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Software Update: New 3D Programming Speeds Waterjet Cutting Operations

Carl Olsen

Carl Olsen
is lead software engineer for OMAX Corp. (Kent, WA), developer of waterjet cutting systems. For more information, see, call 253-872-2300, or e-mail:

Manufacturing Engineering: What’s new in software development for waterjet cutting applications?

Carl Olsen: The newest software developments from OMAX center on 3D path programming and cutting. More specifically, new developments within our Intelli-Max software include built-in 3D parametric shapes, tube wrapping functionality and XData—all of which increase 3D capabilities, speed and ease of use.

3D path programming and cutting encompasses bevel and rotary axis (tube), as well as full six-axis cutting. We’ve developed intuitive software that provides manufacturers with the power to cut most 3D shapes using abrasive waterjet technology. In fact, our waterjet users are now cutting everything from tapered edges on 2D paths to fish-mouth pipe fittings and six-axis complex-shaped composites.

Built-in ‘parametric shapes’ for common tube-cutting applications, such as saddle and fish-mouth shapes required to fit tubes together, allow operators to choose one of the many pre-defined shapes and insert relevant parameters such as diameters of the two pipes to join and at what angles the pipes join. Then, the OMAX Make controller automatically generates the appropriate cutting path.

Using Intelli-Max’s single-command ‘wrapping’ functionality, manufacturers can easily apply flat cut patterns around a tube or similar round shapes. This makes programming a pattern on a tube as easy as doing so for a flat workpiece.

The new ‘XData’ feature allows users to easily program many common 3D features into toolpaths through canned commands. XData can be used to program up to six coordinated axes of motion, change tool offsets, override feeds, insert pause points, provide instructions to the operator, and much more. For 3D programming, this can be a command to create a simple bevel or more complex features such as hole countersinks or continuously varying bevels along the edge of complex part profiles.

In addition to streamlining 3D programming, XData commands make it easier for third-party CAD/CAM systems to output to our waterjet machines. Our customers can use our software or other major industry CAD/CAM and nesting software packages to program their machines. Plus, our file formats are public so any third-party can send data to an OMAX or Maxiem machine, and we provide the technical support to do so.

ME: How does the updated Intelli-Max software help improve waterjet machining productivity?

Olsen: Abrasive jets exhibit very complex behaviors, which have traditionally made them difficult to program—requiring an advanced operator using trial and error in order to get good results. By incorporating cutting models and strategies right into the software, and developing a controller completely from scratch [software and electronics], we have made it easier to make precision parts faster in both low and high-volume production environments.

Furthermore, the software’s intuitive design allows the person programming the path to simply draw the part’s shape, and the controller does the rest. With this as a starting point, the advanced operator can then use specialized knowledge and experience to squeeze out even more performance. Because software is so critical to the precision, speed and ease of use of the machine, we offer free software updates.

ME: Your software has been around a long time; how has it evolved over the years?

Olsen: Cutting speeds have increased through advanced software. While hardware advances have added to increased cutting speed, software has had a bigger impact by being smarter about the cut, especially when it comes to curves and corners. With the right software in place, manufacturers cut faster and to higher precision, which lowers cost per part and boosts machine utilization.

While we are constantly adding features and have moved into the world of complex 3D cutting, we have done so without sacrificing Intelli-Max’s intuitive design and functionality. Initially, our software supported only three axes (X, Y and Z), but from its inception, the software was built to support up to eight precision coordinated motor axes. From three axes, it advanced to support two additional axes of head tilting, as well as control of rotary units. We are now utilizing X, Y, Z, Tilt 1, Tilt 2 and Rotary, for full six axes of control.

Our software has evolved into a system that allows customers and third parties to customize and leverage the tools it provides. The system is now extremely flexible and continues to advance in that direction. Software has moved beyond providing basic system monitoring that tracks the status of the machine over a network or via a tool using the MTConnect standard protocol. Our Intelli-Visor System Monitoring Package, which is both hardware and software, equips the machine with sensors to report and compare statuses with the expected command action, as well as automatically shut down or warn the user as appropriate.

ME: What are some technical features that are key for waterjet software?

Olsen: Waterjet software’s most important technical feature is precise control over the waterjet stream. To achieve that, software must automatically adjust and correct for how the waterjet cutting stream will behave at various geometries throughout the part-cutting path. Software must control the jet stream motions, adjusting its orientation, speed, acceleration and jerk, and in some cases other parameters such as pressure. For a very fine level of control, Intelli-Max software does so at over 2000 changes per inch.

ME: What industries are doing innovative work with this technology?

Olsen: Currently, aerospace, medical, fabrication and general contracting are doing the most innovative work with abrasive waterjet technology. These industries use the technology in manufacturing applications for which waterjet machines were never before considered.

Thanks to increased speed and precision, as well as advances in 3D cutting, cutting models, and the ability to pierce and cut exotic materials, waterjet machines are now used to machine surgical instruments to near-net shape for the medical industry. And for those manufacturers in aerospace, abrasive waterjet allows for efficient and cost-effective cutting of most exotic materials used to construct today’s aircraft. Waterjet machines cut aerospace materials such as G10, carbon fiber, glass and others in one setup, with no required special tooling. Hundreds of tiny holes can be cut into brittle glass, while laminates and composites can be cut with reliability and damage free. ME

Dassault to Acquire Apriso

PLM software developer Dassault Systèmes (Velizy-Villacoublay, France) announced May 29 that it intends to acquire manufacturing software developer Apriso Corp. (Long Beach, CA) for approximately $205 million in cash.

Dassault, which has made a string of recent acquisitions, said the purchase of Apriso will enhance the manufacturing operations management capabilities of Dassault’s 3DExperience platform. Dassault will integrate Apriso into its Delmia portfolio and 3DExperience platform’s virtual reality capabilities.

Apriso’s solutions synchronize global manufacturing networks, offering real-time visibility and control over business processes performed by plants and suppliers. Apriso’s software includes the FlexNet enterprise manufacturing execution system (MES) solution. Subject to regulatory approvals, the purchase is expected to be completed in July.

New Releases

Hexagon Metrology (North Kingstown, RI) on June 4 introduced PC-DMIS Touch, a new measurement software program for portable arm and DCC (direct computer control) CMMs. With high-resolution multitouch display technology, users physically interact with measurement sequences, feature variables, and report templates. Hexagon announced PC-DMIS touch at the HxGN Live 2013 conference in Las Vegas, NV, and at the Feimafe Exhibition in São Paulo, Brazil, demonstrating the PC-DMIS touch capabilities on a Romer Absolute arm and a 4.54 SF DCC CMM. New PC-DMIS Touch software brings touch capability to portable arm and CMM measurement tasks.

The software is said to offer an entirely new way to complete measurement tasks, with one-off dimensions executed through intuitive automated measurement sequences while more complex measurement plans are created by simply measuring the features directly on the part. A graphical representation of the measured features is always displayed in the center of the interface, right where it’s needed, during all measurement tasks. PC-DMIS Touch organizes measurement plan features intuitively by “Face,” a new concept for the traditional work plane.

“PC-DMIS Touch represents the future of inspection software, leveraging the latest advancements in operating system and hardware form factors,” said Ken Woodbine, president of the PC-DMIS software division of Hexagon Metrology, in a statement. “The user experience includes full touch gesturing and utilization of color in distinctive ways to guide the user through a measurement task. It becomes an immersive experience that allows any user to accomplish their job swiftly and easily.”

Available first for portable measuring arms in the coming weeks, the software will be available for CMMs in late 2013.

Software Update is edited by Patrick Waurzyniak:


This article was first published in the July 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 7/1/2013

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