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Machine Controls, CAD/CAM Optimize Machining Tasks

By Patrick Waurzyniak
Senior Editor

As manufacturing companies continue to pull out of the recession, developers of machine controls and CAD/CAM software systems are investing in the new product technologies that help their customers improve machining quality, metalcutting performance and overall productivity.

At CNC developer Siemens, the company keeps the pace with new technologies by investing over 5% of its revenue in R&D, notes Rajas Sukthankar, general manager, Motion Control—Machine Tool Systems, Siemens Industry Inc. (Elk Grove Village, IL). "As a global leader in the machine tool industry, we are proud to present our latest product, the Sinumerik 808D, at this year’s IMTS in Chicago. With Sinumerik 808D, we have a complete CNC product portfolio stretching from simple two-axis knee mills to complex multiaxis aerospace machines to take care of all of your machining needs," Sukthankar says.

Siemens CNC product family consists of the simple 808D, the midrange 828D and the high-end 840D sl CNCs, all based on the common Sinumerik Operate HMI platform, Sukthankar adImage Courtesy Siemens Industry Inc.ds. "This innovative and easy-to-use graphical user interface makes it easy for job-shop owners to switch operators from machine-to-machine with minimal training to achieve peak productivity," he notes, adding that the Sinumerik 828D, introduced in the US during IMTS 2010, has been highly successful with its simple, easy-to-use graphical user interface. "The success of this job-shop control can be directly attributed to its innovative tool and workpiece setup and product reliability."

At IMTS, the company plans to showcase its CNC lineup including the flagship Sinumerik 840D sl CNC. "In automotive manufacturing, our Transline solution with its comprehensive Safety Integrated package has become an industry benchmark to protect people and machines. In aerospace manufacturing, we continue to expand our market share by leveraging our NC open architecture and local R&D to support custom kinematics and error-compensation algorithms," Sukthankar says. Siemens also plans to introduce a new control feature, called Sinumerik Control Energy (CTRL-E), a set of powerful and technically sophisticated functions to increase the energy efficiency of machines by reducing energy consumption. 

Today’s more powerful CNCs offer users much more performance with speed and improved part quality, notes Todd Drane, marketing manager, Fagor Automation Corp. (Elk Grove Village, IL). "The industry continues to push the envelope in performance. What was once considered high speed, is now low speed," Drane states. "Fagor Automation has designed and implemented features designed around ensuring maximum servo performance and accuracy, yet without sacrificing speed and in fact, increasing speed."

To accomplish this, CNC manufacturers must develop features that are 100% designed to enhance servo performance, which reduces cycle times and increases part finish and accuracy, Drane notes. "Our approach to this is primarily based around the 8065 CNC, in which we have increased block processing speeds to <0.5 ms while also analyzing the toolpath with advanced high-speed block look ahead utilizing nano-metric resolution," Drane points out. Combined with Fagor’s Adaptive Real-time Feed and Speed (ARFS) control, these features allow the CNC to analyze machining conditions such as spindle load, servo power, tool-tip temperature and adapt both the axis feed rate and the spindle speed for maximum machining performance productivity, he says. The result is a reduction of cycle time coupled with a superior part finish, and extended spindle and servomotor life also is accomplished due to the improved tool utilization.

At the show, Fagor plans to show its complete lineup as the only CNC controls manufacturer producing a full line of controls for all markets plus digital and analog servomotor systems, CNC/servo turnkey package solutions, CAN I/O modules, linear and rotary absolute encoder products and digital readout products, Drane notes. "We believe what we do in providing a single-source automation solution for customers is the best method in long-term success within any market," he says. "Our products, designed for one another, seamlessly work together ensuring the customer that the technology works as designed." Fagor also will be challenging visitors at its booth in a race of time in solving the Rubik’s cube by pitting them against the Fagor 8070 CNC controlling the feared but clever Rubinator Machine, Drane adds.

High-speed machining on its Robodrill product line will be featured by Fanuc FA America at this year’s show, notes Paul Webster, manager, CNC engineering, Fanuc FA America (Hoffman Estates, IL). "We’re going to be bringing more machines this year for a variety of demonstrations," Webster says. "We’ll be showing some high-speed machining functions, five-axis features, and demonstrate how these Fanuc features are tied into the machine tool directly."

The Robodrill line will specifically showcase high-speed machining with smoother part finishes, faster cycle times, and better programming features on the controls, he adds. "The Robodrills will be machining a range of parts, from aerospace to automotive to die-mold parts," Webster notes. "Aerospace parts typically require more contouring, so we’ll be showing things like Tool Center Point [TCP] control, tool posture control and vector programming—the ability to program in vectors. Many of these features allow the CNC to handle many of the calculations directly rather than through an extensive post.

