Quality Scan: 3-D Visions for Tool Data Management
Some CAD/CAM and simulation systems work in 3-D, generate 3-D programs, and require 3-D tool graphics. However, generating and preparing 3-D tool graphics from a number of different tool manufacturers continues to be a challenge. Most of our customers have about 50 different tool suppliers and use about 20,000 different tools from them. Creating the tool data for 20,000 tools, keeping it up to date, creating graphic files, and assembling it in a database, all require a very high expenditure of time.
A uniform database is essential for a smoothly working tool management system. In beginning to build a database, users almost immediately come up against two challenges: On the one hand, they receive their data directly from the tool manufacturers in an endless variety of formats, which involves them in a complicated process of adaptation and/or standardization of data and graphic images. On the other hand, CAM and simulation systems have their own requirements and demands with regard to graphic tool images. Some CAM systems can only process standard files like STEP or SAT. In addition, the systems often don’t work correctly with fully developed 3-D models. They require simplified models, able to be rotated, with a clear designation of the cutting and noncutting parts.
To support customers in setting up uniform databases, complete solutions have been developed for providing and processing tool data and graphic images. For example, the standard catalogs of Walter and Sandvik Coromant are now included in the TDM Data and Graphics Generator. In our system, some 45,000 tools for all types of processing are already on file, plus a large number of solid round tools. These are then selected just as from a conventional catalog and filed in the database, including 2-D and 3-D graphic images. In addition, the TDM 3D-Designer is able to generate individual end-milling cutters and step drills. If a customer receives 2-D or 3-D graphic images from other manufacturers and wants to file them in TDM or assemble with other items to a tool assembly, he can edit the graphic images using the 2D-Graphic Image Editor of the TDM 3D-Solid Editor and adapt them to the TDM conventions quickly and easily with no need to change to CAD system.
The TDM Data and Graphic Generator generates tool data and graphic images with parameters. If a user wants to generate a tool from a manufacturer other than the one already on file in the Generator, he takes a similar tool from the existing manufacturer’s catalog, changes the relevant parameters, and generates the tool, including 2-D and 3-D graphic images, at the touch of a button.
There are integrations being developed to transmit data to other systems. For example, TDM integration with CAM systems supports access to tool data during the NC programming process. In addition, users need a solution to prepare and transmit the 3-D graphics of the tool assemblies. The 3-D Solid Converter software tool from TDM checks the 3-D graphics. If they meet the CAM system requirements, the converter software tool provides editing functions to modify the graphics and convert the graphics into the standard format required by the CAM/simulation systems. To make it easier to create uniform databases, tool manufacturers have initiated the ISO 13399 standard. With tool data available in accordance with a standard, it would be easier to manage the different requirements of CAM and simulation systems. Because the TDM Data & Graphic Generators work with parameters, it wouldn't be a problem for TDM to generate 2-D and 3-D graphic images for these tools in the same way. The impact on CAM systems would be that the complicated interface adjustments would be eliminated, because currently every CAM system still requires different tool parameters. In the long run, CAM manufacturers would also have to adapt to ISO 13399 in order to be able to process the standardized tool data and graphic images. The result would be simplified interfaces and data management, the best possible solution for end users. ME
This article was first published in the February 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.