enhancement. A 3D gnomon, triad or “What’s up, down, left and right” thing that you can use for translate and rotate geometry, but more encouraging it is the new way of setting Tool Planes, Construction Planes and as a Solidworks user, setting WCS (“Work Coordinate System”) looks like this could be the end of “Save As” Parasolid in Solidworks.

Wireframe Feature Recognition in Chaining
This is the intelligent running in your software, you chain one shape and the software within user setup parameters such as Identical, smaller perimeter or bigger perimeter it will include those chains for you. I can see this being powerful on a big cavity mold where the WEDM programmer is sitting crossed eyed starring on the screen at similar shapes tossed in every direction.

The clean new windows came
As suspected the menus there was introduced in FBM and FBD back in August 2008 with MastercamX3 (called tree-style dialogs) is now standard for 2D Mill toolpaths. I am looking forward to explore these further, I’m not sure if you can call it an improvement but it defiantly have a more clean and wizard like feel to it.

The lathe department got……
The news is……..the capability to create a simple 2D turn profile from a complex Solid model. Control feedrate on the 1st plunge, Corner dwell on finish passes, and Multiple Chains Grooving Option plus more….

You can swing your router around……..
More control with Bump Nesting (a feature that also should be available in WEDM) it will let you copy, rotate, move and delete the part geometry within you nesting area, and also the cutoff nesting has gotten a Horizontal and Vertical control function.

Thread you WEDM and burn……….
Here I hope you got an Agie and are using Agievision because it has received its own customizable interface. Mastercam Wire will show familiar Agievision parameter pages, With this no Agie child will be left behind.

1st Impression
From a install standpoint everything went pretty smooth thanks to a sharp John Paris on who quickly got the steps for the post update documented.
I am looking forward to play a little more with the “triad gnomon” and go through some of the tutorials, and there will for sure come more from this side of the camp fire in regards to opinions about MastercamX4.

MastercamX4 Live Tour…..eehhh..Seriously?

Alright, I really want to be on top of the wave about MastercamX4 being on the door step, but I can not link from this page without commenting about this “Live Tour” thing. Looking at what in my opinion is one of the worst attempt to get excitement rolling for a new software release.

Check out Mastercams MastercamX4 Live on Tour

Seriously, friends at CNC Software did you make this video to play on the big screen at a NASCAR race, or on a TV monitor in the back at my local auto part store?
1). The music just makes you scrabble for the mute button
2). Milling, Milling and Milling, one screen shoot from Mastercam that last 1 second, no picture or video of WEDM, Router, Lathe or Art? quick screen shots of the lengthy video there is linked to would have been nice.
3). “The lights dim. The stirring crowd erupts” We pay maintenance fee’s now for this software, I am looking forward to see what I get for the money, but I am not going to camp out in front of my reseller 48 hours before the release like a 13 year teenage girl at a Jonas Brothers concert.

I understand that this might was attended to be a low budget pre-press thing, and I really do not want to offend anyone at CNC Software, but I have a hard time using words like “Professional” or “Cutting edge” about a new product release after seeing this.

It need to be a little more class and thought next time if Mastercam want to be considered a professional high end product.