"With five-axis machining, it’s all about the feature set on the programming side, and then when contouring, it’s all about the surface finish, precision and accuracy," Webster adds. "In addition, we’ll be showing a lot of robotic integration and fieldbus solutions demonstrating open connectivity to Fanuc robots and to the rest of the factory. We’re doing a lot with Ethernet/IP, ProfiNet, FLNet, and Modbus TCP/IP. Our connectivity to these advanced fieldbuses give us a lot of flexibility when we’re connecting to different factory environments."


New Technologies Pace CAD/CAM


Among the key trends pacing the CAD/CAM industry is the continued push toward CAM developers offering some type of high-speed roughing feature, notes Bill Gibbs, president, Gibbs and Associates (Moorpark, CA). "What’s interesting is, I think, virtually all of the CAM companies are now offering a high-performance rough-milling algorithm," Gibbs says. Many developers are either doing their own versions of toolpath optimization or they instead opt for using a third-party toolpath engine like Celeritive Technologies’ VoluMill, he adds.

"We chose not to do that with this case. It’s a ‘build-or-buy’ decision," notes Gibbs, who uses Celeritive’s system. "It’s amazing that people don’t realize just how much faster they can cut a part. It’s one of only a thousand decisions to make in what is a very complex CAM software. Any good high-performance roughing cycle is going to save you 60% of your time."

At this year’s show, Gibbs will showcase the company’s 2013 release of GibbsCAM, including its next-generation Multi-Task Machining (MTM) programming. "What these features do is they allow some things to be programmed faster," Gibbs says. "The key focus in GibbsCAM is the ever-more complex multitask machines." The company will demonstrate the latest developments in its complex machine programming of MTM machines, helping customers program parts quickly, accurately and efficiently. The next generation of GibbsCAM’s MTM solution helps customers use the full capabilities of complex MTM machines, including five-axis rotary head and Swiss-style machines, solving key challenges including programming machines with multiple spindles and turrets cutting multiple parts simultaneously.

There has always been a great focus from CAD/CAM companies on developing programs that increase machining rates, speeds and feeds, without risking damage to the cutter or the workpiece, notes Glenn McMinn, president, Delcam North America (Windsor, ON, Canada, and Birmingham, UK). "Some CAM systems offer toolpath strategies that ensure a more consistent load on a tool by having it maintain a controlled engagement angle with the workpiece," he says. "Using this approach, the tool isn’t driven into internal corners where its engagement angle, and thus the force exerted upon it, greatly increases.

"Delcam has recently developed a roughing strategy designed for solid carbide tools that’s an important development on the constant-engagement-angle theme. It’s called Vortex, and will be included within the soon-to-be-released PowerMILL 2013, FeatureCAM 2013, and many of the company’s other CAD/CAM offerings. The new Vortex toolpaths can be used in association with the step-cutting strategy already used in PowerMILL. One notable difference with this approach is that the tool does not step down immediately after each subsequent pass. Instead, extra cutting moves are added, working from the bottom of each step upwards. The result is that the amount of material that can be removed with the initial cutter is greatly increased, minimizing the amount of rest roughing required."

One of the latest trends in CAD/CAM is smarter toolpaths, notes Mark Summers, president, CNC Software Inc. (Tolland, CT). "An example of a ‘smart’ toolpath is a hybrid toolpath which combines the best of both worlds with two different types of cutting motion," Summers says. "The result is a much better finish and more efficient use of the tool. This toolpath is smart enough to divide your part into a series of Z sections and applies two different machining strategies to each section for a superior finish."

Included on the list of "smart" toolpaths are the dynamic milling toolpaths that constantly adjust the toolpath to ensure the most efficient cut possible and allow use of the entire tool flute length, often eliminating the need for multiple depth cuts, Summers says. "Another trend is partnering with cutting tool manufacturers so that customers can reap the benefits of the testing knowledge and data that the tooling vendors provide," he adds, "that we can then pass on to the end users of our software."

At IMTS, visitors at the Mastercam booth will see the company’s current release, Mastercam X6, as well as its new Swiss Expert product, Blade Expert, and a sneak peek of something totally new, Summers notes.

Another continuing trend in the industry is the difficulty in finding employees, notes Bill Hasenjaeger, CGTech product marketing manager. "One of the biggest issues we hear repeatedly is that shops can’t find qualified employees—and this is limiting their growth," Hasenjaeger says. "When companies can’t find the right employees, they have to find ways to become more efficient with the staff they have. One solution is to find technology that allows them to do more with the same personnel. Part program verification using CNC machine simulation software like Vericut has become an essential tool for ensuring NC programs machine the part correctly the first time, thus increasing efficiency in their manufacturing process. CGTech is seeing more companies asking for advanced simulation software, beyond what’s available with the PLM or CAD/CAM system, driven by their need to improve."

At the show, CGTech will show its latest Vericut 7.2 release, which Hasenjaeger says is a major update that continues to focus on the customer’s use of Vericut and improves simulation process effectiveness. "New features in the user interface simplify the most common user actions," he adds. "CGTech also invested significant developer hours to increase speed by more thoroughly taking advantage of multiple processors and background processing." ME


This article was first published in the August 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF


Published Date : 8/1/2012

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